Road trip through New Zealand
Outdoor enthusiasts and wine aficionados alike can rub elbows on the rugged and unpredictable New Zealand's North Island - a land of glaciers, vineyards, beaches and volcanoes. A road tour of New Zealand is perhaps the best way to first get acquainted with the area, though travelers will only get a taste of what this fascinating land has to offer.
The road trip from Auckland to Wellington has been highlighted as one of National Geographic's "Drives of a Lifetime," and deservedly so. The trip offers a wide variety of prime New Zealand sights and activities, starting in New Zealand's largest city.
In Auckland, travelers will find the hustle and bustle of any major metropolitan area, as well as the Auckland Museum, an acclaimed primer on the history of the land and its people. From there, travelers can drive up to Huapai, and indulge in wine-tastings, jazz concerts and a myriad of art exhibitions.
Culture, however, is only one small part of what makes New Zealand captivating. Heading south toward Waikato uncovers hiking under the massive Kauri trees found in the Hakarimata Scenic Reserve. Those looking for a something a little bit more awe-inspiring can climb an ancient volcano up the Karioi Summit Track.
The Waikato region is also a prime destination for movie buffs. It is in this area that fans of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy can look upon the location of the Hobbit village in the films, as well as a few other famous grassy locales caught on tape.
Take a bath
The drive becomes more rugged as travelers head south. Rotorua is a popular destination pocked by geysers, boiling mud and active volcanoes. The Pacific Ring of Fire is to thank for all the steaming activity. Travelers are encouraged to visit Hell's Gate, a self-proclaimed geothermal park that offers guided tours of the area, bush walks, trips to steaming cliffs, mud baths and sulfur spas.
Waterside Wellington provides a breath of fresh air from Rotorua. Just off its coast is a pristine nature reserve, rigorously preserved as a home for both land and marine wildlife. Bird lovers can spot the stitchbird?, the kokako, the takahe and even the famed kiwi, which is extinct on the mainland. Anyone looking to make a journey to the beautiful island, however, must plan ahead. The island is only a 15-minute boat trip, but only 50 people are allowed to visit per day.