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The Best Restaurants in New Zealand Revealed

This week, Trip Advisor has announced their Travellers Choice best restaurants in New Zealand – the top spots across the country to get some seriously good food, but don’t worry if you’re travelling to New Zealand on a limited budget – it’s not all about the fine dining – there’s also a list of top recommended ‘cheap eats’ too.

Many of the restaurants recommended are ones we’ve personally visited and can vouch for – so if you have any questions about any of them, or are planning a trip to New Zealand and want to have a chat about our own recommendations for where to eat during your travels, just get in touch.

The Top Ten were decided on using a whole years worth of reviews on the popular Trip Advisor website, to gain an overall verdict of the best quality and overall experience of eateries the length and breadth of the country.

Although the top spot was awarded to the wonderful to Auckland restaurant ‘The French Café’ – previously also ranked as one of the top ten restaurants in the world by Trip Advisor – it’s great to read that there were plenty of other restaurants that made the top ten that weren’t in the biggest cities in NZ, in fact one of our absolute favourite places to eat, Hopgood’s restaurant in Nelson took the number two position.

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The Mission Restaurant at the Mission Estate Winery in Napier gained a place too, and rightly so. The food there is great, and the setting, up on the hill amongst the vines is beautifully picturesque. We suggest matching an antipasto platter with a bottle of their recommended wine and spending the afternoon enjoying the views and the atmosphere at the oldest winery in New Zealand – you can take a tour too.

We’re also really delighted that one of our old favourites Logan Brown in Wellington is in the top ten. One of our team members here at Silver Fern spent five years living in Wellington, and Logan Brown was always a favourite destination for celebrating a special occasion. Housed in an old bank on Cuba Street, its high vaulted ceilings and seriously stand out food make it an un-missable choice for fine dining during any stay in New Zealand’s capital city.

There’s also the list of top ten budget friendly places to eat too – which again, our New Zealand travel expert Caroline can definitely confirm top spot status, as she used to be a regular at all of the Wellington listings!

We’ve added the list of restaurants and links to their websites below – if you’re a real foodie, get in touch and we can help to plan a culinary themed trip around New Zealand!!

Travellers’ Choice top 10 fine dining:

1. The French Cafe, Auckland.
2. Hopgoods, Nelson.
3. Clooney, Auckland.
4. The Grove, Auckland.
5. Logan Brown, Wellington.
6. No.31 Restaurant and Bar, Hanmer Springs.
7. Mission Restaurant, Napier.
8. Hippopotamus, Wellington.
9. Rata, Queenstown.
10. Botswana Butchery, Queenstown.

Travellers’ Choice top 10 cheap eats:

1. Ali Baba’s Tunisian Takeaways, Rotorua
2. Sri Pinang, Auckland
3. Turkish Delight Cafe, Mount Maunganui.
4. Little Penang, Wellington.
5. Cinema Paradiso Bar & Cafe, Wanaka.
6. Aunty Mena’s Vegetarian Cafe, Wellington.
7. KK Malaysian Restaurant, Wellington.
8. Pronto, Mount Maunganui.
9. Midnight Espresso Bar, Wellington.
10. Johnny Barrs, Queenstown.

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The Best Day Walk in New Zealand You’ve Never Heard Of

The Tongariro Crossing has long been hailed as New Zealand’s finest one day walk, and rightly so – it’s a truly unforgettable journey across dramatic volcanic landscape. But recently a new tramping trail has been nipping at its heels for the title, offering a much less crowded, equally scenic and just as challenging walk in Mount Egmont National Park.
The Pouakai Crossing is a diverse and demanding 8-9 hours walk that’s a little like the Taranaki region itself; a little wild and rugged in places, but with breathtakingly dramatic scenery and expansive views,making for a wonderful days tramping.

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The 17km track circumnavigates Mount Tarankai starting at the North Egmont visitor centre. The walk begins with a steady climb through bush land, lined on either side with native ferns, and with the imposing Mount Taranaki looming up ahead. Walkers negotiate the Ahukawakawa alpine wetland and traverse the Stoney River bridge before climbing up the pouakai range onto the plateau 1400 metres above sea level. From here the trail descends – we recommend stopping at Pouakai Tarns for some excellent photo opportunities (weather permitting) and then continues back down through the forest on the newly upgraded Mangorei Track.

The Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island is relatively quiet as a tourist destination, certainly compared to other areas, and the DOC and Taranaki Tourist Board are hoping that the track upgrades, combined with some funding from the local council to promote it will really give it a boost – we certainly hope so, as it’s a seriously under rated area in our opinion! You can read more about some of our recommended experiences and places to stay in the region here.

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As well as developments to the track itself, there are also plans to add an extra 5km the crossing trail taking hikers past the Pukeiti Rhododendron Gardens. Surrounded by 320 hectares of rainforest the gardens bloom throughout the year with various plants and flowers, and are a wonderful place to listen out for native birdlife such as tui, bellbird, pigeon, fantail, waxeye, and cuckoo.

Travellers planning a holiday to New Zealand should definitely be adding the Pouakai crossing to their bucket list of ‘must do’ New Zealand walks. Read about some more of our favourite New Zealand’s day walks here, or get in touch with us for more information.

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Our Favourite Things to do in Christchurch

Christchurch is a city you really can’t miss visiting during your New Zealand Holiday. Often referred to as the gateway to the South Island, the city offers a mixture of culture, elegance and history, with a remarkable spirit of resilience and creativity following the earthquakes of 2010/11.

There are so many things to do in the city and these are just a small selection of some of our favourite highlights. So for more information or to discuss your plans and ideas for visiting Christchurch during your New Zealand holiday do get in touch.

 

Visit the Restart shopping Mall

Colourful shipping containers have become a statement as well as a necessity following the Earthquake in 2011 that destroyed so many of the cities buildings.

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RE:Start is a pop up shopping mall build on Cashel Street, on the site of the old Cashel Street Mall. You’ll find cafes and restaurants, bookshops, gift shops and fashion boutiques housed in the mall, so it’s a great place for a browse, or to pick up gift and souvenirs.

Ride on a historic Tram

Take a 2.5km inner city loop around Christchurch on board the tram and get your bearings of this ‘oh so English’ city.

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Hop on and buy your tickets on board – they’re valid for 48 hours and as the tram takes you past some of the cities most well loved and iconic sites, you can hop and off when you fancy.

Go punting on the River Avon

A great activity regardless of the season, this is certainly a different way to explore Christchurch. Climb aboard a flat bottomed boat, sit back, relax and take in the sights as an Edwardian attired punter does the hard work from the platformed till at the back of the boat.

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There are two options to choose from: You can depart from the historic Antigua boat sheds and glide through the Botanic Gardens, admiring the beautiful flora and fauna that gained Christchurch it’s title as ‘The Garden City’, Or you can take the city centre departure point and journey through the heart of the city to see the developments that are underway as Christchurch continues to rebuild itself.

Visit Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens

You can’t visit the ‘Garden City’ and not spend some time enjoying the beautiful gardens.

Christchchurch River

Hagley Park is Christchurch’s biggest public park, and houses the Botanic Gardens as well as a golf course, tennis courts and cycle tracks. On a sunny day, it’s a great place to settle back on the grass with a picnic to watch the world go by.

Its especially beautiful during the springtime when the ground is covered with daffoldils and bluebells though we think that whever the time of year, it’s well worth a visit.

 

Ride to the top of the Port Hills on the Christchurch Gondola

For unrivalled panoramic views of the surrounding areas, we recommend taking a ride on the Christchurch Gondola (or cable car as you might call it) to the summit of the Port Hills.

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Once you reach the top of the hills, to the west you will see Christchurch City stretching out before you, with the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps beyond. To the east and the south, enjoy views of Lyttleton Harbour, Lake Ellesmere and Banks Peninsula  and to the north the Pacific Ocean leads out to the distant Kaikoura Peninsula.

While you’re there, is worth taking the time to visit The Time Tunnel, a fascinating creative exhibit that chronicles the history of Christchurch and The Port Hills from its early settlement to the present day.

 

Visit the Christchurch Farmers Market

Head to the grounds of Riccarton House on Saturday mornings for a real foodie experience. Over 300 growers, makers and producers gather from the region to sell their wares, and their passion and enthusiasm for what they do is seriously infectious.

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Wander amongst the stalls picking up breads, meats and cheeses for a picnic, grab a coffee and one of the many sweet treats there to tempt you and soak up the atmosphere as you discover the area through its culinary delights.

