Situated on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is a fusion of spectacular natural features with amazing visual cues around every corner. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. Milford Sound is breathtaking in any weather. The fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards, some as high as 1000 metres. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect.
Milford Sound is named after Milford Haven in Wales, while the Cleddau River which flows into the sound is also named for its Welsh namesake. The Māori named the sound Piopiotahi after the thrush-like piopio bird, now extinct. Piopiotahi means “a single piopio”, harking back to the legend of Māui trying to win immortality for mankind – when Maui died in the attempt, a piopio was said to have flown here in mourning.
Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters and whales can be seen sometimes. The sound has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it is a breeding site for Fiordland penguins.
In rainy and stormy days tourists can admire the play of the wind with the numerous waterfalls in Milford Sound. When meeting the cliff face the powerful wind often goes upward and waterfalls with a vertical drop get caught by wind, causing the water to go upwards.
Port Chalmers is an historic township roughly twenty minutes’ drive from the centre of Dunedin city. The port was established because larger ships cannot into the city sail through the shallow waters of Otago Harbour. Port Chalmers is where Dunedin’s founding ships the John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing anchored in 1848. In 1846 Charles Kettle surveyed the area to become the deep water port for the adjoining Otago Association settlement which became Dunedin. Port Chalmers was named after Scottish Free Church leader Rev. Thomas Chalmers.
In 1882, the ship Dunedin left Port Chalmers, embarking on the first refrigerated voyage. The ship successfully carried 5000 frozen animals and 250 kegs of butter to London; the other side of the world. This was New Zealand’s first meat export, today a major part of the country’s economy. The thriving export industry in Port Chalmers led to a very prosperous latter part of the 19th Century. Many of the town’s ornate historic buildings date from this period. These were often were built from the locally quarried stone known as “Port Chalmers Breccia”.
Today the township is known for its arts and culture; with various cafes, galleries and quirky shops dotting the main street of the town along with Chick’s Hotel, an iconic performance location for Dunedin musicians and touring bands. Above the township is what is known as the town belt, a planned area of bush that hugs the township. The belt boasts various walking tracks to places such The Lady Thorne Rhododendron Dell as well as the track that leads to the Scott memorial. Captain Scott left for his Antarctic expedition to the South Pole from Port Chalmers in 1910. Scott and his crew tragically died on the return journey.
Unlike the English settlement of the rest of New Zealand, Dunedin was founded by the Scottish Free Church in 1848. While the city was originally to have been called New Edinburgh, ‘Dunedin’ is derived from the old Gaelic name for the same city. Dunedin’s strong cultural links to its Scottish predecessor continue to this day, and this was recognized in 1974 when Dunedin and Edinburgh established a formal Sister City relationship. The city’s surveyor, Charles Kettle planned the city to be an Edinburgh of the South, to create beautiful views over the town centre and its dramatic harbour setting. Its success lies in a flat central city, The Octagon and the Town Belt, a strip of natural bush and parks that separates the city centre from its hilly suburbs. The plan often disregarded the very hilly terrain, and its most famous result is Baldwin Street, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world.
Dunedin’s unique wildlife was what initially drew European settlers to the area; Captain Cook’s report of seals led to sealers from the beginning of the 19th century, and Otago Harbour was an international whaling port by the late 1830s. Today visitors are drawn by colonies of New Zealand Fur Seals, Yellow Eyed Penguins and Royal Albatross, which have an average wingspan of nearly 3m (9.8 ft).
In 1861 gold was discovered nearby, and the consequential gold rush led to a great influx of population and trade. With a booming economy Dunedin soon became New Zealand’s biggest and wealthiest city. During the 20th century the city’s growth slowed significantly, leaving behind a rich and unreplaced tapestry of Edwardian and Victorian architectural heritage. Large churches and public buildings were built with elaborate ornamentation, while houses around the central suburbs competed to have the most daring and decorative mix of architectural styles. The Dunedin Railway Station, built in the Edwardian Baroque style, is Dunedin’s most famous monument to its Golden Days, and New Zealand’s most photographed building.
