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The Globe and Mail

While Canada Gets Ready For Deep Freeze New Zealand Begins Warm Weather Fun

Rotorua is a volcanic and geothermic wonderland and the heart place of Maori culture. Rotorua is located south of the Bay of Plenty on the North Island.

Image courtesy of Sandra Hanson

It's inevitable. Whether we like it or not, winter is on its way, but fortunately, there is an alluring alternative. In New Zealand, summer fun is about to begin.

Natural world

Everybody loves penguins - seems like just about every animated and documentary movie made over the last decade has starred the charismatic waddlers. Luckily, in New Zealand it's easy to see the real thing, especially the 'Little Blue' penguin who take constitutional evening strolls along the Marlborough Sounds.

For a slightly bigger species, head to Kaikoura, a seaside town on the South Island. It is the whale watching capital of New Zealand and just a few kilometres off the local harbor is a pod of Sperm whales. One of the largest mammals on the planet - they grow to more than 15 metres - the gargantuan ones dive deep into the underwater canyons. From December to March, the waters off Kaikoura are also home to killer whales.

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Visitors who want to get even closer to their ocean cousins will want to try Dolphin Discoveries, in the Bay of Islands where guests can actually swim in the wild with man's favourite underwater friend.

Swing Time

Golf is big in New Zealand. There are more than 400 courses sprinkled across the country including two classics that are ranked in the top 100 in the world. The sister courses of Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers are both owned by Julian Robertson, an American billionaire who made his big bucks in hedge funds. Robertson's love affair with New Zealand first began 30 years ago and he scouted the country for decades, searching for the perfect landscape for golf. Kauri Cliffs teeters on the very edge of the Pacific, stretching out above the Bay of Islands. Cape Kidnappers on Hawke's Bay also rises high above the Pacific, with fairways that curl across ridges that jut deep into the ocean. Both courses are part of luxury resorts that include lodges and cottages. According to Travel and Leisure Magazine, they are the two top ranked resorts in Oceania. ( For golfers looking for the ultimate daily double, there is a helicopter service that will take players from Cape Kidnappers to Kauri Cliffs so you can play both courses in a single day.)

Take Your Pick

In New Zealand, there is never a problem with finding something active to do - the Kiwis are probably the most athletic people on earth. No, the problem comes when you try to narrow down the list and category. In the air, there is gliding, sky diving, hot air ballooning and bungy jumping. (The world's very first commercial bungy jumping operation started in the early 1980's off a bridge in Queenstown.) On the ground, you can try off-road driving, rock climbing, mountain biking and cycling, caving, horse treks and orienteering. On the water there is sea or fresh water kayaking, sailing, deep sea diving or snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and fishing - everything from chinook salmon which run from November to March to the majestic marlins who congregate off the east coast. And last but not least, jet boating, which naturally enough was invented by a New Zealander.

After all that running, jumping and jetting, try soaking your weary joints in one of the country's miraculous hot mineral pools. The best can be found around Rotorua and Waiwera in the North Island and Hamner Springs in the South Island.

Local Culture

More than 700 years ago, the Maori left East Polynesia and began an adventurous migration, crossing the vast Pacific in ocean-going canoes until finally reaching the shores of New Zealand. Over the centuries, they have developed a fascinating culture, especially in the arts. Make time to visit the Te Puia New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute in Hemo Gorge. Visitors will experience traditional Maori songs and dance, including the ferocious haka, which as all rugby fans know, is the trade mark of the invincible All Blacks.

Concierge Service

With Air New Zealand's unique Concierge Service, passengers on international flights can get help with everything from booking tee times to planning kayaking trips. A member of the Star Alliance, Air New Zealand features non-stop, overnight flights from Vancouver to Auckland.

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