In Māori communities, the word Manaakitanga is a powerful description of how they care for one another.
“Your happiness isn’t just for yourself — when you come here among us, your happiness is a gift for everyone,” Elva He, an executive with Tourism New Zealand told me. She explained that the Māori, which are the indigenous people of New Zealand, built their lives around that principal, and honestly, the rest of the world could learn from them.
She was my guide on a two-week cross country trip I was invited on by Tourism New Zealand and Australian carrier Qantas, a commercial airline that recently expanded its services to include direct flights from JFK airport to Auckland, New Zealand—a 17-hour journey, but it was a luxurious one.
“It takes a while to get here but we make sure you understand how we live when you get here—simply, but intentionally,” He said. She dropped gems like that during the entirety of our time together. What was supposed to be just a press trip felt like a spiritual retreat.
It started with my Business Class experience aboard the Qantas Dreamliner which is equipped with fully-flat bed aisle access, multiple full meals, superb service and great champagne (hello, bubbles).
Following the successful launch of the new route in June this year, flights will increase from four per week to daily from August 2024 for US passengers to fly directly to Auckland.
Immediately after touching down in New Zealand, I was met with crisp air, lush greenery and just…calm. If you haven’t added New Zealand to your list o travel destinations, you may want to. Here’s what happened over the course of my 11-day soft girl trip in the land of the Kiwis.
We stayed at the Fitzroy, a charming boutique hotel curated by the Fable group. It boasts 10 beautifully designed guest rooms on two levels that’s fully equipped with all the creature comforts.
We then went to dinner at Ahi, an award-winning restaurant launched by Ben Bayly, Chris Martin and Lucile Fortuna. The respected chefs use locally sourced ingredients and grow their own organic vegetables in their Kitchen Garden in South Auckland.
There were about six course but my favorite was the Matuku oyster with plum & shiso and yacon mignonette.
We then headed to a cooking class and lunch at Homeland, dining room and school led by Peter Gordon, its Head Of Food. The airy space boasts a cafe , and right next door, a state-of-the-art cooking classroom complete with induction cooktops, high-grade ovens to learn everything from Singaporean Street food to Kiwi Italiano. The morning I visited, we indulged in a Turkish style breakfast—poached eggs in chili yogurt sauce.
It was delicious, bold and more than anything, simple. A cooking class experience can be booked here.
Next up was lunch and wine tasting at Mudbrick in Waiheke Island, an idyllic location that’s about a half-hour ferry ride away from the Auckland mainland. One word: breathtaking.
BLENHEIM, NEW ZEALAND
We then took a 1.5 hour fight from Auckland to Blenheim, ideal for those who want to explore rich wine and food culture. We pulled up to the gorgeous 14th Lane Urban Hotel and stayed in the ground floor suites, which felt like a studio apartment.
Owned by LVMH, the winery is known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pelorus méthode traditionnelle.
But for all of its splendor, you can enjoy a robust wine tasting (complete with three varieties) for $60, or $20 per glass.
This cozy bar packs a big punch with its seafood offerings and carefully crafted cocktails. We got the fried oysters, Mills Bay Mussell linguine and brussel sprouts.
No exaggeration, I was able to get some of the best rest of my life here. This luxury five-star resort, nestled in Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough is the perfect spot to shut out the world and take in all of God’s splendor. It offers carefully crafted cuisine, activities, and unadulterated relaxation.
My favorite part of the entire experience was being able to learn more about New Zealand’s indigenous peoples, the Māori, and how they have shaped the entire country’s core identity. Located along Wellington’s waterfront, entry is free and home to more than 800,000 artworks, objects, and specimens. it was there I was immersed in the true Manaakitanga spirit. Although loosely translated to hospitality, it means so much more than that. The warmth, ease and almost instinctive kindness I felt from the Kiwis (the official moniker for New Zealanders) made me want to be better to the people in my life.
I thank Ceillhe of TIME Unlimited, Tom of Kaewa Tours, Fullers360, Roots Dry Gin, Beachcomber Cruises, the Wētā Workshop Experience and countless others for making my time in New Zealand one I’ll never forget.