New Zealand: Back to Nature
By Alex Palmer
February 16, 2014
Few destinations offer natural scenery as incredible, or experiences as remarkable, as New Zealand. The southwestern Pacific island may take anywhere from 12 to 16 hours to travel to, but the bragging rights for incentive participants who go will last a lifetime. While the 100,000-square-mile island offers no shortage of hot spots, Steven Dixon, business events manager for Tourism New Zealand, says, “Our suggestion for incentive groups from North America is to visit a maximum of two to three destinations during their New Zealand program. Obviously, we’d love them to see the whole country but they're on a limited time schedule, and it’s key for participants to return home refreshed and not exhausted from too much hotel hopping."
Auckland, the main gateway city, makes for an ideal entry point. It’s a great destination for high-adventure activities that capitalize on the local geography. Groups can learn the ins and outs of yacht racing on an ex-America’s Cup vessel at Auckland’s waterfront (the city hosted the regatta in 2000 and 2003), or cruise the bustling downtown and surrounding hills on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as part of a group tour. They may also want to go to scenic Waiheke Island for strolls through wineries, golden beaches, and olive groves.
Groups in Auckland can choose from a wide range of top-notch restaurants. Ponsonby offers stylish bars and the waterfront boasts many historic buildings.
About 125 miles south of Auckland are the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves — an underground maze of stalagmites and stalactites as well as the eponymous glowworms. More adventurous attendees can go on a “blackwater rafting” tour through the cave’s subterranean rivers via inflatable rubber inner tubes. After the excitement, they can unwind at the luxurious Polynesian Spa in the southern city of Rotorua, which offers no less than 26 hot mineral bathing pools in which to dip.
While in Rotorua, groups can check out the area’s numerous lakes and geothermal hotspots (including the site of a massive volcanic eruption in 1886) via helicopter. Explore the local culture with a visit to the Maori art and craft school, which features evening performances, accompanied by indigenous cuisine, enjoyed in the midst of the breathtaking Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve.
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Tourism New Zealand’s Dixon says “New Zealand’s an easy country to navigate once you’re there. Taking just under two hours to fly the length of the country, it allows groups to experience dramatically different landscapes in a short space of time. From lush rainforests to alpine resorts in the space of a morning provides contrasting backdrops for awe-inspiring events.”
Dixon urges rounding off a tour of New Zealand with a short flight to Queenstown, where there is an abundance of teambuilding activities. “Nomad Safari’s off-road adventure offers backcountry adventures rich with Lord of the Rings locations and many hands on activities such as the Gold Rush, which calls on attendees to solve clues and explore the scenic Wakatipu Basin in a Land Rover.
“Journey to Moonlight Country near Queenstown for a great day out,” adds Dixon. “The 800-acre property offers tailor-made teambuilding experiences, including orienteering, sheepdog trials, clay target shooting and quad bike riding.” Next, visitors can treat themselves to an afternoon of boutique shopping at the Queenstown Mall. To finish up a successful trip, there are few better options for a final-night meal than dinner at the Skyline Restaurant. Located at the top of Bob’s Peak and reached by gondola, it offers some of the best local cuisine with some unbeatable local views.