A Little Faith in Christchurch's Cardboard Cathedral
Do you remember digging the box from your parents’ new refrigerator out of the rubbish? Were you the sort of child who preferred playing with the box your gift came in rather than the gift itself? Did you clutter the living room with cardboard constructed forts, complete with a ‘No Parents Allowed’ sign hanging from the front door? Then a new attraction being built in Christchurch, New Zealand might be for you.
The brainchild of Japanese designer Shigeru Ban, a new Church of England church built entirely out of cardboard, is being constructed in the South Island’s city of Christchurch.
But this is far more than just something to make your inner child grin. Decimated by earthquakes between 2011 and 2012, Christchurch was a fractured community with tens of thousands of homes affected by the disasters. With a view to reuniting the people of the Canterbury region, completion has been set for April of this year and it’s already drawing international attention. The Sydney Morning Herald has listed it in the top ten new international attractions for 2013, a list which includes the new Shard Building in London. The first of its kind in New Zealand and with a predicted lifetime of over fifty years, this incredible church is sure to become a fixture on any journey to New Zealand’s gateway city on the South Island.
And our new five night Travel Less, See More holiday to Christchurch & Canterbury will offer ample opportunity to explore this stunning region and dynamic city. An incredible blend of culture and nature, Christchurch and Canterbury are a highlight on any holiday down under.
Discover Napier's Art Deco History
Have you ever dreamed of dressing as a flapper, long cigarette, bob-cut and alluring pout in place? Have you imagined walking through an art deco town with other like-minded aficionados, nothing but feather boas and zoot suits to be seen?
Until recently, I thought it was just me, but on a recent trip to New Zealand, I fulfilled this rather unusual fantasy.
Let me start at the beginning. Situated in Hawke’s Bay on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Napier was devastated when an earthquake hit in 1931. The downtown of Napier was completely levelled, but in response to this overwhelming tragedy, the unique beauty of modern Napier was born. Back in 1931 art deco was popular, giving form to architectural wonders the world over and it was in this time that Napier was rebuilt, resulting in what is now proudly called the ‘Art Deco capital.’
Napier is a popular destination for art and architecture enthusiasts alike. But for those with ambitions of ‘flapper-ism’, the Art Deco Festival is not to be missed. Celebrated over the third weekend of February (14th-17th in 2013), there are over a hundred different events, many of them free - from parades, concerts, street parties and the inevitable Great Gatsby Picnic. As Napier becomes decorated in lovingly restored vintage cars and art deco enthusiasts, we’re finally able to look down a long cigarette at a thin-mustached man who still hasn’t given up on jazz music and Clara Bow. And from the over 25,000 others who attended in 2009, it was clear that I was certainly not alone in my 1930s nostalgia!
The Art Deco Trust has done a fantastic job preserving this world-class architecture, and their enthusiasm is clear from the abundance of information available on art deco, the 1931 earthquake and the rebuilding of Napier. After one of their tours, it’s hard not to become enthusiastic about art deco or Napier along with them.
And nestled in the wine country of Hawke’s Bay, there is plenty else to do while in the area. Such as sampling some of the world famous Chardonnay or Merlot, meeting with Maori elders or visiting the incredible Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Indeed, just driving along the coast - even if you’re not in a vintage car - is absolutely spectacular.
Our New Zealand Bucket List
Experiences abound on any holiday to New Zealand, but after you’ve spent a night stalking out the elusive kiwi, or get psyched up at an All Blacks match, you might need some direction on what to see. Here at Discover the World we have a passion for ‘the land of the long white cloud’ that runs deep. On every trip our specialists take, we discover new and wonderful activities to recommend to our clients. Here we have compiled some of our favourite activities into a ‘bucket list’ that everyone who sets foot on these marvellous islands should experience
Overnight Cruise, Doubtful Sound, Fiordland
You would be forgiven for thinking that while watching the world reflecting in the mirror that is Doubtful Sound, you were in paradise. An overnight cruise here is an absolute must for any New Zealand holiday and the magnificent Doubtful Sound, nestled in the beautiful and remote Fiordland of the south island, feels like you are genuinely a world away from the bustle and concerns of modern life. The vessel itself is spacious and will be your viewing platform for the stunning waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife that surround you. For the more adventurous, there are optional excursions by kayak or tender vessel, after which the three course evening meal will feel well-earned. There really is no better way to enjoy the natural beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, Mackenzie Country
The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was only designated a reserve in 2012, but this insurance against further light pollution guarantees some of the best stargazing in the world. Set in a remote part of New Zealand’s south island, this sky reserve is already well known among astronomers for its unequalled views of the night sky. With a telescope that observes fifty million stars, you’ll catch sight of the Southern Cross, visible only from the southern hemisphere, as well as the stunning Magellanic Clouds that surround. Make sure you allow a couple of days in Lake Tekapo to ensure you have the best chance of viewing the night sky at the Mt John Observatory.
