The most romantic spots in New Zealand to spend Valentine's Day
You don't actually have to try very hard to plan a romantic getaway in New Zealand.
From long walks on the beach and lakeside canoodling, to island escapes and endless vineyards, there is something out there to suit every couple – and it's all more or less on your doorstep.
No excuses this Valentine's Day. If you're looking to woo someone special, we've sought out the best spots in the country to feel the love.
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Dunedin's Otago Peninsula was once rated among the most romantic regions in the world by CNN. If cute and cuddly is your style, the peninsula is the perfect choice, as it is home to royal albatrosses, yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins, seals and sea lions. Or you can make your loved one feel like a prince or princess with afternoon high tea in the ballroom of Larnach Castle – New Zealand's only castle.
Finish the day off with a walk to the aptly-named Lovers Leap lookout, where you can admire dramatic views of intertwined rock formations as the sun goes down.
The way to a foodie's heart is through their stomach, and the capital is full of gastronomical delights. On Friday or Saturday evening, head to the Wellington Night Markets, where you can enjoy tasty treats from every corner of the globe. On Valentine's night, ride the Cable Car up to Space Place, for a special planetarium show about the famous romances of Greek mythology.
Don't forget to give away the key to your heart by adding a lock to Wellington's very own "love lock" bridge, located over Frank Kitts Lagoon on the waterfront.
It's the adventure capital of New Zealand, so why not take a leap of faith together with a skydive, bungy or canyon swing? For the ultimate date, take a helicopter ride to a glacier and mountain peak, or a scenic flight over the Wakatipu basin. If you prefer cruising, there are plenty of options on Lake Wakatipu, from a historic steamship to a state-of-the-art catamaran.
Queenstown's surrounds also provide the perfect backdrop for relaxed picnics, on the shores of Lake Hayes, the Arrow River, or the sands of a secluded beach along the roads to Kingston or Glenorchy.
Lake Tekapo has captured the hearts and imaginations of brides and grooms as one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world. Plan your future nuptials at the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, set against the turquoise waters of the lake. You can also head to the Tekapo Springs hot pools for a luxurious soak, and spoil each other with a relaxing treatment from the day spa.
Spend the evening beneath the night sky at Mt John Observatory with Earth & Sky tours – ranked one of the clearest spots in the world for star-gazing.
French is the language of romance, and the Banks Peninsula town of Akaroa is the closest thing we have to a piece of France in New Zealand. As the story goes, a shipload of French settlers sailed into Akaroa Harbour on July 11, 1840 – six days too late because the British had just raised a Union Jack there. But their influence stuck, and even today the French colonial architecture and street names remain. Take a stroll through the village, pretending you're in Paris.
Or take your beau or belle on a Hector's dolphin watching tour in the beautiful harbour.
It's been named one of the world's top 10 regions to visit for 2016 by Lonely Planet, so Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to indulge in an island escape. Known as the Island of Wine, taking your date on a tour of Waiheke Island's award-winning wineries is a must. It's also the ideal destination for the art-lover in your life, with local galleries and studios to get lost in, and a sculpture park to explore.
You'll want to visit Oneroa and Onetangi for long walks along the white-sand beaches – or a cheeky skinny dip in the warm, sheltered waters.
As Maori legend goes, there was once a nameless mountain who was deeply in love with a female mountain who did not love him back. The nameless mountain decided to kill himself by asking patupaiarehe, fairy people of the night, to plait a rope and haul him into the ocean. But by the time they reached the ocean the sun was rising, fixing the mountain in place. Before the patupaiarehe retreated, they named the mountain Mauao – "caught by the morning sun". Despite the tragic story, Mauao (popularly known as the Mount) is also the perfect spot to take your loved one.
Go on a guided walk, take in the spectacular views and learn more about the legend.
Rekindle the flame with a day trip out to Auckland's largest and youngest volcano, Rangitoto Island, formed about 600 years ago. Enjoy the scenic ferry ride across the harbour from downtown Auckland, before embarking on a walk up Summit Track to take in spectacular panoramic views from the crater's edge over the city and across the Hauraki Gulf.
Take a torch and explore the island's lava tunnels and caves – the perfect place for a sneaky kiss in the dark, as you whisper to your partner: "I lava you".
This magical coastal spot is one of Northland's best-kept secrets, home to artists, craftspeople and life-stylers looking for a more relaxed way of life. Take a cycle tour of Mangawhai Village and Heads to enjoy the local wineries, orchards, olive groves and arts and craft venues. If your date has a sweet tooth, take them to the Bennetts of Mangawhai chocolaterie, where Mary and Clayton Bennett have been hand-crafting exquisite chocolates since 1998.
You can view more than 150 different chocolates being crafted through a window, before satisfying your cravings at the cafe.
You can't have a romantic getaway without a bottle of wine – or two, or three – and Marlborough is New Zealand's flagship wine region, home to the world-renowned sauvignon blanc. With more than 40 cellar doors to visit, you're spoiled for choice. If you're feeling more active, set off on a cruise from Picton to Queen Charlotte Sound, where you can explore the area along the famous Queen Charlotte Track.
Its quiet bays, lush native bush and abundant wildlife provide the perfect setting for making romantic memories.
TRAVELLING COUPLE'S TOP PICKS
Barbara and Radoslav Cajkovic are the husband-and-wife duo behind the Independent Couple travel blog. The pair, originally from Slovakia, have been living in New Zealand for the past three years, and regularly showcase the country's stunning scenery in their blog. They shared their top three most romantic spots for Valentine's Day.
"While many travellers head to the Queenstown for unforgettable adventures, we think this city can be the ideal place for a wonderful romantic time with your soul mate as well. For all lovebirds and those who have a sweet tooth, we strongly recommend a cup of the best hot chocolate ever at the lakefront chocolaterie Patagonia. Prepare to be tempted with handcrafted ice cream, cakes, pancakes and tarts. All this with a view of the lake and the Remarkables."
2. The Catlins
"All along the coast you can spot precious endangered yellow-eyed and little blue penguins, but the best chance to see yellow-eyed ones is at Nugget Point and Curio Bay. Yellow-eyed penguins pair for life, so it represents a very romantic view of the merging of humans and nature, particularly on Valentine's Day."
3. Cathedral Cove
"Cathedral Cove is another secluded hidden gem of the New Zealand coast. In our opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and romantic places in New Zealand. The beauty of Coromandel Peninsula can beat any Pacific Island or Thailand beach."