I had always imagined that Auckland was representative of the whole of New Zealand. Numerous business trips where all I saw was just another metropolis, beautifully positioned on the water, but somewhat lacking in character and enthusiasm. Therefore it caught me by surprise when I first visited the South Island in September 2007, and saw a completely different country – one that has enticed me to return there every year ever since.
Whatever city you choose to fly into, the landscape of this Kiwi land is absolutely breathtaking especially when dusted by recent snowfalls. Subject to your budget and whether you like to take to the ski fields or just enjoy après action, there is plenty to see and do. On my most recent journey, my former squeeze and I picked up a hire car at Christchurch airport, dropped by a supermarket in the city to stock up with food and drinks, and headed south for the leisurely one and a half hour drive to Terrace Downs, an exquisite high country resort in the Canterbury region.
We had booked into a one bedroom terrace villa suite, but were upgraded to the two bedroom (they also have five bedroom villas for groups); views were amazing down the championship golf course and across to the Southern Alps. Our days alternated between meandering over the included buffet breakfast in the hotel, dropping into nearby Methven for a pub lunch and a walk, sitting on our private balcony with a glass of wine gazing at the view, or curled up in front of the fire reading a book. A quick 20 minute drive away also took us to the base of Mt Hutt for some beginner skiing lessons, and the gentle slopes here are a great place to start if you have never experienced the white stuff before. Terrace Downs also offers helicopter transfers to and from the mountain if you don’t want to drive, or you just want to do it in style.
If you’re after a more vibrant, action packed winter adventure then it’s hard to go past Queenstown with a wide range of accommodation styles to suit most budgets. Here I went with a group of friends and stayed at the Heritage Villas, about a 5 minute drive out of town up the hill but with amazing views. Our three bedroom villa came complete with full kitchen and lounge room, with sliding doors opening to a view of the mountains afar. This was a non skiing break for us; instead we ate great pizza at Winnies, played the tables at the casino, had a recovery breakfast at the Pig and Whistle after a big night, and even managed a civilised dinner at Pesto in Arrowtown around 30 minutes from our base. Nightlife is varied and plentiful, and the atmosphere is relaxed and people outgoing.
Getting to New Zealand has never been easier with direct flights into Auckland from the United States, South East Asia, and Australia with connections to Christchurch and Queenstown. Accommodation at Terrace Downs starts from NZD$249 per night for a one bedroom villa, a deluxe room at Heritage Queenstown starts from NZD$140 per night. To book, either go online or use the services of a licensed travel agent.
Ashley Hogan is an Australian independent travel writer who calls the world home. Images courtesy of Terrace Downs and Queenstown Tourism.