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Towns and Cities

New Zealand's towns and cities offer a wide variety of attraction: from the outdoor activities offered in Queenstown and the Art Deco architecture of Napier to the museums of Auckland and the colonial heritage of Christchurch.

Auckland

New Zealand's largest city is not just a springboard for the North Island: it has plenty to offer the visitor in its own right. The so-called 'City of Sails' has always had a close bond with the sea , and this is reflected in the National Maritime Museum. The Auckland Museum offers a fascinating survey of the natural, cultural and social history of New Zealand, and includes one of the best collections of Maori treasures; live Maori performances are part of the daily schedule. The Auckland Art Gallery has an international art collection, and a good range of work on New Zealand subjects, including Maori art. Howick Historical Village gives a vivid insight into settler life between 1840 and 1880, animated by costumed interpreters. You can get fabulous views from the Sky Tower, which rises to 328m (1076 ft) - and you can even jump off it! www.aucklandnz.com

Wellington

The capital of New Zealand is a port located close to the southern tip of the North Island, with a city population of less than 200,000. It is known as the Windy City because only rarely are there consecutive days without wind. The hilly backdrop provides wonderful panoramic views; these can be appreciated from the 'cable car' (on wheels) that runs up to the Botanic Garden, which is also well worth visiting. The outstanding museum is Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand (see Top Ten Things to Do). www.wellingtonnz.com

Rotorua

This agreeable city, and spa resort, is at the centre of the geothermal wonders and the Maori heritage for which the Rotorua region is famous (see Top Ten Things to Do). www.rotoruanz.com

Napier

Napier is a port, and one of the main cities of the Hawke's Bay wine and fruit-growing region, on the east coast of the North Island. What makes Napier different is its extensive Art Deco architecture, the style adopted almost universally after the old city was destroyed in an earthquake in 1931.

Christchurch

The principal city of the South Island, and of the Canterbury region, is a modern city that has proudly preserved much of its colonial heritage. A good way to get a flavour of this is to take the Christchurch Tramway Tour - a hop-on, hop-off service in restored historic trams that follow a loop around the centre, visiting all the key sights. Other top attractions include the International Antarctic Centre (see Top Ten Things to Do), and the Canterbury Museum, which has a rich collection of Maori treasures, Victorian reconstructions and artefacts, and memorabilia of the Antarctic explorers. www.christchurchnz.com

Dunedin

Dunedin is an attractive town, with well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and strong echoes of its Scots founders. It also sits on a coastline celebrated for its scenic beauty and wildlife. The city's Otago Museum has a noted ethnographic collection of artefacts of the Southern Maori, the Pacific Islands and the world, plus New Zealand nature galleries. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery has a good collection of British and European paintings, including work by Turner, Gainsborough, Monet and Pissarro. The mysteries of chocolate are mouth-wateringly revealed at the Cadbury World factory tour. Summer visitors to Dunedin should make their way to the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaora Head, a unique mainland albatross breeding site. Dunedin is also the departure point for the Taieri Gorge Railway (see Great Journeys). www.dunedinnz.com

Queenstown

Situated on Lake Wakatipu, in the beautiful Otago region of the Southern Alps, Queenstown has become a famous centre for adventure holidays and thrills-and-spills activities (see Top Ten Things to Do). www.queenstown-nz.co.nz