Beautiful Landscape at Abel Tasman National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park

New Zealand’s smallest national park is also its most popular thanks to incredibly special scenery, including water the color of the Caribbean Sea. The park can only be accessed by boat, helicopter or on foot – the 51 kilometer (32 mile) Coast Track is the most beautiful of New Zealand's Great Walks. Accommodations inside the park are generally simple huts that still have to be reserved well in advance by hikers eager to walk the entire trek. The best option for day trippers is to charter a boat (contact Indagare's Bookings Team for recommendations) and spend a day exploring Abel Tasman along the coast, with the option of stopping for a short hike.

Indagare recommends a charter company headed by a local captain who grew up in the Tasman area and is incredibly invested in the protection of this eco dreamscape. A day charter includes lunch on the boat and such activities as kayaking into small bays where you might spot seals. Abel Tasman is an "only in New Zealand" experience and a fantastic way to spend a day when you're staying in the Nelson-Tasman area (preferably at Edenhouse).

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Street of Arrowtown, Queenstown, New Zealand


Established in 1862 at the height of the Otago gold rush, the settlement of Arrowtown is a great place to tour for a few hours. There are lots of shops, cafés and restaurants (head to Chop Shop for lunch), as well as a small Chinese Settlement with historic, preserved buildings. The latter is located on the banks of the Bush Creek river, a tributary of the wild Arrow River, and there are several beautiful hikes that originate or culminate in Arrowtown. You can also rent bikes here to explore this scenic area, where a lot of locals live since Queenstown itself has become expensive and overrun.

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Grapes at Gibbston Wine Region, Queenstown, New Zealand

Gibbston Wine Region

The Central Otago region that surrounds Queenstown has six smaller wine appelations, which focus on Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. It’s tiny compared with Marlborough farther north on the South Island, but wine lovers should spend a day exploring the bounty here, because the setting at the foot of the Southern Alps is stunning. If you have time, it’s worth visiting wineries in the Cromwell, Lowburn and Bannockburn areas, but the one that’s closest to Queenstown is Gibbston. Some of the wineries not to miss here are Peregrine (2127 Kawarau Gorge Road), with its contemporary architecture; Amisfield, which has a gorgeous restaurant; and boutique label Brennan Wines (86 Gibbston Back Rd), with incredible Pinot Noirs. En route back to Queenstown from Gibbston, you will cross the Kawarau Bridge, home to the world’s first bungee jump.

Mountain  at Indagare Tours: Heli-Adventures, Queenstown, New Zealand - Courtesy Pure New Zealand, Fiordland Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters

Indagare Tours: Heli-Adventures

Helicopters are an enormous part of New Zealand culture. From their introduction in the 1960’s to aid in deer hunting, to their more practical use as means of transport throughout the island country’s vast, undeveloped natural landscape, helicopter excursions provide a wow-factor to any New Zealand itinerary.

One of the most memorable ways to explore Queenstown, with its dramatic mountain peaks, alpine lakes and natural fiords (as well as the awe-inspiring territories of the 1.2 million-hectare Fiordland National Park), is to embark on an adventure by helicopter. With an experienced pilot-guide, discover untouched terrain in some of the most remote locations on the South Island. Fly fish in a back stream, hike atop a mountain peak, hunt in unspoiled forests, picnic on an isolated beach, swim in a high-altitude alpine lake, spear for crayfish off the coast… and do it all knowing that there is no other person within miles of you. Or, simply watch as your expert guide commandeers for you while you sip Champagne and take in one of New Zealand profound, breathtaking settings. Contact Indagare’s Bookings Team to plan a tailor-made helicopter adventure.

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Kaikoura Sealife

The whaling capital of Kaikoura, on the South Island’s east coast, has been called the “Serengeti of the South Pacific” due to the range of animals that can be seen here, from Albatross to sperm whale. A stunningly scenic, 2.5-hour drive north of Christchurch (break it up by lunching at Pegasus Winery), Kaikoura is a former whaling town that today draws sealife enthusiasts, especially between October and March. Much like Queenstown has a package tour for seemingly every adventure sports you can think of, Kaikoura has outfitters for such nature-focused activities as swimming with seals or dolphins, whale watching aboard a helicopter, sea kayaking, fishing and albatross encounters.

