New Zealand: A South Pacific Paradise

Use this travel guide to Wellington and Queenstown to plan your New Zealand vacation

By Stephanie Stephens

WellingtonIf you saw The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia, you saw this country at its best on-screen. New Zealand’s extraordinary scenery and diverse geography mean that there’s literally something for everyone in this picturesque country.Check out the current exchange rate You can fly nonstop from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Auckland; then hop a commuter plane south. The capital city Wellington is artistic, sophisticated, and a foodies’ paradise, compactly situated between "harbour" and hills at the bottom of the North Island. On the South Island, Queenstown is dubbed "The Adventure Capital of the World," the birthplace of bungee jumping. Get your adrenaline buzz here with a backdrop of 53-mile-long glacial Lake Wakatipu, adjacent to the massive, spindly Remarkables Mountains.Here is a comprehensive guide to these two fascinating cities in a country with much to offer in adventure and culture.What to DoKarori Wildlife Sanctuary: For the first time in 200 years, a tuatara colony has returned to New Zealand’s mainland. Lizard-like tuatara are the oldest living reptiles on earth. The sanctuary is also home to endangered species of native birds and other wildlife and is just minutes from downtown Wellington.Learn more about the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary Moko Museum: Learn the origins of Maori tattooing, which combines scarification and coloring. The Maori are New Zealand’s native people. See photos of the National Tattoo Museum of New Zealand The Stansborough (Sheep) Experience: New Zealand has 45 million sheep and this attraction elevates wool to new heights. Stansborough provided costumes for LOTR and Narnia.Read about the innovative weaving and unique fabrics of Stansborough Fibres Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa): Interactive and innovative, the "Smithsonian of New Zealand" has hosted 11 million visitors since 1998. Open every day of the year and free of charge, Te Papa is a great way to learn about the history and culture of New Zealand.See what exhibitions are available for viewing Zest Food Tours: Wellington is said to have more cafes, restaurants, and bars per person than New York City. Walk "Welly" visiting coffee roasters, specialty food stores, and chefs, and sampling New Zealand food and wine.Explore tour options for a unique food lover’s experience Where to ShopDowntown Wellington offers plenty of shopping in its four distinctive quarters: Lambton Quarter, Willis Quarter, Courtenay Quarter, and Cuba Quarter. Check out clothing by Kiwi designers, including Zambezi and Starfish.Download a map of stores Cuba Quarter, a neighborhood of funky shops and trendy cafes, has loads of up-and-coming designers and vintage clothing. Be sure to visit the Old Bank shopping arcade.Read about where to shop in this famous landmark Local galleries offer high-quality authentic Maori art, including bone/wood/jade carvings, woven floor mats/runners and paintings. Two to put on your itinerary: Ora Design + Art Space and Kura Contemporary Ethnic Art Gallery.Ora Design + Art Space Kura Gallery Where to EatChocolate Fish: Casual meals by the water. Great breakfasts, panini, and coffee.Citron: Try the degustation menu by famed Kiwi chef Rex Morgan, with three- and eight-course set menus.Check out a sample menu from Citron Kai in the City: A cafe/restaurant and wine bar that serves Maori cuisine such as kumara pie and pikopiko pesto.Logan Brown: A stellar restaurant and bar located in the Cuba district, in an old bank. "Fine dining without the price tag and the pretension."Peek at the menu and make a reservation Shed5: Snag great seafood in a waterfront heritage building on Queen’s Wharf.Check out Shed5’s menu The Southern Cross: This Te Aro pub has gotten a makeover and is reminiscent of a Kiwi bach, or beach pad. Try the Kiwi-style barbecue.Sample the menu with your eyes Where to StayBolton Hotel: This new apartment hotel is centrally located and great for families and business travelers alike, with a pool, spa, and gym.Check out available packages at the Bolton Hotel Museum Hotel de Wheels: This luxury boutique hotel is situated in the heart of Wellington, next to Te Papa.Make a reservation at the Museum Hotel The Lighthouse: If you’re looking for unique or quirky accommodations, check out this lighthouse, located near the airport and town.

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