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The real drawcard in Taupō is its lake; the largest in New Zealand, and a truly spectacular sight. Crystal-clear blue waters are bordered by magnificent cliffs and, in some places, the lake seems so deep you could be left wondering what hides in its inky depths – local Māori certainly did, which is where cultural legend the Loch Ness monster-esque taniwha originates from. See if you can spot the mythical creature from the wooden decking of this two-bedroom hilltop cottage, set just 400 metres (1,312 feet) from the lake.
Set sail across the silky waters of Lake Taupō on this traditional ketch boat. Your talented crew will explain the history of the area and take you to some of the lake’s most beautiful spots before you head to the Māori rock carvings. Only accessible by water, this piece of artwork was carved into the rock face by Matahi Brightwell and four other artists in honour of Brightwell’s late grandmother. After marvelling at the sheer beauty and amazing craftsmanship, head back across the lake. Don’t forget to bring your swimwear for a much-needed cool-off in the refreshing lake waters.
In the wake of a devastating earthquake in the 1930s, Napier was largely rebuilt. The result is an Art Deco-rich city that feels incongruous from the rest of the country’s architecture, but works so beautifully in this seaside setting. Retro facades aside, the city has a thoroughly modern interior, staking its claim as a dining hub in New Zealand. Should all that building ogling get too much, the beautiful beaches are the perfect place to soak up some rays – and this cosy “tree nest” near the fishing village of Ahuriri provides a beautiful coastal view through the thick of the trees.
Travelling around the city and neighbouring districts in a minivan, this tour will give you a comprehensive insight into the distinctive Art Deco architecture of Napier. Your tour guide will run you through the history of the earthquake in 1931 and the impact this had on the town, as well as its subsequent rebuild from the rubble into an Art Deco masterpiece. Stopping at landmarks such as the National Tobacco Building, there’s ample opportunity for photos, and you’ll get a renewed sense of knowledge about this architecture style.
The city base perched just behind the harbour from the pristine beaches of Mount Maunganui and Papamoa, Tauranga is a flourishing port town. A growth in population in recent years has afforded the town some serious new restaurant openings, helping to create a vibrant cultural scene in this picture-perfect beach destination. Located in the suburb of Brookfield, this recently renovated hideaway welcomes couples and groups of four into bright and airy rooms for a comfy weekend stay.
This bucolic area of the country has much to offer in the way of edible and quaffable delights. Sample the best of them on this food and wine tour. Departing from the city centre, you’ll be taken to some of the area’s finest independent producers, sampling foods like bespoke cheeses and salamis, and beverages like locally brewed cider and wine from an award-winning vineyard. Your knowledgeable guide will transport you between destinations, filling you in on notable facts and local history as you go along, and having you back in time for a sunset swim.
This much-lauded peninsula is often pinpointed as being home to some of the country’s best beaches – and the masses certainly aren’t wrong. With white sand and crystal-clear water, alongside hidden bays and the infamous Cathedral Cove (you may recognise it from the Chronicles of Narnia films), Coromandel is a destination that epitomises why New Zealand is so often seen as a heaven on earth. Treat your loved one with a stay at this cute modernised studio, just a two-minute walk from Cooks Beach.
Wind your way through the gravel lanes of the Coromandel Peninsula as your driver deftly navigates these tricky stretches of road to deliver you to some of the most picturesque areas in the area. Dropping you off at Stony Bay, you’ll then traverse the 10km (6mi) coastal path to Fletcher Bay – taking you past crystal clear waters, through lush bushland and with views over to Great Barrier Island, this is a hike you won’t soon forget. Your driver will meet you at the other end, dropping you back to Coromandel Town for a well-deserved sunset drink.
Comprising 140 islands amongst glassy waters, the Bay of Islands is an otherworldly idyll at the top of the North Island. The two main towns in the area are Paihia, and the historical port and whaling town of Russell, which was once referred to as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific”. History buffs should forego the former for the latter, which is filled with colonial houses and some of the oldest structures in New Zealand. Although Paihia does have a great choice of places to stay, including this charming two-bedroom suite that backs onto native bushland with distant sea views. With your own hot tub, you’ll be able to sit in bubbles with a glass of bubbles in hand, as you listen to the local birdlife tweeting away.
Do as the locals do and opt to see the bay aboard a sailboat. This will be a day well spent as you navigate around various islands, swim in the deliciously inviting waters and enjoy a homemade lunch on board. Your hosts Rick and Robin have sailed around the world, meaning you are in incredibly safe hands. With a maximum of just 10 guests, this is an intimate experience, offering welcome respite from the crowded mass tours that frequent Paihia. Visit local favourite islands and, if you’re particularly lucky, spot the dolphins that frequent the bay before returning to Russell salty and sun-kissed.