Amidst all the turmoil of earthquakes and tsunamis, it was very gratifying to see that visitor numbers to New Zealand increased by 3.5% in January. The message is well and truly out there – we are a wonderful place to visit!

With our New Zealand ski season fast approaching and the impending Rugby World Cup only a few months away, the forecast is good for another bumper crop of offshore visitors.

Just because the weather is turning cooler, doesn’t mean we have to hibernate.

Autumn is a great time for visiting local wineries … the grapes are plump and it’s still warm enough to enjoy a glass of your favourite vino on a picnic rug outdoors. When it comes to Autumnal colours, few places put on a more spectacular display than the Central Otago region. The Southern Lakes Festival of Colour captures the essence of this beauty in a celebration of the arts. From Wanaka to Queenstown, with many stops along the way, you’ll be treated to music, dance, theatre and film over six fun-filled days.

As we head into the cooler month of May, the talents of homegrown Kiwi musicians will be entertaining us the length of breadth of the land. May is NZ Music Month. April and May provide a full calendar of events to get us off the couch and out exploring this great land we live in … this year’s Rally of Otago sees Ari Vatenen taking it to the limits while the Women’s Surf Festival in the beautifully rugged Taranaki surf is bringing together the top 17 female surfers in the world. Heading back to the South Island, the Routeburn Classic will see over 200 runners making their way across the Fiordland National Parks, one of New Zealand’s World Heritage Areas. And up in Rotorua, the Cateye Moonride sees some 2,000 competitors mountain biking through picturesque Whakarewarewa Forest. Last but not least, it’s time to start booking your ski trips if you haven’t already. Queenstown Winter Festival looms and, if recent reports are anything to go by, revellers will not be disappointed. Organisers are determined to outdo themselves, yet again!

Personally, although I’m not a lover of the cold by any means, I find New Zealand winters temperate enough to still enjoy the outdoors.

There’s something different about the colour of the sky and the quality of the air. As nature shrugs off her heavy coat of lush green growth, rays of sunlight playfully poke their heads into crevices previously guarded by leaves. Snow will dust the higher peaks soon, masking their ruggedness and portraying them as soft mounds of the sweetest icing sugar.

The snap and crackle of a roaring log fire at day’s end will be the perfect accompaniment to the clink of glasses and the bubble of laughter as good friends gather for a tipple of Pinot Noir and perhaps a hearty lamb casserole.

Yes, as much as I often whine at the thought of the cooler months looming ahead, there is something magical about them when you’re in New Zealand. Just don’t let my sister-in-law hear me say that!

Safe travels

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train” – Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)