But the most popular excursion is Kaikoura Whale Watch (, whose headquarters are in a former train station. If you’re used to the more lackadaisical whale tours of the American Northeast, you are going to encounter the Switzerland of New Zealand in terms of organization. There’s a strict number of people on the boasts, everyone has to be seated when the boat is in motion (ie, almost always) and tours book well in advance and should be reserved. Whale watching is also a time commitment: the tours include a generous hour for check-in and a brief safety video, so if you are booked on the 10 a.m. tour, you won’t even leave the station until 11 a.m. It is suggested you check in an hour in advance, but there is little to do at the whaling station except browse the gift shop (which is probably the point), so don’t be fooled: you don’t need to be there more than 20 minutes before the tour.

When the season is right and you see an abundance of whales, dolphins and other sea life, this is absolutely worthwhile. Those prone to motion sickness should bring Dramamine – the Pacific can get rough even on sunny, nice days.

Lake at Kawarau Bungee, Queenstown, New Zealand

Kawarau Bungee

In 1986, New Zealander A J Hackett first took a daring leap off a bridge, tethered only by a super-stretchy elastic cord strapped around his ankles. The technology may have been fine-tuned somewhat, but essentially, daredevil bungee jumpers are still using the exact same method innovated by Hackett. (“Bungee" is Kiwi slang for an elastic strap). The place where he opened the world’s first commercialized bungee platform is Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown.

Originally, Hackett had a one-month lease on the bridge (and his workers were paid a commission per jumper), as general consensus agreed that as soon as he killed a tourist, the whole operation would be shut down. With the subsequent success, the operation kept growing and growing – today, Hackett runs three other bungee sites around Queenstown and some 30,000 jumpers leap from Kawarau (and bungee is actually the safest of Queenstown’s adrenaline-infused offerings, including paragliding and jet boating).

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Fields at Marlborough Winery Tour , South Island, New Zealand

Marlborough Winery Tour

Oenophiles grumble that there is no place really nice to stay in Marlborough, one of New Zealand’s flagship wine regions (they are the largest exporter of Sauvignon Blanc in the world). And indeed the central town of Blenheim is as charmless as it gets, with barely a single cute restaurant but every imaginable fast food label. However, once you get into the Wairau valley, set against the Mount Richmond Forest Park and with glorious rolling hills, these drawbacks are fast forgotten.

There are numerous wineries, many of which have excellent restaurants. Some of the best ones to visit include: Seresin, a boutique label that also produces a beautiful olive oil; Hans Herzog, a quirky winemaker who also dabbles in Grüner Veltliner and Montepulciano; and Cloudy Bay, where a Raw Bar keeps guest well-fed during the summer months.

Getting There / Where to Stay:

  • 30 minutes: Picton (from which ferries travel to the Bay of Many Coves)
  • 1.5 hours: Kaikoura (home of Hapuku Lodge)
  • 1.5 hours: Tasman (home of Edenhouse)
Hills at Milford Sound ,  Queenstown, New Zealand - Courtesy Rob Suisted, Pure New Zealan

Milford Sound

Part of the Fjordland, arguably the most dramatically stunning scenery in New Zealand, Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. The setting is composed of sky-scraping mountains that plunge into deep-blue lakes and river fjords. The region is best explored via helicopter, since these can land atop glaciers and get you off the beaten path. There are also outfitters in Queenstown that offer fly-over tours via prop planes.

If you have time, combine a flight with a short cruise into the sound – the photo opportunities are seemingly endless. But be sure to arrange to be on a smaller boat. Milford Sound is a popular tourist destination and the majesty of the setting – Rudyard Kipling described it as the “eighth wonder of the world” – can be dimmed somewhat when you end up on a boat with hundreds of other camera-toting tourists.

Serious hikers can also tempt one of the challenging, multi-day “tramps” that pass through this region, including the Milford and Routeburn Treks.

