With the natural beauty of unspoiled rivers, pristine lakes, white sandy beaches and a cultural depth that feels endless, Aotearoa has started to attract the global attention it rightfully deserves.
Following over 12 months of limited travel, the recently announced plans for a trans-Tasman travel bubble present opportunities for Australians to once again indulge in overseas sojourns and explore the serenity of the land of the long white cloud.
From the forested flanks of majestic mountains that reach down to the sea to undulating green farmlands carved from primal forests that tattoo the country, New Zealand is a land ready to share its ages-old riches.
Auckland, the heart of the 36th America’s Cup, has always been known in Māori as Tāmaki – and often Tāmaki Makarau (Tāmaki of a thousand lovers).
For centuries, it was fought over and conquered by many peoples who desired the rich resources of the ocean, forest and open plains, mightily fertile and plentiful from millennia of volcanic deposits, a temperate climate and rich ocean currents.
The connection to the land and sea is fundamental to the Māori way of life, based as it is on the belief that the physical and spiritual are inextricably interwoven.
It’s a crucial concept that has led to the adoption of kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection) principles across New Zealand, which means almost one-third of the country has been set aside as national parks, reserves and heritage sites to preserve the country’s ecological heritage.
The land, forests, mountains, rivers and oceans are life itself.
Like many New Zealand companies, this proud Māori history has been adopted by New Zealand Luxury Experiences (NZLE) – the only dedicated superyacht luxury tour company in New Zealand. As Co-founder and Managing Director John Panoho explains, “We have adopted the Māori values of kaitiaki (caring for the environment), manaaki (welcoming, looking after and caring for people) and mana (responsibility, influence, authority and honour) – and we live by them.”
It’s something it would seem travellers are seeking, too. “Now, more than ever,” says John, “discerning travellers are slowing down and refocussing on these core values on which we have shaped the experiences we offer – luxury lodgings, travel options, stellar cuisine and luxurious pampering. But, it’s our knowledgeable, passionate and empathetic guides – and their ability to kōrero, or tell a story – that really set us apart.
Kaiarihi, or professional guide, with NZLE Denis Page affirms, “We strive to help our guests connect with us, engage with our land and become part of ngā kōrero – our story.”
“We offer private experiences exclusively to our guests. You will not find our guides, our storytelling, our unique cultural activities and rituals, or our access to hidden places and private people, on any internet search. This is our taonga (gift) to you.”
Who better placed then to share those places we long to visit and the experiences we crave? Here, John and Denis share the New Zealand experiences you’ll want to add to your travel wish list or itinerary.
Naumai haere mai: welcome
Guests converging on Tamaki Te Herenga Waka – the hauling-up place of Waka; Auckland Harbour – may wonder why New Zealand punches above its weight in the world of sailing, sport, business and equality. John explains, “A mixture of self-belief, resilience, tenacity and ingenuity is in the DNA of Kiwi men and women – and they enjoy taking on a challenge!”
These characteristics are reflected in the landscape of Aotearoa. In places, it is wild and untamed, but it also presents a calm and spiritual demeanour. It is a land of stunning contrasts and ocean views; forests, mountains and rivers. “NZLE offers those visiting these stunning islands a traditional welcome – a pōwhiri by Māori elders,” says Denis. “To those returning, we say ‘Haere mai e hoa ma – welcome back, friends.’”
Manaaki at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
The Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) Aaron Young cordially invites you to enjoy the hospitality of New Zealand’s oldest yachting club and home of the 36th America’s Cup.
Where else could you possibly want to be, especially during their 150th-anniversary year, complete with special events and celebrations?
Hunt and gather your own private seafood barbecue
The land and rivers of New Zealand produce fine food, and the unpolluted oceans offer a bounty of seafood; it’s an important part of Māori cultural heritage you will want to experience for yourself.
With the islands of the Hauraki Gulf in easy reach of Auckland, a visit to Aotea (Great Barrier Island) will provide the opportunity to hunt and gather seafood with locals and relax at their rustic bach (beach house). Overlooking Motairehe Bay, enjoy good company, great wines and crayfish straight out of the ocean.
Cycle to a dormant volcano
Rangitoto Island stands sentinel at the entrance to Te Herenga Waka ki Waitematā (inner harbour) and overlooks the America’s Cup course. A guided e-bike ride to the summit of the volcano within the island is an enjoyable way to work up an appetite ahead of drinks and canapes while watching the races from the sidelines.
