New Zealand voted ‘Best Holiday Destination Worldwide.’

January 9, 2009

In recent years, New Zealand has gone from strength to strength as a force in world travel. It is simultaneously reassuring and familiar in some respects and astonishingly different and varied in others. It can seem like Britain’s alter ego on the other side of the world, but magically transformed and endlessly fascinating. No wonder Daily Telegraph readers have voted it Best Holiday Destination Worldwide once more. They truly feel at home here, but constantly surprised and delighted. It is roughly the same size as the UK but has only four million people, so vast tracts are completely unspoilt. Its climate is temperate for the most part, but here you will also find subtropical rainforest at one end and glaciers at the other. They drive on the left, just as God intended, but once you are out of the elegant European-style cities, you can find yourself driving virtually alone through utterly unfamiliar and endlessly changing landscapes of pastures, forests, lakes, dramatic bays, golden beaches and snow-capped mountain ranges. But because, like in Britain, we are dealing with narrow islands, you never have to travel great distances to benefit from such diversity. Wild peninsula may remind you of Cornwall, but they are populated by albatross and yellow-eyed penguins. Ski slopes here put the Cairngorms truly in the shade as sulphurous steam rises from active volcanoes. Wingless birds such as the national symbol, the kiwi – which evolved because there were no predators before the arrival of the Maori and Europeans – excite the curiosity (but watch out, kiwi can be most fierce and territorial). Take a walk in the forest and you’ll find more than the familiar bluebell. Vivid splashed of colour from the flowers of the kowhai tree give joy to the eye. The combination of high rainfall and many sunshine hours make the country lush, whether the kauri forests of the far north or the mountain beech forests of the Southern Alps – and 80 per cent of trees, flowering plants and ferns are native to New Zealand. Look out for parrots and the takahe, with its indigo plumage and bright red beak. Marine life, too, is abundant – whale and dolphin spotting here is something special. Even a simple ferry ride to Nelson, at the tip of South Island, speaks to the soul as you pass the green, craggy slopes of the Marlborough Sounds. Most visitors are lured to New Zealand by its increasing fame for sensational scenery (a reputation boosted no end by the dramatic settings for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy) but are then amazed by unexpected experiences that will stay with them for ever. You will never forget walking though a giant Kauri forest at dusk, regaled with songs and legends by local Maori guides, or kayaking through a glow-worm cave – or the more familiar delights of a civilised lunch with good wine in the setting of a Marlborough Valley vineyard. In the cities restaurants are innovative and never stuffy. Café culture is lively and shopping terrific. There are pretty little country villages and great arts and crafts. There is a sense of freedom and excitement – and yet that reassuring sense of familiarity. New Zealand may be Down Under but for Telegraph readers it remains top of the world. (Article from The Daily Telegraph)