 

Visit the Cardboard Cathedral

An un-missable Christchurch sight to visit, not only because of its incredible engineering, but also because of the story it tells of the admirable resilience, creativity and determination of the city following the earthquake.

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The cathedral is built on the site of the St Johns Latimer Square Anglican Church, designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and opened its doors to the public in August 2013.

It isn’t fashioned entirely from cardboard, but uses huge cardboard tubes alongside timber beams, structural steel and concrete creating a fascinating piece of architecture that offers a new focal point for the city as well as being a venue for concerts, exhibitions and events.

 

 

 

 

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Five Great New Zealand Walks

New Zealand is made for walking – wide open spaces, stunning coastlines, towering mountain peaks and golden tussock valleys draw people on to the many tracks that zig zag across the country.

We think it’s the best way to explore the country and all that it has to offer – and with more than a quarter of the country designated as National Parkland you don’t have to travel far in New Zealand to find the perfect place to lace up your walking boots and take to the trails.

There are many walks to choose from – from a leisurely half a day wander to a more challenging 4-5 day wilderness trek and many of the longer trails have shorter options available too, so there’s walking to suit all abilities and all enthusiasms!

We’ve selected five of our favourite walks below, you’ll find more information about them, and our independent walking itineraries on our website – and of course, if you’d like to have a chat with us about any of the walks below, or about planning a holiday to New Zealand, please just get in touch.

 

The Kepler Track –

A perfectly looped alpine crossing, The Kepler track can be walked in either direction is 67km long and takes four days to complete. The walk traverses Fiordland National park in the South Island, and enjoys a real diversity of scenery from alpine tussock plains and remote lakes to lush forests and rocky peaks.

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Accessible and described as an easy hike for independent non – guided walkers, it’s a great walk for those with relatively good levels of fitness – although those who aren’t quite so spritely needn’t be put off as shorter day walks are available on the Kepler Track too.

You can walk the track all year round, but do be aware that snow and adverse weather conditions can close the alpine section of the track during the winter months.

There are DOC huts and campsites along the way and for both booking are essential, particularly during the summer months (late October to late April) when the track is at its busiest.

 

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

One of our all time favourite New Zealand walks, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track is a beautiful walk around picturesque bays and glittering sandy beaches, that’s truly a New Zealand experience like no other in our humble opinion.

An easy, relaxed walk, for the majority of the year the track is bathed in sunshine that peeks through the sections of forest and is so well marked and graded it’s almost impossible to get lost!

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Footwear isn’t so important on this track, as the pathways are all well laid, and there are no alpine sections, so trainers or even comfortable sandals will do the job.

The entire track takes between 3 -5 days to complete, although many walkers stretch it out a little longer, they enjoy it so much. There are many opportunities for wild swimming (a wonderful way too cool down after a long walk with a backpack on) and you can also give your legs a rest and spend a day kayaking around the bays, gaining a different perspective on the area. You’ll be joined often in the water by dolphins, seals and even penguins – and there aren’t a lot of places in the world where that happens!

Guided walks are availabe, but for independent walkers there are five huts along the way, with basic facilities. We recommend carrying a tent and camping (in the summer months) and don’t forget your hut and camp pass!

 

The Milford Track

Probably the most famous and certainly one of the ‘finest walks in the world’ The Milford Track is an opportunity to celebrate 125 years of history, and walk in the footsteps of early explorers to see New Zealand at its very best.

The route travels through Fiordland National Park, part of Te Wahipounamu – The Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, and offers a relatively easy four day hike on a well marked path.

Milford Track - Start

The track operates a booking system that limits how many people are permitted onto it at any one time, so you’ll never feel crowded – but it does mean you really do need to book ahead especially during peak seasons.

The Milford Track is 54km in length from the head of Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. Some of our favourite sights along the way include breathtaking glacier –cut fiords, spectacular crashing waterfalls, beech forests and many rare and endangered species of plants, birdlife and animals.

Once you reach Milford Sound, reward yourself for all that walking with a scenic flight, or a cruise out onto the Sound itself – a truly unforgettable experience, we promise!

 

The Routeburn track

Second only to The Abel Tasman Coastal track, The Routeburn is the most well trodden trail in New Zealand. It’s also rated, by Sir Edmund Hillary as one of the most superb walking areas in the world.

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The Routeburn is a 39km 3 day walk that attracts 10,000 hikers every year and passes through dense rainforests to breathtaking alpine meadows with stunning views over the dramatic mountain ranges and deep valleys.