Dunedin is full of colonial firsts, such as New Zealand’s first Botanic Garden, established in 1863. It set a trend for public gardens around the country and was recognized as a Garden of International Significance in 2010. The University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest and most beautiful university, was set up in 1869, whilst New Zealand’s first frozen meat export left Port Chalmers in 1882, an industry that is now one of New Zealand’s biggest.
- Baldwin Street is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world. The street runs up the northern side of Signal Hill, a prominent hill overlooking Otago Harbour, at slopes of up to 1:2.86 (for 2.86m horizontal distance, a rise of 1m). The steepness was unintentional; grids were laid out by surveyor Charles Kettle without proper regard for the terrain. Indeed some of the streets he intended were unable to be laid. Unlike most New Zealand Streets, the street is surfaced in concrete not asphalt, as the tar would flow down the slope on a warm day as well as to provide a better grip in Dunedin’s frosty winters. Stairs lead up the curb-side instead of a footpath.
There are a couple of annual events held at Baldwin street, one being the Jaffa Race at the annual Cadbury Chocolate Carnival, where 30,000 Giant Jaffas, hard orange candies with a chocolate centre, are rolled down the street. Each Jaffa is numbered, and sponsorship is sold by various local and nationwide beneficiaries who get to keep the money raised. At the bottom of Baldwin St the Jaffas are funnelled into the finishing chute to decide the winners.
- The Octagon is Dunedin’s city centre, an eight sided plaza bisected by the city’s main downtown street, George St. Though first designated “The Square of Moray Place”, even in its earliest years, it was colloquially known as The Octagon. Laid out by surveyors in 1846, Moray Place and The Octagon form two concentric streets, a plan remains mostly unchanged, creating a ring of civil and public buildings around a central plaza, including the Dunedin Town Hall, the Dunedin Public Library and Public Art Gallery, St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, a cinema multiplex and various cafes and bars. Uniquely for an inner city plaza, The Octagon is on an incline, sloping uphill from the ocean. The central pedestrian reserve, bisected by George and Princess Streets, is a paved plaza in its lower half, and grassed terraces in the upper. The terrace is surmounted by an 1887 statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, whose nephew Thomas Burns was one of the city’s founders. A statue for Thomas was later erected but removed due to its unpopularity in the 1940s. Running west out of The Octagon, Lower Stuart Street leads straight down to New Zealand’s most photographed building, the Dunedin Railway Station.
- Cadbury Chocolate Factory – Cadbury World is located in the centre of Dunedin city at the Cadbury Factory site. The Visitors Centre is a colourful and educational environment with chocolate themed displays where you can learn about the history of Cadbury and chocolate through the ages. Then take a fun filled and fascinating guided tour around the Cadbury Dunedin chocolate factory and sample Cadbury product along the way! Included is a visit to the unique chocolate fall housed in a five storey high, decommissioned crumb silo.
The most French town in New Zealand, Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula is the South Island’s most interesting volcanic feature. Originally an island formed by two volcanic cones, the peninsula has two dominant craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours. The peninsula was named for botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour. The best way to explore Akaroa is on foot. Visit local restaurants with their focus on French cuisine and head along to Barrys Bay Cheese, where they’ve persevered with original methods for over a century.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, with a population of over 300,000. Christchurch is in recovery following a series of earthquakes from September 4, 2010. The most damaging earthquake was on February 22, 2011; when 185 people lost their lives. The central business district (including Cathedral Square) remains closed as a result of many weakened buildings that are yet to be demolished. With much of the central business district is still fenced off and many hotels in this area now unavailable, it is important to book your accommodation in advance. Bringing retail back to the centre of town is New Zealand’s first pop-up mall Re:START. The mall has established itself in the old city mall with boutique fashion outlets, great food and coffee, and creative architecture.
Wellington is the capital city and geographical centre of New Zealand, situated at the southern tip of New Zealand’s north island. Wellington’s waterfront has been transformed into an attractive area of pedestrian walkways, cafes, attractions and activities – all within easy walking of the central business area and the City Circular bus route. Nearby is Old St Paul’s Church, an historic wooden Gothic building, and the refurbished Old Government Buildings, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. A short walk from Queens Wharf is the Civic Square. This is an area of impressive architecture, comprising the Public Library, City Gallery, Town Hall and Festival and Convention Centre. Further on is the city’s largest attraction – Te Papa Tongarewa – the Museum of New Zealand, a spectacular building on the water’s edge.
