Around the world in an Aotearoa daze
Far-flung travel plans are fun, but you don’t always need a runway to see the world.
A wee slice of Scotland: DUNEDIN
Castles, brooding skies and windswept beaches; turn your ear and you might just hear a bagpipe. Aye, (that’s Scottish for yes) Dunedin emanates Scotland in both name and nature. Dùn Èideann is the Gaelic word for Edinburgh and the streets – lined with Victorian and Edwardian buildings – are not dissimilar. Just like its Scottish brethren, Dunedin has its own castle, too. Nearby Larnach Castle boasts manicured gardens and a regal interior, while cosy Scottish pubs such as Albar serve whisky, haggis and oatcakes. Sounds good, aye? (that’s Kiwi for yes).
Tropical Tahiti: KAI IWI LAKES
When people holiday in Tahiti, their social media accounts are plastered with photos to make us green with envy. They must be newlyweds we say, or recently won Lotto. Well, you don’t need to be rich or hitched to slather yourself over a slice of Aotearoa paradise. In Northland, you’ll find the Kai Iwi Lakes in Taharoa Domain glistening in hues usually associated with exotic islands, with ice-white sands slipping into a big bath of blue. Pitch a tent at either Pine Beach or Promenade Point campground and pull a few pre-made mojitos out of your chilly bin. Tahiti/Taharoa: the only difference is the price tag.
Antarctica: AORAKI MT COOK NATIONAL PARK
In 2019, Antarctica was top of the list for every intrepid traveller. In 2020, not so much. Still, if it’s a white wilderness you’re after, with icy kayaking and ice bergs, you needn’t go further than Aoraki Mt Cook. Paddle beneath towering glaciated mountains by kayak, skimming past the glacier face and getting so close to ice bergs, your face will shine in their crystals. There’s also heli-hiking which puts guests to the freshest dumps of glacial snow; your snow boots soon crunching through snow drifts and ice tunnels. How’s that for white and wild?
Barcelona: THE GIANTS HOUSE
Many call it a masterpiece: a stunning collection of bright, mosaic sculptures, popping with colour and whimsical features. Others say it’s a labour of love. Do they speak of Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona? No, The Giants House in Akaroa, now a Garden of International Significance. The house and its surrounds have transformed over the decades into an impressive objet d’art (sound familiar, Antoni?) with creator Josie Martin showcasing a huge talent for big, dynamic mosaics. The Giants House is proof you needn’t seek Gaudi to discover gifted artists.
Blissful Bali: WAIHI BEACH
If there are buddhas, beanbags and banana smoothies, you must be in Bali, right? Nope, this is The Secret Garden, an oasis of lush greenery just steps from Waihi Beach in the Bay of Plenty. Plant yourself in a hidden corner or a wooden pavilion and while away the hours with strong coffee and a good book. You can even try a traditional Balinese massage or lie back and listen to live music.
Japanese Onsen: QUEENSTOWN
This popular Queenstown experience offers a Kiwi twist on a Japanese tradition. Onsen (Japanese for ‘hot water spring’) involves volcanic minerals, communal bathing and a whole lotta nakedness. Fortunately for reserved Kiwis such as ourselves, in Queenstown you’ll enjoy exclusive use of a private cedar hot tub where togs are mandatory. The beauty of this place – aside from the dramatic mountain views – are the retractable roofs: perfect for starlit dips.
Argentinian vineyards: CENTRAL OTAGO
The Mendoza province of Argentina excels in estancia stays, with snowcapped mountain views and rooms overlooking the vines, but guess what?... So do we! The Kopuwai Delta Vineyard in Central Otago provides luxury bed and breakfast on their working estate. Stay in a brick barn studio, flinging open the patio doors to inhale alpine air, or sit in front of the fireplace with vines and mountainside just outside. Kinross in Gibbston has a selection of cottages complete with private wine tasting, or, for ultimate seclusion, ‘The Crib’ is a pocket-sized stone cottage overlooking Legacy Vineyard on the banks of the Clutha River.
The Old West, Arizona: MELLONSFOLLY RANCH
Located deep in Whanganui National Park, Mellonsfolly Ranch has been purpose-built to mimic an authentic cowboy ranch, without the gimmicks. Of course, if you’d like to throw on some denim and ride off into the sunset on horseback, that’s available, too. The main strip is quintessentially dusty, framed by a general store, bank, music hall and Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel where you can rest your cowboy head. Purposely remote, Mellonsfolly is submerged in a hidden and hard-to-reach valley, but if you’re feeling adventurous, it can be accessed on the multi-day Mountain to Sea Cycle Trail. You’ll only need to deviate slightly off the route.