Take Summer Road Trips to a Whole New Level

Nothing says summer like a free-spirited road trip, and fewer places provide a better backdrop than beautiful New Zealand. If you have plans to take a Kiwi road trip in the upcoming 2015/16 season, it pays to plan ahead. And that’s especially true if you want to cruise around in something snazzy! Britz have just introduced a new range of limited-edition summer campervans to their lineup, designed to make the whole road trip experience a breeze. Take a look:

cruiser campervanThe Cruiser
This four-berth van is ideal for two couples or a family of four. The Cruiser features a fully-equipped kitchen, living room and bathroom, giving you plenty of space to relax after a big day of exploring.

discovery campervanThe Discovery
Also a four-berth, so great for a family of four or two couples. Comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, spacious living room and bathroom. Add in a bike rack and bike hire to explore even more of New Zealand.

action pod campervanThe Action Pod
A two-berth van for those who like to travel light. After a long day exploring, fold out the bed and snuggle in. In the morning, cook up a delicious breakfast in the pull-out cooking facilities.

These vans are available for travel between November 2015 and March 2016 (exact dates vary for each van). But you’ll need to get in quick, as numbers are limited. Head to the Britz website for more details.

Have a brilliant week,
Andrew Hunt


Wheels and Wine on Waiheke Island

self-guided cycle tour waihekeJust a short hop from Auckland by ferry, Waiheke Island is a sweet blend of rolling farmland, beautiful beaches and amazing wine tasting. Not surprising then, that our three-day, self-guided Waiheke Cycle Tour is a popular one. Here’s what it offers:

Day One: Natural High Depot to Waiheke
Pick up your bikes from our headquarters at Auckland Airport and then peddle your way via the Watercare Coastal Walkway and Ambury Regional Park, to the Onehunga train station to catch a train to Britomart. Once you’ve arrived on Waiheke, make your way to your accommodation. All our recommendations are close to Oneroa Village, where there is a good choice of cafes and restaurants and a grocery store. Spend the rest of the day exploring, wining and dining at a local restaurant or planning your following day’s activities.

Day Two: Explore Waiheke
Self-guided tours give you the freedom to spend your time as you please. Our tour notes come with a number of recommended cycle rides, ranging from a 50km slog to shorter, easier routes. Many rides take you past beaches and vineyards. Stop for a swim, a bite to eat or to sample the sauvignon!

A few places you might fancy biking to:

  • Stony Batter. This former, top-secret gun complex (named for the large boulders that litter the slopes) was built as part of a defensive shield against German and Japanese attack during the Second World War. Today you can explore the numerous underground tunnels, command posts and munitions rooms (hours of fun!), or take a guided tour of this fascinating piece of history. Stony Batter is located on the eastern side of the island, close to Man O’War Bay (a good picnic spot) and Man O’War Vineyards.
  • Dead Dog Bay Wetland Garden and Sculpture Park. 13 acres of gardens framing a collection of NZ contemporary artworks. Open daily, 10am-5pm. $10 entry per adult, children free.
  • Wild on Waiheke. The ultimate multi-activity experience – café, vineyard, brewery and activities including archery and clay bird shooting.
  • Ecozip Adventures. New Zealand’s premier native forest zipline tour. This is one you might not fancy riding to, as it’s located at the top of a very steep hill! Fortunately they offer pick-ups in Oneroa Village.

Day Three: Waiheke to Natural High
After breakfast and maybe a final swim, make your way back to Auckland via the ferry. Hopefully you’ll have filled your panniers with a few reminders of your trip (but not too full as you’ve still got to cycle back to our depot!)

What’s included on this tour:

  • Top quality bike hire, including pannier and storage options. All our bike rentals come with a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit, and are fully serviced before hitting the road. Because it’s compulsory to wear a helmet in New Zealand we can also provide a helmet, but if you prefer a new one you can purchase one at the discounted rate of $45.
  • Route maps and itinerary suggestions to make exploring as easy as possible.
  • Accommodation suggestions. We provide a list of recommended motels, backpackers, B&B’s and campsites to allow you to book your own lodging.

Fancy a few days away on Waiheke Island? Email us to book.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Small Town New Zealand: Queenstown

queenstownWhether you’re visiting in the depths of winter or at the height of summer, buzzing Queenstown has plenty to entertain you. Here are our top picks…

Right in town
For a bird’s eye view of Lake Wakatipu hop on the Skyline Gondola. Riding the luge is the quickest way back down – there’s an easier track for children and a faster route for those with more confidence.

