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New Zealand’s wildlife, viticulture, outdoor activities, cuisine and friendly locals are just a few of the reasons TCS World Travel loves this country. We asked Private Travel’s Shelli Daniels to share what she discovered on her recent scouting trip to New Zealand.

Shelli Daniels, who works in our Private Travel department, scouted New Zealand for us and reports back on how, where and why you should explore this fascinating part of the world.

Q: Where should our guests start for unique experiences and destinations?

A: Fly into Auckland on the North Island and spend some time way up in the north near the Bay of Islands exploring the beach cliffs, before heading down to Queensland in the South Island and working your way back up. The great thing about New Zealand is that the islands aren’t that big (roughly the size of California), so you can easily fly from one end of the South Island down to the North for a reasonable price and a short flight. Once you land in Queensland, you are in the “adventure sports” capital, so you can try bungee jumping, walking the suspension bridge, riding a luge down the mountain, or taking a jet boat on the Shotover River. In the winter, Queenstown provides skiing on the slopes of the Remarkables and Coronet Peak. It’s a beautiful area with great restaurants, outdoor activities and fun for families.

Q: Describe some can't-miss experiences in New Zealand.

A: People don’t necessarily connect New Zealand with wine, but the Sauvignon Blanc in the Blenheim/Marlborough region on the South Island is incredible: crisp, dry and refreshing. If you’re adventurous, don’t miss riding the gondola up the mountain in Queenstown and riding the luge down the mountain, or paragliding over the city. New Zealand is famous for its green-lipped mussels, so if the weather is nice, take a cruise on the Marlborough Sounds to see a mussel farm and enjoy fresh-steamed seafood.


Q: Describe what surprised you about New Zealand.

A: I was surprised by how unpopulated New Zealand was. Even in the biggest city, Auckland, there are less than 1.5 million people—roughly the size of Phoenix, Arizona—and most of New Zealand consists of small communities and neighborhoods. As we drove from town to town, there were small by-ways and scenic roads, not freeways. 


Q: What were your favorite food experiences?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the Sauvignon Blanc from the South Island and the green-lipped mussels from Marlborough Sounds region were amazing. Also, New Zealanders see venison as a delicacy. I am not usually a venison fan, but it was tender, perfectly rare and so delicious. It was served with fresh seasoned vegetables and full of flavor. I had this several times throughout my trip and was not disappointed.


Q: You stayed in some remarkable properties—tell us about them.

A: The two properties that stood out to me were The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, and Eichardt’s Private Hotel. The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is a bit off the beaten path in Matauri Bay on the North Island. When we arrived, we were taken by 4x4 through the 6,000 acres of property down to Pink Beach for an afternoon picnic. We had a delicious barbecue with fresh fish, steak and sausage, along with flavorful salads. The beach was secluded, with an incredible view of the Cavalli Islands. The guest suites were airy and clean, with their own private porch, sitting area and open fireplace, overlooking the golf course and Pacific Ocean.
Eichardt’s Private Hotel in Queenstown was a unique contrast to the expansive property of Kauri Cliffs. The hotel is right in the heart of the active, vibrant city of Queenstown, in a historic homestead built in 1859, overlooking Lake Wakatipu. My lake view suite was spacious and cozy, and had the most comfortable king bed and fireplace. The colors were warm and inviting, and I loved the exposed brick from the original building and the interesting architecture throughout the hotel. The accessibility to the restaurants, pubs and shopping within downtown Queenstown couldn’t be beat.


Q: If you needed to put together a luxury vacation New Zealand for a guest who wanted to get away and relax, where would you send them? 

A: I would send my guests to the Bay of Islands on the North Island—it’s far enough from Auckland (about a three-hour drive or 35-minute flight) and it encompasses 144 islands full of beauty, luxury and history. Guests can learn about the country’s Maori culture, dive in the bays and inlets, kayak, bike or just lay in the sunshine. It is also a place with incredible wildlife and rare native trees and flowers. The Bay of Islands is well worth the trip. Kauri Cliffs offers luxury spa packages as well (I did one and it was heavenly), so for someone who wants to get away and relax, this is a great area.


Did Shelli's experience inspire you to plan a trip to New Zealand? Email us at [email protected], call us at 800.454.4149 or visit our web page to request a custom independent journey of your own, or to request our catalog.