An abundance of endowments begin with unparalleled physical beauty

Tucked in a corner of the South Pacific and separated from Australia by the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is a poster child for the old saying that good things come in small packages.

This little country where sheep outnumber a human population of four million is arguably one of the planet’s finest beauty spots. Consisting of three islands, the North and South Islands, plus tiny Stewart Island, New Zealand’s physical splendour is defined by rolling green hills, majestic snow-capped alps, rainforests, glaciers, fiords, pristine lakes and exploding geysers.

Some 15 years ago my travel writing career was launched with a trip to New Zealand and every moment of the two weeks I spent there are indelibly etched on my mind. Each and every day, as I drove from the top of the country to the bottom, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the place, thinking there couldn’t be anywhere on earth more physically stunning. I am not alone in this belief. Noted author James A. Michener wrote in Return to Paradise, “New Zealand is probably the most beautiful place on earth with natural beauty difficult to believe.”

Eons ago, convulsive volcanic eruptions shaped a fascinating landscape that has attracted legions of visitors for well over a century. Renowned for its awesome geo-thermal activity, geysers and hot gurgling mud pools are common–many of them contained in thermal reserves. Arguably best known is the thermal park at the North Island town of Rotorua where its world famous Pohutu Geyser erupts 10 to 25 times a day. In fact the town is filled with healing mud baths and mineral pools where visitors take to the waters believed to contain curative properties. A trip to NZ would not be complete without spending a couple of days exploring Auckland, the country’s biggest and best known city. Built on a landscape of 50 extinct volcanoes “the Queen City” embodies charming neighbourhoods, markets, shops, parks, galleries and a harbour boasting more boats per capita than any city in the world.

I confess, however, my most memorable moments were recorded beyond Auckland.

For instance, I was impressed by the North Island’s Bay of Islands whose legendary scenery repeatedly attracted American author and ardent angler, Zane Grey in the 1920s. To this day, the waters surrounding the bay’s 150 islands attract fishermen, scuba divers and charter sailors from around the world. Also among North Island attractions are kiwi fruit plantations that produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of the fuzzy, brown skinned fruit.

Not surprisingly, wool production is also a big commodity and there are plenty of open-to-the-public sheep farms that offer regular shearing demonstration. In addition, the North Island’s plethora of activities also includes extinct volcano tours, white water rafting, Maori cultural villages and superb sailing on Lake Taupo.

Although they share landscape likenesses, the South Island is not an exact replica of its northern sister. One of its most famous physical features is Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as “the eighth wonder of the world.” The Sound is a long, breathtakingly beautiful fiord towered over by a gauntlet of mountains. Situated at the lower end of the island, the Sound is attached to Fiordland, the country’s largest national park. Some say Fiordland is to the island what the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre.

The park features unparalleled hiking, hut-to-hut camping and bush walks. If Fiordland is to be surpassed the direction to look is Mount Cook, the South Island alp on which Sir Edmund Hillary practiced for his famous Mt. Everest climb. This supreme mountain is the centrepiece of Mt. Cook National Park, king of NZ parklands. Popular here are aerial tours, guided climbs, mountaineering, year-round skiing and glacier visits. The South Island also has charming towns such as Christchurch, a city said to be more English than London. Located near the east coast, the town is divided by (what else) the Avon River where visitors can rent canoes and punts or enjoy guided gondola tours. Christchurch boasts everything from museums to pubs, parks, gardens, trolley tours, excellent shopping and a vibrant nightlife.

Lying off the southern tip of the South Island is tiny Stewart Island where the pace of life is decidedly tranquil. Lapped by both the Pacific and Antarctic oceans, it is sparsely populated and much less developed than its sister islands. However, it boasts a reputation as a bird watcher’s paradise being home to numerous varieties of rare and endangered species.


When to go: Seasons are the reverse to those in North America. The NZ summer occurs when Canada is experiencing winter.
Travel information: See

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