Published: October 2008
Text by Steve Casimiro

Getting There: Air New Zealand runs 13-hour direct overnight flights from L.A. to Auckland ($1,600 round-trip; All seasons are great, but austral fall avoids summer crowds and winter’s big storms.

North Island: Get straight to the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. Day hikers should consider an epic called the Tonga Alpine Crossing, while trampers should hit the three-day Tongariro Northern Circuit, one of the country’s nine hut-to-hut "Great Walks." NZ’s Department of Conservation operates the backcountry huts ($19;, while stately Bayview Chateau Tongariro is a good frontcountry option ($140;

Kaikoura: If you make it to this corner of the South Island, consider bunking up at Hapuku Lodge, a warren of luxury tree houses that alone are worth the trip ($475; Whale Watch Kaikoura runs wildlife-viewing trips ($100; To reach Ohau waterfall and its fun-loving fur seals, head north of Hapuku about six miles on State Highway 1.

Mount Cook: Most visitors to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park base themselves at the 124-year-old Hermitage Hotel, which offers comfort at the edge of the wilderness ($100; On-site outfitter Alpine Guides provides hiking info and leads trips up Mount Cook ( For bush flights, drop in to Mt. Cook Ski Planes and ask for the Grand Circle, which, weather permitting, lands on the Tasman Glacier ($330;

Wanaka: You’ll have no trouble drumming up adventure in this town near Mount Aspiring National Park. For climbing guides, contact Adventure Consultants, run by Everest icon Guy Cotter ( Mountain bikers should consult Freeride NZ (, while hikers should tackle the three-day Routeburn Track through Mount Aspiring. Wanaka has tons of accommodations, but the most striking is Whare Kea Lodge, a luxury outpost on Lake Wanaka ($730; Plan a night in its heli-accessed Whare Kea Chalet.

Milford Sound & Moeraki: Paddlers ready to explore one of the world’s top sea kayaking spots should contact Rosco Gaudin’s Milford Sound Sea Kayaks (day trips from $110; The four-day, hut-to-hut Milford Track is the greatest hike in all of New Zealand. ’Nuff said. Contact the Department of Conservation for reservations ($215; To visit the otherworldly boulders of Moeraki, cross the South Island and jog 37 miles north of Dunedin. Way worth it.