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Archive for new zealand

New Zealand’s Volcanic Wonderland

By Linda Tancs

Located in the Central North Island region, Tongariro is New Zealand’s oldest national park. Established in the late 1800s, it’s recognized as much for its volcanic landscape as for its religious and cultural heritage. At the heart of the park are its three active volcano mountains—Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu—part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. To the Maori people who have inhabited the land for centuries, it’s a sacred place. The park’s natural and cultural attributes have earned it two World Heritage designations. Ruapehu has two of the largest ski fields in the country, catering to everyone from beginner to advanced, making it a perfect destination for this winter season. If summertime is more to your liking, don’t fret. Scenic chairlift rides operate on Whakapapa (the larger of the two fields) throughout most of the year offering spectacular views over the region.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Land of Glistening Waters

By Linda Tancs

New Zealand’s Wairarapa means “land of glistening waters” in the Māori language. They should know; Māori settlement of the region goes back some 800 years. Two hours or so from Wellington, the Wairarapa Coast is where you’ll find spectacular views of Palliser Bay and Lake Onoke. You can view those glistening waters from the lookout above the Putangirua Pinnacles, an otherworldly collection of limestone earth pillars (hoodoos) characteristic of badlands erosion. This distinctive locale was used for filming the “Paths of the Dead” scene in the Return of the King, the third movie in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

New Zealand’s Treasured Possession

By Linda Tancs

New Zealand’s second-largest national park, Kahurangi takes its name from a Maori word meaning “treasured possession.” It’s easy to understand why. For one thing, the park served as a filming site for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Another one of its assets is the network of walking trails. The Heaphy Track, in particular, covers 48 miles of subtropical rainforest, high country, river valley and coast. It’s the same route used for hundreds of years by Maori tribes en route to the treasures of greenstone, a durable stone that plays an important role in Maori culture. And its ancient geology gives rise to even more treasures, like the discovery of New Zealand’s oldest fossil (540 million years old) and an extensive network of caves. Motueka, Takaka, Karamea and Murchison are the park’s gateway towns. Check with the Department of Conservation for the latest weather and track conditions before you set out.

The World of Peanut Butter

By Linda Tancs

According to the National Peanut Board, Americans eat more than six pounds of peanut products each year, a consumption worth more than $2 billion at the retail level. Peanut butter is as American as apple pie, which is why it might be surprising to learn that a peanut butter factory tour experience has opened in Nelson, New Zealand. Pic’s Peanut Butter World offers a free, 40-minute tour of their facility, which includes free tastings and a photo of you atop the world’s largest jar of peanut butter.

Pancakes in New Zealand

By Linda Tancs

The Paparoa Range is a mountain range in the West Coast region of New Zealand’s South Island, made of ancient granite shaped by ice to form a rugged backdrop to Paparoa National Park near Punakaiki. Limestone underlies most of the park, creating its signature cliffs, canyons and caves. But of all the coastal formations, the park is perhaps best known for what’s popularly referred to as the “pancake stacks.” You also won’t want to miss the three blowholes at Dolomite Point, which put on their best performance during a southwesterly swell at high tide. Intercity buses provide regular service to the area.

A Kiwi Christmas

By Linda Tancs

Auckland, New Zealand’s capital, offers adventure in every direction. In the area known locally as East Auckland, the coastline beckons water enthusiasts eager to experience the Hauraki Gulf, an area comprising over 2 million acres of blue waters dotted with emerald islands reachable by water taxis. This time of year, though, it’s the pohutukawa trees (known as the New Zealand Christmas tree for its crimson flowers) that grab the regional spotlight. One of Auckland’s most spectacular driving routes is along the Pohutukawa Coast, named after the iconic tree.

Aspiring in New Zealand

By Linda Tancs

Named for Mount Aspiring, one of New Zealand’s highest peaks, Mount Aspiring National Park provides inspiring walks for trekkers eager to view its glaciers, waterfalls, braided rivers and acres of native beech forest. Short walks around one hour include the Devil’s Punchbowl and Wainui Falls, featuring native forests and waterfalls. If you’re interested in a more serious walk, consider treks such as the Gillespie Pass Circuit, the Wilkin Valley, Aspiring Hut, Liverpool Bivy and Cascade Saddle. Of course, the park is also easily accessible by plane, helicopter or jet-boat, and a glacier landing high in the mountains can’t be beat.

New Zealand’s Iconic Tree

By Linda Tancs

Located in the stunning alps of the South Island in New Zealand, Wanaka is beloved by outdoor enthusiasts for its year-round array of activities amidst the lakes and mountains. It’s equally loved by shutterbugs, who flock to the region for their own storied photo of Lake Wanaka Tree, that lone willow tree in the middle of the lake. Perhaps the most photographed tree in the country, it may be the best known photo stop, but it’s not the only one. There are 24 designated scenic photo points with helpful commentary. Points 1-9 can be done either walking or biking and Points 10-24 can be done as a scenic drive with the opportunity to stop and walk about.

Stargazing in New Zealand

By Linda Tancs

Situated in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island, the Mackenzie Region is a photographer’s paradise of turquoise blue lakes, valleys of emerald green and snow-capped mountains. It’s also a heavenly place for stargazing, its clear skies earning it a designation as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The reserve is home to Mount John Observatory, the perfect locale for a stargazing tour year round, where powerful telescopes will reveal all that the southern sky has to offer, like the Southern Cross and unparalleled views of the Milky Way.

The Forgotten World Highway

By Linda Tancs

Built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century, New Zealand’s Forgotten World Highway is its oldest heritage trail. Otherwise known as State Highway 43, the 93-mile route meanders over four mountain saddles, through a one-lane tunnel and over a river gorge in a way that many describe as a roller coaster experience. Located between Stratford and Taumarunui, a highlight along this scenic route is Whangamomona, a little village that declared itself a republic in 1989. You can get your passport stamped at the local hotel.

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