In winter, the ice-skating rink at the Queenstown Gardens is a fine place to while away a few hours, or check out what’s under the lake at the Underwater Observatory on the town pier.

Thrill seeking
Queenstown’s tag of “adventure capital of the world” isn’t just for show – there really are a myriad of ways to test your mettle in this little town. Pick from bungy jumping (numerous jump spots around town including the Kawarau Bridge Bungy and the 134-metre Nevis), jet boating, white-water rafting, river surfing, canyoning, paragliding and parachuting. In the winter months, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields offer great skiing and boarding.

Escape the hustle and bustle
If you feel the need for a few hours of peace and quiet, there are plenty of tranquil spots just a short distance away. Glenorchy, at the head of the lake, is a 40km scenic drive from Queenstown and the starting point for some glorious walks through the Rees and Dart River valleys.

Head a further 15km north-west and you’ll find Paradise – literally. It’s actually just a paddock but it’s still a picturesque spot and was used in The Lord of the Rings films.

The faithfully-restored gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown is also worth a visit. It’s especially beautiful in autumn.

Cycle rides
The Lakeside Trails run from Queenstown to Frankton or Kelvin Heights or Jacks Point. They offer easy riding and are completely off the road, making them a great option for families and beginners. Another relatively flat, easy ride is the Arrowtown to Queenstown Trail.

The Gibbston River Trail is an 8.7km loop that starts at Kawarau Bridge and then heads east along the Kawarau River. Along the way you’ll pass plenty of the region’s wineries, including Gibbston Valley Winery (home to an excellent restaurant). If you overdo it in the tasting shed, burn off the excess at Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort, also in the Gibbston region. It’s home to a 40km network of trails ranging from challenging downhills to kid-friendly routes.

Mountain biking
There are heaps of opportunities for mountain biking both in and around Queenstown. The Queenstown Mountain Bike Park is right in town and features heaps of flowing singletrack. It’s accessed by either the Skyline Gondola or an uphill ride (around 45 minutes). 6km out of town towards Glenorchy is 7-Mile Mountain Bike Reserve, which offers hours of challenging terrain.

Cross-country riding is also in abundance. Shorter trips include the Seven Mile Track and Moke Lake. Longer trails include the Moonlight Track, Skippers Canyon trails and the Macetown Track.

Refuel
For a fast feed head to Fergburger. What was once a tiny, hole-in-the-wall burger bar is now a world-famous joint on Shotover Street. The Cow is another long-standing Queenstown institution – great pizza, pasta and soups.

Apres-adventure
Queenstown in legendary for its nightlife and there are numerous bars and nightclubs to pick from. Located on the waterfront of Lake Wakatipu, Little Blackwood is a swish tapas bar and eatery – think roaring fires, beautiful wooden furniture and big mountain views. Or head to Rhino’s Ski Shack for hot buttered rum!

Lots of our guided cycle tours take in Queenstown. These include:

5 Day Guided MTB Tour Queenstown to Wanaka (MB021)
6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle (GR005)
6 Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Cycle (GR023)
7 Day Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Christchurch (GR012)
9 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown (GR008)
10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T2 (GR010)
10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T3 (GR013)

Tour dates for summer 2015/16 are now available for most of these tours. Email us for details.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Tom Hall


Now Booking: Once-In-A-Lifetime Guided Mountain Bike Tours of the Heaphy Track

guided heaphy tour Seeking a challenging, mountain bike adventure amidst epic scenery? Then come ride the Heaphy Track with us. This 80km, three-day route through the Kahurangi National Park in the northwest corner of the South Island is one of New Zealand’s finest multi-day mountain bike rides.

It’s no walk in the park – the riding is grade three to four, and suited to mountain bikers with at least intermediate experience. But if you’ve got a good level of fitness and you’re seeking a new challenge, this is a great way to push your riding to the max.

Plus, the scenery is jaw-dropping. This area of the West Coast is truly magical, consisting of dense beech forests, sub-tropical rainforests and white sandy beaches. You’ll get to experience this wilderness up close and personal during the ride and then from the air – this tour includes a return helicopter flight from Karamea to Nelson!

