Take to the clouds: New Zealand is once again open to the world
With less than a month to go, start practising your “kia ora” greetings.
Sweeping vistas, Insta-genic spots, and home to Middle Earth – New Zealand and all that it’s known for was the stuff of fantasy for well over two years, thanks to pandemic restrictions. But come May 2, the Land of the Long White Cloud will once again be open to visitors from countries with visa waivers including Singapore. New Zealand is prepared to offer its own personable brand of hospitality and quarantine-free travel.
Boasting a fascinating blend of the old world and new – where beloved Māori culture sits right next to craft beers and wines – New Zealand’s scale easily moves everything into the realm of epic. It’s small wonder then that local Singaporean personalities didn’t find it hard to recall and share their most vivid #NZMemories when asked.
LISTEN IN ON NATURE
For former actress and DJ Jamie Yeo, some of her best memories are of the South Island of New Zealand, which she visited with her husband four years ago.
With the majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook, street art trails in Christchurch, Larnach Castle (the country’s only one) and mythical fjord Milford Sound/Piopiotahi as its key attractions, a visit to the south is as transformative as it gets. Cinematic scenes of fjords and the glaciers that carved them sit next to sprawling forests, mountains and lakes – resulting in a visual treat that is pure therapy.
Yeo, who will no doubt be one of those in line to re-visit New Zealand, shared: “What I look forward to most again is sitting with a cup of tea looking out at Mother Nature at her most majestic, and feeling peace!”
Picking up the pace is multi-hyphenate Rosalyn Lee. She opted to put her first pair of hiking shoes to the test in 2017 with a visit to Hooker Glacier at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Though smaller than its neighbouring Tasman Glacier, Lee picked Hooker Glacier for its surreal scenes of icebergs drifting on the still lake. The former radio DJ was floored by the sight, which resembled a “diamond-crusted beach”.
Those hoping to do the same trek will be treated to three hours of flowing mountain ranges, alpine streams, open valleys and three swinging bridges. This easy walk is especially rewarding for its prize – a finish of icebergs, lakes and the imposing presence of New Zealand’s tallest mountain stark against the azure sky.
Maybe heart-racing adventures are more likely to leave an impression on you. If so, start ticking off your bucket list at some of the world’s most spectacular locales.
Christabel Chua’s fondest memory of New Zealand clocks in at a tremendous 16,000ft off the ground. She picked one of the smallest national parks at Abel Tasman to skydive at in 2020 and what she remembers seeing were the green quilted landscapes of the region, along with scenes of both North and South islands and an endless palette of blue.
She was not alone either. Xenia Tan, her fellow host and influencer, also made the leap of faith but was apparently so nervous that she misspelled “Singapore” while filling out her pre-jump forms.
Even if one chooses to opt out of a jump, scenic flights in New Zealand can still make your heart flutter. From the contrasting landscape of the volcanic wonderland that is Ruapehu to the glittering turquoise tributaries that form Wanaka Lake, flightseeing is just another way to take your breath away. There’s even hot-air ballooning over flatter regions, offering you scene-stealing moments of coastal charm in Wairarapa, or terrific sights of the rolling Te Mata Peak overlooking orchards and vineyards.
New mother and co-founder of local lifestyle brand The Paper Bunny, Jaime Lee prides herself on being quite the adrenaline junkie, so when she visited New Zealand in 2020, it wasn’t surprising she took it upon herself to try out one of the country’s most popular activities – the bungee jump.
Off a tower or a bridge, over a lake or a canyon – the choice is yours. For Lee, she took the plunge off Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, which also has the distinct honour of being the world’s first bungee site. The experience, according to Lee, was truly next-level. The bungee’s operators AJ Hackett (yes, like the one in Sentosa) also offers a clever mix of scenic and scary, offering ziplines, catapults and even swings across some of New Zealand’s most spectacular destinations.
WHERE MAGIC IS REAL
Whether you’re a Tolkien aficionado or a Sir Peter Jackson convert, The Lord of the Rings will stand as one of the most legendary fantasy worlds created. An epic tale of this calibre found only one place to call home when presented on the big screen – New Zealand.
For ardent fan Jade Seah, stepping into Hobbiton with her husband in 2017 became one of her most cherished highlights. The films’ set has been tended to lovingly and transformed into an immersive experience by the tour operators. Looking across the 1,250-acre sheep farm set against the Kaimai Range of Waikato, there’s no doubt that really is the Shire.
One of Seah’s most memorable moments was when she was allowed to roam the set at night, lit only by the glow of lanterns as if she was looking for Frodo and his friends. Other Hobbit-like activities that you can partake in include a meal at the newest addition to the set, the Millhouse. For those seeking out other filming locations, try driving to Fiordland (Fangorn Forest, River Anduin), Southern Lakes (Lothlorien), Canterbury (Edoras) or even Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom).
From literature to culture, Seah also enjoyed a special meeting with the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand. Entering the homes of the Tuhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people in Whakarewarewa Village, she quickly realised that it was no mere tourist destination. Seah found herself steeped in authentic encounters with the locals and learned more about the deep-rooted respect for Mother Nature and her lands – a sentiment that is now finally growing in modern society. With Matariki, or the Māori New Year, coming up in June, there’s no better time to allow yourself a chance to experience this rich heritage.
It’s where you’ll also enjoy the welcome and hospitality that is manaakitanga – the welcoming embrace of all that is New Zealand.
Start making your #NZMemories with inspiration from newzealand.com