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.
Read on for Richie and Gemma’s “NZ Must-Do” lists – and the Stuff Travel team’s tips for ticking them off.
Richie and Gemma McCaw’s NZ Must-Dos
Glamping in the Coromandel
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.
Wildlife experience in the Catlins
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
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.
Cycling the Queen Charlotte Track
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
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
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
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.
Walk the Milford Track
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
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
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.
Kayak Abel Tasman
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.
Go to a wellness retreat
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.
Do the Pouākai Crossing
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.
Luxury day spa in 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
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.
Rafting the Landsborough River
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
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.