Rachel Hunter talks to Juliette Sivertsen about her inexplicable connection to the water.
Rachel Hunter loves the mountains, but anywhere near a lake or beach is where her soul feels most alive.
"When we look at nature, we have these qualities within us," she says. "Earth - that's our body, water - we're made up of water, we have air - we breathe it. You look at the elemental side of it, we have all of those. There's this beautiful part of us that connects us."
The Kiwi supermodel is back in Aotearoa and was due to headline the New Zealand Spirit Festival this weekend before Auckland's level 3 lockdown forced the festival to be rescheduled to April. Still, she's thrilled to be in a country where it's so easy to connect with nature.
"I was up north the other week and I just lay on the grass and looked at magpies and tuis and cicadas, and you can just feel the body relax. You take that deep sigh, there's that connection to nature where our bodies just feel at home."
Walking in nature and the simplicity of it makes everything become okay, says Hunter. "There's this chemical release that happens in the body."
Hunter moved around to a few different locations when she was a child, but she remembers growing up in Glenfield, Auckland, and her house that backed on to a reserve.
"As soon as I would get home from school, I'd throw my bag and I'd just go straight into the bush and stay out until it got dark."
Being in nature brings her 'back home' and gives her a fuller heart, she says.
Here are Rachel Hunter's top five locations in New Zealand that help her feel close to the natural environment.
West Auckland - Bethells and Piha Beaches
Hunter loves the bush walks around these black sand beaches, which she describes as a release. "It's very easy throughout New Zealand to connect with nature, there is easy access to those bush walks."
In particular at Bethells, she's drawn to the sand dunes, and the wild, windy nature of the beach.
"It has this expansive feel to it, and there are a lot of walks in those areas that you can do. Usually it's about getting physical and running off all that energy that you've had all week."
"I've been up there a couple of times and really feel the intensity and beautiful energy up there; that single road up there, the sand dunes, the kauri forest is close by, it's one of my favourite places."
The bush forest goes straight to the shoreline, which she says is incredible.
"Look at all the trails and tracks that we have. I don't want to speak for everybody, but there's this part of nature that really helps us melt into that relaxing state - whether we want to feel invigorated by getting in the water or being near the beach - I don't know, it's almost intoxicating."
"When I did the Milford Track, oh my God, it was just incredible."
Hunter says New Zealanders are lucky they have the opportunity to explore these world-class destinations when so many others around the world cannot enjoy the same freedoms.
"Everyone's worked so hard to get to this point, you have an amazing government and leadership, you're just so lucky. It's really beautiful to see how you're living right now."
Hunter says travelling around the East Cape was one of the most "unbelievable" things she had done.
"I had finished a job in Gisborne and decided to drive around the East Cape by myself. What an amazing journey that was. It has this unknown, intoxicating energy that you're just driving into."
She says Cafe 35's famous paua pies stand out as a highlight, as well as the warmth of the local residents.
"You go into these cafes and you can just hang out for hours with the locals, and just chat to them. You immediately become part of someone else's family."
As a child, Hunter and her family would go camping at Kauaeranga Valley, a place that has given her many happy memories.
"You could run down to the river and go swimming, the bush trips, all the families coming together for barbecues at night, being together and the campfires.
"We were always pretty much nature people."
Rachel Hunter will teach a yoga and meditation class as part of the NZ Spirit Festival, which has been rescheduled to April 22-25 at Kumeu Showgrounds, Auckland