HANG ON TO YOUR HATS
Whether your tastes are wild or mild, there’s always something to blow you away across the Ditch
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Wild Wire Waterfall Adventure Climbing (left) and lake view at Bazaar Restaurant, QT. QT QUEENSTOWN