On the inside, it’s all about luxury, from the goose-down quilt and fine linen on the big bed, to the warm floor underfoot and the spa bath overlooking the rolling breakers of the South Pacific Ocean.
Through the opposite window, the snowy peaks of the Kaikoura mountain range loom over this narrow strip of rocky coast: it’s nature in the raw, and all the better for being seen from a cocoon of such comfort.
From the outside, though, this is a treehouse perched on stilts 10m above the ground, among the branches of a stand of native trees. Five stylish boxes of wood, glass and copper are the literal high points of Hapuka Lodge at Kaikoura on the South Island.
Nearby, guests can whale-watch, swim with sea lions, ski or star-gaze, but there’s little to beat a dinner of fresh seafood, followed by feet up in front of the treehouse fireplace, while the sunset stains the mountaintops.
Another natural selection: The Bay of Many Coves resort is accessible only by boat. It offers five-star accommodation, tucked deep inside the pristine beauty of Marlborough Sounds.
The name sounds innocuous, but White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano, killing 10 men in 1914, and its last major eruption was in 2000.
Landing inside its crater sounds crazy – but Frontier Helicopters does just that, as its predecessors have done since 1987. Apart from the thrill, the attraction is the otherworldly experience of walking through such a hostile landscape of hissing acid streams, steaming fumaroles, a boiling milky turquoise lake and bubbling mud.
Other highlights include the structures of a failed sulphur-mining venture and the tall plume of steam in the sky, trailing downwind. So strong is the sulphur in the air, a mask must be worn.
The flight is 20 minutes from the mainland, into the Bay of Plenty, but the volcano’s assault on all your senses is out of this world, and circling above its crater is an unforgettable experience.
Other volcanic experiences: Dominating Auckland Harbour, Rangitoto is a tree-clad dormant volcano popular with walkers who take the ferry there for a day’s hiking. The more adventurous can take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing between two volcanoes – the best one-day walk in the country.
What’s the difference between a concertina and an accordion?
The answer is revealed in a museum on Waiheke Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from central Auckland. At Whittaker’s Musical Museum, Lloyd and Joan Whittaker share their collection of unique instruments, from a harmonica to a 2.7m Bechstein concert grand piano once owned by Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
The museum is crammed with priceless pieces, some with a fascinating history, having arrived by sailing ship and dragged upcountry on bullock carts.
Each is introduced and demonstrated by the Whittakers, with tunes ranging from Mozart to Old MacDonald Had A Farm.
More niche museums: Discover pioneer logging history at The Kauri Museum in Matakohe, north of Auckland. At the Weta Cave Workshop Tour, trolls and wizards exist in an otherwise normal Wellington suburb.
On a sunny morning in 1931, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed the North Island city of Napier.
It rose from the ashes as a place with one of the most significant collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. The era is celebrated in February’s Art Deco Weekend, a four-day festival of more than 200 events, including outdoor concerts, Great Gatsby picnics, steam-train rides and vintage car parades.
Dress up in striped blazers and straw hats, or flapper dresses and feathers, and live the Jazz Age among 1930s buildings adorned with sunbursts and speed lines.
Guided walks give visitors the background, while movies provide a snapshot of the times.
Extra fun festivals: Enjoy performances in the streets and parks of Christchurch at the World Buskers Festival in January. If Victorian-industrial fantasy is more your bent, head to Oamaru for the Steampunk NZ Festival, where history meets imagination.
At the end of the road into a remote green North Island valley lies a classic Wild West town called Mellonsfolly Ranch.
There’s a livery stable, gold mine and courthouse, evoking 1890s Wyoming, USA. Guests stay in Victorian opulence at Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel, clomp in cowboy boots along the boardwalk, shoot tin cans with air-powered pistols or ride the trails with a local guide dressed as a native American.
After a soak in the tub at Texas Rose’s Bath House, there’s dinner at the Lucky Strike Saloon or by the campfire under the stars.
Handing back the cowboy hats on departure is the only downside.
Other farm stays: Other fun ways to experience the land in luxury include a visit to Shamarra Alpacas – a farm near the tiny French-settled port of Akaroa. Grasmere Lodge, in sheep country below the Southern Alps, provides activities such as bird-watching and horse-trekking.
Ever since local farmer and aviation pioneer Richard Pearse got airborne in 1903, New Zealanders have had a fascination for flight. There are many aeronautical oddities inside the hangar of the Croydon Aircraft Company in Mandeville.
They include Pither’s replica aircraft, a flimsy construction of wire and bicycle wheels; the Dominic Rapide that unzips beneath the fuselage; and the De Havilland Dragonfly with its spruce and plywood fuselage.
Compared with these, the sturdy yellow Tiger Moth outside looks quite ordinary – particularly to those wishing to take a 10-minute joy flight (NZ$95; US$74). But once the leather helmet and goggles are strapped on and the propeller jerks into action, the passenger in the front seat of this open biplane realises this is a different sort of flying.
Wind rushes through the wires, the view 1,000ft below framed by the upper and lower wings and, suddenly, the ground is overhead as the pilot does a barrel roll, then a loop-the-loop turns the world upside down. After that, the wing-stall feels almost tame.
More ways to get high: Why mountain-climb, when you can fly over two immense glaciers, land on snow and listen to the silence of the peaks with Mount Cook Ski Planes. Or take the dramatic route to world-famous Milford Sound with Air Milford, which flies below mountaintops and along the spectacular fjord.
There’s an M setting on digital cameras that may stand for “mysterious” instead of “manual”.
Or “mission” because that’s the aim of Laurence Belcher at Paradise Pictures: to persuade people to take control of their cameras and discover the satisfaction of composing and creating their own photographs.
It helps that he lives in Glenorchy, one of the country’s most beautiful areas at the top of Lake Wakatipu.
His individually tailored tours begin the minute he picks you up in Queenstown. By the time he reaches Glenorchy, everyone, non-photographers included, is ready to make the most of the stunning scenery and secret spots only Belcher knows.
Take more photos: Professional landscape photographer Phillip Bartlett helps you develop your photography skills, taking you off-road to some of the country’s most spectacular scenery.
New Zealand Dollar
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BEST TIME TO VISIT
February and March are the best, with fine weather and fewer crowds as the school summer holidays are over.
HOW TO GET THERE
Singapore Airlines flies once a day non-stop from Singapore to Auckland, once a day non-stop from Singapore to Christchurch, and 4 times a week from Singapore to Wellington via Canberra as part of the new Singapore-Canberra-Wellington Capital Express route.