10 things to know before your next NZ trip
More luxury, more cruises, new destinations and a quarter-millennial celebration. Here's a sampling of some of the best new travel experiences coming up across the Ditch in 2019.
VIRGIN UPS THE ANTE
Flying to New Zealand just got better with Virgin Australia's all-inclusive fares with meal and beverage, new and refurbished lounges and even in-flight meditation sessions via the entertainment system. Plus extra care and attention for anxious flyers via Special Service Request codes on boarding passes from early 2019.
VA added two new routes last month between Sydney and Wellington and Melbourne and Queenstown and a Newcastle-Auckland service will run from November 22 to February 17.
Seabourn's Seabourn Encore, Silversea's Silver Muse, Azamara Club Cruises' Azamara Journey and Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony are just four of the flotilla of premium smaller ships that will take lucky voyagers to some of the most remote and beautiful places around New Zealand during the next two cruising seasons. And they'll be doing it in champagne and caviar style.
AWARD-WINNING DIGS AWAIT
New Zealand's luxury lodges are justly world-famous, but other places offer top-notch stays. QT Hotels & Resorts' Queenstown and Wellington properties were recently voted Best Hotel Group for 2018 in the TAANZ National Travel Industry Awards.
The Presidential Suite of the Intercontinental Wellington Hotel carried off the title of New Zealand's Leading Hotel Suite at the World Travel Awards 2018.
In Queenstown, Rees Hotel Queenstown is the 2018 winner of Best Urban Accommodation award at the Skål World Congress for sustainable tourism. The Rees also won New Zealand Tourism's top Qualmark 5-Star Hotel & Gold Business Tourism Sustainability Award for 2018 and Best NZ Hotel two years running (2017/18), in the HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence in Australasia and the South Pacific.
Sofitel's new SO/Auckland luxury lifestyle hotel, set to open in mid-November, is also one to watch. The 130-room property will feature a French restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Marc de Passorio, a chic rooftop terrace and design schemes by Dutch firm Moooi and leading New Zealand design company, WORLD.
GARDEN AND MAORI CULTURE
New Zealand's pre-eminent luxury Huka Lodge near Taupo has added a Garden Lovers package and a Kai Waho Korero cultural package to its guest attractions. The one or two-night packages are available until April 2019.
ULTIMATE FIORDLAND LUXURY
A Lamborghini/Aston Martin/Porsche/Audi (your pick), a private helicopter, a catamaran, five-star food and wine and stunning scenery.
LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW
From next June, a $NZ25 million, 1.8km gondola system is set to transform the Whakapapa ski field on Mount Ruapehu, Central North Island.
In Queenstown, the big après-ski news for 2019 is the arrival of a New Zealand edition of Snowboxx, the legendary European festival with a week of top international electronic music acts and slopeside parties.
LUXURY WALKS DEBUT
Luxury travel company Butterfield & Robinson has added a New Zealand walking trip to its portfolio.
Its eight-day, seven-night guided walking tour with departures in January, February and October 2019 takes in the cultural capital of Wellington, sauvignon blanc country in Marlborough, eco experiences in Kaikoura and the UNESCO World Heritage area of Fiordland National Park.
TERRACOTTA WARRIORS TOUR AT TE PAPA
From December 15 to April 22, Te Papa Tongarewa museum in Wellington will hostTerracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality, a touring exhibition from China.
The show features eight 2300-year-old terracotta warriors, terracotta horses and replica bronze chariots as well as more than 160 gold, jade and bronze artefacts from the Western Zhou to the Han Dynasties (1046BC-220AD).
SET FOR SESTERCENTENNIAL
A voyage-based national event - Tuia Encounters 250 - will mark the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's arrival in the Endeavour and the first onshore meetings between Maori and Europeans. A fleet of canoes, catamarans, tall ships and vessels from New Zealand Navy will visit 19 communities around the country as part of the commemorations.
FIVE HOT NEW REGIONS
• The Taupō and Turangi regions of the Central North Island offer year-round active pursuits, wonderful lake and wilderness scenery, fishing, gardens and a burgeoning dining scene.
• Tairawhiti Gisborne (aka "Gizzy") on the North Island east coast is laid-back New Zealand like it used be, but with added rocket science (no kidding - the region has a small space port), excellent wine and seafood, and great surfing.
• One of the country's best road trips is Top of the South, a journey from the sauvignon blanc capital of the world in Marlborough via the pristine Marlborough Sounds to the Nelson-Tasman wine region. Other top trip: the Southern Scenic Route from Christchurch via Queenstown to Southland.
• Internationally acclaimed environmentalist David Bellamy rates New Zealand's wildlife capital of Dunedin as the "finest example of eco-tourism in the world".
Several new harbour cruise, wildlife and cultural tour operators offer travellers privileged access to the rare native species that make this area home: porttoport.co.nz, horizontours.co.nz, ezifish.com
• Often overlooked but very stay-worthy, the lakeside Fiordland town of Te Anau offers great scenery and active pursuits, good dining and a movie theatre with five-star luxury accommodation.
Top pick: Faith in Fiordland's champagne cruise on a gorgeous 1935 teak and mahogany motor yacht.