Had enough of winter already? Head to one of New Zealand's 31 regions for a quick getaway, writes Anna King Shahab
1. Bay of Plenty
Reimagine the classic Kiwi beach holiday of yesterday with a bach stay in Bowentown, the sleepy south end of Waihī Beach. With the surf beach on one side and the estuary on the other, you can take a board out, cast a surf line, or paddle a kayak around to pretty Shelly and Anzac Bays. The dairy boasts the best dollar mix lolly line-up in the country, Waihī Beach township's bustling Flatwhite is a brunch stop extraordinaire, and nip down the lane off the main street to hidden gem Chez Moi for glorious handmade Swiss chocolates.
Head south the next day — pulling over at orchard stalls along the way to gather avocados and kiwifruit. Stop at Mount Maunganui and walk to the summit of Mauao, browse the village shops, and grab brunch at The General. Have a hoon Blokart sailing at Baypark, then if the tide is right, wade to where the surf breaks on Papamoa Beach and gather some tuatua for your dinner when you arrive in Whakatāne.
Visit Moutohorā Island, one of the country's most restricted wildlife sanctuaries, by guided tour to see little brown kiwi, tuatara, kākāriki and you might get lucky with dolphins frolicking alongside your boat. Make the pilgrimage to the beach once voted New Zealand's most-loved, Ōhope — an 11km stretch of surf and sand-drenched possibilities. From its western end, walk 15 minutes around to one of the region's secret gems, Ōtarawairere Bay.
You may think you've uncovered all of Rotorua's charms but New Zealand's capital of family fun has more in store, with loads of new places to check out. Opened at the start of this year, Pullman Rotorua is the place to stay; it's in the heart of the city and offers 130 luxurious rooms plus a restaurant.
In the serene surrounds of the Whakarewarewa Forest in the close by but tucked-away Waipa Valley, soak in your own cedar tub steaming with hot, fresh, forest spring water at Secret Spot Hot Tubs. It's a great post-mountain bike reward, as is a bevvy in hand — Secret Spot serves drinks both boozy and non.
A different way to soak is by air. Take a Volcanic Air floatplane across Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island to land on Lake Rotoiti at the secluded (truly, only accessible by air or water) thermal pools of Manupirua Bay, to bathe your worries away with lake views to boot.
Perhaps you've already enjoyed Redwoods Treewalk or Nightlights? The same folk have a brand new joy to share, Redwoods Altitude guides you on an exhilarating, 25m-high journey along Indiana Jones-style bridges. On the 650m loop, guides share knowledge about the forest, flora and fauna and te ao Māori.
Wake up before the birds to meet your guide in Ruatōria and embark on a Sunrise Experience on sacred Maunga Hikurangi — the first place in the world to greet the sun each day. Call into Tokomaru Bay for a pāua pie at Cafe 35 and continue down to Tolaga Bay to walk the historic 660m wharf and Cooks Cove track.
Make it to Wainui Bay for early evening — grab burgers from Wainui Store then head to the beach to watch the surfers.
Learn about the ancient Polynesian wayfinding before boarding the replica Waka Hourua Tairāwhiti — sailings on Saturdays, weather-dependent. Spend a laid-back afternoon forest bathing at Eastwoodhill, New Zealand's national arboretum: more than 100ha of lush gardens, trees and walking trails with an on-site cafe.
Gisborne is one of the country's longest established wine-making regions, particularly known for its chardonnay, viognier and chenin blanc. Two great family-owned producers to visit are Bushmere Estate in Matawhero, which also has a restaurant, and biodynamic pioneer Millton in Manutuke — a must if you're a fan of sulphur-free and natural wines.
On your last day, enjoy a slow start with a big breakfast at Flagship Eatery in the city — their home-made crumpets are a favourite. Pick up some picnic lunch supplies from Frank and Albie's, and head to Gisborne Railbike Adventure: you'll tandem cycle along an old coastal railway.
Unwind with a visit to Morere Hot Springs, set in native rainforest: a soak in these therapeutic waters is a great way to taper off your short break.
4. Lake Taupō
Relive fond childhood memories of camping in an altogether more comfortable — luxurious even — fashion by planning a glamping getaway in Taupō. There are many options to pick from, with varying levels of luxe to suit.
Kinloch Glamping's set-up, on a 500ha family farm, sees you perched on a hillside, watching cows being herded, horses out for a ride, or wild deer roaming, while relaxing with a glass of wine in hand on the deck of your three-room tent that can sleep six. Also in Kinloch, Te Tuhi Hut and Dome boasts a bath-on-wheels — roll it on to the deck for stargazing bathing.