Walkers can hike the track in either direction, and the track is rated as moderate. You can either walk independently or join a guided walking group if you’re planning your walk between the months of November to April.

As always, you need a camping permit from DOC to sleep at one of the four huts along the route.  Camping is prohibited along the Routeburn track to protect the area, with the exception of campsites at Routeburn Flats, Lake Mackenzie and Lake Howden.

 

The Tongariro Northern Circuit

Right in the heart of the North Island, within Tongariro National park you’ll find the Tongariro Northern circuit, a 43km loop track that winds its way past Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe, passing through startlingly contrasting landscapes, from tranquil lakes to forest and alpine fields.

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This 4 day walk covers some of the most interesting thermal areas of the Tongariro National Park – and you’ll walk among bubbling mud pools, hot springs and craters that will make you feel like you’re on the moon.

The best time to walk this track is between November and April, as the winter months can be quite harsh with snow and ice sometimes hiding the track making it a rather different experience!

Make sure to stop off at Ketatahi Hut to rest your aching limbs and have a well deserved soak in the thermal pools.

 

 

 

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Our Top Five Things to do in Queenstown

Queenstown has long been known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Adrenaline seekers have been flocking there for years to fling themselves off bridges or out of aeroplanes. but its picturesque location and laid back atmosphere make it a great location for a holiday – regardless of how daring you are!

Surrounded by mountains and set on the shores of the beautiful Lake Wakitipu, you’ll be captivated by the natural beauty of the area, and theres plenty of places to explore, activities to try and adventures to be had.

Here are are top five experiences not to miss when you visit.

 

1. Arrowtown

A short 35 minutes drive from Queenstown will take you to Arrowtown, one of our favourite places in New Zealand. A former gold mining region, this small settlement has retained all the charm and character of its earlier years, and with plenty of stories to tell, it’s a lovely places to spend a day enjoying the peace and relaxed atmosphere after the action packed activity hub of Queenstown.

Autumn colours Arrowtown

Make sure you take a trip down to the Chinese Settlement at the edge of the river that dates back to 1868 – the collection of restored building and shelters give you a real insight into life back in the 1900’s.

 

2. Shotover Jet

Over three million people have ridden the Shotover Jet since it first took to the water and we think it’s definitely a Queenstown thrill you really shouldn’t miss. Zoom across Lake Wakitipu and on to the Kawarau and Shotover rivers in a 45km, 60 minute adrenaline fuelled adventure, that allows you to experience some of New Zealand’s most diverse waterways. This isn’t for the fainthearted, but in our opinion, its not nearly as terrifying or hair-raising as a bungy jump or a skydive!!

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3.A ride on the TSS Earnslaw

A 1912 Edwardian vintage steamship, the TSS Earnslaw is hard to miss as it cruises up and down Lake Wakitipu.

You can board the ship for a 90 minute cruise that showcases the wonderful alpine scenery of the area, as well as giving you an opportunity to explore this fascinating part of Queenstown history.

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Do bear in mind though that from mid may to the end of June 2017 the steamboat will be undergoing some maintenance and won’t be operating.

You can read more about the history of the Earnslaw here http://www.tssearnslaw.co.nz/tss-earnslaw/History/

 

4. Visiting Queenstown Gardens

We can’t think of anywhere better to spend a relaxing afternoon than at Queenstown Gardens, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and taking in the views of the surrounding mountains. The gardens are in a beautiul location, situated out on a small peninsula on the shores of Lake Wakitipu, and a great place to take a picnic and sit back watching the world go by.

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Stroll through the rose garden and across the pristine lawns, or if you still fancy a bit of activity there’s an 18 hole Frisbee golf course (trust us, you must try it!)

 

5. The Skyline Gondola and Luge

For the best views in the Queesntown region, head up on the Gondola to the skyline complex and enjoy panoramic 360 degree views of the Remarkables mountain range, Coronet Peak and out across Lake Wakitipu.

To make your way back down, we highly recommend taking to the tracks and climbing aboard the three wheeled cart to race back down to the bottom of the hill. Its not as hair raising as it sounds and a huge amount or fun regardless of your age!

Some or all of these experiences can be included in a Silver Fern holiday – Just get in touch if you’d like to have a chat with us about planning your New Zealand Holiday.

