Already a model, fashion designer, actress and now, the new ambassador for Tourism New Zealand, Megan Gale reveals her five favourite destinations across the Land of the Long White Cloud.
1. Soak up the outdoors in Rotorua
As New Zealand’s thermal wonderland, no visit to Rotorua is complete without bathing under a waterfall and soaking in the local springs at Kerosene Creek.
One of the best ways to explore Rotorua though is on two wheels, and the top destination in this mountain-biking mecca is the 5600-hectare Whakarewarewa Forest, packed with exotic trees and panoramic views.
This is one of New Zealand’s original mountain bike networks and boasts 130 kilometres of well-maintained trails that promise something for all abilities, from beginner to experienced riders.
On the spot Mountain Bike Rotorua offers hire bikes and guided tours, while those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can also enjoy the forest on foot or via the treetop walkway.
2. Visit an ancient land in Northland
Deep in the Waipoua Forest you’ll find Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the forest) – a giant kauri tree towering over 50 metres, thought to be up to 2500 years old.
The best way to experience the magic of this area (and understand its cultural significance) is with Footprints Waipoua tours.
Knowledgeable guides take you to four mighty and ancient kauri trees (including Tane Mahuta), intertwining tales of the stately trees, the role they play in the lives of local Maori and the eco-system.
My Mum is actually from Kaitaia in Northland.
3. See the stars in Lake Tekapo
In the South Island’s Mackenzie District, experience star-filled nights and the immensity of the universe in New Zealand’s International Dark Sky Reserve – the first in the southern hemisphere, and the world’s biggest starlight reserve.
The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is located in the Mackenzie Basin – an alpine region that includes New Zealand’s tallest mountain (Aoraki or Mt Cook, as it’s also known), and the beautiful turquoise-hued lakes Tekapo and Pukaki.
For a real insight into the universe, book a nighttime observatory tour with Earth & Sky, which take visitors on a journey of astronomical discovery, highlighting an abundance of hidden stars, planets and ethereal gems of the southern skies.
There’s also a twilight tour, where you can see the sun dip beneath the Southern Alps and the stars start to fill the darkening sky – it’s a pretty special experience.
4. Bike your way around Marlborough
One of the best ways to experience this beautiful South Island region and many of its 70 wineries – home to some of the best sauvignon blanc in the world – is by bike.
There are plenty of bike tours that take visitors on leisurely rides down quiet country roads and past spectacular scenery, stopping at cellar doors for a tasting or a delicious cafe meal before continuing onto the next stop.
Marlborough is the southern part of The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail – a 380-kilometre touring route that takes visitors off the beaten track to some of the country’s most exquisite wineries, with plenty of accommodation options and gourmet delights along the way.
The Forrest Grape Ride is especially memorable for cyclists of all abilities, as it weaves through the world-renowned wine-growing region, ending with the opportunity for 100 ‘grape crushing virgins’ to help stomp three tonne of pinot noir grapes.
5. See nature at its best in Fiordland
With the summer crowds departed, the cooler months are a great time to see natural New Zealand at its best.
Travel to the heart of Fiordland National Park, an area of New Zealand overflowing with verdant native forests, ancient glaciers, thundering waterfalls and rare wildlife, to visit Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most spectacular places of pure beauty.
Take an overnight cruise or leisurely kayak through Milford Sound.