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New Zealand's Outdoor Playground

New Zealand's Outdoor Playground

By
Trip Plan Tags: 
adventure,
beach + island,
diving + snorkeling,
green/eco-friendly,
hiking + trekking,
outdoors + nature
Destinations: 
Australia + Pacific,
Hawkes Bay,
New Zealand,
Wellington

New Zeland, the home of the first commercial bungee jump, offers a wealth of adventure. From paragliding to glacier hiking, you can do it all in this outdoor playground.

ITEMS

$400 or more
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Hotel

Azur, South Island, New Zealand

23 MacKinnon Terrace
Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 3 409 0588
Email: rsvns@azur.co.nz
Website: azur.co.nz

ALT HERE

See + Do

Bungee Jumping + Paragliding, South Island, New Zealand

Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

Queenstown isn't known as the Adrenaline Capital of New Zealand for nothing. This village-turned–hot spot, which sits at the edge of mountain-surrounded Lake Wakatipu, has the highest concentration of extreme-sport activities in the country (if not the world). Commercial bungee jumping got its start here in the eighties, and today you can still leap from the spot where it all began: the Kawarau Bridge, which stretches 141 feet above a river gorge. AJ Hackett Bungy runs buses from the center of town to the site; once there, you can choose to jump in a harness (don't be a wuss) or with an ankle band (now you're talking). You can also decide whether you want to bob above the water, touch it, or get fully doused. True adrenaline junkies can opt for even higher jumps, like the 440-foot Nevis Highwire, or the truly insane Ledge Bunny, reachable only by Queenstown's Skyline Gondola (64-3-442-4007; www.ajhackett.co.nz). You'll be making a more than 150-foot jump from 1,312-feet above the city.

If gentle floating is more appealing to you than rapid hurtling, jumping from a mountain peak in a tandem parachute is for you. Queenstown Tandem Paragliding brings you up the town's 2,000-foot Skyline Gondola to Bob's Peak, where an experienced "co-pilot" straps in with you for the glide down to the valley below. Paraglide options at nearby Coronet Peak are also offered, and the really high-minded can do heli-tandem jumps from peaks in the Remarkables range—some are 7,000 feet high (64-3-441-8581; www.paraglide.co.nz).

See + Do

Kayaking + Sailing, South Island, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park, South Island, New Zealand

The clear, jade-green waters of Abel Tasman National Park, near Nelson on the island's northern coast, are so gorgeous that Tourism New Zealand built a major advertising campaign around them (if you ever saw those giant "100% New Zealand" billboards, with kayakers seemingly suspended above pale-green shallows, you've seen Abel Tasman). If you're going to choose one part of the South Island to get waterborne, this is it. The park, which occupies a roughly 30-mile protected stretch of Tasman Bay, is chockablock with pristine golden-sand coves, dramatic rock formations, and seals, dolphins, and seabirds. Abel Tasman Kayaks, based in the seaside community of Marahau, runs guided day and multi-day trips with all gear provided; you can also rent kayaks and head off on your own (64-3-527-8022; www.abeltasmankayaks.co.nz). Sailors may prefer to hop a catamaran and take a full- or half-day cruise with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures, based in Kaiteriteri; bareboat charters are also available (64-3-527-8375; www.sailingadventures.co.nz).

Eating

Herzog Winery & Restaurant, South Island, New Zealand

81 Jeffries Road
Blenheim, South Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 3 572 8770
Website: www.herzog.co.nz

Widely considered the best restaurant in New Zealand, Herzog sits among the rolling vineyards of Blenheim, on the northeast coast just south of the Marlborough Sounds. Here, the dining room and the adjoining winery are run by Hans and Therese Herzog, Swiss natives whose family members have been vintners for centuries. Their restaurant, accordingly, has an old-world elegance, with French silver cutlery, fine crystal, and linen-draped tables. (Don't be surprised to see diners here wearing polo shirts or even jeans, though; this is the country, after all). Diners can choose from a three-course degustation menu or a five-course "avant-garde classic" menu. Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of meal, go for broke (US$135 per person) and choose the latter. You'll be treated to dishes like creamy chestnut soup with cognac and macerated prosciutto; pan-seared salmon with curried lentils and beurre blanc; and seared lamb loin and belly confit with polenta and gremolata jus. Each course—including a dessert of elderflower granita and mascarpone cannelloni—is paired with a vintage from Herzog's 500-label cellar. If you can't bear to leave after your meal, ask if the winery's lovely, garden-surrounded Rimu Cottage is available for the night.

Dinner only. Closed mid-May through mid-October.

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See + Do

Great Walks, South Island, New Zealand

, South Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 3 5468210
Website: www.doc.govt.nz/templates/CustomSummary.aspx?id=42468

The South Island has six multi-day Great Walks, all maintained by the Department of Conservation. They range from the remote and challenging 22-mile Rakiura Track on Stewart Island (off the southern coast) to the easygoing, beachy, but more heavily trafficked 31-mile Abel Tasman Coastal Track. The Milford, Kepler, and Routeburn Tracks are the most popular; all wind through the exceptional scenery of Fiordland. In the northwest, the 51-mile Heaphy Track, running from Golden Bay near Nelson across to the west coast near Karamea, is a mix of high plateau, forest, and shore walking.

