A place where your fantasies can come into reality
by Erika Grace R. Lapitan
Summer vacation is nearly over yet you still feel like you’ve only spend two whole months lying in your bed, sleeping or sometimes day dreaming of going to someplace away from the noisy and polluted areas of the metro. You wanted to go somewhere but were confused where to go exactly, what with the different places offering different ways of relaxation. With this dilemma at hand, you find yourself thinking and exhausting your mind instead of relaxing and emptying you brain of all worries.
Fear not because the time for day dreaming is over. There’s a paradise home away from home that offers all the things you want to do for the remaining days of summer. A place where you can breathe fresh air, swim in the clean dark blue waters of the sea, and walk along the outskirts of town like you own the world.
It is described by many as a country of rich diversity, wide array of activities and adventures, alluring sceneries and cultural legacy. New Zealand does more than its share in proving that big things come in little packages. A paradise getaway for those last trips before the summer vacation ends.
Said to be one of the last places to be inhabited by humans, New Zealand is made up of two main islands–the almost sub-tropical North Island where most people live and where the long narrow South Island with its wide Canterbury Plains and soaring Southern Alps are–and other smaller islands and islets. Separated only by the narrow Cook Strait, the two major islands could be considered parts of two separate continents.
Gifted with natural wonders, well-preserved wilderness and panoramic vistas, the country is world-renowned for its incredible and beautiful landscape. But, little do people know that New Zealand offers a lot more–aside from its sensational beaches.
City of Sails
If you find yourself going out of town seeking for relaxation but at the same time amusement, chances are you will find yourself confused on whether to go to the beach where you can have a nice tan or to the city where you can spend the whole day shopping and dining in the most elegant restaurants you can find. No need to fret so much because Auckland offers both. Known as the largest city and transport center, it is always the first stop of tourists from different countries.
An urban environment that is never far from water, Auckland is also known as the City of Sails. With its many bays, beaches, and islands the city has more boats compared to other countries. But aside from calling it the City of Sails, the Maori people once called it as Tamaki-Makau-Rau, translated in the English language as “The maiden with a hundred suitors”. Without a doubt, it is really desired by many and coveted over for its riches.
Auckland offers different recreational activities that will surely sweep you off your feet, from kayaking and kite-surfing in the East to the Wild West where hundreds of walking trails ramble through dense native forests. And if a touch of history is what you’re after, visit the remains of the Maori settlement around Mangere in South Auckland. The city also offers island hopping and cruising in the Hauraki Gulf, the jewel in Auckland’s crown.
Sky of Blood
Just a 25-minute ferry ride away from Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf is the most iconic aspect of Auckland’s inner harbor. A 5.5 km wide volcanic island rising 260 metres with a distinctive symmetrical shield volcano cone is the largest and the least modified of the 50 volcanoes in the city.
In the Maori language, Rangitoto means “Sky of Blood” coming from the full phrase Ngā Rangi-i-totongia-a Tama-te-kapua translated in the English language as “The days of the bleeding of Tama-te-kapua”. Tama-te-kapua was the captain of the Arawa waka that was badly wounded on the island when he lost the battle between the Tainui iwi at Islington Bay.
The volcanic island came into view from a series of eruptions around 600 years ago. Although it remains inactive as of today, future eruptions are likely to happen. In other parts of the island, scorias, a porous cinder like fragments of dark lava, are still seen by the casual eye.
Rangitoto now dominates the seascape and is a favorite among the tourists especially during December when the island glows with crimson blossom.
Auckland’s West Coast Beaches
One of the things that you should never miss in this country is going to the beach. As it is an island surrounded with different bodies of water, you can be sure that it will never be over populated with tourists. Karekare, Piha, Bethells, and Muriwai beaches are some of the getaways that are popular for its impressive beauty and black iron sand.
Aside from its coastal dunes and black sand, Muriwai beach’s main tourist attraction is the opportunity to observe and take photos of a colony of Gannet, a species of large sea birds from the northern Atlantic regions. With several lookout points, tourists can see them mating and hatching from all around the place.
Part of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Piha Beach is famous for its walking options such as the Lion Rock where a steep climb gives tourist a panoramic view of the coast. Other tracks are the Tasman Lookout, Laird Thomson and Kitekite track. Also part of the Waitakere Range is the Bethells Beach or Te Henga, an all time favorite with surfers because of its windy weather.
Made famous by the Oscar winning movie “The Piano”, Karekare Beach, on the other hand, offers a beautiful waterfall, which toppled six meters into an iridescent pool.