Sporting lodge Poronui also offers a safari camp, nestled by Mohaka River with glamping credentials and access to sporting activities galore.
At Tirohanga's Telephone Exchange, a 1950s phone exchange building has been restored to become an off-grid retreat on a dairy farm — wander down to a copse of trees to find the outdoor bath. Pretty Acacia Bay on the lake is the setting for your elegant Lotus Belle tent at MountViews Glamping.
Continue your eco-friendly theme with a whirl on the lake in a doughnut boat. Doughbouts are the first of their kind in New Zealand — easy and safe to captain, with a quiet electric engine, you can Bluetooth your music to speakers as you cruise the lake with up to six pals on board. Wrap up warm for an evening session, where you can enjoy the gloaming, then a groovy on-board light show. Greedy Pizza can also be delivered to your boat.
5. Hawke's Bay
Grab a few friends or another couple for a Hawke's Bay break in neo-hedonistic style: that is, the pursuit of pleasure, in great company, without any downsides! With fab deals and bookings freed up, now is the time to experience luxury accommodation in your own country. Hawke's Bay has it in spades: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers has recently been voted number one resort hotel in Australasia.
Jaw-dropping backdrops and on-site restaurants don't get any better than at Craggy Range Historic, and elegant Wallingford is a great pick for foodies, being run by a pair of them.
Make one of Black Barn's 16 retreats your home for a long weekend — they're self-contained but that doesn't mean you won't want to eat at marvellous Black Barn Bistro every day.
A girls' or guys' weekend at wellness retreat Cape South in Havelock North affords the chance to reconnect with yourself and friends, joining yoga classes with owner Kate McLeay, making use of the infrared sauna, swimming pool and gym, enjoying nutritious catering with organic and local produce, and exploring the surrounds, from herbal medicinal gardens to the beach and bush.
Go to town on things culinary — Hawke's Bay is one of the country's capitals of good taste. Cellar doors abound for wine tastings, and you are spoilt for choice for restaurants — from casual pizza by the slice at Napier's Vinci's, site-grown organic and biodynamic cuisine at St Georges in Havelock North, kai-as-medicine at Napier's Hapī, to sophisticated vineyard dining at Craggy Range.
Cover the Wairarapa arm of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail — base yourself in Martinborough Wine Village and you have 20 cellar doors close by, with the flat terrain making touring them both possible and fun by bike; even on foot, you can tick off a good few.
Spend a day browsing leafy Greytown, with its restored Victorian buildings housing clothing boutiques, antique stores, The French Baker, and Schoc Chocolates.
Book a truly dreamy escape at Whitimanuka Retreat. The architecturally designed building is off-grid, solar-powered and nestled on a seventh-generation working farm (check it out on Country Calendar, even) but offers all the comforts you'd want including a cosy log burner and super-king bed with natural linens. Take up the astro binoculars and gaze at the night sky from the cosy window seat.
If you're visiting later in the year, make a date for Toast Martinborough, which returns in November; the town will come alive with revellers walking or shuttling between participating vineyards, enjoying live music and food.
Also in November is the annual Pūkaha Wairarapa Garden Tour. This two-day, self-drive tour takes in the best of the region, from quaint cottage plots to grand country estates, with refreshments en route.
Wellington is one of the world's most liveable cities and a break there can remind you how great life could, and should, be in a cosmopolitan setting. Ditch the car (trust us, Aucklanders, it's safe to): as a visitor, it's a cinch to explore all the places you want to on foot, bike, bus, train, and that capital classic, the cable car.
Wellington is a natural pick for a family break. If you haven't yet taken the kids to Te Papa, or been yourself, you must. Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibition brings this episode of our history to life in a sobering yet seriously impressive way, and there are so many temporary and permanent exhibitions to fill a day there. Zealandia, Weta Workshop, Staglands, and Capital E offer hours of entertainment.
The CBD is full of places for you to chance upon while wandering. Take an appetite and a thirst for some craft beer or coffee. Start along Cuba St, turn down a lane and see where instinct takes you.
Arrive hungry — Wellington is the restaurant and bar capital of the country, too. While you'd normally be able to warm up your winter with Wellington on a Plate, which traditionally takes place in August, this year the event is a little late to the party. Why not visit now to get a taste for the city, then head back in October for WOAP itself. This year's theme is the city's Greatest Hits: a line-up of the dishes that define Wellington. Think of it as an instant, inherently reliable answer to 'What to eat?'.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew