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Staggering beauty and heart-pumping thrills await in the resort town of Queenstown, which is also known for its Hobbits—much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in the area. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Queenstown for the kayaking, bungee jumping, jetboating, white-water rafting, hiking and skiing. More mild-mannered adventurers can take a quiet cruise through nearby Milford Sound, part of the Fjordland National Park World Heritage area, or sample South Island pinot noir from one of the region's 75 wineries.
The South Island town of Wanaka appeals to both adventure lovers and relaxation-minded travellers. Situated on the crystal-clear waters of New Zealand's fourth-largest lake, just a short drive from Mount Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is an ideal spot to go fishing, hiking, skiing, wine-tasting or golfing. The city also hosts Warbirds Over Wanaka, the largest three-day air show in the Southern Hemisphere.
A gateway to Fjordland National Park, the quaint and peaceful township of Te Anau is nestled on the edge of a lake of the same name—the perfect site for jetboating or fishing. Embark on one of many day-long or multi-day hiking or walking tracks, then return to town to restore your body with a soak or massage at a spa and a delicious café meal. Nature lovers will marvel at the Te Anau glowworm caves, the Wildlife Park and Ivon Wilson Park, where rare Takahe birds flutter freely.
Hailed by Rudyard Kipling as "the eighth wonder of the world," the breathtaking Milford Sound is the star of glacier-carved Fiordland National Park, providing an emerald-green and waterfall-rich backdrop for hiking, biking and kayaking. Frequent downpours only enhance this South Island beauty, sending numerous waterfalls cascading down the cliffs. Passionate nature lovers book in advance to hike the 33-mile Milford Track, a legendary route through alpine passes and temperate rainforest.
Wellington boasts a compact downtown area that’s easy to explore on foot and a wealth of architectural styles, from 19th-century wooden cottages to Art Deco masterpieces. Discover the city’s Maori roots at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea and the Museum of New Zealand. Sip coffee and people-watch in lively Courtney Place, or survey the city from scenic Mount Victoria. When the sun goes down on Windy Wellington, take a nocturnal tour of Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to meet some colourful inhabitants.
Bubbling mineral springs and pools promise maximum relaxation in Rotorua, on New Zealand's North Island. Therapeutic hot mud pools, dramatic geysers and a buried village are within easy reach of the city. What happens in the bubbling mud geysers of "Rotovegas"—the area at the top of Fenton Street—stays in Rotovegas. Once you've made the most of the mud, soar nearly 2,000 feet on the Skyline Gondola for views of Lake Rotorua, then zip back down to explore the lake by paddle steamer, fishing charter or WWII amphibious vehicle.
The Māori call Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau — a maiden desired by 100 lovers,
and a valuable territory fought over for centuries for its fertile land and
natural harbours on the Pacific Ocean (to the east) and Tasman Sea (to the
west). Today, it’s New Zealand’s largest city: A vibrant and diverse place
where nature and urban life go hand-in- hand, with 48 volcanic cones, more
than 50 islands, and 29,000 km of coastline and beaches just minutes away
from the arts and shopping of the central city.
European, Polynesian, Asian and strong Maori heritages give the Auckland its distinctive culture. Discover the history of the world's largest Polynesian city through Maori treasures at Auckland Museum and experience the lives of 19th-century settlers at Howick Historical Village. Find Polynesian handicrafts at Otara Market or people-watch in bustling Ponsonby and Parnell. Adventure junkies can get their fix from kayaking, sailing and high-octane bungee jumping.
City slickers, culture vultures and beach bums alike fall in love with Sydney. Hang ten at famed Bondi Beach or stroll the calmer sands of Coogee. Cash burning a hole in your pocket? You’ll find great shopping in the Rocks district and along George and Pitt Streets. Climb to the top of the Harbour Bridge or take a skywalk on Sydney Tower for a 360-degree view of the city. But whatever you do, don’t leave town without cuddling the koalas in the Taronga Park Zoo—they’re ridiculously adorable.