NEW YORK, March 30, 2006 – Starting this week, Easterners will find New Zealand easier to reach than ever, by taking advantage of Air Tahiti Nui's non-stop service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. These first-ever flights will transport visitors to Papeete, Tahiti, in only 12 hours, arriving on the same day they departed New York. Travelers may then connect onwards to New Zealand’s Auckland International Airport, just shy of six hours away.

"We can't think of a better use of vacation time! Air Tahiti Nui's new flights make New Zealand easier to reach from the East Coast of the U.S., as well as from Toronto and Montreal," said Bruce Lahood, Tourism New Zealand's regional manager for North America. "The combination of improved access and competitive pricing makes New Zealand a practicable option for vacationers' very next holiday plans."

Swain Tours, based in Pennsylvania, is offering "Boutique New Zealand" packages, starting from US$2,795 per person, based on Wednesday departures. This package includes roundtrip international flights from New York, domestic New Zealand flights, nine nights accommodations, ferry tickets and rental car. Taxes are additional. For more information/reservations, visit or call 1-800-22-SWAIN (79246), and ask for the "Boutique New Zealand" package.

Start your trip at the largest Polynesian city in the world: Auckland, "city of sails" is perched harbor-side overlooking the Hauraki Gulf. At Sebel Suites in the Viaduct Harbor, enjoy unparalleled views of this maritime playground. Favorite day trips include Waiheke Island, for its sophisticated vineyard restaurants and artist community; the volcanic cone of Rangitoto Island for panoramic views of the Auckland skyline; and Tiritiri Matangi bird sanctuary.

From Auckland, head southeast to the art deco town of Napier in Hawke's Bay, and stay at Mon Logis Boutique Hotel, one of the few buildings to survive Napier's devastating 1931 earthquake, which resulted in the inspired rebuilding in 1930s signature art deco. A walking tour is a great introduction to the town's rich history, while the self-drive food trail leads to various farms and orchards, stocked with tasty jams, chutneys, pestos and other homemade goods.

Hawke's Bay is the second largest wine growing region in New Zealand, and the start of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, that leads to Wairarapa, about four hours away and near the southern tip of North Island. Stellar Pinot Noir can be sampled in Martinborough, the heart of the region's boutique wine industry. The town's humble beginnings as New Zealand's first sheep station settled by Irish immigrants add to its charm, as does a stay at historic Peppers Martinborough Hotel, built in 1882, with its saloon-style Bar and Bistrot. Nearby Greytown, the region's oldest town features antique stores, galleries and cafes.

Drive south to Wellington, the capital city and home to national museum Te Papa, which in Maori means "our place." This uniquely Kiwi museum welcomes visitors everyday of the year with interactive exhibitions, artwork and cultural treasures. Board the Interislander ferry for a three-hour voyage across the Cook Straits to the South Island, and continue onwards to New Zealand's largest wine region, famous for its fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Blenheim marks the other end of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, and is a walk-able town lined with art galleries and craft stores. A "must do" is a day out in the vineyards with a local guide, and dining at Hotel D'Urville and the Michelin star Herzog Luxury Restaurant.

Last stop is Christchurch, via the scenic coastal drive that hugs the east coast of South Island. Take a lunch break at Hapuku Lodge's Café in Kaikoura, known for the best "cuppa" in South Island, and a menu showcasing local seafood. Maori Tours Kaikoura offers a personalized cultural exchange with the local community, whose lives are integrally connected to the resident pod of sperm whales that reside off the coast. In Maori mythology, whales are regarded as a sign of good luck, and that good fortune continues today with Whale Watch Kaikoura, the largest employer in this coastal town, offering respectful and state-of-the-art boat trips to view these magnificent mammals. Once in Christchurch, stay at the garden city's George Hotel, overlooking the botanical gardens and the Avon river. The hotel is within walking distance to Cathedral Square, a pedestrian-only center and a regular site of street performers and speakers.

For more on New Zealand at ITKT

The Rough Guide To New Zealand - 4th Edition