Two decades ago, moviegoers fell in love with New Zealand while watching a certain fantasy trilogy that follows its main characters across Middle-earth in their quest to destroy an all-powerful ring. Not only did the film franchise just celebrate its 20th anniversary, but New Zealand’s borders are beginning to reopen in May 2022, making it the perfect time to take in the splendor of its cities, lakes and mountains. From the wineries of Queenstown to the natural springs of Lake Taupo, here are five places to visit in the lush island country this year.
Many consider Queenstown to be the adventure capital of New Zealand, where travelers can take in the country’s natural splendor while participating in all types of outdoor activities. Winter sports enthusiasts should hit the slopes at the Remarkables mountain range and Coronet Peak. The daring should visit Nevis Valley for bungy jumping and the world’s biggest swing, while hikers can trek the 907-meter Queenstown Hill for 360-degree views. Visiting one of the area’s many wineries to sample the Pinot Noir, a specialty of the region, is also a must. Situated on Lake Wakatipu, travelers can enjoy a stay at Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, which offers stunning views and cozy rooms with fireplaces, two excellent restaurants and an on-site award-winning spa to nourish travelers after a day of exploring.
As the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, there is plenty for everyone to do in Christchurch. Nature lovers should check out the Christchurch Botanic Gardens or bask in the sun at Sumner Beach, and museums like Christchurch Art Gallery and Canterbury Museum are great to visit, no matter the weather. Stroll New Regent Street to take in the boutiques and cafes, and stay at Chateau on the Park - Christchurch, a DoubleTree by Hilton, set to open in June, a charming oasis where you can sit by the outdoor pool, roam the award-winning gardens and enjoy a seasonal meal at Garden Court Brasserie.
New Zealand’s charming capital is surrounded by mountains and lush wildlife, so it’s a perfect place to visit if you want to experience both nature and a city. Ride the iconic red cable car to reach Wellington’s Botanic Gardens or take in the view from Mount Victoria. Te Papa Tongarewa houses both the National Art Gallery and National Museum, where you can learn about the history and culture of the indigenous Māori people. Movie buffs must visit the Wētā Cave workshop, where artisans create costumes, makeup and props for the film industry. DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington is in Wellington City and on Lambton Quay, adjacent to the Wellington cable car and less than five minutes from the waterfront where dining and activities abound. During your stay, don’t forget to enjoy the brand’s signature, warm chocolate chip cookie welcome.
The largest lake in New Zealand is one of the most breathtaking places in the country, and it has something for both adventurers and those who simply want to relax and take in the scenery. Book a kayak trip to see the Māori Rock Carvings in Mine Bay or indulge in a good book on the sandy shores of Kinloch Beach. Make the one-hour hike to see Huka Falls, then ease tired muscles in one of the area’s natural hot springs. Combing modern comforts with Victorian charm, Hilton Lake Taupo offers sweeping views of the surrounding volcanoes, thermal-spring valley and lake-view dining from the restaurant balcony.
Auckland is New Zealand’s most populous city, making it a perfect place for someone who wants to experience a zealous urban locale with surrounding natural beauty. Check out Sky Tower for panoramic views, and don’t leave without strolling one of the surrounding beaches with a meal of fish and chips in hand. The city’s many night markets will give you a taste of Auckland’s culinary diversity. Stroll down Queen Street for great shopping, and stay for a cocktail at one of the city’s best eateries along Auckland’s viaduct as the evening sets in. Retreat to Hilton Auckland – which sits at the end of Princes Wharf, home to shops, restaurants and bars – and enjoy views of the harbor through the outdoor lap pool’s underwater window. If you prefer to stay outside of the city, the newly opened DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka balances pastoral charm with modern conveniences. Featuring stylish guest rooms and suites bathed in natural light, lovely gardens, and an excellent farm-to-table restaurant, the hotel makes for a comfortable country retreat.