NZ must-dos: Our travel guide for Richie and Gemma McCaw

NZ must-dos: Our travel guide for Richie and Gemma McCaw

As Tourism New Zealand’s newest ambassadors, sports star Richie and Gemma McCaw have been getting out there and exploring their backyard.

But the pair still have plenty left on their to-do lists, which they have shared with their fellow Kiwi travellers. When we here at Stuff Travel saw the lists, we couldn’t help but come up with a few suggestions for the couple and their 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte.

Richie and Gemma McCaw are on a mission to have new experiences in New Zealand.

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Richie and Gemma McCaw are on a mission to have new experiences in New Zealand.

Read on for Richie and Gemma’s “NZ Must-Do” lists – and the Stuff Travel team’s tips for ticking them off.

READ MORE:
* Richie McCaw makes his first skydive to support domestic tourism
* Kiwis, it’s time to explore Tongariro National Park
* Richie and Gemma McCaw head for the mountains post lockdown

Richie and Gemma McCaw’s NZ Must-Dos

Glamping in the Coromandel

The water around Slipper Island is crystal clear.

BROOK SABIN/Stuff

The water around Slipper Island is crystal clear.

Gemma says: “I’ve always wanted to go glamping in the Coromandel. I can imagine waking up somewhere remote, strolling along the beach and doing morning yoga before spending the day exploring somewhere new.”

Stuff Travel says: Try Slipper Island, New Zealand’s private island paradise where the water is so clear it’s like a little slice of the Maldives. It’s just a 15-minute water taxi ride from Tairua in the Coromandel, and you can stay in beachside glamping tents at Slipper Island Resort.

Find out more: For rent: Slipper Island, New Zealand’s private island paradise

Wildlife experience in the Catlins

Hoiho at Curio Bay.

PAMELA WADE

Hoiho at Curio Bay.

Richie says: “I’d love to have a family holiday exploring the Catlins.”

Stuff Travel says: You’d have to be trying pretty hard to not have a wildlife experience when visiting the Catlins. Curio and Porpoise Bays are home to South Island Hector’s dolphins, while several yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho nest in Curio Bay. You might also spot sea lions, fur seals, leopard seals or even elephant seals hauled up at Nugget Point.

Find out more: The Catlins: Inside New Zealand’s forgotten paradise

Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are considered one of the most significant historic sites in the country.

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The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are considered one of the most significant historic sites in the country.

Gemma says: “Richie and I both want to go to Waitangi and learn more about New Zealand’s history.”

Stuff Travel says: Be sure to visit the Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi. Opened in 2016, this award-winning museum gives about as objective an account of Treaty history as you can get. The entry price includes access to the Treaty House and grounds, and a cultural performance.

Find out more: Waitangi: The ‘birthplace’ of the nation is far from a boring history lesson

Cycling the Queen Charlotte Track

There are many picnic table stops along the track which offer great views of the Sounds.

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/Waikato Times

There are many picnic table stops along the track which offer great views of the Sounds.

Richie says: “I love New Zealand’s Great Rides and think cycling’s a great way to see the country. The Queen Charlotte Track is one we haven’t done yet, and it would be cool to get a water taxi in and bike out.”

Stuff Travel says: This 72-kilometre track is a hiking and mountain-biking paradise nestled in the Marlborough Sounds. You can do the trip leisurely over multiple days with lots of accommodation options, or you can boat in and do day trips from Picton. We recommend hiring e-bikes from Wilderness Bikes in Picton.

Find out more: A guide to biking the Queen Charlotte Track

Golf at Cape Kidnappers

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay has luxury lodge accommodation and a world-class golf course.

CAPE KIDNAPPERS

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay has luxury lodge accommodation and a world-class golf course.

Richie says: “I’m not the best golfer but it would be an amazing place to have a weekend with a few mates.”

Stuff Travel says: Consider treating yourself to a stay at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, a 6000-acre working farm, luxury lodge and world-renowned clifftop golf course in Hawke’s Bay. Owned by US billionaire Julian Robertson, it is a sister lodge to the high-end Kauri Cliffs in Northland, and Matakauri lodge near Queenstown

Find out more: Living the lavish life at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

Enjoy the night sky at Aotea-Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island has one of the clearest, most dazzling night skies in the world.

Brook Sabin/Stuff

Great Barrier Island has one of the clearest, most dazzling night skies in the world.

Gemma says: “Imagine booking a funky cottage here or chartering a boat with the family. It’s just so beautiful.”

