A gourmet treat or two on New Zealand’s North Island

- John Nielsen, For John Nielsen, luxury hospitality and tourism has been part of his life since he recalls. Having been fortunate to travel extensively during his childhood in Denmark, it was almost a natural choice for John to join the Scandinavian travel company, Spies Travels in 1983. This journey and a beginning of his career, took John to Madeira & Portugal, where he gained his love of luxury hotels. From there three years were spent studying in Switzerland, then to South Korea at Hotel Lotte, to Hong Kong with hotels including the Mandarin Oriental and Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, Hyatt Carlton Tower in London, Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, Crown Towers in Melbourne and Grand Hyatt Melbourne. Throughout the years in senior management John developed a passion for wine and in 1998 co-founded Liquid Assets Wine Storage in Melbourne. In 2006 John joined Kiwi Collection as a Regional Director in Asia Pacific and today continues to consult as well as contribute to WOW Travel. John recently completed his Master of Business with an added Master Degree in Tourism. These days John is based in Melbourne with his family, working for the Australian PGA Links company as General Manager of Hospitality. The travel bug will forever stay and with family based across three continents, there is always a good excuse to seek out new destinations and new wines.

New Zealand’s second capital Auckland has always been a nice town, located on the Hauraki Gulf and with small islands spread throughout, it has always been a boat lovers dream destination.

The face of Auckland has changed. The waterfront and harbour has undergone major changes and Auckland has suddenly become alive. With the newly completed “Viaduct” area on the harbour front, city life has move to this fascinating development. The Viaduct now perfectly compliments the older “city” feel adding a new and vibrant feeling.

Compromising of excellent luxury hotels in the Hilton Auckland and the brand new Westin Auckland Lighter Quay, dining venues & late nightspots, the Viaduct is for sure a destination worth spending time at. As yachts arrive to drop of friends who now reside in new apartments others just layze about and take in the action & atmosphere of the harbour.

If you want a slightly calmer pace, but are still looking for life’s pleasures, then head north to the Matakana Coast and be ready for a gourmet experience.

Just 75 km north of Auckland lays the Matakana village & Coast. The area has been blessed with rolling hills, pristine golden sandy beaches, superb surfing beaches, award wining wines and vineyards and now stunning accommodation at Takatu Vineyard & Lodge.

The village is rich with artisan bakeries, café’s, galleries and has embraced the “slow food” concept. This is place for fun, a place for romance and a place to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life. The vineyards are now not only producing stunning wines, but have also produced first class accommodation and dinning venues. Set in-between the vines, the design and views are quite breathtaking.

As I drove back sipping my take-away organic coffee, taking in the views of the Auckland coast, my thoughts began to wonder what restaurant in the Viaduct would be my choice. My friends had told me to meet them at “the Office”, a strange place to meet on a Saturday evening I thought! Until I turned up at the Westin’s new trendy bar and we headed off into Viaduct for a great night out.

Auckland has really changed for the better.

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