Winter Vacation Destinations: New Zealand

There I was, sitting in my office, gazing through the window at the falling snow, daydreaming of warmer days. Ever so slowly, an idea began to take form.

Why not leave the cold, dreary winter behind, and head for warmer climes. But where would I go? The southern hemisphere seemed a good option, but I immediately realized that I had to narrow it down a bit, or I might have a problem getting an airplane ticket. A quick internet airline check and I reached a brilliant decision.

I called my wife and told her to pack us a couple of bags and to meet me at the airport. She's used to my antics, but this seemed a bit more spontaneous than usual.

" Where are we going?" she asked.

"To the jewel of the South Pacific" was my reply. No need to elaborate. Everybody knows that New Zealand is the jewel of the South Pacific.

Just about 15 hours later, our Singapore Airlines 747 touched down in Christchurch, a beautiful garden city seemingly transported directly from England.

Customs was a breeze (make sure you don't have any fruit or other foodstuffs with you or you're liable for a steep fine), and we headed directly to the Maui campervan (that's what they call RVs down here) depot. After a brief and friendly introduction to the vehicle and the city, a quick and delicious cappuccino in one of the city's vibrant cafes, we were ready to hit the road.

New Zealand is a land of contrasts. From modern, dynamic, sophisticated cities to pristine natural wonders, New Zealand is above all a land of tranquility and beauty. This South pacific island paradise is also every RVer's dream destination. All your RVing needs are well catered for - take note, though, New Zealand follows the great British tradition (remember, independence was only in 1907, even though H.R.H. Elizabeth II is still head of state) and so New Zealanders still drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. This can be a bit of a traumatic experience, but luckily it only takes a day or so of driving to get used to it.

Few places on earth can rival the natural splendors of New Zealand. Packed into an area about the size of Great Britain or Colorado, the unpolluted air, the clear, pristine pools and streams, the natural wonders and the myriad of outdoor and sporting activities make it the ideal vacation destination. Especially at this time of year, as the freezing winter of North America and Europe becomes a distant memory in this (mostly) sun basked paradise of the southern hemisphere.

The majority of the New Zealand population is of English, Irish and Scottish descent, so the main spoken language in the country is English - although their accent may take a bit of getting used to. Approximately 15% of the population is of Polynesian descent, mainly originating from the Maori, who reached New Zealand about the year 800 A.D. Both English and Maori are official languages of New Zealand. Formerly a British colony, New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907.

Since the mid 1980s, New Zealand has been transformed from an agrarian economy dependent almost completely on the British market to a more industrialized, free market economy capable of competing globally. New Zealand is a classic vacation destination for all tastes. From ultra- sophisticated, luxurious vacations to great back-packing holidays, and anything in-between, New Zealand has it all. Based on their simplicity of style, casual elegance and unbeatable reliability, New Zealanders have mastered the art of meeting the varied demands of travelers, ensuring you nothing less than a wonderful vacation.

The two main islands that make up New Zealand are remarkably different, despite their close proximity. The South Island's main geophysical feature is the Southern Alpine Mountain Range that runs down the length of the Island. This range gives the South Island its diversity. The northern part of the South Island is the sunniest part of New Zealand, while the west is probably one of the wettest locations in the world. The east is very similar to the English countryside and the center of the island is mountainous and perennially snow capped. The small city of Queenstown that lies to the south of South Island is New Zealand's second most popular tourist destination. This town is the main location for skiing and other action adventures such as Bungee Jumping and Jet boating. The city is also very close to the popular Milford and Routeburn hiking trails, as well as to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, two majestic fiords that offer absolutely stunning scenery - one of the main reasons that many people visit New Zealand, and definitely shouldn't be missed.

The North Island, only a short ferry ride away, has a warmer climate and also all of the country's volcanoes. Most of the thermal activity, such as geysers, thermal rivers and boiling mud pools, are located on North Island as well.

New Zealand's North Island is characterized not only by the geothermal activities, but also by its many fine beaches, which only get better the further north you go. The regular rainfall and volcanic soil ensure that North Island is very green and lush. One of the North Island's highlights is the city of Napier, an entire town designed in the Art Deco architectural style of the 1920s and 30s. The city was destroyed in a severe earthquake in 1931, and completely rebuilt in the Art Deco style.

Nowhere else in the world can you see such a variety of buildings in this classical style in such a concentrated area. Napier's Art Deco is unique, due to its Maori motifs and the buildings of Louis Hay, a renowned admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright.

