HANG ON TO YOUR HATS

Whether your tastes are wild or mild, there’s al­ways some­thing to blow you away across the Ditch

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - BEST OF NEW ZEALAND - JOHN COR­BETT

Is there no end to the in­ge­nu­ity of our Kiwi cousins? Just when you think you’ve bungeed and gawked and eaten and drunk your way through all the pos­si­bil­i­ties, they add an­other tweak or some­thing com­pletely new. No sur­prise then that New Zealand has plenty to in­ter­est Aussie trav­ellers in 2018.

MORE LUX­URY

Sof­i­tel re­cently upped the ac­com­mo­da­tion sup­ply and the glam­our quo­tient with the re­open­ing of its 129-room Welling­ton prop­erty, a $6 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment of its Queen­stown 134-room Ho­tel St Moritz, in the MGallery col­lec­tion, and the ad­di­tion of the bou­tique 79room Ho­tel Grand Wind­sor in Auck­land to the MGallery port­fo­lio.

Not to be out­done, there’s much buzz about the open­ing of QT Ho­tels & Re­sorts’ new 69-room lake­side prop­erty in Queen­stown on De­cem­ber 1. Billed as a blend of nos­tal­gic alpine and apres-ski am­bi­ence, the ho­tel’s quirky in­te­rior de­sign and so­phis­ti­cated food and drink of­fer­ings are sure to make QT the city’s next spe­cial-oc­ca­sion ho­tel.

Not enough lux­ury? Three of the coun­try’s Relais & Châteaux lux­ury lodges (Kauri Cliffs, The Farm at Cape Kid­nap­pers, Matakauri Lodge) have been re­branded as Robert­son Lodges, of­fer­ing high-end itin­er­ar­ies through­out the coun­try.

Among Robert­son’s 2018 line-up of lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ences is the nine-day, golf-cen­tric The Tiger Tour, play­ing world-renowned cour­ses de­signed by David Har­man and Tom Doak.

HOPE SPRINGS, A 100M-LONG LINE OF WARM BUB­BLES IS THOUGHT TO BE THE RE­SULT OF FRAC­TURES IN UN­DER­SEA ROCKS

NEW THRILLS

Any­one with acro­pho­bia (fear of heights) should stop read­ing now be­cause Wild Wire Wa­ter­fall Ad­ven­tures near Wanaka has come up with a ter­ri­fy­ing-sound­ing Wild Wire Wa­ter­fall Ad­ven­ture that in­volves climb­ing a wa­ter­fall course us­ing fer­rata – iron grips, lad­ders and bridges sunk into the liv­ing stone. Wild Wire says that if you can climb a lad­der you can do Wild Wire. We’ll take their word for it.

Heli-bik­ing, the lat­est ex­treme sport to emerge from restless Kiwi imag­i­na­tions, in­volves hook­ing moun­tain bikes onto spe­cially adapted he­li­copters, whisk­ing up to the top of a nearby trail and en­joy­ing the de­scent through Lord of the Rings scenery with all the gain, none of the pain. Queen­stown is the heli-bik­ing hot spot, with E-bikes avail­able for the less fit. You’ll also find them in ma­jor New Zealand cities and cy­cle trails.

For the se­ri­ously fit, Run­ning Wild of­fers a range of week-long trail- run­ning tours in the north of the South Is­land, the vol­canic land­scapes of the cen­tral North Is­land and Cen­tral Otago.

Closer to most speeds are vine­yard marathons and half-marathons that of­fer the per­fect mo­ti­va­tion to reach the fin­ish line. The 2018 line-up in­cludes the in­au­gu­ral Wai­heke Is­land Half-Marathon (May 5), Saint Clair Vine­yard Half-Marathon (May 12) and Hawke’s Bay In­ter­na­tional Marathon (May 12).

While you’re on Wai­heke, check out the buzz sur­round­ing Te Motu, a bou­tique, fam­ily-owned and run win­ery and its award-win­ning restau­rant, The Shed. It’s the per­fect place to sam­ple the vine­yard’s world­class Bordeaux-style wines that are only re­leased at op­ti­mal drink­ing age.

NEW SIGHTS

Great Bar­rier Is­land Aotea at the outer edge of Auck­land’s Hau­raki Gulf re­cently be­came the only is­land in the world to en­joy In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky Sanc­tu­ary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Life on the 285sq km is­land 93km north­east of Auck­land is idio­syn­cratic (it’s off the grid), but it has al­ready hosted an as­tro­physics con­fer­ence and the stargaz­ing is spec­tac­u­lar.

The 7.8 earth­quake that re­ar­ranged the ge­og­ra­phy of South Is­land marine tourism mecca Kaik­oura in 2016 cre­ated a new lure. Hope Springs, a 100m-long line of warm bub­bles just off­shore in Whaler’s Bay, is thought to be the re­sult of frac­tures in un­der­sea rocks. Best en­joyed on a Kaik­oura Kayaks tour, Hope Springs comes with a hy­dro­gen-sul­phide pong alert.

Dart River Wilder­ness Jet­boat tours into pris­tine Mt As­pir­ing Na­tional Park are a Queen­stown must-do. They are now joined by Delta Dis­cov­ery’s low-im­pact, four-wheel-drive elec­tric buggy ad­ven­tures guided by in­ter­ac­tive GPS. It’s a re­mark­able en­counter with the beauty and soli­tude of an ice-age land­scape.

GET­TING THERE

Six airlines serve the routes across the Ditch in­clud­ing Jet­star, which flies from Mel­bourne, Syd­ney and the Gold Coast and do­mes­ti­cally in New Zealand to nine main cen­tres and re­gions. You can also hop by Jet­star from Auck­land to Raro­tonga, one of New Zealand’s win­ter “back­yards”.

Vik­ing Cruises de­buts in New Zealand waters in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary as part of its first-ever Vik­ing World Cruise on board Vik­ing

Sun. Vik­ing Orion will also home­port out of New Zealand and Aus­tralia be­tween De­cem­ber 2018 and Fe­bru­ary 2019 with a 15-day itin­er­ary be­tween six New Zealand ports and Aus­tralia’s east coast.

WA­TER­FALL CLIMB

PIC­TURES: WILDWIRE WANAKA, SUP­PLIED

Wild Wire Wa­ter­fall Ad­ven­ture Climb­ing (left) and lake view at Bazaar Restau­rant, QT. QT QUEEN­STOWN

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