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By Jacqueline Dreyer
Located off the southeastern coast of Australia, New Zealand is a verdant wonderland, one-third of which is made up of National Parks. With only around 4.8 people scattered across 268,021 square kilometers, it’s one of the few places left on this planet where you’ll find there are more animals than people, and where you can spend large swathes of time completely isolated and alone, in the warm embrace of nature.
Glamping, or luxury camping, is a wonderful way to immerse yourself deep in the heart of New Zealand’s natural beauty without having to sacrifice a good night’s sleep or a hot shower–in fact, quite the opposite. Some glamping spots make you feel like you’ve got a luxurious home in a setting that many could only dream of.
But there’s more to New Zealand than just draw-droppingly beautiful flora and fauna – the culture and history are quite fascinating, too. For example, Maori culture impresses itself on contemporary Kiwi life in many ways. You can hear the Maori language, watch Maori TV, join in a hÃ„ ngi (Maori feast) or catch a cultural performance with song, dance and a blood-curdling haka (war dance). Maori design continues to find expression in tattooing (often even applied to the face) and the delicate artistry of bone, shell and greenstone sculptures.
Note that the country is comprised of two islands: North Island and South Island. By checking both out, you’ll have double the opportunity to learn all about Kiwi life and culture, all whilst having the most memorable of holidays. Here’s where to go, and what to see on each.
The more populous of the two islands, the North Island is home to the city of Auckland and the national capital, Wellington. In both places, you can find wonderful cafe culture, as well as restaurants boasting innovative vegetarian and vegan food. There’s also an edgy craft-beer scene and plenty of places to sample New Zealand’s legendary cool-climate wines, like sublime sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. New Zealand is an ethical fashion hot spot right now, with loads of talented designers like Maggie Marilyn and Kowtow offering unique designs.
Of course, there are also many natural masterpieces on this island, such as major volcanoes, several national parks, and the oldest wine region in New Zealand, Hawkes Bay.
In Featherston, you could find yourself in a unique bell tent in the Wellington Region, tucked away in the Rimutaka Range near Lake Wairarapa, where you can relish a long, leisurely soak in the outdoor hot tub–complete with spectacularly starlit mountain views–after a full day of hiking, or in winter, skiing.
If you’re more up for some wine tasting or sunbathing, try visiting Hawkes Bay, right outside of the lovely seaside town of Te Awanga. Stay in a luxury cottage located on a small farm in the Hawkes Bay wine region, where you can wake up every morning to lush greenery surrounding the South Pacific Ocean, and spend each afternoon exploring vineyards or going for a dip in the sea.
For the more adventurous traveler, the untouched natural beauty of the South Island (where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films were shot) opens up a world of adrenaline-pumping activities–bungee jumping, skiing, mountain climbing, and ocean kayaking, to name but a few. There are plenty of places to indulge in this fun, from the vast Abel Tasman National Park and Queenstown to Fiordland National Park and the stunning valleys of Milford Sound.
Not to be missed are the Southern Alps, where guests will find the famed Mt. Cook, run through the entire island, and Westland Tai Poutini National Park, home to the Franz Josef glacier. Wine connoisseurs will be happy to know that the south is also home to another top-notch wine producing region in Marlborough, known for its Sauvignon Blanc.
For a peaceful and private holiday almost equidistant between the cities of Dunedin and Christchurch, it doesn’t get much better than staying in a luxurious bell tent in the Waitaki Valley. With proximity to Mt. Kurow and Mt. Domet, as well as the Waitaki River, you can fill your days hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking–all the while knowing you have a cozy bed fitted with luxury linens to climb into at the end of it all.
Given the lack of light pollution in most of New Zealand, the numbers of stars that decorate the nights here seem infinite. The ultimate accommodation to witness every twinkle would be in a glass-roofed cabin rental near Twizel in the Mackenzie District–nearby Mt. Cook National Park and New Zealand’s tallest mountain of the same name. Nothing is more romantic than staring up at the universe from a cozy king-size bed! Wake up to delectable continental breakfast and check your emails with the free wifi, then take a bath outdoors with hot water sourced from the nearby spring in the Ben Ohau Range.
It may be a long haul for many to reach, but New Zealand’s isolation has allowed the country to preserve its primordial loveliness, making it well worth putting on your bucket list.
For more inspiration on where to stay and what to see–and sip!–you can discover all that New Zealand has to offer from the sponsors of this article here.