Virtuoso’s Amy Bailey recently returned from a trip to New Zealand, where she explored the best of the country with several Virtuoso travel advisors.

Here, she remembers some of the highlights.

photo of harbor
Akaroa Harbour.

Why Go

“New Zealand has an incredibly diverse landscape, cascading vineyards, and myriad cultural attractions. It’s like a one-stop-shop for everyone, from adventurers wanting hiking, biking and off-roading experiences to foodies looking to expand their culinary palate.

Amy Bailey (right) in Auckland.

Soaring High

The helicopter tour we did through Milford Sound was breathtaking. We soared over mountain tops and gazed at the landscape below. Our expert pilot wowed us as he zoomed through valleys and took us directly in front of a waterfall. We touched down a few times during the tour. First, we watched seal pups in the bay frolicking in the rock ponds. Then we stopped in a spectacular valley with a river running through it to see the views. Lastly, we stopped at a luxury alpine lodge only accessible by helicopter.

Milford Sound.

Island Vibes

Just off the North Island is Waiheke, a beautiful island easily accessible by ferry. You could easily spend a day or two checking out all this laid-back island offers, like the many vineyards.

The group at a wine tasting on Waiheke Island.
Waiheke Island.

Great Hotels

We previewed many extraordinary hotels, including Wharekauhau Country Estate, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Huka Lodge, Otahuna Lodge, Annandale, Matakauri Lodge, and Eichardt’s Private Hotel. They ranged from modern and contemporary to turn-of-the-century charm. All of them have incredible views that showcase the beauty of New Zealand, whether it was the ocean, lake, river, or the countryside.

Otahuna Lodge.

Culinary Highlights

Picking a favorite is too hard – dining in New Zealand is magnificent. All of the hotels have excellent chefs. We met with Jimmy McIntyre, the executive chef at Otahuna, who taught us how to make lemon cake for the evening’s meal. He was delightful and sent us all home with recipes to recreate at home.

Cool Souvenirs

For children, the quintessential sweet treats are Pineapple Lumps and Jaffas. For a totally unique souvenir, pick up a piece of native greenstone, also known as jade.

Friendly Faces

New Zealand is a clean, safe country populated with approachable, affable people. If you need help or tips, there is always a friendly face ready to assist you.”

This trip to was put together with the expertise of several Virtuoso partners: Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), Air New Zealand, Abercrombie & Kent New Zealand, Seasonz Travel, and Southern Crossings New Zealand.