Bold statement, I know (and I may be slightly biased, being Original Travel's resident New Zealand expert and all), but New Zealand is the ultimate luxury holiday destination. Firstly, it's home to scenery that truly has to be seen to be believed. Yes, the photos look incredible but even they can't do justice to New Zealand's awe-inspiring diversity of landscapes. Then there's the people and culture; you'll struggle to meet a friendlier and more welcoming nation of people anywhere in the world, let alone one that is steeped in such a rich tapestry of history. Next up to be raved about is the food and wine - two words: simply sensational. Oh, and did I mention the sheer volume and variety of activities on offer? New Zealand is, quite simply, the full package.
Having said all that… where to start?
The Bay of Islands, in the northern corner of New Zealand's North Island has a unique ecology and a sub-tropical climate, playing host to a wonderful variety of flora, fauna and scenery. Up here, it's all about getting away from it all; if you want seclusion, peace and quiet, Bay of Islands has it in spades. It just so happens to be home to one of Original Travel's favourite hotels too, Kauri Cliffs. Set in 6,000 acres of bushland and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Kauri Cliffs is a wonderful mixture of complete isolation and impeccable luxury. Dreamy. Think long walks along the pink shelled beach, boat tours of the islands, horse riding and golf… or simply revelling in the glory of your surroundings, it's that good.
Further down the coast but still on the North Island, is Hawke's Bay, a place of dramatic scenery, delectable food and great wine. Now, the food is pretty sensational throughout New Zealand (even their airline, Air New Zealand, excels on the food front, with Peter Gordon doing the menus) but this is a real highlight and, although it's probably one of the least famous wine regions in New Zealand, it in no way lacks for quality. The pick of the bunch hotel-wise in this area is The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, set in thousands of acres (this seems to be a theme with kiwi hotels) of rolling hills and lush farmland. The hotel even has its own tasting room within its wine cellar… speaking of wine, a bicycle wine tour is a must. Now, there must be a joke in here somewhere about there being no law against being drunk in charge of a bike, but that would be terribly irresponsible, wouldn't it?
The highlight of New Zealand's South Island has got to be Queenstown, located, once again, amidst some stunning scenery. It's also home to pretty much any adventurous activity you could possibly imagine… and probably a few you never knew could exist. While bungee jumping, skydiving and white water rafting tend to grab the headlines, they are really just the tip of the iceberg. For breath-taking scenery, there are helicopter tours of Milford Sound (Norway's fjords eat your heart out) and the Franz Josef Glacier, while adrenaline-junkies will be drawn to gorge driving, jet boating and heli-biking and hiking. For any history buffs in the audience, look no further than a heritage tour to the historic gold mining areas. I'm not sure if you've cottoned on yet but Queenstown really is quite special. And that's before I've even mentioned the hotels. My favourite is Matakauri Lodge, on the outskirts of Queenstown, overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Said lake, and the mountains beyond, make for some of the most gobsmacking, jaw-dropping and drool-inducing views possibly on the planet.
So if you're after a holiday complete with incredible scenery, adventure, unparalleled food and wine and some of the most flawless luxury hotels on earth, I think you'll agree; New Zealand is the ultimate destination.