New Zealand: New regions to discover
New Zealand’s ‘Middle Earth’ has become well known the world over but, 250 years after Captain Cook’s arrival, there are still pockets of the country waiting to be discovered, says
Straining under the weight of its load, the locomotive clickety-clacks joyfully along, switching back and forth up steep grades as it passes dense pine trees, clay pits and an old gold mine, through tunnels and along viaducts. At the top the aptlynamed Eyefull Tower viewpoint affords spectacular views of the island-studded Hauraki Gulf.
This large mountain, rich in yellow terracotta clay, looms over the quaint Coromandel Township, which is named after the peninsula it sits on.
The Driving Creek Narrow-Gauge Railway is a toy train on a 2.6-kilometre track and the only one of its kind in New Zealand. Its architect Barry Brickell, the country’s first full-time potter, was inspired by trains he’d seen in Peru and built his own to transport heavy loads of precious clay down the mountain. It took 32 years to complete and now transports passengers too.
Visitors often bypass the Coromandel Peninsula but it’s just a two-hour drive from Auckland, a finger jutting out north and separating the Hauraki Gulf from the Pacific.
The rocky western coastline is sprinkled with small islands. In contrast, the east coast has long empty beaches, volcanic pinnacles, vast forests, rolling hills and farmland cloaked in every possible shade of green.
Step back 250 years
Next year New Zealand marks the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook making landfall in New Zealand. The English explorer and navigator compiled the first map of the coastline, cataloguing the unique animals and plants and, most significantly, meeting the Māori people.
To mark the occasion, New Zealand specialist Silver Fern Holidays has a new Captain Cook-themed trip for 2019.
The Discover Captain Cook’s New Zealand itinerary is a 29-day selfdrive tour priced from £4,299pp. It features key Cook locations: Gisborne, the Bay of Plenty, the Coromandel Peninsula and the Marlborough Sounds, with New Zealand’s must-see sights including Rotorua and the Southern Alps.
Auckland: New Zealand’s largest urban area is constructed on not one but 50 volcanoes, and is regularly in the top 10 most-liveable cities in the world. Rich in art, culture and sport, the city’s magnificent museum holds daily cultural shows depicting traditional Māori legends through song and dance.
Tarawera Landing: Board a luxury yacht and cruise the pristine clear waters of Lake Tarawera near Rotorua. At the base of Mt Tarawera, an enormous dormant volcano, you can slip into steaming hot thermal water for a soak. Back on board, a skipper prepares a succulent barbecue lunch accompanied by fine wines.
Wai-O-Tapu: South of Lake Tarawera, this geothermal wonderland’s name means Sacred Waters. It’s covered with hissing fumaroles that create an eerie setting. Boiling mud pools bubble away and the famous 20-metre Lady Knox Geyser erupts at around 10am daily, blasting water 20 metres into the air.
Architecture and wine: Destroyed in an earthquake and then rebuilt, Napier is known as one of the world’s finest Art Deco cities. A 20-minute drive away is Hawke’s Bay, known as the ‘Tuscany of the South Pacific’ for its pretty rolling hills and award-winning vineyards.
“The 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s first voyage will boost North Island tourism in 2019, especially in the East Cape, which deserves to be better known” John Lightwood, Managing Director, Silver Fern Holidays
Opposite page: Cathedral Cove on The Coromandel. This page, from top: bungy jumping in Queenstown; exploring Glenorchy; Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua; Auckland and the Sky Tower