Meet a White Kiwi, Pukaha Mount Bruce, Tararua District
Before the first birth of a white kiwi in captivity in 2011, we didn’t think it was possible for these elusive birds to be any more adorable. But with Manukura’s birth at Pukaha Mount Bruce, we were definitely proven wrong. With a third white kiwi’s arrival last Christmas, the young trio are thriving and hoping that their father, from whom the genetic abnormality stems, may give them even more unusually coloured siblings. Visitors to Pukaha Mount Bruce on New Zealand’s North Island have the chance to see these little cuties in the feather, watching out for them at their daily feed. It came as no surprise to us that these delightful little guys have mastered the internet as well - you can follow Manukura on her Facebook page!
Swimming with Hector’s Dolphins, Akaroa
Swimming with dolphins is always incredible, but a swim with New Zealand's only endemic cetacean,the Hector’s Dolphin, is truly a unique experience. Something only possible from Akaroa on New Zealand’s South Island, if you’re lucky you could spend up to forty-five minutes in the water with these endearing mammals. We have even heard that one participant was so moved that she had a Maori-style dolphin tattoo straight after the swim! And while permanent body decoration is certainly not a requirement, a swim with these beautiful animals is sure to leave you deeply moved.
The ‘nine great walks’ of New Zealand are world-famous for a reason, and no holiday would be complete without taking to the trails at least once. Through the valleys and mountains of the Milford Track to the twisting Whanganui River on the aptly named Whanganui Journey, the nine great hikes really are ‘great.’ If a day trek is more your style, there are numerous available, with the lava field and emerald-green lakes of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing being a stand-out highlight. Whether you are interested in a casual day trek, or a longer overnight journey, there is something to please any hiking enthusiast…and something to tempt even those who haven’t brought their hiking boots along.
Driving Through the Eastland region and Gisborne
We often wonder why the Eastland on the North Island is one of the least visited parts of New Zealand. Offering some of the most beautiful coastlines we’ve ever seen, the Eastland has over 1000 years of Maori heritage to be discovered. The filming location for Whale Rider, it’s a favourite place for whale-watching, while also exploring the local culture that is celebrated in that film. Camping, surfing, fishing and even diving are popular sports in the area and a few days are well spent enjoying the scenic beauty and natural attractions. Gisborne is the place to trace the history of New Zealand’s settlement, the first landing place of both the Polynesians voyagers and Captain Cook, the first meeting between Maori and European culture took place here. Few places in New Zealand offer this unique blend of culture and natural beauty.
White Island Volcano, off Whakatane, Bay of Plenty
New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, a trip to White Island is definitely an experience to be had. Departing from Whakatane, the 90-minute boat ride gives you ample opportunity to keep an eye out for dolphins, while the rugged rock of White Island edges nearer. But it’s when you arrive that the excitement really begins. Steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud and sulphur vents await and a walk here makes you truly feel that you’re on a different planet. With the recent increase in activity, the White Island Volcano is definitely a place to keep your eye on. With some claiming that this activity might prelude an eruption and others making more cautious predictions, the feeling of anticipation that grips the island is all the more reason to keep it on your ‘to do’ list for the near future.
Maria Hitchens is one of our accredited travel specialists for Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Alaska. During autumn 2012 (spring in the Southern Hemisphere), Maria went on a three week self-drive tour of the North and South Islands in New Zealand. Here she describes her visit to Marlborough Sounds:
After a busy 12 days exploring the North, I was looking forward to spending a couple of days at the Bay of Many Coves, a 5 star luxury resort in Marlborough Sounds. I was aware the resort was not accessible by road and, as with any secluded hideaway, I knew it would be an adventure just getting there!
Before making my way to the resort, I took a private water taxi trip exploring the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The skipper was such a character and we spent the morning cruising the turquoise waters with bush-clad bays and amazing views of uninhabited golden sand beaches. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I really started to unwind.
After stopping for a delicious lunch of giant, green-lipped mussels in white wine sauce at Raetihi Lodge - another romantic hideaway - I was back on board with the sun beating down on my face. It doesn’t get better than this I thought... until I noticed a school of dolphins following us. I had to pinch myself. These beautiful creatures were jumping in and out of the water, playing in the waves created by our boat! It was simply magical watching them.
Later that day, still on a high from seeing the dolphins, I made my way to Picton and caught the small passenger ferry to my accommodation for the night – the Bay of Many Coves. After a 30 minute boat ride, we approached the resort with 5 star luxury apartments nestled in the hillside surrounded by lush flora and fauna. I was greeted on the jetty by hosts Pip and Nick and shown to my apartment with private balcony and superb views.
From this point on, my stay at the resort was simply unforgettable. I enjoyed a luxurious Spa treatment in the Miritu Day Spa, before settling down to a sumptuous three-course meal that was served in my apartment overlooking the Bay. This was a wonderful way to relax after a busy schedule and the ideal ‘half way’ point if touring both Islands. Close to the Queen Charlotte track, guests can enjoy everything from bush walks, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and bird watching.