 

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Our Five Favourite North Island Wineries

Wine has been a serious business in New Zealand since the 1980s and if you love the country’s Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir, there are plenty of opportunities to taste them during visits to our five favourite wineries in New Zealand’s North Island, more often than not, found in stunning locations.

Hawkes Bay and Martinborough on North Island, and Marlborough and Central Otago on South Island are the flagship regions for wine-lovers and you can explore these by car, driving the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, or even follow a bicycle trail of wine estates.

Purely in the interests of research, we’ve checked many of these out ourselves and thought it was time for a blog post about our favourites!

We’ve split these into two separate blog posts – The North Island and the South Island, and highlight our top five on each Island.

This week, we’re taking you through our recommendations for the North Island, from Auckland down to Martinborough in the Wairapa………

 

Coopers Creek Winery – Auckland

Coopers Creek Winery was founded back in 1980, in Kumeu, Auckland’s heritage wine region just half an hour north of Auckland.  There’s a cosy cellar door with a fireplace for the winter months, and in the summer you can enjoy Pizzas and platters out in the garden where they’ll often have a live jazz band playing.

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There are lovely gardens to relax in and they welcome visitors to take along a picnic to enjoy on the lawns, though they do also have a café that serves platters, coffee and of course their award winning wine!

http://www.cooperscreek.co.nz/

 

 Mudbrick Estate Winery – Waiheke Island

Mudbrick Estate is a wonderful winery that enjoys a picturesque setting on Waiheke Island, 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

The wine here is undoubtedly fantastic, but we think that the real highlight here is the food that accompanies it!!

Mudbrick offers a wonderfully inventive menu that’s a real culinary treat – definitely a place to head to if you want to spoil yourselves and enjoy a real treat.

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As with most wineries in New Zealand, they offer wine tasting at the cellar door that you don’t need to book for, and if there’s a group of ten or more of you, you can book to enjoy a vineyard tour to learn more about the grapes grown there.

Wonderful setting and a great place to watch the sun go down over the vineyard, and if you decide you don’t want to leave, they own four wonderful holiday cottages on the Island that you can stay in too.

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 Te Mata Estate – Hawkes Bay

There are so many excellent wineries to choose from in Hawkes Bay, but we have a real soft spot for Te Mata Estate, a small winery that’s also New Zealand’s oldest. Te Mata makes some of New Zealand’s very best Bordeaux style wine, and our absolute favourite here (and a firm favourite with many of our travellers too) is their Gamay Noir, a light red that’s bursting with a palette of ripe cherries and red fruits. . There are just 7.3 Hectares of Gamay grapes grown in New Zealand so it’s a pretty special wine for Te Mata and we definitely recommend giving it a try.

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The staff at Te Mata are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, so you’re sure to leave their cellar door, not only with a bottle of two of wine to take away, but also having learned an awful lot about the wine produced here.

https://www.temata.co.nz/

 

Black Barn Vineyard – Napier

Five minutes from Havelock North is Black Barn Vineyard, a small, boutique winery also specialising in Bordeaux style red wine varieties, but offering a great deal more than just top class wine.

Over the years their business has grown to include an onsite farmers market and summer concert series in their purpose built amphitheatre.

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There’s an onsite ‘kitchen’ shop with meals to take home, handcrafted pies and homemade jams and chutneys and with a commitment to ensure that very food item used on their menu and sold in their shop is grown within the hawkes bay region – the focus on local produce is seriously impressive.

As a boutique vineyard, the wines are only available to buy directly – even more of a reason to visit, so you know you’ll be getting something very special and exclusive.

https://www.blackbarn.com/

 

 William Grace vineyard – Wairarapa

A Small family run vineyard in central Martinborough, William Grace specialises in Organic and Biodynamic Wine, something a growing number of New Zealand wine producers are getting into.

Closely planted, high density grapes are tended by hand resulting in low yields and concentrated fruit resulting in wines that are really special to drink.

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Although they do have a cellar door open for tastings, because of the small size of the winery there may not always be someone around to see you, so it’s always worth ringing ahead if you’re planning to visit to taste the wine or buy a bottle or two.

https://www.williamgrace.co.nz/

We’ve put together a sample itinerary for a 14 day wine tour of the North and South Island which you can down load here https://www.silverfernholidays.com/special-interest/wine-appreciation/ or get in touch and we can help create a tailor made itinerary just for you.

