Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or just a taking a break with someone you’d like to get out of the “friend zone”, New Zealand has a range of amazing experiences and landscapes that are stuff of fantasies.  Inspiring, breath-taking vistas abound on beaches, in the Southern Alps, on vineyards or lying on your back, looking up at the stars.

Queenstown, South Island

Queenstown, South IslandLawrence Murray via Flickr.com/lawmurray (CC by 2.0)

The entire town is built around the Queenstown Bay inlet on Lake Wakatipu.  The view from most places in town includes the brilliant blue water and several peaks of the nearby mountains.  The population is large enough to have everything you need, but small enough that almost everyone knows almost everyone.

Winters in Queenstown are a haven for skiers and snowboarders as the town is close enough to the resorts to be a great place to stay.  Warm-weather visitors can take advantage of the nearby lake and try out boating, fishing and white-water rafting in the tributaries.  Paragliding, skydiving and of course long walks in the woods are also high on the list for visitors during all seasons.

If you and your sweetie are the laid-back type, take a tour of the wineries nearby and taste some of the local offerings.  If the beautiful vineyards don’t do the trick, TSS Earnslaw is a 100 year old steamer that crosses Lake Wakatipu regularly.  It’s the oldest passenger-carrying, coal-fired steamer still in operation in the southern hemisphere.  If your significant other is a fan of Tolkien, make a day of finding all the places where The Lord of the Ring was filmed.

Wellington, North Island

Much larger than Queenstown, the urban area consists of four cities, each with a unique feel.  From the waterfront the snow-capped peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges are often visible and the golden beaches stretch out to the north.  The hillside above the city is a rich green dotted with colonial villas and the urban parts of Wellington are packed full of places to shop and visit.

Although the city has few parks due to the limited geography, Wellington maintains a number of bush walks that highlight native plants.  The architecture of the city is as fascinating as the flora with styles that span 150 years of design and fun for an urban hike.  The oldest building dates from 1858 and can be toured with a guide, and the heritage garden surrounding it is always open to visitors.

Spend some time wandering the streets and then take a ride on the funicular railway that travels from Kelburn in the hills down to Lambton Quay in the shopping district.  Look into taking a sail around the harbour or book a cruise to other parts of the country.

Marlborough, South Island

marlborough, South IslandTom Hall via Flickr.com/tom_hall_nz (CC by 2.0)

Across the straits from Wellington, Marlborough is a dry region that is part mountain and part valley.  The small town of Blenheim stands near the center of the plains surrounding the Wairu River which divides the valleys.

Less industrial than the city across the way, the waters near Marlborough are more often frequented by dolphins and whales.  There’s plenty of hiking in the mountains and its perfect for taking long beach walks on the coast along with boating, swimming and other relaxing activities.  Explore the nearby small towns and support the growing gourmet food industry whenever possible.

This is also the heart of New Zealand’s wine industry and represents 62% of the country’s vineyards.  Spend many days here visiting the wineries and enjoying the warm, dry weather that lets the vintners produce a Sauvignon Blanc that is among the best in the world.

Lake Tekapo, South Island

Lake Tepako new zealandSiyamalan via Flickr.com/siyamalan (CC by 2.0)

There are three lakes along the edge of the Mackenzie Basin in the centre of the island that are about 700 metres above sea level.  The township of Lake Tekapo at the southern end has a number of resort hotels and there is an observatory a bit north of the town.

At the base of Mount John there are hotsprings that are perfect for relaxing in if the weather is chilly or for any reason at all.  A spa offers massage and a steam room takes care of any lingering stiffness.  Although the pools aren’t heated naturally, they take advantage of the excess heat produce by the ice skating rink and warm natural spring water for bathing.

The observatory on Mount John is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve and it’s one of the best places in the world to do some stargazing.  A night tour provides transportation, information and equipment and teaches visitors tricks for photographing the stars.  Even if you skip the tour, could there be any more romantic way to spend an evening than lying on a hillside looking up the brilliant southern stars in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet?

 


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