All these tracks take a minimum of three days, require a good level of fitness, and are best for active types who are used to lugging all their own gear, camping out in basic huts, and getting wet when it rains. You'll need to buy a Great Walks Pass before your trek in order to use these huts and campsites; you can get one (along with maps, directions, and trekking safety tips) online.

Eating

The Bunker, South Island, New Zealand

Cow Lane
Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 3 441 8030
Website: www.thebunker.co.nz

The best place to eat in Queenstown is also one of the hardest to find: This tiny, six-table establishment is hidden, speakeasy-style, down a side lane off Camp Street, and has no signage. But ask your concierge for directions (and book a table in advance—it's necessary), and you'll find this place well worth the trouble. The cozy dining room, with its wood-paneled walls and low lighting, feels like a private club. After starting with an amuse-bouche of venison consommé with foie gras tortellini, move on to appetizers like roasted loin of hare with apple risotto and quince compote—and then entrées like rack of NZ lamb, caramelized duck breast, or macadamia gnocchi with wild mushrooms. Save room for a dessert cocktail—like a "Toblerone" made with Baileys and Frangelico—and then hit the firelit upstairs bar for after-dinner drinks (it's open till 5 a.m.).

Dinner only.

$300-$399
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Hotel

Farm at Cape Kidnappers, North Island, New Zealand

448 Clifton Road, Te Awanga
Hawke's Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 6 875 1900
Email: reservations@capekidnappers.com
Website: www.capekidnappers.com

ALT HERE

See + Do

Volcanic Wonders, North Island, New Zealand

, North Island, New Zealand

Although roughly a third of the North Island rests upon a geothermal hotbed, known as the Volcanic Plateau, its most active part stretches between the central town of Rotorua in the north and the Tongariro National Park in the south. This territory encompasses more than 100 square miles of volcanic craters, mountains, and lakes; bubbling, steaming, oozing landscapes; and (unfortunate) sulfurous smells. About 17 miles south of Rotorua—smack-dab in the center of the action—is the geothermal preserve of Wai-O-Tapu, or "Sacred Waters" in Maori. Here, you can wander among 4,450 acres of simmering mud pools, surreally crayon-colored lakes and silica terraces. Be sure to see the dazzling gold-edged Champagne Pool and the daily (artificially prompted but still impressive) eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser (State Highway 5, Rotorua; 64-7-366-6333; www.geyserland.co.nz).

Nightlife

North Island Nightlife, North Island, New Zealand

, North Island, New Zealand

New Zealand has a pub-culture tradition, so even the smallest North Island towns have at least one watering hole. But for dancing, live music, and sophisticated cocktails, you'll need to hit the city. Auckland, in particular, has a healthy nightlife scene, much of it focused in the city's center.

Young fans of '70s and '80s dance music—and a few oldsters reliving their disco days—head to Boogie Wonderland, with its Saturday Night Fever–ish flashing dance floor (Customs St. at Queen St.; 64-9-361-6093; closed Sun.–Wed.). The Khuja Lounge packs in the hipsters, who groove to live soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, samba, and bossa nova bands (536 Queen St.; 64-9-377-3711; www.khujalounge.co.nz; closed Sun.–Tues.).

Chichi cocktail lovers appreciate the mixologists at Match Lounge Bar who can shake up a mean poached-pear-and-apple martini, among other concoctions (Hopetoun St. at Pitt St.; 64-9-379-0110; www.matchlounge.co.nz; closed Sun.–Tues.). Beerheads, on the other hand, head straight for Galbraith's Alehouse, where owner Keith Galbraith serves up seasonal pilsners, bitters, and ales that he brews on site (2 Mt. Eden Rd., Mount Eden; 64-9-379-3557; www.alehouse.co.nz).

The neighborhood of Ponsonby, adjacent to the city center, also has its share of hot spots. The city's favorite (hetero-friendly) gay bar and restaurant, SPQR, is here, occupying a onetime motorcycle shop (150 Ponsonby Rd.; 64-9-360-1710; www.spqrnz.co.nz). Another top pick is The Whiskey, an old-fashioned bar with leather banquettes, where the drink of choice is spelled right out in the name (210 Ponsonby Rd.; 64-9-361-2666; www.whiskeybars.com).

Eating

Citron, North Island, New Zealand

270 Willis Street, City Center
Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
Tel: 64 4 801 6263
Website: www.citronrestaurant.co.nz

It's won every culinary award in the country—and this dinky 30-seat dollhouse is still the best restaurant in the North Island's "Windy City." Here, classically trained Maori chef Rex Morgan, who delights in sourcing the best and rarest ingredients, serves up stunning (and frequently changing) eight-course degustation menus. Dishes might include seared venison served with black pudding and a thyme-porcini foam; grilled chicken breast with duck confit and Szechuan-spiced butternut puree; or lamb shank with charred eggplant in a red curry cream sauce. Make reservations well in advance.

Dinner only. Closed Sundays.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.