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New Zealand, it’s said, has all the wonders and varied terrain of Canada, all wrapped up in one far more compact package. And a sample of much of its natural beauty and truly one-off attractions is readily accessible from NZ’s biggest city, Auckland, home to a third of the nation’s people.

Another bonus is a mere three-hours flying time from Sydney, or an extra 30 minutes for the return journey, and airfares starting at $500 return. Auckland Airport is Australasia’s second biggest, after Sydney, serviced by 30 international airlines in all, so plenty of choice of carrier offers. As a standalone, or dual, destination holiday, Auckland’s ideal, whether as a base for touring or as one half of a break taking in the Cook Islands or Tahiti, for instance; skiing; or going on elsewhere in the country: 320 flights depart daily from AKL for 19 cities around the nation.

For families, Auckland and environs alone is an affordable, fresh, holiday location with plenty to be packed into a week away. Expanded holiday planning beyond the usual beach-and-bar destination offers instead a break full of active outdoors, cultural, scenic, nature and gourmet pleasures. Children, and adult fans, will love a day trip to the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton movie set on a guided tour of its enchanting installations, coupled with a visit to Waitomo glowworm caves and boat ride through Glowworm Grotto. Other day tours take in Rotorua, venturing into the renowned thermal valley of geysers and boiling mud pools or the stunning Bay of Islands region with its penguins, seals, dolphins and whales.

Or, simply settle into the city and its brimming schedule of attractions. With a population of some 1.5million it’s big enough to offer everything the visitor can want, including an excellent range of accommodation choice, yet uncrowded to easily get around. Central to it all are Auckland’s beautiful twin harbours, its bridge (pictured) lit with 90,000 LEDs for a remarkable array of effects. The sparkling waters of Waitemata Harbour and its waterfront are attracting attention from across the world as it prepares for the 36th America’s Cup in 2021: sleek super yachts already are moored for the envying. Earlier, the All Blacks meet the Wallabies at Eden Park this August.

Stylish fine food outlets and fabulous New Zealand wines as well as quirky cafes surround the waterfront. A must-do inner city venue is Karangahape Road – “K” Road as it’s known: the city’s hippest food precinct, notable for its intimate cafes, restaurants and bars. There’s Coco’s Cantina for Italian-inspired cuisine; Madame George serving seasonal plates and house-made snacks with some of the best cocktails in town, tables spilling out from a petite interior to the covered pavement; Apero, whose French chef embellishes the wine bar concept with unfussy yet unparalleled charcuterie; Satya Chai Lounge, a candle-lit room with a tempting take on delicious South Indian street food, plus craft beer and cocktails; and Love Bucket, for a mixology treat that has patrons sipping on syrups, tinctures and infusions, enjoying a laid-back vibe and city views.

By day there are beaches, bays, biking, breweries and bungy jumping, and that’s just some of the “b”s. Enjoy too fishing, snorkelling, sailing, parasailing, jet boats, kayaking, harbour cruises and the adventure of a bridge climb and bungy jumping. As well there’s the Sky Tower, Sky Walk and Sky Jump; entertainment galore; fish market; farmers’ market; wineries; world-class galleries, and shopping – New Zealand known for its superb fashion and remarkable one-of-a-kind woollen garments and designer labels.

More options: panoramic views from the volcanic cone of Mount Eden; Mission Bay beach for fish and chips and a stroll, cycle or rollerblading; the aquarium, museum and zoo; crocodile viewing; butterfly house; mini-golf; paintball; go-karts; coastal walks taking in peaceful parks and historic suburbs; heritage trails through native bush; ferry rides; artisan cheese and foods; Maori culture; Kiwi art and craft; horse riding; Segway tours; canyoning, mountain biking and 4WD; a theme park and “scream” park; and golf. How long are you staying again?

At an average January-February 23 degrees, Auckland’s an escape from Australia’s stifling summer while NZ’s “true” winters ensure reliable snowfalls and excellent cold climate experiences. Auckland’s just four and a half hours from Mt Ruapehu and 1000ha of skiable alpine terrain.

Book with an agent; 100 of them toured NZ last month so they should be able to refine my long list. 

Time to say “Kia Ora” to our cousins across the ditch!   

Travel Editor, Susie Boswell

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