“Still round the corner there may wait A new road or a secret gate, And though I oft have passed them by, A day will come at last when I Shall take the hidden paths that run West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
When actor Elijah Wood, in his portrayal of Hobbit character Frodo Baggins, first sang this song under the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien, both could not have foreseen the enduring appeal of the Lord of the Rings stories and how it propelled New Zealand into one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
And while the Hobbiton Movie Set in Waikato should certainly be on the list of any first-time traveller to New Zealand, the country has many more less trodden paths and secret gates to be explored.
Discover new adventures between the moon and sun in the Land of the Long White Cloud as we bring to you the highlights of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
For the family: Auckland
If you’ve always thought that Auckland is just a bustling city in the north of New Zealand’s North Island, think again. Auckland is a hub for new educational experiences for the whole family.
A four-hour coach ride away lies Rotorua, home to geothermal wonders dating back two million years. At the Taupo Volcanic Zone, crater lakes, spouting geysers and bubbling mud pools at parks like Wai-O-Tapu will enthrall kids no end. Hell’s Gate is another geothermal attraction, offering a heavenly spa experience with its splattering mud pits and sulphur waters.
A five-minute drive away from the centre of Rotorua is the 100-year-old Whakarewarewa Forest, dubbed “the Redwoods” for its California redwood trees. This 5,600-hectare paradise offers scenic trails for hikers, mountain bikers and even those on horseback. Children can try out orienteering courses, junior explorer trails, and obtain discovery packs from the Information Centre.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, under three hours from Auckland by coach, are a must-see for the whole family. Be amazed by natural rock formations from the Catacombs to the imposing 18-metre high Cathedral, a performance venue that has been graced by famed singers including New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The real highlight, however, is the boat ride along the subterranean Waitomo River during which you will pass through a 250m limestone cave system where thousands of glowworm larvae light up the cave roof like a star-studded sky. It is a mesmerising experience not to be missed.
For friends: Wellington
New Zealand’s capital is a great starting point for friends seeking unusual adventures. Try spending a night under the stars in Wairarapa (two hours by train from Wellington), site of Stonehenge Aotearoa which is not only a top-rated stargazing site, but also a historic site offering a window into the secrets of lost civilisations.
If wine is the ultimate social lubricant, the chance for some quality bonding time with your pals is just a ferry or a coach ride away. From Picton, hop on an Interislander or Bluebridge ferry en route to Marlborough (40 minutes’ drive from Picton), or take the coach to Nelson, a two–and-a-half-hour drive away. Marlborough and Nelson are home to Yealands Estate and Neudorf Vineyards respectively, both of which produce Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and many more flavours that have helped put New Zealand firmly on the world’s wine map.
Perhaps your best buddies prefer “liquid bread” to the nectar of grapes.
“Welly”, as the capital is fondly referred to, is also New Zealand’s craft beer capital, and its central business district boasts a dense raft of top-rated taprooms, such as The Malthouse, Garage Project and Tuatara. Or your gang could opt for a more formal education at the Craft Beer College, which has tours, food, and “examinations” you won’t mind mugging for.
Even if you’re travelling solo, Kiwi warmth means you don’t have to be lonely. Wellington’s laneways, or narrow alleys, are a culture unto themselves. Hannah’s Laneway is dubbed “the world’s tastiest laneway” by locals for obvious reasons. At Golding’s Free Dive, pair a fresh brew with slices from Pizza Pomodoro just across the street, and you could end up making a new friend or two.
For the romantic: Christchurch
There are a myriad of ways to kindle - or even rekindle - love in beautiful Christchurch. For one, how about snuggling up in spacious reclining seats aboard the TranzAlpine train as it makes its 223-kilometre coast-to-coast journey? Passing the Canterbury Plains and the stunning Southern Alps of New Zealand, its journey ends in Greymouth, home of the legendary Monteith’s Brewery.
If your love - or both of you - adore animals, take a coach ride of just under three hours to Kaikoura, where Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura offers the experience of a lifetime: swimming with wild dusky dolphins. Even if you prefer to stay dry, watching the acrobatic antics of these intelligent creatures from your boat is sure to be another heart-warming experience.
“Glamping” has been in vogue for quite a while now, but no country does it quite like New Zealand. Just a little under three hours away by coach from Christchurch is the idyllic seaside town of Akaroa, whose historic French connection is revealed in street names like Rue Jolie. Take in beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding hills as you relax on your luxurious king-sized bed in Akaroa Glamping’s fully-kitted tents, each with a bathroom and an outdoor kitchen.
New Zealand - closer than you think!
Your epic New Zealand journey starts the moment you board the plane. Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines have teamed up to provide you with “the best of both worlds” flight experiences to and from New Zealand.
Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines (three flights daily)
Singapore Airlines (four times a week)
Singapore Airlines (daily), Air New Zealand (five times a week from Dec 1, 2019 to Feb 22, 2020)
Be pampered by two premium airlines that fly non-stop to Auckland and Christchurch, and direct to Wellington, with seamless domestic connections within New Zealand.
Both airlines are part of the Star Alliance and KrisFlyer members will earn miles when flying with either carrier.
For more information, visit airnewzealand.com.sg and singaporeair.com/newzealand
*Terms and conditions apply.
Where waterfalls cascaded from fjordsides
THE rural town of Pinglin in south-eastern New Taipei City is worth a day trip, especially if you’re aching to see more of Taiwan outside Taipei.
Suriati Jamil offers eight reasons to experience It’s The Ship, the largest festival at sea in Asia
Jonathan Tan heads to Greece for a week of history, culture and some of the best seaside views in the world
Ming E. Wong chills out in the charming English county of Sussex