Crash at Phil's mom's!
We asked Phil Keoghan, host of CBS's The Amazing Race, for tips on traveling in his home country. He sent us to his folks' place. WTF?
"I always suggest people drive New Zealandit's 1,000 miles, top to bottom. You need at least ten days. Rent a camper van, get into the countryside, and stay with the locals. The bed-and-breakfasts are great. My parents run one out of Rolleston, just south of Christchurch [doubles, $60; gardenviewbandbnz.com]. I can't tell you how many people I've sent there."
DEAL OF THE YEAR
That New Zealand is the place you fantasize about most is no surprise. But here's what is: This is the year to stop drooling and go. With a historically favorable exchange rate (at press time, one U.S. dollar equaled just under two New Zealand bucks) and round-trip flights available for around $800, adventure in Middle Earth is suddenly on sale.
FOR TROUT LOVERS
TRIP OF THE YEAR: NEW ZEALAND
11 DAYS, $4,475
A year ago, this trip would have cost about $2,000 more. With New Zealand's top guides, you and your partners ride a chopper from Auckland to the private Poronui Ranch, a safari-style camp on the North Island, 16 miles away from the nearest road. Catch your fill of piggish trout on the Mohaka River, then fly to the South Island, where you'll set up shop at a hut in the Minaret Peaks. Spend your days choppering between alpine streams where the water is vodka-clear and the browns are football-size. Trips run between October and March; exclusivelynz.com. CASH TIP: Four-day heli-fishing trips cost $2,680.
FOR MULTISPORT GLUTTONS
Do It All
8 DAYS, $2,300
"This is a really punchy trip," says Andrew Fairfax, owner of Active New Zealand. "Punchy" is a Kiwi-ism for packing your days with adrenaline. To wit: On this whirlwind, called Tui Multisport, guests hike the Franz Josef Glacier, a World Heritage site; cycle Hollyford Valley; sea-kayak Milford Sound; and take a scenic flight to the Siberia Hut, one of the South Island's many isolated mountain lodges. Departures between October and April; activenewzealand.com.
FOR HARD RIDERS
South Island Singletrack
14 DAYS, $2,200
If the thought of riding the South Island tip to tail on century-old logging roads makes your heart pound, add this: You'll take a helicopter ride over the Roaring Meg River, get dropped in the Pisa Range, and descend 20 miles through high country overlooking the Southern Alps. Sacred Rides' new South Pacific Singletrack trip has everything: steep canyon descents, mountain traverses, and undulating cross-country pedaling. On a rest day, don crampons and pick your way through eight-mile-long Fox Glacier. End the day sipping local Monteith's ale at a bed-and-breakfast. Departures in December, February and March; sacredrides.com.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT AUSTRALIA
Trek the Larapinta Trail
11 DAYS, $6,500
"Everybody thinks there's not much out there," says James Fuss, the Aussie guide who cooked up this new trip for Wilderness Travel. "But the Larapinta is one of the best desert treks in the world." Fuss selected the most scenic sections of the historic 139-mile Larapinta Trail, in the Northern Territory, and condensed them. Guests follow the West MacDonnell Ranges, just as Aboriginal red ocher traders have done for thousands of years; gape at the massive night sky from luxurious bush camps; and eventually wind up at iconic Uluru (Ayers Rock). May 25June 4; wildernesstravel.com. CASH TIP: Book now, with the U.S. dollar strong, and WT will lock in a discount that could reach up to $600.