Cruising

Alex O'Brien

Wine, wonder and Lord of the Rings – New Zealand by cruise ship

Wine, wonder and Lord of the Rings – New Zealand by cruise ship

When I was asked to climb aboard the Azamara Quest to embark on a 15-day adventure to New Zealand, I knew I couldn't say no. I have always wanted to explore this beautiful country, and now was my chance.

As a part of my expedition, I visited Milford Sound, sipped on wines from Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, explored the beautiful beaches in Tauranga and more.

As the 686-passenger ship sailed closer and closer to New Zealand, I began to see Milford Sound peek over the horizon. It's hard to miss its beauty. Even through the dense fog, you can see how thick the forestry is and the veins of waterfalls that line the mountainsides.

Milford Sound was just the beginning of my spectacular 15-Day New Zealand expedition. I would also be visiting Dunedin, Akaroa, Picton, Napier, Tauranga and Auckland.

Dunedin is filled with natural beauty and art. When I say "art" though, I don't mean paintings and sculptures. The environment and architecture are art forms in their own right. I explored a bit of the Otago Peninsula, which has some of the world's rarest animals, and also got to see the only castle in the entire country.

After stopping in Dunedin, we set sail for Akaroa, a little village on the South Island. It was still cloudy out, but that didn't stop me from capturing some great photos of the place. New Zealand really has an abundance of wildlife. Akaroa is home to hundreds of penguins and seals—so many that from a distance, they almost look like rocks.

The wine lover in me was spoiled when we stopped in Picton.

The place is filled with endless rolling vineyards and even more wine. Let's just say that if heaven was a place on earth, it would be Picton—I mean, if you love wine. There are more than 35 wine cellars located in Picton alone, and although I couldn't visit all of them, I was able to tour a number of wineries in the Marlborough and Hawkes Bay regions and attend several tastings.

Marlborough is world famous for its wines, so it was truly a treat to be able to visit. The wine at Allan Scott Family Winemakers is the product of a labour of love and hard work. Each of the rows of grapes in the vineyard are painstakingly cared for to produce the juiciest grapes, ensuring that the wines has a full flavour. I had the pleasure of getting to meet Allan Scott himself, and also got to sample their best Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and sparkling wine.

Hawkes Bay is known for its wines as well, so I made sure to stop by the vineyards in the area, including Black Barn Vineyards. I loved the way this vineyard was set up. There's a dining area outside in the vineyard under the rafters of ripening grapes, so you can enjoy the views while eating a delicious dinner.

One of my favourite things to do while travelling is filming sunsets using my GoPro camera.

When we stopped in Tauranga, I was able to catch some of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. There are different sets of beaches along the coastline of Tauranga, so each sunset you see is in a unique setting. I encountered the one in the pictures below strictly by accident, and I am so glad that I was able to capture it.

Tauranga is also where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. I got to see the area where many of the battle scenes took place. For such a small area, it played a significant role in the creation of all of the movies. You can also visit Hobbiton, which is where Frodo and Sam grew up.

The sights and wildlife offered in New Zealand are unparalleled. After living in Thailand for 11 years, I never thought that another country could top the beauty of my former Southeast Asian home, but New Zealand has proved me wrong.

The diversity New Zealand offers makes it a must-see for every outdoor enthusiast. Filled with breathtaking sights, delicious cuisine and outstanding service, made my 15-night adventure onboard the Azamara Quest truly remarkable.

Written by Scott Eddy. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.

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