New Zealand's capital and cultural hub, Wellington, is often overlooked by visitors but this bustling little harbour city has much to offer. Parliament House, the Botanical Gardens, Lambton Quay and the Te Papa museum are all here along with more cafés, bars and restaurants per capita than New York. My ideal Wellington day would start with brunch at the Maranui Cafe before catching the ferry to Matiu Somes Island, a predator-free nature reserve, to spot the kakapo (New Zealand parakeet). Afterwards I would watch the Wellington Firebirds from the grass banks of the Basin Reserve Cricket Ground before dinner and cocktails at the Matterhorn, another Wellington institution.
I started my love affair with New Zealand by accident. A chance encounter with a prospective employer during a university placement meeting spiralled into a whirlwind move across the world. One year of adjustment working in a Wellington hotel and I was in love with the Land of the Long White Cloud. Dramatic landscapes, craft beers and the laid-back but adventurous Kiwi nature resonated with my own personality and I quickly planned a return trip. I would spend the next five years living in New Zealand and Australia, seizing any opportunity away from assisting my hotel guests to tour new regions and revisit those I had grown to love.
Since I was old enough to find them on a globe the isolated lands of the Pacific have fascinated me. They remain in beautiful isolation and while the landscapes of the Fijian Islands initially drew me in, their beauty was soon surpassed by the genuine warmth of its people. Twelve time zones away, Fijian's know that only Fiji time matters, so don't fight it and you'll leave feeling as re-energised as their Sevens rugby team.
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Two long-haul flights brought me to the ‘big’ island of Viti Levu. A tiny 15-seater domestic flight then brought me to the island of Taveuni. A 4WD took the only gravel road to the jetty, where a little outboard motorboat took me over the ocean to the island. Getting to Matangi is not a quick process, however this may be what makes it more special.
Secluded, sustainable and beautiful, this is a different side of Fiji many don’t see. Run by the same family for generations and employing the same staff for decades it feels so authentic. I think it allows visitors to immerse themselves in traditional Fijian culture as well as enjoying beautiful beaches, incredible snorkelling and informative short hikes. My day here consisted of snorkelling with reef sharks, paddle boarding Horseshoe Bay, and learning how to whip up Kokoda — a local delicacy.
I'll never forget when…
Completing the Routeburn Track, my first Great Walk in New Zealand, was an enlightening experience. The route takes you across the Southern Alps and the sense of peace and tranquillity when I arrived at Lake Mackenzie for our overnight stay is hard to describe. With no roads nearby or electricity to power distracting devices, it was an opportunity to tune in with nature as I dipped my weary toes in the freezing glacial lake. We woke early and set off to cross the Harris Saddle, the highest point on the hike, and were treated to the sight of a flock of mohua (yellowhead) swooping above our heads.