Travel destination: New Zealand – anything but overrated

Stephanie Zheng
Producer, Travel Lead
Famous Mitre Peak rising from the Milford Sound fiord, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Full disclaimer: I have never been to New Zealand. But it should be noted that the praises heaped upon New Zealand are aplenty, and maybe there’s something there in the numerous testimonies of people raving about the undisputed beauty of New Zealand’s scenery, the food, the wine, the weather and so much more.

Tourism New Zealand had launched a new campaign highlighting new regions and hidden gems. It’s no longer just repeated pushes on same-old same-new large cities such as Christchurch and Auckland – perfectly wonderful cities to fly into I’m sure – but for the purpose of this article, we’re looking at something more than the well-trodden path.

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North Island

Wellington

Photo Taken In Wellington, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Philip Armitage / EyeEm, Gettyimages)

Wellington may be known more for being a base camp for Lord Of The Ring fans accessing its movie sets, but it offers a lot more than that. 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 testament to how compact and well-planned the city is. The city is incredibly good-looking to boot, set in a harbour with colourful boatsheds, bushy hillsides and distance mountains flanking it. Numerous food trucks, night markets and restaurants dotting the city are where the foodies should go.

Wairarapa

Castlepoint, Wellington region, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Matteo Colombo, Gettyimages)

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 local’s favourite getaway, so you know you’re on to a good thing.

South Island

Nelson

Blue Lake and Franklin Range, Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Janetteasche, Getty Images)

If art is a glimpse into the soul, then Nelson Tasman is basically the soul of the country with its vibrant local 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 an exaggerated one as scientific tests carried out by New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) actually proved that it has the clearest natural body of fresh water known to man. Very clear (ahem) to me that’s where the insta-worthy money shot is at.

Marlborough

Aerial view of Marlborough Sounds. (PHOTO: Alejandro Ruiz Aviña, Getty Images)

It’s all about Sauvignon Blanc here. Simply put, geographical features of this region are perfect for the wine they produce, and it shows. 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 sounds 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

Winding road leading to Mount Cook Village, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Nur Ismail Photography, Getty Images)

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 meaning ‘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 amazing experiences, I believe, will no doubt provide us with a greater perspective of our place on earth.

After watching countless Youtube videos on New Zealand during work in the name of research, I’m inclined to believe that New Zealand is too underrated for the travel opportunities it presents. Book me a direct flight to New Zealand pronto!