We’re currently taking bookings for guided tours between now and September 2015. So, grab a bunch of your riding pals and let’s book you in for an adrenaline-packed adventure! Email us to book your tour.

4-Day Heaphy Experience
Cost: $2090 per person.

Day 1: Nelson
Day 2: Nelson to Perry Saddle Hut. 17.5 kms (3-5 hours).
Day 3: Perry Saddle Hut to Heaphy Hut. 44.5 kms (6-8 hours).
Day 4: Heaphy Hut to Nelson. 16.2 kms (2-4 hours).

What’s Included:

  • Vehicle transport from Nelson to the start of the track, and return flight from Karamea to Nelson by helicopter. (In the rare case that it is not possible to fly, vehicle transport will be provided).
  • Professional and knowledgeable local guide/personal chef.
  • All necessary equipment carried by the guide; cooking equipment, utensils and food for the duration of your trip, bike spares and tools (if you are hiring one of our bikes), emergency communication equipment and comprehensive first aid kit.
  • Three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners, and snacks along the way.
  • One night in Nelson and two nights in bunk-style DOC (Department of Conservation) huts.
  • DOC fees.

 

Extras:

  • Bike hire: $350. We have the Avanti Torrent available for hire for this trip. This is a 140mm travel full-suspension mountain bike, available in S, M, L and fitted with freeload racks to carry your gear. If required we can also supply a 20L dry bag and helmet. Your guide will carry all repair gear specific for these bikes.
  • If you would like to bring your own bike, you can hire a freeload rack for $45. If you choose to bring your own bike, you’ll need to bring your own spares and be capable of keeping it running throughout your journey.
  • Single supplement (additional $100)

 

Please note: group size for this tour is limited to six riders to ensure a safe and personal experience, and riders are required to carry their own personal clothing and wet weather gear along the route. We’ll supply a concise gear list upon booking.

Ready to accept the challenge? Send us an email.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. Join our mailing list to get the inside track on cycling in New Zealand. We send out a weekly email packed full of riding ideas, destination guides and upcoming tours, plus our latest deals and specials. Sign up right here…



What You Need to Know About Night Riding

night ridingWhen the days are short and you work full-time, night riding is often the only way to get your full cycle fix for the week. Both Logan and Dan love getting out on their bikes at night. Here are a few handy hints if you fancy doing the same:

Essential Gear
Dan: Lights are an (obvious) essential, but the front light has to be good quality with a long bright beam, something around 500 lumens upwards is ideal. The best places for night riding often have no street lighting so you need something to show the way.

I also recommend (especially for mountain biking) a front light attached to your helmet so you can see around the corners before you get to them (as you naturally would in the daytime). So best case setup would be one light on the handlebars and one on the helmet.

Logan: MTB night riding is generally a winter thing, so dress right for the conditions – warm gear/jacket etc. Clear lens glasses can be a good idea to protect against kamikaze bugs flying at your lights.

Safety
Dan: I guess just be more alert than normal when riding on the road, make sure you can be seen by other vehicles and that your lights have enough battery to last the ride.

Logan: Ride with someone else and make sure you tell someone where you are going riding and when you expect to be back.

Best Spots Around Christchurch
Dan: The Port Hills are popular with road riders at night, but even more so with mountain bikers. Tracks like Rapaki and Bowenvale Traverse are very popular. It’s pretty cool looking back down when you reach the top, to see light trails all the way back down to the city! I also hear that McLeans Island and Bottle Lake are busy at night but I haven’t checked them out yet.

Best Spots Around Auckland
Logan: Wednesday night riding at Woodhill is super popular. You can hire lights if you’re trying it for the first time. The Runway MTB Park is a great spot for a quick night ride after work for people near the airport. Totara Park in Manukau is also a good track for night riding.

Want to up your mountain bike skills so you can head out after-dark with confidence? We offer a half-day of mountain bike skills training in either Christchurch and Auckland. For more info, or to book a session, drop us an email

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Phil and Pam Gladwell


Flashback to That Time We Took 30 Irish Rugby Fans Cycle Touring During the 2011 Rugby World Cup

custom cycle tours new zealandOne of the most memorable cycle tours we’ve organised was a 10-day tour of the South Island with 30 Irish rugby fans during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The tour was a fundraiser for the IRFU Charitable Trust which raises money for seriously-injured rugby players in Ireland.

