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March 2016

BAY OF PLENTY, NEW ZEALAND – I’ve heard a lot about Queenstown and Auckland and Rotorua in the years I’ve covered and written about travel. But I didn’t know much about the Bay of Plenty. As much as I Ioved my recent visit to Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island, I’m too much of a beach guy to miss a chance to walk in the sand and get my toes wet. So with a bit of time to spare during my visit, I piloted my rental car (driving on the left side of the road is quite easy) to the ... continue reading →

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ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND – A crazy mountain bike event with more flips and mid-air whirls than a Donald Trump-Ted Cruz debate. Deep forests radiant with redwoods shimmering in filtered sunlight. And a wonderful lakeside spa. The Rotorua region of this wonderful country offers an embarrassing number of fun and entertaining things to do, as I discovered during a recent visit. I was there in part because of a mountain bike event called Crankworx, which began in Whistler a few years ago and draws thousands and thousands of dedicated cyclists and adrenaline junkies. It’s a fantastic event with smart and dedicated ... continue reading →

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NEAR MATAMATA, NEW ZEALAND – Magic. Sheer magic. Even if you don’t know Frodo from Bilbo or Gandalf from George Clooney (they do bear a certain resemblance if you think about it), a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island is a great experience; with fantastic gardens and fascinating glimpses into how movies are made. On the other hand, if you’re a lifelong fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings like I am and cried when the final Hobbit movie was over because it’s the end of the Peter Jackson-produced ... continue reading →

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – You gotta love the Kiwis. They have a reputation of being something like we Canadians. But when it comes to tourism, they certainly seem to be more “out there” than we are. I’ll have some examples of this coming up in the next week or two, as I take you on a tour of Matamata (where they filmed much of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit), Rotorua (where I rode a sail-powered go-kart and a spinning contraption called a drift-kar), Picton and Marlborough (a wine tour and a kayak trip), Kaikoura (a chartered plane ... continue reading →

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Maybe I’ve had it wrong all these years. Like many folks, I’ve gazed over the years at those advertisements for shimmering villas on the shore of an equally shimmering Caribbean Sea and thought, “Yeah, renting one of those would be great. But it’s way out of my league.” I’ve always been more of a hotel guy in my travels. But villas are arguably more popular than ever, as folks tuned into renting private homes discover a wonderful alternative to the same-old hotels in the same-old destinations. Not only are they often cheaper than a hotel of similar quality (sometimes FAR ... continue reading →

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