This was one of the highlights of my trip and a great way to unwind before heading south.
Discover New Zealand on foot!
For any keen walker who hasn’t explored New Zealand, we have only one question to ask: why not? Even those who prefer to travel New Zealand by car, boat or bike can’t avoid hitting the trails at least once in this walker’s paradise. The scenery is stunning, the national parks are plentiful and on these sparsely populated islands, you can often guarantee that the trail will be for your enjoyment alone. Here are just a few options that we hope will whet your appetite for ’tramping’.
New Zealand is renowned for its ‘nine great walks’, the Milford Track on the South Island is probably the most famous of New Zealand’s nine walks. This four day track follows Maori history through a breath-taking landscape of valleys, mountains and fiords which will lead you from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. After soaking in the natural beauty, it really is no wonder that you will have to book well ahead before hitting the dirt on this amazing trail. Enjoy the video of the Milford Trek.
If you would like to experience the beauty of Maori history without having to cross too far south, the Whanganui Journey on the north island is another fantastic option. Also a kayak and canoe route, this journey begins at Taumaranui and takes five days to complete as you track the Whanganui River. An important transportation route for centuries, the river was well used by both the Maori and the later Europeans. Now it is a well-protected national park and a beautiful example of the natural wonders New Zealand has to offer.
For those with a true eye for beauty, it will be hard to resist the Abel Tasman National Park. Stretching along the curving northern peninsula of the South island, this park is home to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in New Zealand. Playing host to golden-brown beaches, tiny islands and a thick forest, this route is an amazing trek for any skill level.
Another of the most popular trails is found on the North Island, the Tongariro Northern Circuit. A three to four day trek, this incorporates the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is one of New Zealand’s most famous day walks and is highly recommended for those who would prefer a day’s outing. Starting and finishing at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, few places, even on New Zealand, can boast this kind of landscape. In an active volcanic region, the lava formations, geysers and stunning emerald mineral lakes will leave the eyes wide and the feet moving.
Kiwi hiking isn’t limited to the famous nine, and any stop in New Zealand will almost guarantee good treks. It’s even possible to access amazing trails from Auckland itself, including those in the Waitakere Ranges, which border the city to the west.
New Zealand is well-equipped for tramping and has the benefit of well-maintained trails and plenty of resources for walking enthusiasts. Whether you are interested in a casual day trek, or a longer overnight journey, there is almost definitely something to please all.
Discover your perfect walking holiday in New Zealand from this selection.
"Travel less, see more" in New Zealand
When travelling to New Zealand it’s not uncommon to make the mistake of trying to fit in all of this beguiling country’s sights into one holiday. However, in rushing to see it all, visitors often miss many of the wonderful details of this diverse country.
From the sub-tropical Bay of Islands up north with its spectacular beaches and mild climate, the Maori culture and geothermal springs of Rotorua, to the glaciers and pristine beauty of the Fiordland, this country has so much to offer everywhere you look. It’s really no wonder that most visitors end up wishing they could spend more time getting to know this amazing country.
With this in mind, Discover the World has launched a brand new holiday concept called ‘Travel Less, See More’. This selection of modular touring itineraries allows independent travellers to spend more time in each of the diverse regions of New Zealand. Devised from our own experiences around New Zealand, these holidays include our ‘must do’ Kiwi experiences, encouraging the independent traveller to ‘go slow’ and really savour everything that New Zealand has to offer. These are delivered in a collection of five night itineraries in each one of the core regions of the islands, which can be combined with a number of optional three night extensions to the more ‘off the beaten track’ areas.
As always, our approach to organising your holiday is flexible and we will happily work with you, combining the options that interest you to create the perfect holiday—we understand that a journey to New Zealand is often a once in a lifetime experience! We’ll help you find accommodation to suit your individual needs - we offer everything from guesthouses to more upscale eco-lodges. The most popular way to get about is to hire a car to explore (and there are no worries about driving on the wrong side of the road in New Zealand!) or alternatively get to know the local transportation and use train or ferry.
Our Travel Less, See More itineraries and extensions feature some of our favourite New Zealand experiences, including an exploration of vibrant Wellington - enjoy their world famous coffee by day, before kiwi spotting at night, with an extension to the internationally renowned nature reserve of Kapiti Island. Or, for the art lovers, discover magnificent Napier and the wonderful wine from the surrounding Hawkes bay. And for the film-fans, why not take an extension to Tongariro National Park and a climb up Mount Ngauruhoe itself, or, as you may know it, Mount Doom from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, one of the most arduous climbs on the island.
If you’re considering a holiday to New Zealand and would like to things a little differently, we encourage you to check out our ‘Travel Less, See More’ holidays on our website. Alternatively call our Travel Specialists to discuss the options available for your journey through ‘the land of the long white cloud.’