A trip to Fiordland should definitely be on your New Zealand travel list for 2022. Photo / Fiordland Discovery
It wasn’t quite what I imagined my first two years as a Travel Editor. I started work in November 2019 and just four months later – before I had a chance to fly to any international destination – our borders closed.
But, as we’ve all discovered since March 2020, staying home is actually a good thing. Aotearoa New Zealand is full of riches when it comes to travel and – when alert levels permit – I really enjoyed getting to know them.
So, after two years of domestic travel, here’s my insider’s guide to the best New Zealand travel experiences to add to your 2022 bucket list.
Stay in the penthouse of a luxury hotel
The America’s Cup didn’t attract the hordes of international tourists Auckland was hoping for, but it did bring a slew of brand-new hotels in prime locations.
Treat yourself to a touch of luxury for a city break (or stay) with a night or two at The Britomart Hotel and Park Hyatt. Both have amazing penthouse suites available for additional special stays.
The Britomart hotel offers five Landing Suites, three of which have their own open-air terrace where you will feel like living in a dream of New York’s Upper East Side.
At the Park Hyatt, choose between the 141m² Chairman’s Suite or the 245m² Presidential Suite, the latter featuring a private outdoor garden and a 125m² furnished balcony.
My pick for the best views in Auckland is the Hilton on Princes Wharf. It’s not as new as the others, but the Bow Suite on the top floor will never get tired – sweeping views of the Harbor Bridge, the North Rim, Rangitoto and beyond means you’ll be hard-pressed to do anything else. than sitting on the balcony and gazing in the changing light over the Hauraki Gulf.
Other options: Sofitel Queenstown’s Penthouse No 10, The Penthouse at Eichardt’s Queenstown.
Stay in a luxury lodge
If you are looking for a warmer experience but want the “home” in question to be fit for royalty and billionaires, New Zealand’s luxury lodges are the place for you.
Huka Lodge is the Queen’s favorite – she has stayed at the internationally renowned Taupō property three times. I have stayed here once and can confirm this is the perfect place for a special occasion getaway or a bucket list treat.
The three Robertson Lodges – Kauri Cliffs in Northland, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay and Matakauri in Queenstown – also bear this travel publisher’s seal of approval. Each offers the same level of exceptional service and fine cuisine, but all have their own styles and subtleties to suit the local environment in which they find themselves.
Other options: Several, but at the top of my list for 2022 are The Landing in Northland, Minaret Station in the Southern Alps, and Seascape at Canterbury’s Annandale.
Stay in a private house with an epic view
If you prefer a more private vacation, where you can cook your own meals while enjoying luxurious surroundings and priceless views, The falcon house is for you. Available for rent on Airbnb, the property sits between Cromwell and Wānaka, in the foothills of Mount Pisa. Suitable for up to six adults, stock up on provisions in Wānaka and the local wineries in central Otago, then settle in – once you see the view, you won’t want to leave.
Other options: The Glass House, Whangārei Heads
Dine prepared by an internationally renowned chef
For a taste of Aotearoa, head straight to Wellington’s Hiakai, the contemporary Maori fine-dining restaurant that was named in 2019 by Time magazine as one of the top 100 places in the world. You will need to book well in advance – reservations are released seasonally but taken almost immediately. Sign up for the restaurant’s newsletter to receive alerts on the opening of the next round of reservations and put your name on the waiting list in case of last minute cancellations.
It’ll be worth the wait – thanks to appearances on Netflix’s The Final Table and alongside Gordon Ramsay on National Geographic’s Uncharted, Monique Fiso is one of the world’s most acclaimed chefs and you can bet as soon as the international borders will open, these seats will be even more difficult to secure.
Other options: In Auckland, head to Josh Emett’s Onslow and Peter Gordon’s Homeland. In Central Hawke’s Bay, visit Wallingford to enjoy exceptional cuisine from Chef Chris Stockdale.
Walk, cruise or fly to Fiordland
Choosing a favorite place in New Zealand is like choosing a favorite child – impossible. However, after several trips over the past few years, I have discovered that Fiordland is a place I could come back to time and time again. I advise you to do the same.
For active relaxers, a fully guided multi-day walk is an absolute must. Try the Routeburn Trail with Ultimate Hikes or the Hollyford Trail with Ngāi Tahu’s Hollyford Wilderness Experience. Although you still have to walk (the Routeburn is 20 miles and the Hollyford is 28 miles) you will only be responsible for carrying a backpack. When you reach the well-appointed private lodges at the end of each day, gourmet three-course meals will be cooked for you while you enjoy a fine wine or beer and rest your tired feet.
A visit to Milford Sound is essential for any Kiwi, but take your exploration of the region even further with a cruise to Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Fiordland Discovery’s Fiordland Jewel takes a maximum of 18 passengers to the region’s coves and islands, with kayaking, fishing, hiking, and great food a mandatory part of each day.
The Hollyford and Fiordland Discovery experiences include a helicopter flight for a bird’s eye view of this beautiful, vast and remote region. The beauty will blow your mind.
Other options: Take a guided helicopter ride on Kepler Track with Trips and Tramps; Stay in luxury accommodation in Fiordland National Park, such as Cabot, Milford and Fiordland lodges.
This is just the start of the multitude of unique experiences available in New Zealand. To stay on top of the latest and greatest things to see and do, read our regular magazines in the Herald every Tuesday and Sunday, and visit us online at nzherald.co.nz, and Facebook and Instagram – @nzhtravel.