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. View photos of The Lighthouse Thorndon House: Another boutique bed-and-breakfast, Thorndon House is, not surprisingly, located in Wellington’s historic suburb of Thorndon. It is walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions.Check out the rooms available at Thorndon House The Wellesley Club and Boutique Hotel: This luxury hotel has been magnificently restored and is an elegant choice for a stay in Wellington.View specials at the Wellesley Club and Boutique Hotel QueenstownWhat to DoIn Queenstown, this takes on a whole new meaning…. We list these in descending order of thrills.Bungee Jumping: From the original site at Kawarau Bridge, or the Nevis High Wire (down 440 feet), or The Ledge Urban Bungee high over Queenstown. Or if you don’t want to jump, thrill vicariously from behind the scenes and screams at The Secrets of Bungy Tour. Read more about bungee jumping in Queenstown Fly By Wire: Designated "the fastest adventure ride in the world," this ride in a purpose-built plane connected to an overhead suspension point is for real speed lovers and control freaks.Learn more about this unique and exhilarating experience Shotover Jet: This heart-pounding jetboating on the Shotover River is for adrenaline junkies only.Check out the "Thrill Therapy" you’ll receive on this ride NZONE: "Embrace the fear" with this tandem skydiving company.View photos of tandem skydives and book reservations Queenstown Tandem Paragliding: Take off adjacent to the popular Skyline Gondola and soar 2,000 feet above the ground. Book a paragliding flight The Rungway: Climb like a pro on majestic Queenstown Hill, using permanently fixed rungs, pegs, rails, ladders, and cables.Learn more about the military history behind the Rungway Mad Dog River Boarding: For a wet and personally challenging experience, ride the river rapids on a body board.Learn about river boarding trip details Day Hike on Milford or Routeburn Tracks: Take a guided walk on one of these two trails, part of New Zealand’s revered network of "Great Walks."Learn more about guided walks Appellation Central Wine Tours: New Zealand has 500 wineries. Try outstanding Pinot Noir here in the Central Otago wine region.Learn more about New Zealand wine tours Where to ShopClothing: Designer duds and active outerwear are yours for trying on. Don’t miss Angel Divine, Goddess, Untouched World, and R&R Sport. Shop Detour for jeans.Wine Tastes: Taste more than 100 different wines, all price ranges, using a state-of-the-art Enomatic system. Customs allows you six bottles coming home.Learn more about wine tasting at their Central Otago store Where to EatAmisfield Wine and Bistro: "Fresh, simple, local food to share with family and friends." Wine tasting is available too.Take a peek at the Amisfield Bistro menu Saffron: Award-winning cuisine in nearby Arrowtown, made with fresh South Island ingredients, is sure to please even the most distinguishing of diners.Take a peek at Saffron’s menu The Cow: A local institution, The Cow has been serving the same menu since 1976, with pizza and spaghetti, soup, and homemade bread. (03 442 8588)Inspire at The Spire hotel: Sample fine dining in this all new restaurant under the guidance of New Zealand chef Rex Morgan. Seats just 22.Learn more about this restaurant The Winehouse & Kitchen: In Gibbston, next to the Kawaru Bungy Bridge, the Winehouse & Kitchen offers contemporary cuisine in an old farmhouse, including tastings and yummy wine-matching platters.Learn more about The Winehouse & Kitchen Where to StayArrowfield Apartments: These 22 brand-new luxury apartments offer amenities such as a heated indoor lap pool, tennis court, and gym.Make a reservation at the Arrowfield Apartments Azur Lodge: These gorgeous villas offer beautiful views, luxurious design, excellent service, and attention to detail.See more about the Azur Lodge The Spire: Home of the Inspire restaurant, this cool and sleek modern hotel stands out from New Zealand’s many outdoorsy lodges.Take a peek at The Spire’s 10 guest rooms Eichardt’s: This smart, luxe, private boutique hotel sits right on Lake Wakatipu, so it’s close to the action.Learn about Eichardt’s intriguing history Lakeviews Villa: This three-bedroom house is ideal for families or couples traveling together.View photos of this beautiful vacation house Remarkables Lodge: Billed as Queenstown’s "original luxury lodge," this beautifully located retreat is discreet and exclusive.Check out the activities available at the Remarkables Lodge White Shadows Country Inn: This secluded bed-and-breakfast located at base of Coronet Peak is just a short distance away from Queenstown and is full of romantic appeal.See photos of the White Shadows Country Inn Sofitel: The first from this brand in New Zealand, this Sofitel is located in the heart of Queenstown and features 82 rooms and suites, most with mountain or lake views. Check out the "art" in the famous men’s room when no one’s in it!Learn more about the Sofitel Queenstown Originally published on, September 2006.

First Published Mon, 2009-04-06 18:30

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