Swing into romance in Marlborough. © Marlborough NZ

10 ideas for romantic escapes around New Zealand

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Valentine’s Day comes just once a year, but we reckon there’s no limit to how often you should head away on a romantic break with your special someone. Here are 10 ideas for amorous adventures to get you started. 

1. Eat fish and chips at Ōhope Beach

Ōhope Beach in the Bay of Plenty has been voted New Zealand’s most-loved. So what better spot to take your fish and chips on a summer evening? The classic Kiwi feast of fresh fish served battered, hot and golden brown with a scoop or two of crunchy chips is the perfect accompaniment to a romantic sunset. And at Ōhope, that idyllic, iconic piece of postcard-perfect Kiwiana with its 11 glorious kilometres of golden sand, you’ll never be jostling for a spot.

2. Explore the gardens at The Giant’s House

Take a stroll through gardens in Akaroa that are a work of art. At The Giant’s House, you’ll experience a slice of Gaudí-esque ceramic architecture that seems transplanted from Barcelona to the Banks Peninsula. Terraces are formed from millions of pieces of broken crockery into surreal mosaic sculptures, many towering several metres high, bursting with colour and a flamboyant sense of joy. Relax on a mosaic throne, take a seat at the grand piano filled with succulents, or stroll across the manicured lawns as you soak up the ambience of this special place. 

3. Kayak to Rangitoto at sunset

Paddling your own sea kayak across the Waitematā Harbour is a magical experience at any time of day, but how about upping the romance and doing it on dusk. Weather-dependant tours to Rangitoto Island run each day, crossing the sparkling waters of the Tāmaki Strait to land on Auckland’s most famous volcano. Take a scenic trek through the world’s largest pōhutukawa forest to the summit where you can get a prime view of the sunset. And, after a seaside barbecue dinner, you’ll paddle back in the dark towards the twinkling lights of the city. 

4. Visit Blenheim’s vineyards by bike

The best way to enjoy the local wines and get around the multitude of vineyards in this corner of Marlborough is by bike. Flat, straight roads and cycle paths that wind through the vines make for almost effortless cycling, especially as the wineries are all within easy proximity of each other. Choose from a range of unique vinous offerings – from the award-winning lower-alcohol Riesling at Forrest, to a picnic amongst frothy white roses at Framingham; stop for an alfresco lunch at Wairau River Wines, one of Blenheim’s oldest vineyards, then taste the famous Nautilus bubbles across the road, because sparkling wine makes any occasion feel a little bit special. 

5. Relax at The Lost Spring

How does a fruity cocktail sipped inside a secret cave at an adults-only geothermal hot pool sound? If that’s your idea of indulgence, head to The Lost Spring in Whitianga. Here, a natural 16,000-year-old spring has been transformed into a tropical sanctuary, with lush planting alongside the mineral-rich pools. Relax with your loved one in the picturesque pools or go for the full pampering treatment with a couple’s massage at the onsite day spa. 

6. Discover Larnach Castle

New Zealand’s only castle was constructed as a grand romantic gesture. Built by William Larnach for his French wife, Eliza, Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula took 200 men three years to build… the exterior. Twelve further years saw the interiors completed, with one of the carved ceilings alone taking six years to complete. Why buy a nice bouquet when you can build a monumental behemoth? Today, the castle is a beautifully restored example of lavish Victorian architecture with 14 hectares of manicured gardens and spectacular views to round out this stunning spot. 

7. Paddle to Manupirua Hot Pools

There’s something alluring about places that can only be accessed in special ways, like Manupirua Springs on the shores of Lake Rotoiti, which you can only reach by water. Pulling up at the gorgeous little ‘beach’ next to the hot pools fed by a natural spring – which vary in colour depending on the levels of minerals – is delightful, and it’s easy to while away hours going from the lake to the pools and back. Travelling by kayak on a guided tour adds an extra special element, when you stop in at the lake’s secret glowworm caves. Watching a dark water cave transform into a wonderland of natural fairy lights is pretty magical. 

8. Jet boat in Queenstown

If you’re looking for something that will really get your heart racing, the obvious place to head is Queenstown. With its gorgeous scenery and bounty of lakes and rivers, a jet boat adventure is a must-do for the adventurous at heart. Cram onto the speed machine, hold on tight, and go. You just have to trust that the jet boat captain knows what he or she is doing when they roar off, zig-zagging madly across the lake. Jet boats can move through very shallow water, so adventuring up rivers that seem unnavigable is also part of the thrill. Plus you get to see another angle of the town, albeit in a bit of a blur. 

9. Take high tea at Zealong 

Slow down and enjoy the ancient rituals of a tea ceremony at Zealong Tea Estate in Waikato. The only commercial tea plantation in New Zealand, Zealong is home to over a million tea plants, spread over 40 hectares on the outskirts of Gordonton. There's something particularly soothing about manicured rows of vibrant green bushes stretching as far as the eye can see. Make your visit into an occasion with high tea – enjoying a tower of locally-sourced delicacies and sweet treats. 

10. Soak outdoors at Maruia Springs

Nestled in a tranquil valley, you’ll find the beautiful river-rock-lined mineral pools at Maruia Hot Springs. And alongside the outdoor pools is an Onsen-style bathhouse. Designed with Japanese minimalism in mind and pleasingly symmetrical lines, the entire end wall is a picture window overlooking the valley, so you can practice a spot of ‘shinrin yoku,’ or forest bathing, alongside your actual bathing.  The pools at Maruia are open 24 hours for resort guests, so if you’re staying on site you can make the most of the cusps of daylight – soaking as the sun goes down and watching the first rays of sunlight inch down from the ridgelines from the comfort of your pool in the morning. 

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