There must be a scientific reason humans are so attracted to views from on high. It's undeniably calming on our brains to look out over rolling countryside, sparkling lake waters, snow-capped peaks or seemingly endless sapphire sea - and we'll often go to great lengths to do so. But what if climbing and hiking for visual reward is not your jam? If you - or someone else in your party - prefers their vista minus the sweat, and possibly tears. Here are some ways to get that brain-calming goodness without the activewear - and with a drink or bite to really seal the deal.
Paroa Bay, Northland
Perched up in the hills behind Russell is the gorgeous Paroa Bay accommodation, vineyard and restaurant. Pull up a pew at Sage restaurant for a leisurely lunch looking out over the vines and the Bay of Islands, one of New Zealand's most popular holiday hotspots. Food is sourced as sustainably and locally as possible and there's plenty of space for running around if you have little ones with you.
Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, Auckland
There's so much to love about Waiheke Island. Golden sand beaches, clear waters, markets, restaurants and wineries - all just a 35-minute ferry ride away from downtown Auckland. There are a few elevated vineyards but Mudbrick is always a crowd-pleaser with its stunning views back towards the city. Rock up for a tasting, while away an afternoon over a bottle with friends or indulge in their culinary offerings - some of it straight from the on-site gardens.
Volcanic Hills Wine tasting room, Rotorua
You'd be forgiven for thinking there is not much of a wine-making industry in Rotorua and you'd be right. But if you take the Skyline Gondola to the top (the same one you use for the luge) you'll find Volcanic Hills Wines tasting room. The grapes obviously aren't local but the winemaking is, and this tasting comes with a cracking view out over Rotorua and the lake.
Peak House, Hawke's Bay
Hawke's Bay locals will tell you this is the cafe with the best view in New Zealand, and it's fair to say the sweeping vistas all the way across the Heretaunga Plains to Napier and Māhia are pretty gorgeous. Dog and child-friendly - there's even a sweet Polaroid wall of fame for the former. Try a local wine or beer - or if you're hungry, there are brunches, burgers and bites to please all.
Knoll Ridge Chalet, Ruapehu
When you visit the snow with family or a friend group, it's not uncommon to have at least one person who is just along for the ride; not a skier or a snowboarder - but also not one to miss out on all the fun. The Sky Waka Gondola at Whakapapa is perfect for this - non-snow-bunnies can cruise above the maunga, 2020m above sea level and park themselves up with a hot chocolate or a coffee in the warmth of Knoll Ridge Chalet's cafe while everyone else does their thing. The views of the snow-covered Pinnacles and right down the mountain to National Park are stunning and there's grab-and-go food to sustain you while you read your book or just stare at the beauty beyond the window.
Cable Top Eatery, Wellington
Why walk to a cafe when you can take a cable car? Cable Top Eatery has pretty views of the capital and is open for breakfast and lunch every day and dinner from Thursday to Sunday (if you're looking for a bit more of a cocktail, pizzas and tapas vibe). There aren't too many places you can use this unique mode of transport to get to your meal, so definitely keep it in mind next time you're in Wellington.
Sign of the Kiwi, Canterbury
You'll find the Sign of the Kiwi cafe between Christchurch and Governors Bay and people come as much for the home baking as the stunning views. It's registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category 1 Historic Place but unfortunately had to close for some time after damage sustained in the 2011 earthquake. Lucky for locals it's been back in business for a few years now and is a great spot for a bite with a view of the hills giving way to the water.
Astro Cafe, Mackenzie
Lonely Planet deemed this "quite possibly one of the best locations for a cafe" and it's hard to argue - looking out over the Mackenzie Basin, Aoraki Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo really is breathtakingly beautiful. Grab some hearty cafe fare and a coffee (and maybe even a sweet treat for after), sit back, relax and feel like you're a million miles from anything even remotely troubling. There is a charge to access the road but it's a small price to pay for the views.
It's pretty hard to beat the water views out over Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown from the top of the Skyline Gondola. There are floor-to-ceiling windows in both the eateries (Stratosfare and Market Kitchen) so whether you're having dinner, or just popping in for cake and coffee, you'll be mesmerised by what you can see outside. Luge it up afterwards if you want, or just take it easy.
Mt Difficulty Winery – Cellar Door and Restaurant, Central Otago
For views across the Cromwell Basin to Lake Dunstan, Mt Difficulty Cellar Door is the place to go. On a fine day, sit outside for these uniquely Central Otago views, in winter enjoy them from behind the glass with a roaring fire. Indulge in a tasting, order a platter and feel the stress of the world loosen its grip.
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