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Pure and simple


New Zealand's rugged coastline is dotted with remote islands, from steaming volcanoes to subtropical forests and secluded bays, with accommodation to suit every budget

Best for families


Arapawa Island, situated in beautiful Marlborough Sounds, is only accessible by boat. Life here is simple. The locals farm rare breed sheep and goats, build boats and cultivate pearls. Activities include splashing around on the white sand beach, hiking and biking, sea kayaking, riding and boat trips to explore the Sounds.


STAY: Arapawa Homestead offers a main building sleeping 10, furnished in its original 1940s style (when it was built as a couple's retirement home), a cottage for six and a simple hut (the former woolshed) for three, so is ideal for family groups. Because the self-catering homestead is so remote, you have to order supplies in advance, which come by boat from the mainland, making a holiday here a real adventure. The owners farm Paua Pearls, also known as 'blue' or 'abalone' pearls, considered some of the rarest and most lustrous cultured pearls in the world, and will take guests on a tour of the pearl farm for a small fee;


Best for culture


Originally settled by early migrations of Maori people and then purchased as a private residence by Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand's first governors, Kawau Island offers unusual history as well as fishing, swimming and boating. Take a ferry or water taxi from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth, an hour and a half outside Auckland. A major feature of the island is the historical, stately Mansion House that stands alone in a secluded bay with an extensive garden containing exotic plants and animals from all over the world, among them wallabies and peacocks. From the mansion, visitors can head to the walking tracks leading through the regenerating native forest to beaches, Maori pa sites (ancient fortified settlements) and old copper mines.


STAY: Situated in the peaceful North Cove on Kawau Island, Kawau Lodge has romantic suites, each with a private deck overlooking the ocean and surrounding bush area;


Best for wildlife


Some 85% of sub-Antarctic Stewart Island, which lies 30km south of the South Island, falls within the boundaries of Rakiura National Park. Highlights here include nocturnal bird life and the calls of ruru, weka and kiwis by night and listening to red-crowned parakeets, bush parrots and Stewart Island robins by day. Hikers can explore miles of walking tracks, all of which can be accessed from the town of Oban, from short strolls to the ambitious three-day 'Great Walks' hike. Just off the west coast is Ulva Island, the home to Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve. Here, there are 56 species of marine fish to admire, including kina, sea cucumber, starfish, kelp species and brachiopods, on diving trips and sea kayak safaris.


STAY: Overlooking the harbour of Paterson Inlet, Observation Rock Lodge on Stewart Island is a new, boutique lodge offering secluded gardens, untouched native forests and panoramic ocean and mountain views. There's an outdoor hot tub and a bush sauna, too;


Best for wine lovers


Located just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is New Zealand's answer to The Hamptons, with forests, olive groves, vineyards, locally-produced food, stunning white sandy beaches, an eclectic arts scene and a growing crop of quirky boutique lodges. Drop in at the various wineries for tastings and fine dining, hike, bike and browse the galleries for art.


STAY: Located in the heart of Oneroa Village on Waiheke Island, The Oyster Inn is a renowned seafood restaurant, hip bar, beach shop and three boutique guestrooms, all rolled into one. Founded by designer Jonathan Rutherfurd Best and former fashion PR for Louis Vuitton and Topshop Andrew Glenn, The Oyster Inn comes equipped with a vintage VW campervan for excursions and a Fish & Chippery window for gourmet takeaways;


Best for eco-friendliness


Only 30 minutes' flight from Auckland, Great Barrier Island in Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is another world; subtropical virgin forest and open wilderness in the interior, and a necklace of white beaches around the coast. Fishing, surfing lessons, hiking to the summit of Mount Hobson and wallowing in the Kaitoke Hot Springs are all options. A lack of predators means that all sorts of rare birds thrive here, while the deep, clear Pacific waters attract whales, dolphins, manta ray and turtles.


STAY: Earthsong Lodge is surrounded by forest, set in the hills and looking out to sea. There's a strong emphasis on using natural materials and the adobe-clad walls are actually built from heat-insulating straw bales. The owners have planted more than 300 trees, while six acres of land around the lodge is dedicated to conserving native forest. The lodge uses mainly solar power, grows much of its own organic produce and sources more from surrounding producers; it's a member of the global Slow Food Movement that promotes fresh, locally produced, quality cuisine;


Best for Kiwi spotting


Kapiti Island is a 2,000-hectare nature reserve and its protected waters are home to abundant marine life. Located 50km north of Wellington on the west coast, the island is restricted to just 100 visitors per day, who arrive on the ferry from Paraparaumu Beach. Spotting a kiwi in its natural habitat is a treat; the bird is extinct on the mainland but there are more than 1,200 Little Spotted Kiwi Birds on the island, as well as other endangered species including Blue Penguins and Royal Spoonbills. For those who want a little more adventure, kayaking, snorkelling and walking trails to the highest point, Rangatira Landing, are also available.


STAY: Kapiti Nature Lodge at Waiorua Bay is the only accommodation on the Island and offers bird and history tours, traditional harakeke-flax weaving, seal watching and seafood gathering;


Best for indulgence


Whether it's sand dune surfing in Cape Reinga, a cruise to the noted 'Hole in the Rock', a day at the beach in Paihia or a boat ride around Tapeka Point to spot wild dolphins, whales and marlin, the Bay of Islands, just three hours' drive north of Auckland, has endless diversions.


STAY: Eagles Nest offers luxury villas on a 75-acre private estate on a cliff top in Russell. Choose from one of the five villas, including Sacred Space, First Light Temple, Eagle Spirit, The Eyrie or the Rahimoana Villa and enjoy the infinity and outdoor spa. You might want to split the cost with friends, though; villas start from £5,270 per night;


Best for adventure


Take a walk on the wild side and head to New Zealand's only active marine volcano, White Island, a giant, barren moonscape streaked with red iron oxides and vivid sulphur whites and yellows. White Island is located 48km off the shores of Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, just 100km from Rotorua in the North Island. Arrive in style on a flight with White Island Flights (, flying over farmland, white sand beaches and scattered islands, landing right on the volcano. Or take a 90-minute boat cruise that ends with a two-hour walking tour past steaming fissures, bubbling pools and roaring gas fumaroles.


STAY: White Island Rendezvous provides a variety of accommodation to fit all styles, from backpackers to luxury, and is just walking distance to the departure point for White Island tours;


Best for relaxation


Motiti Island, just 10 minutes' flight from Tauranga in the North Island, has a population of just 40. The island is a paradise for diving, fishing, swimming and snorkelling, or just flopping on peaceful beaches. Fancy a seafood dinner? At the right time of year, divers can collect crayfish and scallops while fishermen bring in snapper, kingfish, terakihi and blue mao mao and cook them right on the beach.


STAY: Situated on the mainland, Tauranga Lodge is a luxury B&B in a private setting with views over Tauranga City, Mt. Maunganui and Motiti Island.

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