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Five Reasons to Explore New Zealand This Winter

Winter was long here in the U.S., so you very well may be dreaming about traveling to the Southern Hemisphere where summer is in full swing — has an Australia tour crossed your mind? Or maybe a Thailand vacation package is in your recent web search queue? If so, at ATJ we can plan either, but we also suggest you consider New Zealand. Home to 5,700 miles of coastline on its two islands that are punctuated by towering cliffs and tree-lined bays, along with glacial mountains, fjords, volcanoes and bubbling geothermal regions contrasting with golden plains, there are few other places on earth packing this much scenic punch. It’s really no wonder New Zealand was chosen to represent Tolkien’s magical Middle-earth when the Lord of the Rings was filmed. Here are five favorite experiences to not miss on the North and South Islands.


On the North Island, beautiful Auckland is New Zealand’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. Here you’ll discover luxury hotels, world-class theaters, sophisticated clubs and fine international cuisine, plus vibrant outdoor cafes. Famous attractions include the Harbor Bridge, Domain Parks and Gardens, The War Memorial Museum (with its fine collection of Maori artifacts), Tamaki Waterfront Drive, Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World & Antarctic Encounter, and the summit of Mt. Eden for magnificent views over Auckland City.


Also on the North Island, the Bay of Islands is one of the world’s most scenic regions. Here you’ll discover 150 islands set amidst the deep blue waters of the bay. The best way to explore is by sail boat, stopping at the quaint beach towns scattered about. Must see sites include Ninety Mile Beach and Spirits Bay. You’ll also want to visit the ancient Kauri forests of Waipoua, Puketi and Omahuta where the larger-than-life hardwood trees can tower up to 165 ft. above humans with trunks that are some 50 ft. in diameter.


New Zealand’s undisputed adventure capital, Queenstown, is a popular resort destination among locals and visitors. This is where you can experience all the classic New Zealand adrenaline experiences from bungee jumping to high-speed jet boating. There are also options for horseback riding, biking, hiking and simply relaxing at cafes in the city center. Ride the Skyline Gondola for panoramic views of the entire area.


In the heart of the South Island’s Southern Alps, Mt. Cook National Park is packed full of rugged peaks, glaciers, pristine lakes and great valleys forged by prehistoric ice flows. New Zealand’s two highest mountains, Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman are located here. Also in the vicinity are two of the most scenic glacial lakes in the country: Lake Tekapo, an opaque turquoise hue and Lake Pukakai, with its milky blue-green waters. There is fantastic hiking, biking and camping around this area, as well as a number of fabulous mountain lodges.


On the South Island, Christchurch is New Zealand’s “Garden City.” The country’s third largest city it has a distinct English feel, featuring exquisite Gothic and Victorian-era architecture, manicured gardens and parks and the scenic Avon River flowing through it. It’s also a fun city with restaurants and nightlife as well as shops, galleries and live theater.

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