by Diane Covington
hat could be more romantic that to have a taste of summer right in the middle of winter? And on top of that, to have a sweetheart waiting in flipflops and sunglasses to welcome me to it? My partner, who lives in New Zealand part time, was promising walks on deserted beaches and swims in the clear, clean ocean. So on a dreary February day, with a small bag packed with bathing suits and tank tops, I boarded Air New Zealand for the twelvehour flight to Auckland.
With glaciers, mountain lakes, and beaches, New Zealand is an outdoor persons paradise.
I landed at 5 am, local time, but smiling Air New Zealand staff greeted me at baggage claim and helped me find my bags, then check them again to Nelson, my final destination.
On the short hop to Nelson, at the northern end of the south island, the small plane allowed clear views of the green islands below, and so much water.
The Nelson airport felt relaxed and welcoming. The outside air was soft and warm. I had been transported to summer and into welcoming arms. What a thrill.
The sunny days unwound, full of the promised beaches, sips of local wines, and tastes of local produce and fresh seafood.
With glaciers, mountain lakes, and beaches, New Zealand is an outdoor persons paradise. Liability insurance is not required in the country, so bungee jumping, river rafting, canyoning if it is an adventure, you can find it.
Van camping is popular in New Zealand a fun and convenient way to sample its myriad natural wonders. My partner has a van so we took off on numerous small trips, using his home near Nelson as a base. (Escape Rentals has unique and colorful hand-painted vans, fully equipped and reasonably priced. Camper Travel also offers a variety of options.)
We camped at Abel Tasman National Park on the ocean and then headed up into the mountains to the small village of St. Arnaud, right on the shore of sparkling Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park. So many choices of outdoor fun: kayaking, windsurfing, water-skiing, canoeing, hiking and swimming. Or fly-fishing in the nearby rivers.
To take a break from camping, we stayed at the Alpine Lodge, a five-minute walk from the lake. We loved being outside and active all day, then coming back to our clean and comfortable room, showering and enjoying a gourmet dinner at the lodge. Our two-story studio with a view of the creek felt cozy and romantic during our three-day stay.
We discovered that New Zealand may be just two tiny islands, but it offers big magic. And lots of romance.
New Zealand information: www.newzealand.com
Alpine Lodge: www.alpinelodge.co.nz
Escape Rentals: www.escaperentals.co.nz.
Camper Travel: www.campertravel.co.nz.
Air New Zealand: www.airnewzealand.com
Diane Covington is a Nevada City, CA-based writer.
Tasman National Park
Diane Covington photo
Lake Rotoiti Nelson Lakes National Park
Diane Covington photo