2018 is here and for keen travellers the start of the year is the ideal time to start planning 2018’s adventures – with New Zealand sitting at the top of many wish lists. Renowned for its cinematic landscapes, kilometres of pristine coastline and welcoming locals, the Land of the Long White Cloud also offers a lot of stuff to do. And whether you’re visiting for adventurous pursuits or you have more refined pleasures in mind, you’ll find 18 good reasons to start planning a trip to Aotearoa/New Zealand right here.
This is one of Northland’s finest self-guided expeditions, helping visitors understand the important role the kauri tree has played in New Zealand history, both Māori and European. Starting 90 minutes from Auckland in the village of Maungaturoto, the Ancient Kauri Trail is a self-drive route that makes its way through a network of endearing hamlets. Stop in at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe to check out the outstanding exhibits then drive through Ruawai, the country’s Kumara Capital on the Kaipara Harbour, before turning off for Tokatoka Peak lookout. Climb for 20 minutes and be rewarded with spectacular views from the summit. Further on, beaches and lakes vie for your attention, but the crowning glory is Waipoua Forest where some of the world’s largest kauri trees grow, including the King of the Forest, Tane Mahuta. All are accessible via short, easy walks. Check in for a night or two at the The Heads Omapere (opens 1 December) – 10 1-br villa apartments with private hot tubs and outdoor fireplaces on the edge of the gorgeous Hokianga Harbour.
There are more 450 wine experiences to be found on New Zealand’s official wine website and in 2018, there are barrels of compelling reasons to visit New Zealand if you’re viticulturally inclined. Toast Martinborough, held each November in the Wairarapa region, promises good times among the vines. Or make your way to FAWC, the Hawkes Bay Food And Wine Classic, also in November. Push the boat right out and set course for Cloudy Bay in the heart of the South Island’s Marlborough region, where the proprietors can arrange everything from a simple tasting to a mouth-watering meal or helicopter wine tour. Cloudy Bay also offers half- or full-day wining and dining tours aboard a 54ft Beneteau Oceanis yacht – the choice is yours.
New Zealand is paradise for cyclists thanks to all manner of great rides from the National Cycleway – Nga Haerenga – to smaller off-road suburban rides. If your fitness level makes you think twice before climbing on a bike, not to worry, because there’s recently been an e-bike revolution in New Zealand. E-bikes are available to rent in all the big cities and on most of the great rides, from the Otago Rail Trail to the Twin Coast Trail in Northland. Or go for gold with Over the Top Helicopters, which offers full-day e-bike tours on backcountry trails accessible only by helicopter. Or join Real Journeys to take on Walter Peak above picturesque Lake Wakatipu. If you’re feeling competitive, you’ll be delighted to hear that the Skoda Mountain Bike Race (March 10), which grants riders access to the Motatapu Valley, now has an e-bike category.
Granted International Dark Sky Sanctuary certification in 2017, Aotea/Great Barrier is the only island in the world to enjoy this status. The rugged 285sq km island at the outer edge of the Hauraki Gulf has just 885 permanent residents and no reticulated power (off the grid for real!), so there’s minimal light pollution, which makes for spectacular stargazing. To make the most of your stellar adventure, enlist the help of Good Heavens. This team of local Dark Sky Ambassadors provides bespoke tours of the firmament on beaches and at baches – even catered if you fancy.
With the birthdays of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins on 22 September, International Hobbit Day will be celebrated in style at Hobbiton in 2018. Festivities on the day include a guided tour of the Shire at dusk. Fans will be escorted through the 4.85ha (12 acre) site, learning fascinating details of how the movie sets were created. Arriving at The Green Dragon Inn, there’ll be plenty of time to relax in front of open fires and enjoy traditional Middle Earth ales and ciders. Then stroll around the Marketplace where individually themed stalls hawk Hobbit wares, local cheeses, breads, cured meats and fresh produce. All the while, roaming entertainers will mingle with guests. When the buffet is served, pace yourself, as Shire tradition encourages second helpings. To end the night, you’ll wander back along lantern-lit trails – pure magic.
The Sky Tower is one of Auckland iconic landmarks – helpful for visitors wanting to get their bearings and a much-loved part of Auckland’s visual furniture. And Sky Tower will soon be coming of age, celebrating its 21st birthday in 2018. At 328m, it’s the country’s tallest building and boasts 360-degree views. On clear days you can see west to the Waitakere Ranges, across the sparkling Waitemata Harbour and south to the Bombay Hills. If you’re feeling daring, you might like to attempt the SkyWalk or the SkyJump. You can ride the glass-fronted elevators to the Sky Lounge for a cup of tea, dine at Orbit revolving restaurant, and later perhaps check out the casino below.
This free public light festival in May is a sight for sore eyes, turning Wellington’s waterfront and laneways into captivating spaces that celebrate light, art, design and technology. Getting bolder and brighter each year, LUX Light Festival (Te Ao Marama) features imaginative light sculptures that illuminate nooks and crannies all over the city, transforming spaces and causing visitors to stop and think, perchance to dream. Offering more than just light, Lux will also have a range of activities for all ages, art exhibitions and performance artists, with a special focus on contemporary Māori light artists and performers.
Following a series of earthquakes in 2016, the enchanting tourist town of Kaikoura was battered: roads and rail lines closed, landscapes changed – even the seabed was in a state of upheaval. Sadly, some natural attractions were lost, but one new one, Hope Springs, bubbled to the surface. Discovered by local men Matt Foy and Conner Stapley from Kaikoura Kayaks, the astonishing new feature was found in shallow waters off the Kaikoura Peninsula. Thought to be caused by the earthquake, the aptly named Hope Springs are sure to become a tourist attraction alongside Kaikoura’s other marvels – whales, dolphins, seals and birdlife. The best way to see this new wonder? A guided kayak tour, of course.