Location, Location, Location
Before you visit, consider the nation's location: New Zealand consists of two islands in the Southern Hemisphere separated by Cook Straight — the North Island and the less-populated South Island. They are surrounded by two bodies of water, the Pacific Ocean to the East the Tasman Sea to the West. The country has such an extensive coastline that no part of New Zealand lies more than 79 miles from the ocean.
New Zealand’s geography challenges couples on a honeymoon or romantic getaway to try activities they’ve never tried before: diving, snorkeling, glacier hiking, 4WD off-roading, bungee jumping, whitewater sports, caving, canyoning, gliding, paragliding, horse-riding, skiing, hunting, jet-boating, mountaineering, skydiving, and more.
Mountains, Forests, Beaches
Nearly one-third of the nation, including its 14 national parks, is protected land with public access. Ancient rainforests, empty beaches that seem to go on forever, rugged fiords, glaciers, lakes, soaring waterfalls, snow-covered peaks that scrape the sky, blankets of green rolling valleys, hillsides that tumble into sapphire blue oceans and rivers are all within a one- or two-day drive.
With so many cascading mountain peaks (17 in the South Island are higher than 10,000 feet), why not visit one? Imagine taking a helicopter to a remote mountaintop for a picnic lunch with not another soul in sight? The Queensland-based Over the Top helicopter company transports guests to the Remarkables over Queenstown and Lake Wakapitu. Soar over ancient glaciers then stop for a champagne lunch with assorted salads and cheeses. With the million shades of blue sky and rose-colored mountains combined with the steam rising from the water, you may think you’ve stepped inside a Technicolor planet or landed in Lord of the Rings.
And imagine the romance of visiting an uninhabited isle: Guests visiting Wanaka, an alpine village beside a giant have-I-gone-to-heaven glistening lake at the foot of the Southern Alps, can do so with half-day cruising excursions to Mou Waho Island. This unique trip with Eco Wanaka Advenures begins with a boat ride to the island and a walk to a rare Arethusa pool or crystal-clear pond just under the summit. Best of all, everyone plants a tree when the visit, leaving the island more beautiful than when they arrived. What a keepsake of your love.
Drink It All In
For a small nation, New Zealand has a surprisingly diverse terroir that results in wine-growing excellence. The country has ten wine-growing regions and some 700 wineries. And visitors don’t have to venture far from the city to find them.
The beachy and bucolic wine region, Waiheke Island is just a 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland. Vintners there win awards for their flavorful Syrahs, and many of the top vineyards have al fresco restaurants with vast sea views.
Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant is not only known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec; the restaurant has been singled out for its excellent cuisine and romantic water view setting. Their fish is caught by local fishermen and delivered fresh every morning. Guests can also savor Te Matuku Bay Oysters, locally raised lamb, and an assortment of local produce. Olive and avocado oil tastings are an alternative for teetotalers.
Kiwi Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kawana says that the Bay of Islands, where she’s had a holiday home for more than 20 years, is her ultimate place to unwind. “I get back there as often as possible,” she says. “My greatest relaxation is to go fishing and cook the catch myself. We sometimes go to totally isolated areas where we cook fish on a gas fire on the beach.” The Bay of Islands is situated in what’s called the Northlands near the northernmost tip of New Zealand. Picture panoramic movie-like scenery, a vibrant sea-life, unspoiled bays, and rugged cliffs.
The Northlands are famous for its amazingly long 90 Mile Beach. Visitors can take a guided drive along the endless stretches of sand or even boogie board down giant sand dunes. Or swim with dolphins, cruise the Bay of Islands, or visit the ancient kauri forest.
Cities of New Zealand
New Zealand’s largest city is Auckland. Most fittingly for romantic couples, the Maori name for the place is Mao Tamaki Makau rau — or Land of 100 Lovers. So take yours on a dinner cruise in this city of sails. During a two-hour idyll, the city illumines as you glide along the water drinking fine New Zealand wines and eating Kiwi cuisine. Within a short drive from the Auckland city center are West coast beaches with dramatic black sand, rainforest walks, meandering streams, swimming holes and waterfalls.
New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, home to Parliament, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, and a thriving film industry (Peter Jackson and James Cameron have filmed here). Stroll hand-in-hand along the harbor. The water is so crystal clear, visitors have been known to spot stingrays and the odd fairy penguin at the water’s edge.
Or take a scenic cable car ride to the tranquil Botanic Garden, which contains blankets of roses, begonias, and tulips (depending on the season) as well as sculptures and fountains. For a romantic and uncommon evening excursion, head to Zealandia, a wildlife refuge less than two miles from downtown. The elusive kiwi comes out at night, so you just might spot this indigenous bird.
New Zealand Lodging
Venturing out of the city into New Zealand’s vast wilderness doesn’t mean roughing it or depriving yourself of the creature comforts. Spread throughout the country are a number of impressive lodging options that offer vast wine lists, gourmet cuisine, luxe accommodations and some of the best hiking, fishing, biking and kayaking a romantic honeymoon couple could ask for. And as remote as they may feel, lodges are easily accessible by car, plane, or ferry.
Getting to New Zealand from the United States takes a certain commitment. (It's s thirteen-hour flight from Los Angeles.) But that commitment is well worth it. It’s hard to find places that are as pristine and have such ravishingly gorgeous scenery.
Yet this Kiwi nation has so much more than beautiful landscapes. The wine, cuisine, top notch lodges, plethora of activities and endless quiet spots provides couples with the makings of an ideal honeymoon.