Stuff Travel says: With minimal air and light pollution, Great Barrier Island has one of the clearest, most dazzling night skies in the world. Check them out on a stargazing tour with Good Heavens.

Find out more: Great Barrier Island: The world’s most dazzling skies

Explore the backcountry in Fiordland National Park

Hankinson Hut was built in 1923.

Brook Sabin/Stuff

Hankinson Hut was built in 1923.

Richie says: “I’d love to do some hikes in Fiordland and even visit Hankinson Hut – the oldest hut in Fiordland.”

Stuff Travel says: The easiest way to get to Hankison Hut is on a specialist tour with Fiordland Outdoors. The tour starts with a scenic 40-minute cruise across Lake Te Anau. From there, you’re taken on a secret track up through the bush to reveal Lake Hankinson, surrounded by lush beech forest and imposing mountains. Here, with the flick of switch, a boat is lowered from a hidden shed, which you’ll board and use to cross the idyllic lake, trawling for trout on the journey. Once you reach the top of the lake, it’s another short walk to Hankinson Hut.

Find out more: Fiordland: How you can experience New Zealand’s forbidden paradise

Walk the Milford Track

It's no wonder the Milford Track has been called "the finest walk in the world".

Pamela Wade

It’s no wonder the Milford Track has been called “the finest walk in the world”.

Gemma says: “We’ve always wanted to explore Fiordland – there’s so many opportunities to get immersed in nature here and we really like to be active when holidaying. I’ve always wanted to walk the Milford Track.”

Stuff Travel says: It’s our best-known Great Walk, deservedly world-famous for its magnificent scenery. A four-day, 54-kilometre hike, it starts at Lake Te Anau, follows the Clinton River, crosses over 1154m Mackinnon Pass, passes the thundering Sutherland Falls and eventually finishes where the Arthur River empties into Milford Sound. You can walk it independently, carrying your own packs, or on guided hikes that include luxurious lodges and three-course meals with wine.

Find out more: World Famous in New Zealand: Fiordland’s Milford Track

Heliskiing around Mt Aspiring National Park

The snow-covered Southern Alps appear to glisten in the sunlight, drawing skiers and snowboarders to its slopes.

Mark Clinton

The snow-covered Southern Alps appear to glisten in the sunlight, drawing skiers and snowboarders to its slopes.

Richie says: “Gemma and I have been skiing at the commercial ski fields in the South Island but we’ve never been heli-skiing. It would be great to get some fresh turns without any crowds and feel totally immersed in the backcountry.”

Stuff Travel says: The helicopter has to be the fastest and most versatile ski lift of all. Apart from providing the most spectacular of ascents, it gives unmatched flexibility in the locations and aspects for the descent. Southern Lakes Heliski has access to more than 700 designated runs on 16 different mountain ranges in the Southern Alps, including glacial country and peaks up to 2585 metres.

Find out more: Heli-skiing the Southern Alps

Explore Stewart Island

Stewart Island kiwis are commonly found on Ulva Island.

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Stewart Island kiwis are commonly found on Ulva Island.

Gemma says: “It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to go but never got around to it. Everybody raves about it. It would be awesome to fly out to Mason’s Bay and see kiwi or visit Ulva Island with Charlotte.”

Stuff Travel says: One of the main reasons to come to Stewart Island/Rakiura is to witness a kiwi in the wild. Real Journeys offers a four-hour “Wild Kiwi Encounter”, which involves cruising around some of the island’s many bays in search of kiwi. Ulva Island is also a paradise for bird lovers, home to the South Island Saddleback, Rifleman, Yellowhead, and Stewart Island Robin, as well as some very curious weka.

Find out more: Stewart Island/Rakiura: The island swarming with kiwi and Kiwis

Kayak Abel Tasman

There is sand below, a blue sky above, and in the distance hills of green bush.

PAMELA WADE

There is sand below, a blue sky above, and in the distance hills of green bush.

Richie says: “I’ve always wanted to kayak Abel Tasman National Park with the family. I’ve paddled here before in a race but didn’t get a moment to appreciate it. It would be great to take things slower, stop off in all the bays and camp along the way.”

Stuff Travel says: For a different spin on experiencing Abel Tasman National Park from the water, head out with Waka Abel Tasman for a shared paddle on their Polynesian-style outrigger canoes. The two-hour paddle to Split Apple Rock (Toka Ngawhā) is an excellent option for families. Split Apple Rock is also a popular destination for kayaking.

