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Staggering beauty and heart-pumping thrills await in the resort town of Queenstown, which is also known for its Hobbits—much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in the area. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Queenstown for the kayaking, bungee jumping, jetboating, white-water rafting, hiking and skiing. More mild-mannered adventurers can take a quiet cruise through nearby Milford Sound, part of the Fjordland National Park World Heritage area, or sample South Island pinot noir from one of the region's 75 wineries.
Sample the beloved vintages of the Marlborough Wine Region in Blenheim, an agricultural town in the heart of New Zealand’s renowned wine hub. More than 20 wineries are just a hop, skip and a corkscrew away from Blenheim, where a stream of cafes and restaurants serve up tasty, artisan fare. One of the sunniest towns in New Zealand, Blenheim is the perfect destination for foodies and wine lovers who love to soak up the sun while sipping the fruits of a vineyard’s labour.
The South Island town of Wanaka appeals to both adventure lovers and relaxation-minded travellers. Situated on the crystal-clear waters of New Zealand's fourth-largest lake, just a short drive from Mount Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is an ideal spot to go fishing, hiking, skiing, wine-tasting or golfing. The city also hosts Warbirds Over Wanaka, the largest three-day air show in the Southern Hemisphere.
Artists and free-spirits mingle with the rich and famous on this blissful island, a haven of beautiful beaches, gastronomical treasures and small wineries. Browse the dozens of art galleries and craft stores of the Waiheke Arts Trail between dips in the emerald waters. Soar above the landscape on a chartered scenic flight, then refuel your engine with a casual beachfront café meal or an upscale, multi-course affair. Waiheke boasts several boutique vineyards, perfect for sipping, sampling and savoring New Zealand’s fine wines.
The lush parks and golden beaches of Tauranga make it a popular destination for outdoorsy folks and watersports lovers. Here on New Zealand’s North Island, you’ll find a variety of opportunities for surfing, white water rafting, kiteboarding, hiking and golfing. Take a refreshing dip in the swimming holes by Kaiate Falls, which cascade beautifully over the bluffs. Families might like to visit one of Tauranga’s amusement park, take a guided nature tour or swim with dolphins in the Bay of Plenty.
In the Maori language, Kaikoura means "meal of crayfish," a nod to the New Zealand township's seafood-rich origins. Remnants of those early days can be found at Fyffe House, the oldest surviving building, and Kaikoura Museum. Today, the South Island settlement provides an ideal base camp for observing the abundant offshore wildlife (sperm whales, dusky dolphins, orcas and fur seals) and dining on fresh local catch. Numerous galleries showcase the knitting, pottery and jewelry of area artisans.
A gateway to Fjordland National Park, the quaint and peaceful township of Te Anau is nestled on the edge of a lake of the same name—the perfect site for jetboating or fishing. Embark on one of many day-long or multi-day hiking or walking tracks, then return to town to restore your body with a soak or massage at a spa and a delicious café meal. Nature lovers will marvel at the Te Anau glowworm caves, the Wildlife Park and Ivon Wilson Park, where rare Takahe birds flutter freely.