Bay of Plenty and Tapou Bay
If you haven’t had enough of Auckland and its beauties, there’s always something to see into the not so far north and south of the largest city in New Zealand.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city life is a place where one can find peace and seclusion. A paradise gifted with sparkling white sand and clear sea, Tapou Bay is truly the pearl of the North. Situated along the upper part of the North Island with an average elevation of -3 meter below sea level, it has less population and the least varied among the different beaches of the country.
Far more different from the secluded Tapou bay is the Bay of Plenty where one can enjoy skydiving, surfing, hiking and a lot more. Situated along the Pacific Coast Highway, South of Auckland, Tauranga and Mount Maunganui offers an action packed adventure for its thrill-seeking visitors.
Learn and enjoy surfing in the lively waves of Mount Maunganui’s white sandy beach, the thrilling 30 minute jet boat ride on the Kaituna River, wind racing in Papamoa ̶ New Zealand’s home of the blow Kart ̶ and biking through the Oropi Gorge. Tour the White Island for its steaming vents and crater lakes that change daily and the guided kayaking trip on Tauranga Harbour. Go skydiving in the island’s scenic drop zones, fishing to the waters of Motiti and Tuhua, and jumping on a boat to swim with the dolphins
Another must-do in the Bay of Plenty is eating in its most popular restaurants and cafés, tasting all sorts of kiwifruit products at Kiwi360 and buying as many sweet as possible at the Comvita Visitor Centre in Paengaroa or Mossops Honey in Tauranga.
Film Capital of New Zealand
Are you an avid fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy? Then now is your best chance to meet its director, Sir Peter Jackson, a true New Zealander at heart, who put the country on the international film-making industry.
Born and grew up on the bays of Wellington, New Zealand’s Capital, Sir Peter Jackson transformed the land into J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy middle-earth. With Mount Victoria as the Hobbiton Woods, Kaitoke Regional Park as the Rivendell, and the hills to Wairarapa region as the Paths of the Dead.
Proclaimed in 2011 as the “Coolest little film-making capital in the world” by the Lonely Planet, Wellington is now offering a lot of activities for movie-buffs to enjoy.
Aside from having world-class museums, theaters and cinemas, the capital also showcases different heritage sites that up until now make up the city’s history. One of it is the 110 year-old Wellington cable car that services tourists for an easy access to Wellington’s top attractions, from the Botanic Garden, Cable Car Museum to Carter Observatory and Planetarium and Zealandia.
Another heritage site that you can’t miss is the four Parliament buildings that are famous for being the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere. First of the Four is the Parliament House, an Edwardian neo-classical building designed by John Campbell and Claude Paton as a replacement to the previous building destroyed by fire in the early 1900s. Second is the Victorian Gothic-style Parliament Library built in two stages, the west wing in 1883 and the main front in 1899. Third is the Beehive, a popular name for the Executive Wing mainly because of its unusual shape. And the last is the Bowen House, a 22-storey building that was once the temporary home of Parliament from 1991 to 1996.
Wandering around Wellington must be really tiring so why not rest and relax for a while in Oriental Bay where you can breathe the fresh air and watch the sun sets in the horizon? Dominated by the Carter Fountain, the Bay is usually packed with swimmers, couples, and families during the summer.
From North to South
Save your breath for one last gasp at the South Island’s scenic beauty and spectacular terrain. Lake Wakatipu, an inland lake, is the longest and third largest lake in New Zealand. Flanked on all sides by mountains, it is a great place for swimming, paragliding, kayaking and sightseeing.
The lightning bolt shape of the lake is believed by the Maori tribe to be the giant Matau curled up and slumbering on its side. Legend says that he was burned to death in his sleep when he abducted the chief’s daughter. His head rested at Glenorchy to the north, his feet at Kingston to the south and his knees at Queenstown. Another belief is that the giant’s heart is impossible to destroy causing the rise and fall of the lake every 25 minutes.
Apart from Lake Wakatipu, there are also the Southern Alps to see. The snow covered mountains are the longest and highest mountain ranges in New Zealand. Feel the cold breeze and see the most magnificent view through a helicopter flight that will circuit the area for an unforgettable snow experience in the midst of summer.
Best of the world
Stepping into another territory is always an exciting venture. You may not know what will happen next but the very thought of gaining new experiences and stories to tell is what will keep you going forward. Wherever you may go–whether it’s in the most popular tourist destination or to the most secluded areas in the world–one thing is always certain, you would go and search for something that will definitely exceed your expectations.
After discovering New Zealand’s hidden beauties, maybe it’s not too much to say that it really offers the best of the world; a place where your fantasies can come into reality. No matter how short or long your visit would be, the country will clearly leave a lasting impression. So go out, relax and enjoy the remaining days of summer in a paradise known by many as New Zealand.