Enhanced by palms and the angular Norfolk Island pines which are its trademark, and bounded by fertile fruit and grape growing plains, dramatic hills and the shores of the South Pacific, beautiful Napier is the center of the Hawke's Bay region.

No article on New Zealand can be complete without a few words describing its well known trademark - New Zealand sheep, which you see just about everywhere you go.

New Zealand is home to some 45 million sheep, which outnumber the human population by a factor of 11 to 1. Considered the finest wool producer in the world, New Zealand's wool output is second only to that of Australia. But visitors to this wondrous, beautiful country be warned - two weeks just won't cut it. While the country is not much larger than the state of Colorado, if you want to justify your flight time make the most of your visit, a month would just about do it. Six weeks is much better, though. And the best way to do it is by campervan - to get right uo to the grass roots, so to speak.

So, if you have a month or more to spare, and love absolutely jaw-dropping scenic vistas, then New Zealand is the place for you. So don't procrastinate - get out there now. Remember, it's nice and warm down under at this time of the year.by Dan Rosen

HERE WE GO........

From epic skyscrapers to electrically charged ambience, initial experience of New York City can leave you utterly overwhelmed. Romance radiates from every street corner as film sets burst into life. New York is the city of the future.
Originally named New Amsterdam by Dutch colonists, it wasn’t until British occupation in 1664 it became recognized as present day New York. The creation of the Erie Canal in 1825 was the mechanism for trade and industrial growth that bought about the thriving city of today.
For visitors travelling via boat, opening port of call is the majestic Statue of Liberty. This illustrious emblem of the American Dream was designed by Gustave Eiffel – he of Eiffel Tower notoriety – and erected in 1886. For security purposes the Statue no longer offers public admission, however access to Liberty Island is still permitted, providing an exceptional picture of the elegant lady.
Opposite the Statue rests Ellis Island, an immigration station until the midpoint of last century. Formerly used by the English for disciplining buccaneers, Ellis Island supervised the influx of millions of European immigrants during the first half of the twentieth-century. The museum – open daily with free admission – is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
Straddling East River, Brooklyn Bridge is recognizable to anyone who has been to the movies. Affording some of the most breathtaking sights of Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge was constructed in 1883, and at time of completion was the worlds biggest suspension bridge and earliest to utilize steel cables.
Off 42nd Street sits the vast, cathedral-like Grand Central Station. At one hundred and fifty feet tall, the stylishly decorated starry sky ceiling is a magnificent spectacle to behold. You may explore the station yourself, however best alternative is to seize advantage of the frequent free tours. If seafood is your thing, the Oyster Bar is a must, offering exceptional cuisine and a cool view.
In the heart of Manhattan lies Central Park, providing immense contrast to demanding urban life. Conceived in 1876, a recreational area was developed to afford the citizens a respite from modern living. By now New York was a flourishing town and authorities felt individuals required a contrast to bricks and mortar. Central Park Zoo is continually popular, as is the Wollman Rink, a delight in winter. Shakespeare in the Park – an admirable production – is located at the Delacorte Theatre and is free, however obtain your tickets in advance.


New York has just been ranked as the safest of America’s ten biggest cities in 2005, where, according to the FBI, about one crime was reported for every 37 people. This is the second year in a row that New York has been named America’s safest big city. How scary is that? While Mayor Michael Bloomberg was quick to say the report ''shows that our innovative efforts to reduce crime and increase New Yorkers' quality of life are working,'' the bigger question is, just what is going on in our other nine biggest cities? Easygoing murder? Robbery as a workaday job? Really bad in and out of marriage spats? And guess what city among the leading offenders has the highest crime rate? You guessed it: the apparently unruly metropolis of Dallas, where the FBI checks in with about one crime for every 12 people. One in 12 people is involved in a crime within the space of a year? Does that make you scared to go to the mall or what? Just in case you thought you were living in a city that’s safer than New York, here’s the spooky rundown: San Jose came in second safest. LA came in at number three. San Diego was fourth. Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix followed in that order. Now, here’s the kicker. On a national basis, violent crime went up by 2.3% last year, but in Gotham violent crimes – including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – fell by 1.9%. So, in case you’re paranoid about living in a big city, head for New York, where you can feel safer than ever. Just don’t do two things: Do not, whatever you do, go for a run in Central Park after dark. You can’t run fast enough. And at night stay on the avenues as much as possible and, whatever you do, don’t enter dark tunnels or side streets that give you the creeps just looking at them. You don’t want to ruin New York’s safest-city reputation, do you?