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They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing, and Brisbane’s modern metropolis fully exploits its sun-blessed location, basking in Queensland’s generous year-round glow. The envied climate makes Brisbane a city of outdoor adventure, activity and relaxation, where days drift by surfing rollers, or relaxing in the shade of swaying palms. While Brisbane may play second fiddle to Sydney and Melbourne at times, it radiates a creative and contemporary energy, offering visitors a refreshing combination of laidback waterfront luxury and urban sophistication.
Sandy islands nearby provide scenic diving and oceanside relaxation opportunities, while the city’s animal santuaries offer opportunities to meet unbearably cute koalas and kangaroos. Brisbane’s impressive skyline of metallic cylinders rises high above the broad Brisbane River below, which curves lazily through downtown. The rolling waves of the Pacific are close by, but there’s something special about relaxing on soft sand in the very heart of the city, on the beautifully executed South Bank Parklands man-made beach. With golden sand and shallow lagoon waters to cool off in, it’s a dreamy spot to lie back with a book, amid the landscaped gardens. Nestled in a river meander of its own, Brisbane Botanic Park glows with colour, tropical plants and wading ibis birds, and is easily walkable from the Parklands. The South Bank is the cultural hub of city, and houses the celebrated Queensland Gallery of Modern Art – a surreal and vibrant jaunt through contemporary Australian art. The city’s award-winning restaurants also serve up elite food, matched with generous splashes of wine, direct from the nearby Granite Belt’s wine regions.
The Tasman Sea on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east meet at the top of North Island at Cape Reinga. No matter what route you take, you’ll pass farms and forests, marvellous beaches, and great open spaces. The East Coast, up to the Bay of Islands, is Northland’s most densely populated, often with refugees from bigger cities—looking for a more relaxed life—clustered around breathtaking beaches. The first decision on the drive north comes at the foot of the Brynderwyn Hills.
Turning left will take you up the West Coast through areas once covered with forests and now used for either agricultural or horticulture. Driving over “the Brynderwyns,” as they are known, takes you to Whangarei, the only city in Northland. If you’re in the mood for a diversion, you can slip to the beautiful coastline and take in Waipu Cove, an area settled by Scots, and Laings Beach, where million-dollar homes sit next to small Kiwi beach houses. An hour’s drive farther north is the Bay of Islands, known all over the world for its beauty. There you will find lush forests, splendid beaches, and shimmering harbors. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed here in 1840 between Māoriand the British Crown, establishing the basis for the modern New Zealand state. Every year on February 6, the extremely beautiful Waitangi Treaty Ground (the name means weeping waters) is the sight of a celebration of the treaty and protests by Māori unhappy with it. Continuing north on the East Coast, the agricultural backbone of the region is even more evident and a series of winding loop roads off the main highway will take you to beaches that are both beautiful and isolated where you can swim, dive, picnic, or just laze. . The West Coast is even less populated, and the coastline is rugged and windswept. In the Waipoua Forest, you will find some of New Zealand’s oldest and largest kauri trees; the winding road will also take you past mangrove swamps. Crowning the region is the spiritually significant Cape Reinga, the headland at the top of the vast stretch of 90 Mile Beach, where it’s believed Māori souls depart after death. Today Māori make up roughly a quarter of the area’s population (compared with the national average of about 15%). The legendary Māori navigator Kupe was said to have landed on the shores of Hokianga Harbour, where the first arrivals made their home. Many different wi (tribes) lived throughout Northland, including Ngapuhi (the largest), Te Roroa, Ngati Wai, Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngaitakoto, Ngati Kahu, and Te Rarawa. Many Māorihere can trace their ancestry to the earliest inhabitants
Blending beachy recreation with all the delights of a modern, diverse and thoroughly multicultural city, Auckland sits on the lucid blue-green waters of New Zealand’s north island. Known as the ‘City of Sails’, its two harbours will tempt you with waterfront walks, and the chance to breathe fresh sea air deep into your lungs while absorbing spectacular views of Auckland’s grand harbour bridge’s span.
Take in the true scale of Auckland’s magnificent cityscape by ascending 192 metres to the Sky Tower, and looking out over the city’s gleaming silver towers, which reflect on the abundant waters below. Views over the bay and adjacent islands await, and you can share elegant cocktails at this dizzying height, above the mingling yachts of Viaduct Harbour. Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the area at Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki. Set beside tranquil fountains and handsomely landscaped flowerbeds of Albert Park, the French-Renaissance building houses New Zealand’s most extensive art collection, and exhibits works from Māori and Pacific artists. New Zealand is world-renowned for its captivating natural scenery, and day trips across the sparkling bays, to nearby islands like Waiheke, Tiritiri Matangi, and Rangitoto, are always tempting. Discover lava caves, grape-laden vineyards and flourishing wildlife in the Hauraki Gulf’s islands. You’ll also find an exceptional 360-degree panorama over the city, to the horizon beyond, from the heights of ancient Mount Eden. The spectacular dormant volcano rises improbably from a city suburb, and also lends its name to Eden Park – the unusual, translucent stadium of New Zealand’s mighty All Blacks.
Tauranga is the principal city of the Bay of Plenty. The founders of Tauranga, 19th-century missionaries, left a legacy of well-planned parks and gardens for today’s residents and visitors to enjoy.
