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

Selling Travel - - Contents - Lisa Young

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.

Top ex­pe­ri­ences

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

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