New Zealand is a country that is remarkably geographically diverse. One third of its land is protected, with a lush landscape of sweeping coastline and beaches, ancient volcanoes, rain-forests and mountain ranges.
On the South Island’s west coast lie the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. The latter, located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, is an icy stunner that drops from the Southern Alps into rain-forest 300m above sea level. It can be viewed up close and personal by glacier-walking or ice-climbing to its terminal face, or from a distance by a helicopter ride that takes you up to the top and over the ridge. Remember to pick up the jaw you dropped before you de-plane.
Part of a World Heritage Site and a vista that Rudyard Kipling once dubbed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is the jewel in Fiordland’s crown and beautiful any time of year, even when rainy. The unique landscape is the result of glaciers carving up the scenery during the ice ages, with vertical cliffs that shoot straight up from the sea, 200-year old black coral and waterfalls plummeting up to 300m. Meanwhile, just under the sea’s surface, lies some of the rarest marine life to be found in any of the world’s oceans.
A world-renowned hot spot (pun intended) of volcanic geothermal activity, Rotorua sits smack bang on the Pacific Rim of Fire. Thrill-seekers will certainly want to try skydiving or hopping onto the mountain-bike tracks that cover some 70km. Try Zorbing, which involves rolling down a hill in a large inflatable ball (yes, you read that correctly). Or, how about Shweeb, which is the world’s first pedal-powered monorail racetrack.
Bay of Islands
A three-hour drive in the sub-tropical north of Auckland, this island paradise is where you can hop on a chartered yacht or paddle your own kayak to explore the bay and its numerous islands. Keep your eyes peeled for penguins, whales, dolphins and marlin along the way. Most of the islands have walking trails and campsites as well.
Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Also in the Southern Alps, Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and is a force to be reckoned for climbers and hikers. Glaciers cover 14% of the park and there are 19 peaks over 3,000m high, with activities on offer including glacier lake boat tours, fly fishing and four-wheeled-drive adventures.
If you’re well and truly inspired (like we are) for a trip to New Zealand, then take a look at some of the amazing tours as part of our New Zealand campaign (running for the month of August 2014).