I like making lists. So here’s a list of my top ten favourite places in New Zealand.
South Island, south-east
Modelled on and even named after Edinburgh, Dunedin is a vibrant university city, filled with steep hills, charming architecture and plenty of museums and art.
- Golden Bay
South Island, far north
North of Nelson and the famous Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay is tucked away over the winding Takaka Hill. Tiny villages sprout along its length with locals hitch-hiking between settlements; mostly the area is just empty, golden beaches, all the way to Farewell Spit at the top and the magical Wharariki Beach beyond.
- Waiheke Island
North Island, Auckland
An idyllic island just 45 minutes’ ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke is an untroubled paradise of great weather, self-sustaining lifestyles and hippies.
- The Catlins
South Island, south coast
Hidden away from the highways, The Catlins is formed from miles of wild, windswept coastline, punctuated by lighthouses, waterfalls, sealions and penguins.
North Island, east coast
This warm, sleepy town has plenty of art-deco personality, while its endless sun and palm trees give it a Mediterranean feel. The sunsets on the surrounding farmland are the stuff of legend.
South Island, east coast
Ostensibly just a slightly run-down seaside village, Kaikoura offers up more charms the more you explore. Head out to the seal colony or swim with dolphins beneath white mountains.
South Island, south-west
I’m slightly cheating here by including an entire region in one section. Fiordland is suffused with a myriad of breathtaking and otherworldly sights, from the expansive majesty of Key Summit and Lake Te Anau to the moody fiords of Milford and Doubtful Sound.
North Island, far south
No-one comes to New Zealand for the cities, but if you want a city, you come to Wellington. A compact, dynamic central district still feels relaxed, and the weather isn’t half as bad as people like to make out. It’s an easy, beautiful place to live.
South Island, north
Situated in one of the country’s sunniest, most settled weather regions, Nelson itself has plenty to offer. But it benefits most from its location, within close proximity of numerous natural masterpieces, including Abel Tasman National Park and Nelson Lakes.
- Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
South Island, centre
New Zealand is absolutely stuffed with stunning sights, but none are more awe-inspiring than the ones you experience from Mount Cook Village on a clear day. It’s set back from the regular tourist routes, so many travellers miss out on this glorious pilgrimage. Walk amidst snow-drenched mountains by day, and camp beneath deep, star-filled skies at night.