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24 June is Māori New Year; good day for some New Zealand travel inspiration!

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·Lifestyle Editor
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Milford sound in the morning sunrise and reflection of the beautiful mountain in the lake
Milford Sound in the sunrise. (Photo: Gettyimages)

Matariki Day in New Zealand falls on 24 June. It's when the Matariki constellation reappears in the dawn skies, marking the beginning of the Māori New Year – a time to return to the places one calls home; to reconnect with whānau (family), friends and communities.

While the celebration is not new, 2022 is particularly special as it's the first time Aotearoa New Zealand will recognise Matariki as an official Public Holiday; the first to recognise Te Ao Māori and one of the first re-introduced indigenous celebrations in the world.

To celebrate the inaugural holiday, Tourism New Zealand has partnered with Grammy Award-winning indigenous instrumentalist Jerome Kavanagh to create a bespoke composition, drawing upon the kīwaha 'te hau kāinga' (the winds of home) and Taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments). Have a listen.

Want to actually transport yourself to New Zealand and bath in its sights and sound? Here are some travel inspirations to new regions and hidden gems beyond Christchurch and Auckland.

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Check airfare here: Skyscanner | Trip.com

There's no lack of activities at a good price on Klook

Book accommodations and more activities here: Agoda | Booking.com | KKday | HotelsCombined

General info here: Tripadvisor

North Island

Wellington

Wellington may be known more for being a base camp for Lord Of The Rings fans accessing its movie sets, but it offers much more. Its status as the 12th most liveable city in the world could be – purely in this author's opinion – due to award-winning craft beers, great restaurants and strong coffee. I mean, what else could we possibly wish for, right?

Jokes aside, it's often said that you can walk 10 minutes to wherever you'd like to go in Wellington, and that's a testament to how compact and well-planned the city is. The town is beautiful, set in a harbour with colourful boatsheds, bushy hillsides and distant mountains flanking it. Numerous food trucks, night markets and restaurants dotting the city are where the foodies should go.

Wairarapa

Go east of Wellington, and you'll find yourself in Wairarapa, a rural area that's off the beaten track. Known for the picturesque Castlepoint Lighthouse and Cape Palliser lighthouse, Wairarapa also houses an alpaca farm where you can feed the cuddly creatures (squeals!); wineries to do a proper wine-bender; and even has its personal astronomical clock, the Stonehenge Aotearoa. Wairarapa gets bonus points for being the locals' favourite getaway, so you know you're on to a good thing.

South Island

Nelson

If art is a glimpse into the soul, then Nelson Tasman is the soul of the country with its vibrant arts scene, craft stores, art galleries, as well as pristine beaches and nature reserves. Also, did we mention lakes too?

Try your hand at paddling a Maori waka (an ancient form of canoe) in the world's clearest lake, the Rotomairewhenua, also known as the Blue Lake. That clearest lake claim is definitely not exaggerated, as scientific tests by New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research proved that it has the clearest natural body of fresh water known to man. Very clear (ahem) to me that's where the money shot is.

Marlborough

It's all about Sauvignon Blanc here. Simply put, the geographical features of this region are perfect for the wine they produce, and it shows. But, of course, no one will blame you if you want to while away your days getting wined-up.

Alternatively, you may consider spending a back-to-nature holiday trekking through its extensive network of coastal waterways, peninsulas and islands. Between the smaller inlets of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru, a 70-kilometre walking track called the Queen Charlotte Walking Track also covers gorgeous coastal forest, coves and inlets, and skyline ridges. See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me!

Canterbury

The Canterbury region includes a large central portion of the East Coast of the South Island, centred around the city of Christchurch, and it's defined by grassy plains, glacier lakes, whales and snow-capped mountains. For me, that means an adventurer's version of heaven, as there are plenty of activities in nature such as skiing, hot air ballooning, salmon fishing and hiking.

When it comes to dining, foodies are not left out. Fun fact: Kaikoura, an area within Canterbury, is translated from Maori as "a place for eating crayfish." No points for guessing why! While you're there, also have a go at spotting fur seals lounging on rocks, Hector's dolphins frolicking in the sea, and, if you're really lucky, giant sperm whales. These fantastic experiences, I believe, will no doubt provide us with a greater perspective of our place on earth.

Book me a direct flight to New Zealand pronto!

Check airfare here: Skyscanner | Trip.com

Book accommodations and activities here: Agoda | Booking.com | Klook | KKday | HotelsCombined

General info here: Tripadvisor

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