New Zealand’s North and South Islands are both home to stunning coastlines and natural landscapes but the North Island has three quarters of the population and the country’s most populous cities, Auckland and Wellington, along with Hobbiton for The Lord of the Rings fans.
Arriving on an international long haul flight, your first stop will be Auckland. Air New Zealand just launched direct flights between Chicago and Auckland and the 16-hour flight is the carrier’s longest. The national airline also offers direct flights from Auckland to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Honolulu.
Air New Zealand’s business premier product is first rate too. The leather armchair seats fold over to a true lie-flat bed and the memory foam mattress is no joke. I had the best rest I’ve ever had on a plane, sleeping seven hours straight with no drug assistance. Ashley & Co hand cream and lip balm were keepers and the superfood salad with cod served for dinner was just the type of light, nutritious meal I look for when flying. Chef Peter Gordon created the dish for Air New Zealand and his restaurant The Sugar Club atop the Sky Tower combines the best city views of Auckland with fine dining fusion food.
Spend a restful night at the new SO/Auckland in trendy Britomart, where many New Zealand designers like the hotel’s design partner WORLD have boutiques. From Auckland, where next? Any of these enchanting Relais & Chateaux picks will show off New Zealand’s rich culture and natural beauty.