- Red Cable Car – The Wellington Cable Car was established in 1902 and is New Zealand’s only historic funicular railway still in operation today. Departing every 10 minutes, the short journey begins on Lambton Quay in the city centre, and finishes in the charming suburb of Kelburn. Along the way, you’ll travel under the corporate towers of The Terrace, past Kelburn Park and Victoria University of Wellington. Emerging at the top, check out the lookout and Cable Car Museum or walk through the Wellington Botanic Garden. You’ll also be a short walk from Space Place at Carter Observatory. The view from the lookout takes in the city’s central business district, Mount Victoria and out across the harbour to the Hutt Valley and Eastbourne. Return trip follows the same route.
- Cuba Street – Wellington’s famous inner city slice of bohemia, Cuba Street, is a place with culinary and creative soul. It’s where people meet, busk, shop, dine and the best place in town to soak up the capital of cool’s culture. The street has been a registered Historic Area under the Historic Places Act since 1995. Cuba Street is a little stretch of shops, cafes, and bars along a brick road known as Cuba Street (or Cuba Mall for the pedestrian-only part). Cuba Street is full of LIFE. It’s full of character. And, most of all, it’s full of all the people who make up the great city of Wellington. From the businessmen to the buskers, Cuba Street shows all shades of this city’s colors. Cuba Street is a creative and culinary melting pot of buskers, art galleries, graffiti-filled alleyways, quirky cafes, nationally acclaimed restaurants and community exhibition spaces. One of the capital’s icons, Cuba Street is a meeting of minds, menus and market culture enjoyed by everyone from young to old, hipsters to suits, locals to visitors.
The picturesque seaside town of Picton (population 3,000) is the South Island base for the ferry service that links the main islands of New Zealand. It’s also the gateway to the marine, forest and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds. Built around a very sheltered harbour, the town has an attractive seafront dotted with cafés, restaurants and various types of galleries. There’s also a floating maritime museum and an aquarium.
Beautifully preserved 1930s architecture is Napier’s special point of difference. Napier is one of New Zealand’s most attractive cities, located at the south of the Hawkes Bay, just 20 minutes out of Hastings. Palm trees line the inner-city streets and the wonderfully sculpted Marine Parade, as the name suggests, runs along the shore of the city. Along Marine Parade various parks, gardens and memorials give the water’s edge its distinct character.
A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. On the morning of February 3rd 1931 a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes. Nearly 260 lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the commercial centre of Napier were destroyed, either by the quake itself or the fires that followed.
Rebuilding began almost immediately, and much of it was completed in two years. New buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco. Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright, had his chance to shine. Maori motifs were employed to give the city a unique New Zealand character
Napier is also the home of New Zealand wine, housing the oldest wineries and wine-making establishments in the country. With some of the best sunshine hours in New Zealand, mountainous shelter from prevailing westerly winds, and refreshing sea breezes, not only is Napier a great climate for visiting, but is ideal for grape growing.
Throw in a mild temperate climate, ample rain fall, lots of sunshine, active volcanoes, boiling mud pools, kiwifruit and avocado orchards, dairy farming and fishing, over one hundred kilometres of sandy white beaches, rain forest, rivers and more than a dozen lakes all teaming with trout, some of the earliest Maori settlements, a rich European history, the fastest growing town in New Zealand and the busiest port by tonnage in the country and you have one of the best places to live and visit in the World.
Aptly named the Bay of Plenty by Captain Cook, Tauranga is the commercial hub and boasts a sunny warm temperate climate, beaches stretching as far as the eye can see and a sheltered harbour over 20 kilometres long which contains the Port of Tauranga. Tauranga’s suburb, Mount Maunganui (or The mount) is where the ship docks and is a great place to simply relax if you don’t feel like exploring further.
