Gill Leonard, Scenic Helicopter Trip, South Island
Posted: 13 January 2017
Having been lucky enough to have visited New Zealand before, I was thrilled to be able to return to Aotearoa – The Land of the Long White Cloud. Anyone who shares a love of the outdoors, is passionate about wildlife and enjoys a slower pace of life cannot help but become enamoured by these incredible islands. Having evolved in splendid isolation, the flora and fauna and native animals are fascinatingly unique, this along with the native Maori culture and dynamic landscape – makes the destination a captivating and engaging adventure for any traveller.
Whether you’re a keen photographer, artist, sports enthusiast, wine enthusiast or foodie, New Zealand is bound to provide the perfect canvas, smorgasbord or scenic backdrop for an invigorating trip. Golfers, for example are spoilt for challenging world-class Links courses and dramatic, cliff-edge, fairways – from the Jack Nicklaus-designed course at The Kinloch Club at Lake Taupo, to the par 71 course with spectacular sea views at Cape Kidnapper’s, or the Alpine amphitheatre splendour of 18-hole Millbrook in Arrowtown, with prestigious par 72 inland Links course, The Hills Golf Course, nearby – all set within magnificent landscapes boasting striking scenery.
As the daughter of a Welsh farming family and keen hiker, the rugged coastline, long stretches of beach, rich farmland and relaxed ‘Kiwi’ lifestyle makes New Zealand an obvious attraction. This time my journey took in a variety of landscapes from the sub-tropical far north, to the mighty Southern Alps with glaciers and glistening lakes, with delicious, local cuisine and thrilling activities along the way. Just some of my many highlights, included a thrilling helicopter flight through the mountain peaks above Lake Wakatipu, staying in a remote private villa retreat with dreamy seascapes on the Banks Peninsula, witnessing the native Hector Dolphins on a wildlife cruise in pretty Akaroa, enjoying a cookery class at Annandale – plus a thrilling Shotover Jet experience in Queenstown! As a vegetarian, I also found the variety of fresh ingredients, orchard fruits and innovative cuisine refreshing – not to mention the delicious local cheeses and world-class wines, of course!
Whilst many visitors head south to New Zealand during their peak summer months of December to March, I found autumn to be an exciting time to visit – the fruit and vineyard harvests were a real treat, the cooler temperatures made exploring the national parks a little easier and less tourists meant quieter roads, with greater lodge availability. For families, Easter holidays are an ideal time to make the journey to New Zealand, since the flights and accommodation are less expensive during autumn and spring months, plus the colourful autumn foliage adds to the magic of scenic drives. On South Island, the Arrowtown Autumn Festival is certainly worth a visit during the end of April and, of course, neighbouring Queenstown boasts an array of incredible outdoor pursuits with heli-skiing, skydiving, bungy-jumping, jet boating, zip-lining and rafting all popular. One of my must-do activities would be visiting White Island, whilst visiting the North Island, to experience an active marine volcano! Flying by helicopter is the only way to truly appreciate the dramatic topography of this area. Other island pursuits include caving, zip-lining, canyoning, and off-road driving - available in locations such as Lake Taupo, Rotorua, Waiheke Island, Nelson, Lake Wanaka and Canterbury.
For thrills, adventure and excitement, New Zealand packs a huge punch for a small country - with an abundance of delicious fresh cuisine to sample and savour along the way. Visitors can immerse themselves in the outdoor lifestyle and marvel at the sheer beauty of Mother Nature, throughout this marvellous and memorable nation.
To learn more about Gill’s trip to New Zealand, or to book your own spirited adventure, please call 01244 897 505. For more inspiration, please visit elegantresorts.co.uk to view our Elegant Journeys to New Zealand.