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Six of the Best Golf Courses in New Zealand

New Zealand is a wonderful destination for golfers. Whether you play just for fun or more competitively, you’ll find a course that will not only challenge you with its exciting and demanding design, but will also wow you with its jaw dropping location and backdrop.

With over 400 golf courses spread across the North and South Islands, you’ll find a course close to you, wherever you are. There are a fantastic selection of world class courses and state of the art facilities across the country, and it’s no surprise that golf is the highest participation sport in the country played by over 500,000 adults each year.

Here are our top six Golf Courses in New Zealand……..

Wairakei International Golf Course

As well as receiving worldwide acclaim for its course, Wairakei is also a wildlife sanctuary, and the 18 holes are surrounded by 180 acres of native flora and fauna – you might even spot an endangered Kiwi or Brown Teal meandering on the greens and fairways! Owner Gary Lane, has planted over 25,000 native trees and 5000 exotic plants over the past few years, making a huge effort to regenerate the area, and it’s created a beautiful natural beauty to enjoy a round of golf in, whether you’re a serious golfer or just playing for fun.

Wairakei

The sprawling course, located in the Taupo region of New Zealand, uses natural contours to their fullest and features 108 large well placed bunkers. In 2010, Wairakei was voted New Zealand’s number 1 golf course by Golf Update readers and also in a survey of golf industry leaders.

Cape Kidnappers Golf Course

This is one of our favourite golf courses in New Zealand – Its location is unbeatable, up high on the cliffs and overlooking the Pacific Ocean.   Inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland, whilst six of the holes are played right on the edge of the cliffs that sweep down to the sea.

Cape Kidnappers golf course

The complex includes a world-class practice range, putting and chipping greens and an excellent shop.

Clearwater Golf Course

Clearwater is currently home to the New Zealand Open Championship, and combines elements of links golf with parkland golf more reminiscent of Florida. Beautiful spring fed lakes, Clearwater really does live up to its name, and its location, close to Christchurch city, but with stunning backdrops of the Southern Alps is hard to beat.

 

If you prefer to enjoy gold from the sidelines there’s a great members lounge with a sweeping deck that offers a great spot to view the closing hole.

Titirangi Golf Course

Consistently voted in New Zealand’s Top Five courses, The Titirangi Golf Course was built in 1909 and designed by Alister Mackenzie, who went on to design some of the world’s top courses including Augusta, Royal Melbourne and Cyprus Point. The course is located between the Manukau harbour and Waitakere Ranges and features challenging bunkers, elevated tees and beautiful rolling fairways.

Just twenty minutes outside Auckland city it’s easily accessible and offers a great round of challenging golf to players of all skill levels.

Jack’s Point Golf Course

A spectacular 18 hole par 72 championship golf course, Jacks Point offers golfers of any level of skill an unforgettable and challenging experience.

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The course is designed around the natural landscape and weaves through grasslands, over rocky outcrops and through native bush right down to the edge of Lake Wakitipu.

Just a short drive out from central Queenstown it’s an un-missable golf course for any enthusiast.

Millbrook Resort and Golf Course

With impeccably groomed fairways and greens, the strategic use of water and sand traps here ensures that a round of golf at the Milbrook Resort is exciting and demanding.

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The 6,412 metre course is surrounded by an alpine backdrop of the Remarkables mountain range, which offers a stunning backdrop to tee off against, not to mention countless wonderful photo opportunities!Also voted as best New Zealand Gold Hotel at the World Golf Awards in 2013, you are guaranteed a wonderful stay here, as well as a fabulous round of golf!

A golfing holiday in New Zealand is a great way to combine sport and scenery, and we’ve put together an itinerary that allows you to enjoy some of the top courses, whilst also highlighting the other unmissable activities and sights in the area. Click Here to download it.  Of course, this itinerary is just a guide, so do get in touch if you’d like to discuss a tailor made golfing itinerary for your New Zealand holiday.

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B&B of the Month: Sunlover Retreat

One of the things we enjoy most  about planning unforgettable holidays to New Zealand, is recommending our favourite places to stay. This month our B&B of the month is Sunlover Retreat in the Coromandel.

If you read our previous blog post you’ll know why we choose to work so closely with smaller, more characterful Bed & Breakfasts as opposed to large hotels, and we thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to some of the hosts at our most loved properties. In this series of blog posts a selection of B&B owners will share their secrets about where they live and why they love welcoming guests in to stay with them.