After watching their team defeat Australia in Auckland (Ireland’s first ever win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup!) the group flew to Christchurch to start their (tough) journey to Dunedin: up Porters Pass, down the West Coast, over the Crown Range from Wanaka to Queenstown and then south to Dunedin in time to watch Ireland take on Italy at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

During our nine days in the saddle we experienced the full range of South Island weather: snow and icy temperatures on Porters Pass, blue skies and sunshine on the way to Haast, more snow on the Crown Range. Luckily we kept plenty of Guinness to hand! It was a lot of fun.
group cycle tours new zealandCustom tours are something we love running and we think we’re pretty good at them. Just recently we guided a group of friends along the Alps 2 Ocean trail and earlier in the year I led the Fireflies Antipodes Tour from Christchurch to Queenstown, which raises money for blood cancer research.

So, if you fancy riding in New Zealand with a group of friends, family members or colleagues – or you’re looking for a fun way to raise money for charity – drop us a line. We can help you put together a custom route that suits your riding preferences and abilities and we’ll take care of all the essential logistics, too (things like accommodation along the way, luggage transfer, bike hire and those all-important food stops).

Basically, we do the hard work (both before and during the tour) so all you have to do is focus on the riding. Email us to get the ball rolling.

Have a brilliant week (very cold here in NZ right now – if you’re a skier or a boarder this is your year!)
Andrew Hunt

P.S. We love organising short rides for work groups, Christmas functions and team building events, too. Shout out if that’s something we can help you with.


Get Your Camper Running: A Coromandel Road Trip Itinerary

coromandel road tripWith its beautiful beaches and fine coastal scenery, the Coromandel Peninsula is the perfect place to head with a campervan. Here are a few essential pit stops along the way:

The Coromandel Forest Park
This dense forest covers a huge area of the peninsula. The most popular part of the park is the Kauaeranga Valley, just out of Thames, where you’ll find DOC campsites and numerous walking tracks. To work up a sweat, tackle the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail – a three to four-hour hike to a jagged limestone outcrop known as the Pinnacles. Great views of the surrounding countryside from the top!

SH25
North of Thames, SH25 snakes its way along the coast, past pretty little bays and peaceful beaches. Stop for a picnic, a swim or to throw out a line – the fishing is excellent right along this coastline.

Coromandel Town
This sleepy little town wasn’t always so quiet – at the height of the gold rush the population swelled to over 10,000! Today it’s a good spot to stock up on supplies and wander the shops.

Driving Creek Railway and Potteries
Potter and railway enthusiast Barry Brickell originally built this narrow-gauge railway back in 1975 to transport clay, firewood, coal and other materials to his pottery studio and kilns. Over the years the tracks have expanded and today the railway is a popular tourist destination, taking visitors on a one-hour return trip through native kauri forest to a spectacular vantage point called the Eyeful Tower. Stick around for the video afterwards about Barry’s colourful life. You’ll find the railway a short drive from Coromandel Town.

Fletcher Bay
For complete isolation, point your camper north to beautiful Fletcher Bay. There’s a DOC campsite located right on the beach and it’s a great spot for swimming, boating, diving and fishing. Another excellent excursion is to mountain bike or walk the coastal path between Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay. It’s a 10km return walk or an 8km cycle. The biking is steep in places and only suitable for advanced riders and people with a good level of fitness. The pay off? Great views of the Coromandel coastline and offshore islands (Great Barrier Island, Cuvier and Mercury Islands).
Be aware: the road from Colville is unsealed and bumpy.

Whangapoua
The east coast of the Coromandel boasts the best of the beaches. From Whangapoua you can walk to the white sands and crystal-clear waters of New Chums Beach. With no vehicle access, it will feel like your own private paradise.

Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach
The complete opposite of New Chums Beach! These are both hugely-popular spots with tourists so expect a crowd. Cathedral Cove is only accessible at low tide – there’s a walking track from the car park or your can walk from Hahei Beach. Hot Water Beach is famous for its thermal waters. Come two hours either side of low tide and dig your own hot pool.

Worth knowing: Although it’s not particularly large, the narrow, winding roads of the Coromandel can take a surprisingly long time to navigate. And definitely avoid the Christmas and New Year period, when the whole of Auckland descends upon this picture-perfect paradise. (Summer weekends can also be busy – visit mid-week or out of season to experience the best of the Coromandel.)

