New Zealand’s green and friendly isles, situated in the vast South Pacific Ocean, are ranked among the world’s most popular holiday destinations.
The track winds through a 'moonscape' of bizarre lava sculptures and up onto the shoulder of a towering volcanic cone, draped with a skirt of shifting cinders. Onward it goes, past red cliffs, active geothermal areas, silent emerald and blue lakes.
The Waimangu Cauldron steams away at a seething 53° Centigrade as you stroll downhill past Frying Pan Lake, the world's largest hot spring. Nearby is Inferno Crater, an inverted cone with strangely fluctuating water levels and a swirling head of steam.
The ridge-top road winds its undulating way through a patchwork of paddocks and a sparse human population. Otago Harbour is a long ribbon of silky-smooth water far below and Dunedin City, the 'Edinburgh of the South' nestles in its green belt against a dramatic backdrop of forested hills.
Travel anywhere in the Taranaki region and you will have the constant presence of this striking, dormant, strato-volcano (also known as Mt Egmont). From most scenic viewpoints the old volcano appears as a perfectly symmetrical cone, tapering to a 2,518 metre summit in the classic style of Japan's Mt Fuji.
The tour coach zig-zags down into the depths of the Cleddau Canyon and turns under a dense canopy of rainforest into the village at the head of the sound. Across the silky-black waters, a sharp-edged pyramid of rock rises abruptly out of the depths and soars 1,700 metres to a conical peak that appears to pierce the sky.
Ease your kayak around a bushclad headland and drift silently under overhanging branches into a secret cove. The dark green foliage of the forest is reflected in the calm, clear water, and streaks of sunlight seem to dance over the ripples from your wake.
A gigantic arched cavern separates your luxurious beach from Mare's Leg Cove. Through the yawning cavern are views of lush native forest on the Whitianga shoreline. Offshore is a pristine marine reserve, alive with many species of sea life.