Donna and Chris  run Sunlover Retreat, in Tairua and we asked them whats so special about their B&B…..

We’d love it if you could introduce yourselves. Tell us about who you are, how long you’ve been running your B&B, What made you decide to open your home to guests,

We are Donna and Chris Brooke and with our 4-legged Retradoodle, Rover, we opened our B&B in 2013.  We initially built our home to retire to, however once built, we were so keen to live and work in Tairua that we opened our B&B.

What’s the best thing about where you live (Locally and regionally)?

Tairua is the gateway to the East Coast of the Coromandel Peninsula.  Our whole region is famous for its fabulous beaches, native bush, fishing and pretty much anything to do with the outdoors.  Chris and I particularly enjoy walking around Tairua along the esplanade and up to Paku Hill.  The views are amazing.  We also enjoy fishing and have a small boat that regularly allows us to catch our dinner!

Where’s your favourite place to eat and drink in your town?

We love to eat at Manaia Restaurant and Bar.  It is a 5 minute walk from Sunlover and is a real café hub in Tairua.  The food is delicious and fresh.  The chef has a modern twist on many old favourites.  They love to serve small plates in a tapas style along with the traditional a la carte.

3 Cathederal Cove

Tell us something about your town/region that we probably won’t know – A hidden gem, a little known fact etc.

Tairua has a wonderful surf beach that is perfect for swimming or just whiling away the day.  Many people don’t even know its there as they hurry through our town to get to famous beaches futher up the peninsula.  However, we always recommend to guests to go and enjoy the beach with one of our packed picnics.  We also have a marvellous hidden gem in Te Karo Bay … a 5 minute drive out of Tairua.  We feel Te Karo Bay rivals even Cathedral Cove!  Once there we recommend to guests to take the 20 minute walk to Otara Bay as they will most likely find they are the only ones on this pristine, gorgeous beach. Keep your eyes peeled as it is a ‘Kiwi Zone’.

Why do you love running a B&B?

The joy of running a B&B certainly lays in the people we attract to stay with us.  It seems that people the world over appreciate the natural beauty of our flora and fauna and really appreciate what NZ has to offer.  It feels like that every day you are a part of someone’s marvellous journey and it is always a real pleasure to be a part of it.

What do you love most about living in New Zealand?

We love that the natural beauty lies at our doorstep.  In NZ you do not need to move too far to see the sparkling ocean or enjoy the restful bush.

Deck Chairs

What would you make sure you do/see if you had just one day in your town?

Many of guests spend the day exploring Tairua.  We recommend meandering along the foreshore to place where NZ’s oldest Maori artefact was found under the pohutukawa tree.  Then wander from there over to the beach to enjoy the surf pounding on the sand.  From there there are a few steps to climb to take you to the top of Paku Hill.  Up there you have the most marvellous view not only of Tairua but our sister seaside town Pauanui, their beaches and the Coromandel Ranges stretching as far back as the eye can see.  Once you’ve had enough of that 360 view then at the bottom of Paku Hill there are 2 cafes to choose from for your coffee and food stop.  Then it is a short meander back into Tairua town to look around the eclectic group of shops we have.  A wonderful day out exploring and immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Tairua.

Sunlover Retreat is just one of the unique small properties which we specialise in featuring in both Silver Fern tailor-made holidays and Small Group Journeys All our recommended accommodations are featured on our website, and we’ll be featuring more B&B’s over the coming weeks.

 

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Our Top Five New Zealand Gardens to Visit

New Zealand has a wonderful selection of gardens to visit, and most cities and towns right across the country have both public and private gardens that visitors are able to enjoy, either independently or as part of a garden tour.

As with the general landscape in New Zealand, you’ll find huge diversity in the plants in these gardens, from sub alpine to sub tropical and everything in between!

Airlies Garden and Wetlands, Auckland

 One of the most well loved and well known gardens in New Zealand, Airlies is characterised by beautiful sweeping lawns, and covers 12 acres of land, with stunning informal borders, ponds and waterways.

Created by Beverley Mcconnell some 50 years ago, the garden has been ranked by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a garden of international significance,  a reflection of its year round appeal and plant interest.

