How to ‘master’ your trip to New Zealand

If you’re combining a visit to the World Masters Games 2017 with a Kiwi holiday, here are some useful tips.

Eating and Drinking

If you’re a first-time visitor to New Zealand, you’ll be delighted to find that the food scene is as sophisticated as anywhere else in the world. From fine-diners to food trucks, there’s no shortage of good eateries and even out-of-the-way places serve good coffee. On top of this, New Zealand offers some unique food and wine experiences that are worth a try.

Sheep still outnumber Kiwis by six to one and lamb is everywhere on the menu. The best is said to come from Canterbury, although merino producers in the deep south of the country bitterly dispute this, as do beef producers. Lamb is traditionally served with roasted kūmara (sweet potato), followed by Pavlova for dessert (Kiwis still maintain that they invented the Pavlova).

In rural areas, Kiwi males often go hunting for wild venison and pork, and commercially harvested versions are popular restaurant fare too. With no part of the country being further than 120km from the sea, great seafood is everywhere too and is often referred to by its Māori name, kaimoana. Case in point: pāua (abalone), which in New Zealand is commonly jet-black. You’ll encounter it most often in takeaway shops (pāua fritters are a Kiwi classic) or fancy-sautéed in posh eateries.

New Zealand shellfish – green-lipped mussels, scallops, tuatua (an indigenous clam good in chowders), clams and oysters – are particularly good. A tip: Bluff Oysters, regarded as one of the world’s greats, are at the beginning of their harvest season during the World Masters Games.

Oysters go especially well with luscious, cool-climate white wines, which happen to be New Zealand’s forté. The two main islands have six major wine regions, with highlights including Marlborough (the home of New Zealand sauvignon blanc) and Central Otago (pinot noir). Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island is well-known for shiraz, which Kiwis call syrah. All of the wine regions have cellar doors and wine trails and many vineyard restaurants have world-class chefs with extensive international experience.

The other good thing about eating your way around New Zealand is that rural areas offer retro food heritage experiences such as cheese rolls, sausage rolls and old-school slices, cakes, meat pies and tarts.

Playing

New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes and vast wilderness areas call out to people to engage with them. Nine Great Walks and thousands of kilometres of walking and hiking trails confirm that they do and it is a very rewarding way to experience the country.

For many visitors the call to adventure is loud and clear and the major tourism mecca of Rotorua, 225km southeast of Auckland, offers a wide range of luging, zip lining, zorbing and other active sports. The thermal region city is also a stop on the world-level Crankworx mountain-biking circuit. The country’s best selection of para-gliding, zip lining, flying fox, jetboating and other thrills is of course found in Queenstown, the South Island alpine resort that kicked off the world phenomenon of bungy-jumping.

If more sedate experiences are on your radar, you’ll find spa treatments and wellness centres throughout the country, notably around Rotorua’s therapeutic thermal pools and in Queenstown. Three hours from Rotorua (or a one-hour flight from Auckland), the attractions of the Hawke’s Bay region include the North Island’s premier wine region and one of the world’s largest collections of Art Deco architecture. And speaking of the arts, you’ll find a vibrant cultural scene throughout the country that includes many good-quality museums and galleries.

Staying

There are several good reasons why New Zealand remains the most popular destination for Australians year after year: it’s close, it’s safe, it’s welcoming and it’s easy to get around. Frequent daily air services connect the main centres with the regions and the modern highway system is a real inducement to hire a motor home, camper van or RV from a provider like Mhighway and hit the road.

From Auckland, a 30-minute ride by high-speed catamaran takes you to lush, green Waiheke Island, a jewel of a destination with headlands lined with sculpture trails and plentiful restaurants and wineries. North of Auckland, the subtropical Bay of Islands and Northland have an enticing blend of history and wild beauty that makes for great road-tripping.

There’s a wide range of accommodation on offer in most parts of the country, from staying with family and friends, to living like a local with Airbnb, self-catering apartments, hotels, motels and lodges. If it’s total indulgence you’re after, several luxury lodges rank among the world’s best.

The World Masters Games 2017 is a big event – the biggest that New Zealand expects to host in the next decade – and an army of 4,000-plus volunteers will ensure that things run smoothly. There’s just one last piece of holiday advice: make sure you have all your bookings in place.

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