Tee off where the land meets the sea
On the stunning sub-tropical east coast, just a short helicopter ride from downtown Auckland, lies the little-known but world-renowned Tara Iti Golf Club.
A private and exclusive American-style course, Tara Iti is considered #2 in the world.
Designer Tom Doak explains, “A golf course is a living thing that organically changes over time. That’s exactly what you want to happen, too.”
Step back in time
The Kupe Waka Centre – dedicated to the memory of Sir Hekenukumai Busby, celestial navigator, tribal leader, carver and traditional waka builder – is a five-minute helicopter journey from the stunning and historic Whangaroa Harbour or a two-hour cruise north of the Bay of Islands.
Nephew of Sir Hekenukumai, John Panoho, says: “Standing on the star compass listening to a sailor describe voyages made over thousands of nautical miles on double-hulled voyaging canoes recalls a time when our ancestors were the greatest sailors, navigators and explorers of the day. Their heroic deeds are akin to those of astronauts.”
Adventure into the remote Fiordland
The secret to a memorable visit to less-travelled places is careful attention to detail and resourcefulness in planning – something that becomes even more crucial as you venture south to Marlborough, Abel Tasman, Fiordland, Stewart Island and Dunedin.
A helicopter flight to the remote Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park makes for a truly unforgettable day of fishing, diving and sightseeing. Land on a private barge, transfer to a dive boat and cruise the numerous inland islands, coves and beaches. Enjoy snorkelling for crayfish and a private picnic lunch before visiting historical sites. Witness abundant local wildlife in this timeless landscape.
Heli hop in the South Alps
Fly by helicopter through and over the Southern Alps between rivers, glaciers, mountains, rainforest and rugged west coast beaches. Sunbathe on glaciers, clamber through ice caves and snorkel on a remote west coast beach after a seafood picnic.
Escape to the high country
Get away with a one- or two-day e-motorbike trek on a 7,000-hectare working station. Get to know a local farmer and heli mountain bike on a private track through stunning mountain and lake vistas. Includes chef and luxury accommodation in rolling country.
Help out on a research project
Work alongside world-class marine scientists as they research sperm whales, penguins and albatrosses. Access exclusive viewings, swim with dolphins and tag penguins.
Hunting and fishing
New Zealand is a paradise for hunting and fishing. NZLE has the best private guides and all the permits, equipment and licenses. Alpine terrain and remote rivers are accessed by helicopter and NZLE works closely with two specialised – and highly sought-after – hunting and fishing lodges for multi-night stays. Available on both the North and South Islands.
The home of Middle-earth
Enjoy horse treks in remote South Island locations where Lord of the Rings was filmed with horse handlers and guides who worked on the set of this epic adventure.
Would you like to meet some remarkable Kiwis – actors, film directors, chefs, business leaders, winemakers and farmers? Listen to their kōrero (stories) and understand what New Zealand is all about; how Kiwis remain competitive around the world; as well as their challenges and views on the future.
Experience a working station
Heli flight to a remote glacial valley and the renowned Minaret Station where farm managers share their insights on the sheep, cattle and deer operations. Enjoy stunning aerial views of this mountainous working station before tucking into barbecue lamb and venison served with genuine farm hospitality at the shepherd’s cottage.
A final word
In addition to single or multi-day adventures complete with exclusive experiences and exceptional cuisine, New Zealand is gaining an enviable reputation for world-class, low-impact and discreet luxury properties. To complement your time in Aotearoa, NZLE can organise access to these bespoke properties in remote and spectacular places.
Wherever your journey takes you, allow yourself to go with the flow and slow down.
Above all, take your time to get to know the places and the people. Let Aotearoa seep into your bones and refresh your spirit. Be part of Māori culture, even for just a little while, and let manaakitanga, the Māori way of relating, doing and inhabiting the world as part of – not apart from – the natural environment, become your way too.
New Zealand Luxury Experiences (NZLE)
The only dedicated superyacht luxury tour company in New Zealand, NZLE crafts every experience exclusively for their guests. Co-founder John Panoho and Denis Page are both kaihautū (navigators) with more than 55 years’ experience in researching new destinations and access their extensive networks to guide tours across Aotearoa, New Zealand.
The pair take pride in taking the time to understand their clients’ needs and cultural interests. As they explain, “Our knowledgeable, passionate and empathetic guides distinguish us with their ability to kōrero; to tell a story. We strive to have our guests connect with us, engage with our land and become part of ngā kōrero – our story.”