Find out more: A guide to Abel Tasman National Park: When to go, where to stay and what to do

Go to a wellness retreat

Maruia Hot Springs has four outdoor pools.

BROOK SABIN/Stuff

Maruia Hot Springs has four outdoor pools.

Gemma says: “After the year we’ve all had, it’s important to reset our intentions and focus on wellbeing.”

Stuff Travel says: Tucked among the snow-capped Southern Alps is a hot spring heaven that won’t remain off the radar for long. Maruia Hot Springs in the Lewis Pass is a world-class wellness retreat. You can stay overnight in the on-site hotel, glamping pods or campsite, or experience day retreats which include bathing, sauna sessions and a three-course meal.

Find out more: Maruia Hot Springs: Inside New Zealand’s hidden mountain hot springs

Do the Pouākai Crossing

The reflective pools of the Pouākai Tarns are a highlight.

Jeremy Beckers/Supplied

The reflective pools of the Pouākai Tarns are a highlight.

Richie says: “I’ve heard the scenery here is epic, and you get great views over the coast and inland to Mt Ruapehu. It would be an awesome spot for the whole family to explore and get active.”

Stuff Travel says: This is without a doubt one of New Zealand’s best one-day walks. Mountain scenery, volcanic activity and the brilliant reflections of compact alpine lakes are all highlights of the eight to 10-hour Pouākai Crossing. The tramp starts at the North Egmont Visitor Centre on the mountain’s northern side, and is serviced by shuttles from New Plymouth.

Find out more: A guide to Egmont National Park: When to go, where to stay and what to do

Luxury day spa in Queenstown

Millbrook Resort and Spa is less than 20 minutes from Queenstown.

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Millbrook Resort and Spa is less than 20 minutes from Queenstown.

Gemma says: “I love a good day spa and have always wanted to go to Matakauri Lodge or one of the other spa locations around Queenstown and Wānaka. It’s great to treat yourself occasionally.”

Stuff Travel says: Gemma could also try The Spa at Millbrook Resort, located near Arrowtown. This award-winning spa offers beauty and body treatments using Elemis products in 10 luxe treatment rooms. Their aim is to uplift, replenish and create wellness for mind, body and soul, which they do in a stunning mountain/lake setting.

Find out more: Three of the best day spas to get a good pampering

Snorkelling and diving the Poor Knights Islands

There are more than 120 fish species that call the Poor Knights home.

BROOK SABIN/Stuff

There are more than 120 fish species that call the Poor Knights home.

Richie says: “I’ve always wanted to go to the Poor Knights.”

Stuff Travel says: The Poor Knights Islands off the Tutukaka Coast are a great spot to have on your bucket list – few Kiwis realise we’ve got a little group of islands in our own backyard that’s home to tropical waters and incredible snorkelling. You can take a trip out there with Dive! Tutukaka, on their Perfect Day cruise.

Find out more: Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka, Northland: New Zealand’s best snorkelling

Rafting the Landsborough River

Rafting on the Landsborough River is a perfect choice for getting away from technology and people.

Liz Carlson

Rafting on the Landsborough River is a perfect choice for getting away from technology and people.

Richie says: “I’ve flown through this area a few times and have seen how spectacular it is. You have to fly in or hike over the Brodrick Pass to start the trip, then you can spend a few days rafting and camping your way out. I’d love to do this.”​​​​​​

Stuff Travel says: If there is one must-do for New Zealanders, especially for those who love wilderness and nature, it would have to be rafting the Landsborough River on the West Coast in summer. A guided adventure, it begins with a helicopter ride into the first comfortable camp before you begin a three-day adventure through untouched bush, rugged valleys and fun rapids.

Find out more: Rafting on the Landsborough is a must-do experience

Walk in Tongariro National Park

The Tama Lakes Track boast stellar views of both Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Lorna Thornber/Stuff

The Tama Lakes Track boast stellar views of both Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Gemma says: “I haven’t spent much time in Central North Island but it’s top of my list for places I’d like to explore. Doing the Ruapehu Round the Mountain Track or shorter Taranaki Falls Walk has always appealed.”

Stuff Travel says: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the best known, but there are many other spectacular walks you can do in the area. As well as the two Gemma has pointed out, we would recommend the Tama Lakes Track – an extension of the Taranaki Falls Walk. It’s a 17km return hike that offers similar scenery to the alpine crossing, minus the thigh-burning climbs.

Find out more: The hidden alternative to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that’s a relative breeze

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