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New Zealand reigns supreme - whether it’s white-water thrills, hobbit-hunting or wine-tasting

As Kate and William will no doubt agree after their action-packed nine-day tour, adrenaline-filled New Zealand is no place for the faint-hearted

lord of the ring one ring to rule them all
Inspiring: Milford Sound, Fiordland

Within 12 hours of arriving in Auckland after 24 hours on a plane, I had whizzed around the harbour on an America’s Cup yacht, feasted on fresh fish washed down with a crisp pinot gris, and zoomed around the bay on a Harley.

That, my friends, is how you cure jet lag!

As Kate and William would no doubt agree after their action-packed nine-day tour, New Zealand is no place for the faint-hearted.

The adrenaline kicked in as soon as I landed in the belly of Air New Zealand’s dragon (a plane painted with Smaug from the latest Hobbit movie) and the excitement didn’t stop for two full-on weeks.

Informative Gerry at my charming guesthouse, the Great Ponsonby Arthotel, gave me chapter and verse on the highlights of Auckland and provides tourists with all manner of maps and tips.

The highlight of my whirlwind 24 hours in the capital city had to be when a biker from Bularangi Harley Tours pulled up on his hog to take me for a spin.

Delightful Donkey (because he takes people for rides, geddit?!) was an old-school grizzled biker who kitted me out in protective gear before I hopped on the back of his bike for a thrilling ride around Waitemaka Bay.

I’ve never felt cooler... nor looked more ridiculous.

Despite it being my first stab at riding pillion, Donkey said I was a “real biker chick” – which pleased me more than it should have.

A couple of hours south is Hobbiton. Prepare to be utterly charmed by Bilbo’s home town.

The film set tour is brought to life by drama students who tell you how the movies were made and director Peter Jackson’s attention to detail.

I loved that this place isn’t some tacky Hobbit Disneyland – nobody dresses up and re-enacts Tolkien tales.

You just see occasional puffs of smoke from a cute little hobbit hole buried in the hillside or some washing flapping in the breeze, as if hobbits really live here. It is absolutely enchanting.

Next stop was Queenstown on the South Island, arguably the adventure capital of the world, as experienced by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Here, on the shores of sparkling Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by the Southern Alps, you can fling yourself off cliffs and across canyons, jet boat down rivers, go quad biking, mountain biking, hiking, canyoning, abseiling, white-water rafting, hang-gliding and zip-lining.

Name a terror-inducing activity, and you can do it here.

Like Kate and Wills, I had the life scared out of me by the guys from Shotover Jets as we hurtled through canyons, doing 360 degree spins with inches to spare.

After three Lord of the Rings movies and two Hobbit films (The Desolation of Smaug has just come out on DVD and the final instalment is in cinemas this December), one could forgive the locals for being somewhat hobbitted out.

But the friendly Kiwis manage to cater for fans’ endless interest without overdoing it.

I did an amazing Lord of the Rings tour from Queenstown along the stunning coastline of Lake Wakatipu up to the gorgeous village of Glenorchy – site of many movie scenes.

And you don’t to be a film fan to enjoy it.

Nomad Tours has been running this trip for years – they’ve just renamed it to incorporate filming locations.

On the incredible drive up, we stopped to see the giant elephants battlefield, looking down over the edge just like Frodo, Sam and Gollum did in the last Rings film.

My guide told me the director kept having to yell “cut” because hundreds of locals hired as extras kept “dying” far too theatrically in the hope they would steal the show on the big screen.

In Glenorchy I boarded another jet boat to zoom back to Queenstown along the Dart River, past the mountain where Gandalf (Ian McKellen) battled the Balrog.

Then it was time to soar across the Southern Alps to Fiordland, just like Bilbo in the first Hobbit film.

Hobbit hole: Where Bilbo Baggins lived

Unlike him, I wasn’t travelling by eagle – I was in a tiny plane with huge windows that allowed me to gasp in wonder at the sparkling turquoise lakes, thundering waterfalls and ice-covered peaks below.

It truly is one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever done.

I didn’t want the hour-long flight to end. Luckily, after a great cruise along the sound, we had the return journey to look forward to.

I headed back to my room at the fabulous Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel, thinking my excitement was over for the day... only to find paragliders landing in the field outside.

I could have spent a week throwing myself off things in this great little town, but the north of the island beckoned.

Air New Zealand has a great domestic network – it’s so easy, it’s like catching a bus. So it was off to Nelson, a pretty waterside town a short flight away.

After lunch at Boat Shed Café, I visited the jewellery shop of the brilliantly named Halfdan Hansen, whose late dad Jens made the rings for the original trilogy.

An hour along the coast is The Resurgence eco-lodge in the Riwaka Valley, where the top actors stayed during filming.

I had a huge luxury cabin, with a full kitchen and barbecue if I fancied cooking.

But British expats Peter and Clare lay on gourmet four-course meals in the main lodge, so I joined them for dinner.

Nearby are the fascinating Ngarua Caves and the lodge is within striking distance of beautiful Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman national park.

From here I headed over the winding Takaka Pass to be picked up by Toby Reid in his helicopter and whisked off to be deposited on Mount Olympus, the site of South of Rivendell in the movies.


Warner Bros
Big screen: A scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug


After some steaming chowder at the Mussel Inn, I made a quick visit to Salisbury Falls (scene of some elvish snogging in The Desolation of Smaug) and had tea and cake like granny used to serve it at the quaint Langford Stores.

Then it was off to Marlborough, the largest grape-growing region in New Zealand, famous for its sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and pinot gris.

I had far too much fun sampling a great many of them at “cellar doors”, where wineries offer outstanding food alongside tastings.

Try the cheese soufflé at Wairau River, pork belly at Wither Hills, a cheese board at Giesen or a superb sunset dinner at Hans Herzog boutique winery.

To blow away the fog, I kayaked down the Pelorus River, site of the brilliant barrel scene in the latest movie, with my funny guide spinning tales of dwarves and elves.

The north-east coast of the island is home to Queen Charlotte Sound – a 1,500-mile coastline of bays, coves and inlets.

I spent a night at the amazing Bay of Many Coves, accessible only by boat, a collection of chalets on a hillside with magnificent views.

Don’t leave the area without visiting the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre – local hero Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of war planes and memorabilia.

It is possible to have a relaxing time in New Zealand... but with so much to do, why would you want to?

Travel file

When to go: New Zealand is a year- round destination. Summer averages 20-30oC (70-90°F) and winter 10-15oC (50-60°F).

In the action: Take a Harley ride round Auckland from £150 . Play in The Shire at Hobbiton from £38 .

Whizz through canyons on a jet boat from £66 . See film scenes from air .

Explore the beauty of Tolkein film locations , . Enjoy a fly/cruise to Milford Sound from £235 . Have a barrel of laughs on the Pelorus River .

Book it: The Resurgence lodge: Chalets from £280 . Bay of Many Coves: Luxury four-night packages from £500pp .

Great Ponsonby Arthotel: B&B doubles from £100 . Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel: Doubles from £200 www.queens . Travelbag has 10-night fly- drive packages from £1,489pp

Flights: Fly Air New Zealand from £1,266pp.