It wasn't quite how I imagined my first two years as Travel Editor would be. I started the job in November 2019 and just four months later - before I'd had the chance to jet off to any international destinations - our borders closed.
But, as we have all discovered since March 2020, staying home is actually a good thing. Aotearoa New Zealand has an abundance of riches when it comes to travel and - when alert levels allow - I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.
So, after two years of domestic travel, here's my insider's guide to the best New Zealand travel experiences to add to your 2022 bucket list.
Stay in the penthouse of a luxury hotel
The America's Cup didn't bring the hordes of international tourists Auckland was hoping for but it did bring a raft of brand new hotels in prime locations.
Treat yourself to a touch of luxury for a city break (or staycation) with a night or two at The Hotel Britomart and Park Hyatt. Both have incredible penthouse suites available for extra special stays.
The Hotel Britomart has five Landing Suites to choose from, three of which have their own open-air terraces where you'll feel as if you're living in an Upper East Side New York dream.
At the Park Hyatt, choose from the 141sq m Chairman's Suite, or the 245sq m Presidential Suite, the latter of which has a private outdoor garden as well as 125sq m furnished balcony.
My pick for the best views in Auckland is the Hilton down on Princes Wharf. It's not as new as the others, but the top floor Bow Suite will never get tired - expansive views of the Harbour Bridge, North Shore, Rangitoto and beyond mean you'll find it hard to do anything other than sit on the balcony and gaze at the changing light on the Hauraki Gulf.
Other options: Sofitel Queenstown's Penthouse No 10, The Penthouse at Eichardt's Queenstown.
Stay in a luxury lodge
If you're looking for a more homely experience but want the "home" in question to be fit for royalty and billionaires, New Zealand's luxury lodges are the place for you.
Huka Lodge is the Queen's favourite - she's stayed at the internationally renowned Taupō property three times. I've stayed once, and can confirm it's the perfect place for a special occasion getaway or bucket list treat.
The three Robertson Lodges - Northland's Kauri Cliffs, Hawke's Bay's The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, and Queenstown's Matakauri - also come with this Travel Editor's seal of approval. Each offers the same exceptional level of service and fine dining, but all have their own individual styles and subtleties to suit the local environment they're situated in.
Other options: Multiple, but high on my list for 2022 are The Landing in Northland, Minaret Station in the Southern Alps, and Seascape at Canterbury's Annandale.
Stay in a private house with an epic view
If you'd prefer a more private holiday, where you can self-cater but still enjoy luxury surroundings and priceless views, The Hawk House is for you. Available to rent on Airbnb, the property is in between Cromwell and Wānaka in the foothills of Mt Pisa. Suitable for up to six adults, stock up on supplies in Wānaka and local Central Otago wineries, then settle in - once you see the view you won't want to leave.
Other options: The Glass House, Whangārei Heads
Have dinner cooked by an internationally acclaimed chef
To get a taste of Aotearoa, head straight to Wellington's Hiakai, the contemporary Māori fine-dining restaurant that in 2019 was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 greatest places in the world. You will need to book well in advance - reservations are released seasonally but snapped up almost immediately. Sign up for the restaurant's newsletter to receive alerts on when the next round of bookings open, and pop your name on the standby list in case of last-minute cancellations.
It will be well worth the wait - thanks to appearances on Netflix's The Final Table and alongside Gordon Ramsay on National Geographic's Uncharted, Monique Fiso is one of the world's most acclaimed chefs and you can bet as soon as international borders open, those seats will be even harder to secure.
Other options: In Auckland, head to Josh Emett's Onslow and Peter Gordon's Homeland. In Central Hawke's Bay, visit Wallingford to enjoy the exceptional cuisine of chef Chris Stockdale.
Walk, cruise or fly to Fiordland
Picking a favourite place in New Zealand is like picking a favourite child - impossible. However, after various trips over the past few years, I have discovered that Fiordland is a place I could return to time and again. I suggest you do the same.
For active relaxers, a fully guided multi-day walk is an absolute must-do. Try the Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes, or the Hollyford Track with Ngāi Tahu's Hollyford Wilderness Experience. While you still have to walk the walk (the Routeburn is 32km and the Hollyford is 45km), you will only be tasked with carrying a day pack. When you reach the well-appointed private lodges at the end of each day, gourmet three-course meals will be cooked for you while you enjoy a fine wine or beer and rest your weary feet.
A visit to Milford Sound is essential for any Kiwi but take your exploration of the region even further with a cruise to Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Fiordland Discovery's Fiordland Jewel takes a maximum of 18 passengers to the inlets and islands of the area, with kayaking, fishing, hiking and good food a requisite part of each day.
Both the Hollyford and Fiordland Discovery experiences include a helicopter flight for a bird's eye view of this stunning, vast, secluded region. The beauty will blow your mind.
Other options: Take a guided Kepler Track heli-hike with Trips and Tramps; Stay at luxury accommodation in Fiordland National Park, like Cabot, Milford and Fiordland lodges.
This is just the beginning of the multitude of once in a lifetime experiences available in New Zealand. To keep up with the latest and greatest things to see and do, read our regular magazines in the Herald every Tuesday and Sunday, and visit us online at nzherald.co.nz, and Facebook and Instagram - @nzhtravel.