A life in NZ Travel - NZ Herald Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes

What are your favourite memories from childhood family holidays in New Zealand?

Unlucky for me, I didn't grow up in New Zealand. I first arrived on a working holiday visa and I planned to spend only six months here. Seventeen years later, I'm still here, which shows just what huge power New Zealand has to captivate and cast a spell on visitors.

My first family holiday in New Zealand was after I'd been here three months. My mum came over from the UK for a holiday and we travelled from Auckland to Wellington, crossed the Cook Strait then toured around the South Island. We ticked off a lot in two weeks — the Coastal Pacific and Tranz Alpine rail journeys, a walk on Franz Josef glacier, a day trip to Milford Sound and a bungy jump in Queenstown (for me, not my mum. Although never let age hold you back . . . )

The Coastal Pacific rail service passenger train. Photo / Kiwi Rail
The Coastal Pacific rail service passenger train. Photo / Kiwi Rail

Where is your favourite off the beaten track spot in NZ to get away from it all?

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Last year I walked the Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes and I was astounded by the sheer natural beauty surrounding me on such an epic scale. We had the most perfect weather — blue skies, unseasonably warm, no rain — which our guides assured us was quite unusual. The second day's walk from the Lake Mackenzie Hut to the Routeburn Falls Hut brought some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever laid eyes on — the view from Harris Saddle, looking out across the Hollyford Valley and the mountains beyond was as close as I have ever come to a spiritual experience.

Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes at the top of Conical Hill on the Routeburn Track. Photo / Supplied
Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes at the top of Conical Hill on the Routeburn Track. Photo / Supplied

The best thing? Absolutely no cellphone signal. No emails, calls, texts, social media pings . . . just me, the mountains, the sound of native birds and tramping boots traversing the track. The sense of calm I gained over those three days was transformative.

If you were heading on a family getaway now, where would you go?

My household consists of me, my boyfriend and our foster dog, Nina, and I'm dying for the three of us to go and stay at one of Canopy Camping's dog-friendly glamping properties. Tuki Tuki Valley in Hawke's Bay looks to be exactly what I'm longing for in a post-lockdown winter escape — wide-open spaces, outdoor fire pit, and easy access to the region's best wineries.

If it was an extended family getaway, I'd love to take the whānau to Queenstown where there's something for everyone — plenty of activities for the nieces and nephews, plenty of wineries and good food for the grown-ups.

What's your dream NZ roadtrip?

I've done a couple of campervan trips in the past few years — Auckland to Napier via Whakatane and the East Cape; and Auckland to Taranaki, calling at Waitomo, Raglan, Whangamomona and more — both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year, I'd love to take a car over to Great Barrier and road trip around the island, or head south from Christchurch, and visit Akaroa, Timaru, and Ōamaru before ending up in Dunedin. And if we can call a cycling holiday a road trip, then I'm also up for the Otago Rail Trail . . . or any of the country's excellent cycle trails, for that matter.

Otago Central Rail Trail. Photo / Hayden Parsons
Otago Central Rail Trail. Photo / Hayden Parsons

If you could choose one ultimate dream holiday in Aotearoa, where would it be?

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Consecutive two-night stays in all the luxury lodges of New Zealand where I'd have daily spa treatments, go on long, scenic walks and eat and drink to my heart's content. My phone would be firmly switched off . . . it's impossible to take calls when your hands are full with champagne and canapes.