While most visitors are drawn to New Zealand by its natural splendors, the country offers a diverse spectrum of both land- and cityscapes, from the sub-tropical north to the sub-Antarctic south. Natural attractions include beaches, deep-water sounds, high mountains, geothermal springs and forests. New Zealand's new-found cultural confidence can be sampled in the commercial, multicultural capital of Auckland and the capital Wellington, as well as in the "garden city" of Christchurch, and university town Dunedin and the vibrant provinces.
Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and home to a quarter of its inhabants. The cosmopolitan commercial capital has the largest Polynesian population anywhere. Auckland is the place to shop for New Zealand fashion and art, dine in trendy restaurants and hang out in cafe and bars. Viaduct Basin has been the setting for America's Cup races and is a great place to watch boats and take a cruise. The city has superb entertainment, from SKYCITY casino to concerts at theaters and major sporting events.
The nation's best Maori treasures and works by artists such as Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere are on display in the city's museums and galleries. As an antidote to city life, the vineyards of Henderson and the beaches at Piha and Karekare are close by.
• Bohemian cafe and bars of Ponsonby
• Top art galleries and museums
• Waterfront action at the Viaduct Basin
Otago And Southland
For the ultimate outdoor experience, Queenstown and Wanaka are the capitals of white-water rafting, bungeejumping, snow-boarding and skiing. This beautiful region also has the high peaks of the Remarkables, the primordial landscapes of Fiordland, the unspoilt native flora and fauna of Stewart Island, and the historic stone buildings of the main city, Dunedin.
• Adrenaline rushes in Queenstown
• Primeval Fiordland
• Stewart Island birdlife
Visiting Northland and Central North Island
Northland is the symbolic heartland of New Zealand, from Cape Reinga, where Maori spirits depart for their homeland Hawaiki, to Waitangi, where the founding treaty of present-day New Zealand was signed in 1840. The west coast of this sub-tropical peninsula has long sandy beaches, while the east coast is broken up by stunning promontories and gulfs, studded with tiny islands.
The Bay of Islands is an idyllic playground for messing about in boats, diving and deep-sea fishing; it's also the cradle of colonial New Zealand, where missionaries first converted the Maori – a history which can be seen at the Mission Station in Kerikeri, the quaint township of Russell and the near sacrosanct Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Primeval New Zealand can still be seen in the form of the extra Tane Mahuta, a 1,500-year-old kauri tree found in Waipoua Forest Park.
• Cape Reinga, the country's rugged northernmost tip
• Stunning coves and inlets of the Bay of Islands
• Historic Kerikeri, Waitangi and Russell
Central North Island
The Central North Island offers numerous delights, from the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua and the volcanic ski-fields of Mount Ruapehu to the hot and sunny vineyards of Hawke's Bay and the famous left-hand surf break at Whale Bay, near Raglan. The best and least commercial Maori experiences are found on the remote East Cape and, to the west of the region, thrill seekers can black-water raft through the glow-worm caves of Waitomo, while the Coromandel Peninsula offers a more relaxing seaside holiday amid alternative lifestylers and artisans.
• Hot mineral spas, bubbling mud and spouting geysers
• Sun-drenched vineyards and wineries of Hawke's Bay
• Surfers' paradise at Whale Bay, Raglan