New Zealand Main

New_Zealand08_main_03.jpg

New Zealand, if you didn't know, is actually two islands. Generally speaking, the North Island equals beaches, and the South Island equals mountains. There is, as you might guess, a bit more to it than that, but the formula does reflect the great Down Under passion for the outdoors.

The unmatched scenery includes rain forests and glaciers, rivers and lakes loaded with trophy trout, alpine mountains with superb skiing, and the kind of hiking found on the Milford Track, touted as "the finest walk in the world." Yes, these Kiwis are an active bunch: They invented bungy jumping, believe there is no friendlier game than rugby (the national sport), and just may be the world's most enthusiastic sailors. If you like cultural insights with your great outdoors, consider that New Zealand's 3.8 million inhabitants (outnumbered, it must duti- fully be noted, by some 60 million sheep -- give or take 10 million or so) not only celebrate a Maori artistic heritage that dates back centuries, but have also produced world-renowned opera singers (Kiri Te Kanawa), filmmakers (Jane Campion, who directed The Piano), and top-drawer wines, including some of the world's pre- mium sauvignon blancs. In short, it's a country for all seasons -- especially when you consider that in December it's summer Down Under.

Why here? There are clear, clean waters, fjords and coves along the Marlborough Sounds' 930 miles of coastline. Then, there are the 106 wineries and 600 mussel farms. Why now? Suffer, if you will, the drudgery of winter. But in New Zealand, it's summertime, so break out the Sauvignon Blanc and mussels and have yourself a picnic on the deck of a boat or in a vineyard overlooking the tran- quil countryside. marlboroughtravel.co.nz