Head here for campervan details:
http://www.naturalhigh.co.nz/campervan-rentals

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Why a Three-Week Bike Hire Turned into Ten (Despite An Unfortunate Incident on Day Two)

solo cycling in nzLotus is from Taiwan and she recently hired a bike from us to cycle around the South Island. Her trip didn’t start well…on her first day she rode down the motorway (illegal in New Zealand) and on her second day her bike blew into a lake! But it got better. So much better that she ended up cycling for over ten weeks! Here’s her story:

What were your favourite places and why?
My favourite cycle trail was the Tarnbrae Track (Lake Ohau) The view was so beautiful and the track is nice for the mountain bike.

My favourite road was State Highway 73 (which connects the East and West coasts via the Southern Alps). Although the Otira Gorge is difficult and dangerous, the view was amazing. The road is big and flat. It was safer for bikes. The downhill was nice, but it was a little dangerous because the wind was strong.

The most natural road was the West Coast. When I went to the West Coast by car I just saw many trees. On the bike, I could hear waterfalls and birds. I felt I rode in the forest, not a road.

What kind of weather did you experience?
Sunny, rainy, windy, snowy, hailstorms and an earthquake! The weather in New Zealand is variable. Because of that, I saw lots of different scenery. After rain, I would always see a beautiful rainbow.

Did you feel safe throughout your trip considering you were travelling alone?
New Zealand (especially the South Island) is a safe and nice place. I like to travel with the bike alone, because I ride slowly. I prefer alone – I can talk with myself and face myself and enjoy every moment and meet a lot of new friends.
cycling around new zealand

On my second day, my bike blew into the lake. A nice, older man carried me by car to the Holiday Park. The Duvauchelle Holiday Park manager gave me coins to wash and dry my clothes. I was deeply touched.

When I knew the water was salt, I worried about the bike. I thought I had to tell Natural High the truth and get them to check out the bike. Dan taught me how to change a flat tyre and gave me bicycle oil. And he told me, ”enjoy, have a good trip, and keep away from the wharf.” (Ha ha, he was really sweet.) I felt so warm, because he was like family, like a father.

In a café in Little River I met a French family: Papa, Mum and four children (ages 15,13,11,8). They had a plan to travel around the world by bike for one year. When I met them, they had travelled 6 months already. That day was rainy, windy and cold – a nice Kiwi woman invited us to stay at her house for one night. Then I joined the French family riding from Little River to Christchurch.french family cycling

On day 39 I arrived at Bluff. When I was on the road from the Catlins, I lost my heart and energy. I didn’t want to keep going and I worried about time and money. Then I decided to go to Stewart Island. I stayed three nights on Stewart Island. I didn’t want to talk with people – I just enjoyed the silence and nature and freedom. Then I met a Kiwi, who had ridden his bike from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island. I went to his concert and I liked his voice and his songs. That night I was really glad and happy.

So I travelled alone, but I was not alone on my way.

Lastly, did you enjoy it?
Yes, I really, really, really enjoyed it! During my journey, I discovered:
The most powerful thing is nature
The most beautiful scenery is people.
The things that bring me most happiness are warm showers and sleeping on a bed.
The most important thing to be is happy and safe.

I thank Natural High, because a good bike was very, very important in my journey. It was my best friend in my trip and I think it enjoyed every moment!

Thanks for sharing your story, Lotus. If you fancy doing something similar (minus the bike in the lake!) you can check out bike hire here.

Have a brilliant week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. Lotus’ route if you’re interested in knowing exactly where she went:
Christchurch-Akaroa-Christchurch-Rakaia-Ashburton-by car to Geraldine-Lake Tekapo-Glentanner-Mount Cook-Lake Ohau-Omarama-Kurow-Duntroon-Oamaru-Katiki-Warrington-Dunedin-Middlemarch-Ranfurly-Omakau-Alexandra-Clyde-Alexandra-Roxburgh-Beaumont-Lawrence-Tuapeka-Balcluthu-Catlins(Nugget Point)-Papatowai-Curio Bay-Slope Point-Invercargill-Bluff-Stewart Island-Bluff-Riverton-Te Anau-Mossburn-Queenstown-Arrowtown-Cardrona-Wanaka-Makarora-Haast-Lake Paringa-Fox Glacier-Franz Josef-Ross-Hokitika-Greymouth-Moana-Jacksons-Arthur’s Pass-Flock Hill-Christchurch.