 

Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton

 There is something for everyone at Hamilton Gardens. Rather than being a botanical garden, this unique 54 hectare garden, is often described as being more like a museum, and the five garden collections each tell the ‘story of gardens’ and how they have developed over time, and across cultures, as well as how they are used today.

In 2014 the gardens won “International Garden of the Year”- Well worth a visit!!

 

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth

Pukekura autumn #5In the heart of New Plymouth, you’ll find this 52 hectare parkland, one of New Zealands premier botanical gardens.

With formal gardens, bush walks, lakes and a lovely tea house, it’s a great place to while away a few hours, and if you visit in the summer its worth tying in your trip with the annual Festival of Lights that’s held there.

 

Paloma Gardens, Whanganui

 Paloma Gardens is notable for its several distinct zones to visit, including the Palm Garden, the Desert House, the Garden of Death, the Bamboo Forests, the Jardin Exotique, the Wedding Lawn and the two Arboreta.

With some areas enjoying over thirty years of growth, and others, newly planted, there’s a wide variety of New Zealand flora and fauna here, and a huge range of inspiring garden themes to enjoy.

Otari Wiltons Bush, Wellington

WLG Otari-Wiltons bush stream

New Zealand’s only native botanic garden, Otari Wiltons Bush is devoted to the cultivation and preservation of indigenous plants. Native trees include the mahoe, tawa, kohekohe, rewarewa, hinau and northern rata.

You’ll also find a fernery, Alpine garden, rock garden with adjoining fish pool and a wild garden, all easily accessed by a network of paths and boardwalks.

 

Lanarch Castle , Dunedin

Dating back to 1871, the impressive Lanarch castle in Dunedin is New Zealand’s only castle, and well worth a visit for that reason alone. However it’s the beautiful gardens that really capture the imagination on a visit to Lanarch.

DUDLarnach-Castle-Azaleas

Another Garden of International Significance, this unique collection of specialised gardens includes the Patterned Garden, the Lost Rock Garden, the Serpentine Walk, the Rain Forest, the South Seas Garden, the Alice Lawn, and the Laburnum Arch and Green Room.

The owner of Lanarch, Margaret Barker, bought the castle in 1967 ant set about restoring it to its former glory, and through years of hard work and creativity, has established on of New Zealands most beautiful and imaginative garden displays.

We’ve incorporated these gardens, along with other must see experiences and activities into a sample 17 day itinerary that’s available to download by clicking the link below. Of course, there are many, many more wonderful gardens to enjoy so do get in touch if you would like to chat in more depth with us about creating a unique itinerary focusing upon New Zealand’s wonderful flora and fauna.

 

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Wanaka: A Walkers Paradise

The small ,friendly township of Wanaka has to be one of our favourite stopping off points in the South Island of New Zealand . Less commercial than it’s near neighbour, Queenstown , it has an easy laid –back feel ,situated on beautiful Lake Wanaka amongst the stunning scenery of Mt Aspiring National Park .

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The township is also the gateway to many easy day walks to viewpoints or along the shoreline of the lake .

One of our favourites is the Diamond Lake Rocky Mountain track , often described as the best half day walk in New Zealand , it winds around a hillside from a trailhead located about 18 km from Wanaka town centre on the Wanaka – Mount Aspiring Road. At the top of Rocky Mountain there are  wonderful views of Lake Wanaka, Glendhu Bay, and the surrounding mountains.

NZ - Rob Roy - Wanaka 070

Another favourite is the trail to the Rob Roy Glacier.This is about an hour’s drive from Wanaka and  commences from the Raspberry Flat car-park. After about 15 minutes there is a swing bridge crossing of the West Matukituki River, downstream from the Rob Roy Stream junction. After the bridge the track climbs through a small gorge into beech forest, then into alpine vegetation at the head of the valley, with good views of the Rob Roy Glacier – a great place for lunch , before you head back down the valley .

Closer to the township is the strenuous  climb up Mt Roy . The track starts at the Roys Peak Track car park, 6 km from the Wanaka on the Mt Aspiring Road. . After crossing through paddocks, the well-graded track continues through alpine tussock to the ridge.At the summit( 1578m)  there are views of  most of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding peaks and Mount Aspiring/Tititea.

Rob Roy Glacier

Strong walking shoes or boots are required for all these walks ( not trainers ) Ensure you are carrying wet weather gear and a first aid kit .

Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy !

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