With a population of around 35,000 and located on the north island, Gisborne exudes history at every turn. Maori for “Great standing place of Kiwa”, Kiwa was a leading figure aboard the Maori ancestral canoe, Takitimu, which ran aground in Gisborne around 1450 AD. After landing, Kiwa became a coastal guardian, eventually marrying Parawhenuamea, the keeper of the streams. View less
The union point of three rivers and the first place to see the sun, the city is filled with light and laugher and gracefully squeezes surfer’s beaches with the district’s colonial past. Captain Cook made his first landfall here, John Harris set up his first trading station in the then village and today, Gisborn is the major centre of Maori cultural life.Suffice to say then that the city is a watery wonderland. With its picture perfect beaches, what savvy traveller does not want to add being among the first people in the world to say they have watched the sky change colour as the sun bursts from out of the sea. A place of nature, spectacular beach cliff views are all just part and parcel of everyday life here, and easy walks from the centre of town to the Titirangi Reserve will award you with yet more unbelievable 180˚ vistas from Poverty Bay to Gisborne City; stretch your eyes with the panorama, while stretching your legs on one of the many enjoyable walks.A perfect place to stroll, amble and wander, like much of New Zealand Gisborne keeps a healthy respect for history and nature and enjoys a very laid back feel.
Napier, with its pleasant Mediterranean climate and famous art deco architecture, is a charming and lively seaside resort located on the eastern side of North Island.
Sprawling around a hook-shaped peninsula, Wellington is a vibrant and energetic seaside capital. A compact, well-stocked city of buzzing bars and chatting cafes, New Zealand’s capital is a bright and breezy place with an infectious, easy-going atmosphere. Known as the creative hub of the South Pacific, there are shows to see, art installations to enjoy, and rich flavours to savour here. The sounds of rare and beautiful birdlife fill the hills around the city, and the bush of the green belt provides easy-to-access sanctuary, strolls and cycle rides. View less
The Botanical Gardens break up the buildings, even more, while an iconic, cherry-red cable car rumbles up Wellington’s slope to the city’s best viewpoint, looking out over the city’s scenic harbour from above. Zealandia has provided an urban home for rare and endangered birdlife, bringing many species back from the brink. Varied museums cover everything from Maori traditions to earthquake simulations and even the real-life Kraken – a displayed colossal squid. Wellington is only New Zealand’s third-biggest city, but spend some time here and you’ll realise that’s a blessing. Eminently strollable, you can stop in at countless cool cafes to top up your caffeine levels whenever your energy is flagging – the smell of a fresh artisan espresso is never far away. The wines grown nearby are revered, and the city’s craft beers are also making waves. Wander the breezy waterfront, and admire the surfers riding the wind-whipped rollers of the self-proclaimed ‘coolest little capital in the world’.
Only a narrow stretch of water separates North and South Island, but the differences between the two entities could not be more obvious – South Island with its wild beauty contrasting sharply with the more sedate landscapes of North Island.
Tucked right into the very top of New Zealand’s South Island, Nelson is easy to miss. Yet, it would be foolish to do so; overlooking Nelson would be overlooking a fabulous town with friendly people, gorgeous scenery and no shortage of superlative food and wine. The city has long held a magnetic pull for creatives of all types: it’s known for artisanal craft shops and diverse art galleries. View less
In fact, with one of the largest numbers of working artists and galleries in the country, you’ll find an array of talented craftspeople living in the region; from traditional, to contemporary to Māori. Not only is Nelson one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand, but it is the oldest on the South Island (and second oldest in the country). The land was bought in 1840 by the British for £800, with the intention of providing a place to live to settlers. By 1843 almost 2,000 adults had relocated to the province, yet lack of funds thwarted their dreams of becoming landowners. Thus Nelson has been largely left alone by industry. Population has swelled in recent years due to the town’s stunning natural landscapes, but this is a place for young families and lovers of the Great Outdoors. Set on the Able Tasman Coast Track, and on the border of the Nelson Lakes National Park, there is much to your eyes – and legs! – occupied. Kayak alongside dolphins, penguins and seals in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, bathe in the crystal waters of the Kahurangi National Park or a low tide beach walk – or ride – in Wharariki.
With its glorious harbour, lavish golden beaches and iconic landmarks, Sydney is Australia’s showpiece city. Creative and curious, discover the world-class cuisine, indigenous culture, and irresistible beach life that make Sydney one of the world’s most dynamic, exciting destinations. Sydney’s sparkling harbour is the heart of a richly cultural city. Overlooked by the metallic curves of the masterpiece of an Opera House, and that grand arched harbour bridge. Take it all in from the water, and admire the iconic landmarks, which are set before the city’s gleaming skyline backdrop. View less
If you’re feeling adventurous, take the legendary climb up the smooth curve of the bridge – nicknamed the Coathanger – to soak in the shining city’s spread from a unique perspective. Spread out to tan on one of the world’s most famous stretches of sand – Bondi Beach. Restaurants and bars burble away in the background, while the sun beams down, and surfers curl and leap over pure rollers. Swim in spectacular salty ocean pools, or wander the beautiful Bondi to Coogee coastal walk for more of this sun-gorged stretch of prime coastline. Leaving the thrills of Australia’s largest city behind is surprisingly simple – take to the skies to be flown above skyscrapers and rippling ribbons of waves, out to majestic peaks, sheer cliffs and iconic rock formations – like the Three Sisters of the Blue Mountains. Or, drop in on wildlife sanctuaries caring for the country’s animals – from hopping kangaroos to adorably cute, cuddly koalas.
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