It can justifiably claim to be the ‘Kiwifruit capital of the World’. In the early 1900’s vines were brought to the area from South Eastern China. From these plants, then known as ‘Chinese Gooseberries’ the modern Kiwifruit was developed, right there in New Zealand
The geothermal utopia of Rotorua is a magnet for travelers, who come to discover volcanic phenomena and learn about New Zealand’s Maori culture. Catch a whiff of Rotorua’s sulphur-rich, asthmatic airs and you’ve already got a taste of NZ’s most dynamic thermal area, home to spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and exploding mud pools. The Māori revered this place, naming one of the most spectacular springs Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters). Today 35% of the population is Māori, with their cultural performances and traditional hangi as big an attraction as the landscape itself. Despite the pervasive eggy odour, ‘Sulphur City’ is one of the most touristed spots on the North Island, with nearly three million visitors annually.
- Whakarewarewa Thermal Village: The Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao people have a proud heritage which they have shared with visitors for over two hundred years. Since the early 1800’s they have been hosting and welcoming visitors into their homes and backyards, demonstrating the utilization of the natural geothermal wanders for cooking and bathing and sharing their geothermal existence continues to fascinate tourists visiting Whakarewarewa today.
- Pohutu Geyser: The legendary Pohutu Geyser erupts to a height of 30m (100 feet) up to 20 times a day, Pohutu is the most reliable geyser on earth. Eruptions can last from a few minutes to several days, and in one rare case between 2000 and 2001, Pohutu Geyser erupted for over 250 days. Pohutu Geyser is a complex spring with an intricate plumbing system. The process begins when rainwater starts to boil and create steam, due to intense heat from molten rock underground. Pressure builds inside Pohutu’s underground chamber until it forces its way through the geyser vent and shoots. Once Pohutu Geyser has calmed, the chamber fills with water again and the process starts over.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and located on the northern end of the north island.
- Bridge Bungy Jump – AJ Hackett Bungy are the Bungy originals! New Zealand’s only ocean touch – touch it, get dunked – it’s up to you! Equipped to offer ever Bungy Jump option, ankle tie, harness jump, tandem.. you name it, you can do it. a 10 minute walk out to the Auckland Harbour Bridge jump pod featuring stunning views of the Waitemata Harbour!
Piha – Black Sand Beaches
30km from Auckland is Piha is popular with experienced surfers, but it’s also a wonderful spot for picnics, relaxing walks and swims – under the watchful eye of the famous Piha Surf Club. See Lion Rock, a small island that stands in the middle of the beach. Visitors to the west coast beaches need to be aware that the powerful surf creates changing undertows and rips, but you can swim safely where there are surf patrol flags.
Here, the treaty was signed between Maori and the British. Waitangi is one of New Zealand’s most significant historic sites. It’s the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the British Crown and more than 500 Maori chiefs. The treaty agreed the terms by which New Zealand would become a British colony.
Today the Treaty Grounds are an opportunity to learn about Maori culture and the historical events associated with the signing of the treaty. Visit the Treaty House itself to see a replica of the original treaty; marvel at the fully carved Maori meeting house and one of the largest Maori war canoes in the country; and watch an informative and highly entertaining audio-visual presentation at the visitor centre. Live kapahaka performances are also held regularly and there’s a hotel located within the reserve that has a restaurant and bar.
Boasting golden beaches, secluded coves, tranquil harbours, warm waters, dramatic coastlines and spectacular forest, Northland is also rich in a unique history that ties both Maori and non – Maori people together. Historical sites can be found throughout the region including Paihia, Kerikeri, Russell, Hokianga and New Zealand’s most historic site, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
The Bay of Islands is a marine playground with a multitude of ways to enjoy being in, on and under the water. Incredible marine life including dolphins can be found playing amongst the 144 islands, most famous of which is the Hole in the Rock.
A number of celebrated artists and craftspeople live and work here and visits to their studios and galleries can be woven into the scrumptious food and wine trails the north is fast gaining a reputation for. These trails make it easy to experience the delicious fresh local produce, seafood, gourmet goods and award winning wines available across the entire region.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is the place where Māori chiefs first signed their accord with the British Crown – the Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.
The Treaty Grounds feature the historic Treaty House, the magnificently carved meeting house and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe. Enjoy strolling through one of New Zealand’s great beauty spots with its panoramic views of the Bay of Islands.