Dawn Browning

Scottsdale, Arizona Travel Agent

The Joy of New Zealand

My first night in New Zealand, I locked my door and my host said, “Feel free to lock your door, but we are trustworthy. You’ll find New Zealanders are not like the rest of the world.” She was right. There is almost no crime and perhaps that trust factor explains why Kiwis (as New Zealanders call themselves) are so friendly and natural in their interactions. 

The land itself is also unlike anywhere else in the world. Everywhere you look, the scenery is beyond compare, from snow-capped mountain ranges to sheep, grazing in the endless meadows. The land seems so pristine. You can drive 100 miles and see just a farmhouse here and there, so it feels very peaceful and natural. 

Queenstown was one of my favorite places. It is the center for adrenaline junkies and adventure. This is the home of bungee jumping, after all, You can jump off anything and many of the activities seem designed to tempt the fates. Yet for all its buzz, Queenstown is surprisingly small. A few minutes from the town, you are surrounded by farms and wineries and mountains.  

One of the highlights of my trip was a helicopter trip up Milford Sound. We flew past high waterfalls dripping off the mountains and blue-ice glaciers. On two landings, on a beach and on a glacier, the pilot turned off the engines so we could take in the seclusion and jaw-dropping beauty of our surroundings. There were also some breathtaking moments when we swooped around waterfalls. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I recommend it to everyone. 

New Zealand also has some of the most romantic and unique lodges in the world. Each is built to make the most of its natural environment. Many owners are also farmers, with chefs who get creative with local ingredients. Because the lodges are small, you feel very connected to the land and people. One evening, our host apologized for interrupting dinner because one of the sheep was giving birth.  

One of the most magical lodges was in Kaikoura, where the accommodations were individual cabins built on stilts at the level of treetops. Huge windows made it feel like a giant nest in the forest canopy. Out my front window, I looked across a meadow to the Pacific Ocean and from the back porch, I saw snow-capped mountains. The tree-house has a heated floor, a fireplace, and a Jacuzzi tub where you are surrounded by the majestic beauty of the mountains. 

Another of my favorite excursions was at Mount Cook National Park. We rode a train through the mountains and then took a helicopter to our starting point. There, equipped with ice gear, we trekked across the glacier. I felt like I was on top of the world and wanted to raise my hands and scream “I did it!”

I could go on and on about New Zealand. Whether you are seeking active adventures, a welcoming culture, or some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet, New Zealand is the place. If it sounds like a destination you would like to visit, I would love to plan your next vacation there.