As the country boasts more than 15,000 kilometres of coastline, much of New Zealand can be explored by sea.
Port Chalmers, approximately 13 kilometres from Dunedin, is an eclectic mix of galleries, designer boutiques, cafés and antique stores housed in original historic buildings. Once in Dunedin itself, the best shopping areas stretch from George Street to Princes Street, around the Octagon.
Dine: The Octagon is the city’s hub, with plenty of bars and cafés from which to choose. The award-winning Palms Restaurant, set in the Queens Gardens, is popular with locals. St Clair Beach Resort’s Pier 24 Restaurant & Bar offers all-day casual dining with great views over the Pacific Ocean.
Must do: Dunedin is the old Gaelic form of ‘Edinburgh’ and the city’s Scottish heritage becomes apparent as you meander around its quaint Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Larnach Castle, built in 1871, is New Zealand’s only castle, and offers an intriguing insight into the area’s early Victorian culture.
Tour: The Otago Peninsula has the world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross, and is also home to the yellow-eyed penguin (the world’s rarest penguin), along with various species of seals and sea lions and pelagic birds. www.wildlife.co.nz
Napier is the gateway to Hawkes Bay, one of New Zealand’s leading food and wine destinations. It is also famous for its Art Deco heritage and fascinating Maori legends, as well as boasting the highest number of sunshine hours of any town in the country.
Dine: The highly awarded Old Church is, among other things, one of Hawkes Bay’s best-loved eateries, while The Rose Irish Pub situated in the heart of town serves unusual Kiwi-Irish cuisine.
Must do: Take a guided walking tour of Napier to see some of the world’s finest examples of authentic Art Deco architecture. Follow up with a tour of Napier Prison for tales of the villains, victims and heroes who served time in New Zealand’s oldest prison. www.napierprison.com
Tour: Hawkes Bay offers every outdoor adventure you can imagine, including jet boating (between wineries, no less), hot-air ballooning, surfing, caving, sailing and windsurfing plus fishing for trout of a size most anglers only dream about. The gannet colony at nearby Cape Kidnappers is another memorable local attraction. Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours caters especially for cruise passengers, offering a combination of wine tasting, beer tasting and sightseeing tours. www.hbscenictours.co.nz
Tauranga (Maori for ‘sheltered waters’) on the north island’s Bay of Plenty is the closest port to Rotorua, which is only an hour’s drive away. Ships berth less than a kilometre from the stunning Mount Maunganui, which can easily be explored on foot.
Dine: Tauranga’s vast harbour and proximity to the open sea ensure that seafood is a local specialty. Try the award-winning Astrolabe or the Sebel Trinity Wharf’s Halo Lounge & Dining, which has magnificent views of Tauranga Harbour and provides an ideal location for alfresco dining.
Must do: Swim with dolphins, or just enjoy a chilled-out dolphin cruise, while discovering the region’s abundant marine life (www.dolphinblue.co.nz). Learn about the area’s rich Maori history at Paparoa Marae, where you can experience a traditional hongi (greeting) and hāngi (a Maori barbecue).
Tour: Because of its volcanic landscape and natural hot springs, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland of erupting geysers and bubbling mud pools. Visit the sacred waters of Wai-O-Tapu to see the eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser, then Hells Gate for a guided tour of the most active thermal park in New Zealand. Select from a range of spas and spa therapies for the perfect end to a day of sightseeing. www.waiotapu.co.nz
Sophisticated yet friendly, New Zealand’s capital city has one of the most beautiful harbours in the world and is just a stone’s throw from untouched nature spots. Cruise ships usually berth at Aotea Quay, a little over a kilometre from the town centre. Smaller ships are sometimes able to dock right in the middle of Wellington, at Queens Wharf.
Dine: It’s been said that, per capita, Wellington rivals New York City for its number of restaurants, and indeed the city boasts lots of tucked-away bars, quirky cafés, award-winning restaurants and excellent coffee shops. Courtenay Place and Cuba Street are good places to start. For fine dining, try the Hippopotamus Restaurant at Museum Hotel. And for somewhere that serves more casual fare, try The Green Man.
Must do: The Wellington Cable Car is one of city’s oldest and most popular tourist attractions. It is the best way to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding region. Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum, tells the story of New Zealand’s history through vibrant interactive exhibits.
Tour: Zealandia, run by the Karori Sanctuary Trust, is one of the best places in the country to see and hear rare and endangered native wildlife such as tuatara, kiwi, kaka, giant weta and other uniquely New Zealand creatures in their natural environment.
Cruise lines calling into major New Zealand ports include:
Crystal Cruises; Coral Princess Cruises; Cunard Line, Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines; Hapag-Lloyd Cruises; Holland America Line; Orion Expedition Cruises; Oceania Cruises; P&O Cruises; Princess Cruises; Regent Seven Seas Cruises; Royal Caribbean International; Seabourn; Silversea Cruises.
Footnote: In February 2011 a major earthquake occurred in Christchurch. There have been frequent aftershocks, but the city has begun to rebuild and most visitor services are operating; however at the time of writing, some parts of the city remain inaccessible. Most cruise ship itineraries have been diverted from Lyttelton, the main port servicing Christchurch, to Akaroa, approximately 90km from Christchurch. Authorities are confident that Lyttelton will be functioning by the end of August 2011.