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Must-see places to visit

From the shimmering blue waters of Bay of Islands and Coromandel in the north, down through the verdant hills of Waikato and Rotorua’s geothermal volcanic marvels, via the fragrant pine-clad hills and rolling vineyards of Hawke’s Bay.

On to the semi-tropical golden beaches of Abel Tasman, past the stark beauty of glaciers as old as time, on to the soaring snow-capped Alpine peaks dotted with stunning turquoise lakes and adjacent to lush rain forest and mighty fjords linked by tumbling rivers.

Around 180 million years ago New Zealand broke away from a gigantic landmass called Gondwana and drifted 3,000 km south. Polynesians arrived here in the 1300s, naming it Aotearoa - ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.

Dutchman Abel Tasman turned up in 1642, followed by Captain Cook a century later after which European colonisation accelerated. New Zealand was confirmed as a British colony in 1840 and an independent nation in 1947.

New Zealand may be larger than the UK but it has a population of just 4 million and of those only a quarter live in the south island. Consequently it is an open, uncrowded place, ideal for easy going driving amid stunning scenery with activities and sensational views at every turn.

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