Traditional Kiwi Tucker to Keep you Pedalling for Longer

classic kiwi tuckerFood never tastes better than after a few hours in the saddle. Here’s a selection of classic Kiwi fare that’ll help keep your motor running when you’re out on the road:

The humble pie
You’ll find this delicacy in any bakery in any town – they’re cheap, substantial and delicious. Popular fillings include steak and cheese, mince and cheese and bacon and egg. While you’re in the bakery, you may as well pick up a sweet treat for later. Lamingtons are a good choice. The Australians like to claim these coconut-covered square sponges as their own invention, but Auckland University reckons a collection of 19th-century watercolours by New Zealand landscape artist JR Smythe prove otherwise – the Lamington (originally called a Wellington) originated in New Zealand. Other confections worth a bite: ginger crunch, caramel slice or a freshly-made muffin.

A flat white
Not technically food but since caffeine is a must when you’re biking and Kiwis are serious about their coffee, the flat white deserves a mention. It consists of a shot (or two!) of espresso and steamed milk. If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like a latte, there are two crucial differences – flat whites have a more velvety texture and are served in a cup, not a glass!

Fresh seafood
You’ll find seafood on the menu just about everywhere. Look out for green lipped mussels in Marlborough, crayfish / lobster in Kaikoura, Akaroa salmon in Christchurch, whitebait fritters on the West Coast and Bluff oysters in Bluff. And you can’t beat a feed of fish and chips at the end of a big day in the saddle! Freshly caught snapper, terakihi and hoki are the most common types of fish used. Switch things up with a serving of kumara (sweet potato) fries.

A scoop of hokey pokey
Hokey pokey is the nation’s favourite ice-cream – it’s vanilla with pieces of honeycomb.

Hāngi
This is the traditional Maori method of cooking food. A deep hole is dug, lined with red-hot stones and covered with vegetation. The food – chicken, pork, lamb, potatoes, kumara and other vegetables – is placed on top, sprinkled with water and sealed with more vegetation. The hole is then filled with earth and left to steam for several hours, producing a meal with a rich, succulent flavour. You won’t find hāngi on the menu at regular cafes and restaurants but many tourism experiences offer a hāngi meal, especially in Rotorua.

If you’re a keen foodie, put the following on your agenda:

The Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika. Usually held in March.

The Great Taste Trail in the Nelson and Tasman region. Easy cycling with lots of great cafes, breweries and vineyards along the way.

Bluff Oyster and Food Festival. Held in Bluff every May.

Whitianga Scallop Festival. Every year in September.

A local farmer’s market. Always a great option for finding fresh, flavoursome and locally-produce


It’s Official: The Kiwi Night Sky Will Leave You Starry Eyed

starspotting in new zealandOne thing you must do when in New Zealand is venture outside after dark – our night skies are likely to be clearer and brighter than any you’ve ever seen before.

Little to no light pollution and crystal-clear air means a stunner of a night show just about anywhere in the country.

Not only are our night skies brighter, they’re also different. You’ll get to see features not usually seen in the northern hemisphere, like the Southern Cross and the Southern Celestial Pole, and if you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights.

Pretty much everywhere outside the main cities offers a spectacular night sky, but for truly first-rate viewing head to the Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie region.

The Mackenzie Basin is the southern hemisphere’s first dark sky reserve, in recognition of its almost light-pollution-free skies. The reserve includes Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.

Tekapo has just been ranked the second best spot in the world for stargazing (behind San Pedro de Atacama in Chile) by reservation website Booking.com. The village has two observatories – Mount John University Observatory and Cowan’s Observatory – which run popular twilight tours.

In Twizel, Star Gazing Tours run guided tours of the night sky at private, out-of-town locations.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail runs right through the Mackenzie region – combine days in the saddle with starry-night skies! Read Rachel Lamb’s blog of her recent Natural High Alps 2 Ocean tour, here:
http://sungrl18.com

If you’re travelling around New Zealand at the start of winter, you might notice talk of Matariki.

Matariki is the Māori name for the small cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation that rise during the New Zealand winter. Matariki is an important time in the Māori calendar – it signals the start of the Māori New Year and was once an important indicator of forthcoming weather.

Matariki celebrations take place around the country. In Wellington, Te Papa have events running from 13 June to 12 July.

Image: Tom Hall