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Aerial View - Queenstown Gardens , Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown Gardens

This beautiful botanic garden on the edge of Lake Wakatipu is a good spot if you choose to spend an afternoon in town. It starts a few yards past Eichardt's Hotel and has extensive grounds with some stunning plant life, including a massive Douglas Fir. Those interested in a longer walk can also continue along the lake. Amazingly, this is one of Queenstown's lesser-visited attractions (apparently everyone is too busy getting out on the water or up on the mountain), so it's also a great place for a green breather to escape from the crowds.

Lake at Shotover Jets , Queenstown, New Zealand

Shotover Jets

This fast-paced speedboat ride through Shotover Canyon is one of Queenstown’s most popular and touristy activities, and fame has only grown since Prince William and Kate partook during their New Zealand trip in 2014. During the 25-minute ride, the boat skims across the water, gets close to the steep canyon walls and does 360-degree spins, all at neck-breaking speed. Outdoor enthusiasts who would rather hike along this scenic river will loathe this, while speedsters, especially with teenage kids, will love the rush.

Gondala at Skyline Gondola ,  Queenstown, New Zeal

Skyline Gondola

Bob’s Peak, part of Ben Lomond mountain, rises high above Queenstown, and the Skyline Gondola complex is like an amusement park on top of it. After an extremely scenic, steep ride up via a gondola (active types can also hike up) visitors arrive in an epi-center of sports: there’s a Bungee Jump, a Paragliding outfitter and several Luge runs, as well as a large restaurant and café, both with massive scenic terraces that offer stunning panoramas. Several of Queenstown’s best hikes also originate here, like the challenging Ben Lomond that’s almost entirely uphill but rewards with even more stunning views. In short, it’s a typical Queenstown mix of glorious nature and package tours; adrenaline junkies and those who prefer to watch. For a first-day overview of the town and its offerings, this is not to be missed.

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Sea View -  Top Golf , Queenstown, New Zealand - Courtesy Julian Apse, Pure New Zealand

Top Golf

The Queenstown area has four golf course. The most famous is The Hills (Rapid 164 McDonnell Road, Arrowtown), home of the New Zealand Open. Owned by Sir Michael Hill, the course is a unique combination of an outdoor sculpture garden and 18-hole course: there are works here by such artists as China’s Liu Ruowang and New Zealand’s Mark Hill and Chris Booth. It’s a very unique golf experience. The Hills is member's-only, but a good concierge at the top hotels in Queenstown should be able to pull some strings.

Sea View -Top Hiking , Queenstown, New Zealand, - Courtesy Pure New Zealand

Top Hiking

Framed by the New Zealand's famous Southern Alps, facing massive Lake Wakitipu and surrounded by other lakes, stunning rivers, and the saw-toothed Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown occupies what is arguably New Zealand's most scenic setting. Hiking in this natural splendor is absolutely mind-blowing. Some of the best hikes originate right in town, like the challenging Ben Lomond Trail, which kicks off at the top of the Skyline Gondola and rises some 5,700 feet. More serene (and flat) is the loop around Lake Hayes, which can be combined with lunch at Amisfield Winery. Or start in Queenstown's gorgeous Botanic Garden and begin the loop around Wakatipu (walking around the entire lake is a multi-day excursion – Wakatipu, New Zealand's third-largest lake, is 50 miles long) To get away from the tourist crowds, head to Moke Lake, a short drive outside of town, and hike the easy but gorgeous track. The Wakatipu area has many more options. A good website for researching the trail that's right for you is:

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Hoardings at Upper Moutere ,  South Island, New Zealand

Upper Moutere

This tiny community in the Tasman region, a short drive from Edenhouse, is home to artisans and craftspeople who open their homes, studios and farms to visitors. Not to be missed is Neudorf Vineyard, which produces an acclaimed Pinot Noir, Anna Barnett Pottery and the Icon Gallery. If you're staying at Edenhouse, owner Peter Martin knows many of the artists, including an incredibly talented glassblower and woodsmith, and is happy to make introductions.

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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