As the temperatures lower, many of us head to the mountains or the other hemisphere for what makes us smile in winter months.

Christchurch Airport has welcomed record numbers lately, as South Islanders welcome friends or family among international visitors here to see our place in the world.

The headlines include this airport being named one of the world's best airports. We thank you, your city, region, tourism organisations and operators for working with us to promote the best place to work, live and play.


More and more South Islanders are visiting Dubai, both on a modest budget or for a luxury experience. Either way, the rave reviews are compelling.

Sam Park, Team Leader at Flight Centre Ferrymead, says visiting Dubai changed her perceptions of it.

"I packed conservative clothes and expected to be very careful in Dubai, but I was wrong," she says.  "It's Westernised, people are friendly, transport is cheap, the atmosphere is chilled and there is so much to see and do. Every client I have helped visit Dubai has loved it as much as I did."

Sam says her absolute must-do is the Dune Safari. "This whole day is amazing. You travel in 4x4s, ride a camel, watch a falcon show, have your hands henna "tattooed", see stunning views, eat amazing food, and watch the sun set over the desert."

Sam says the world famous Burj Khalifa is simply impressive.
"It is an iconic building in its own right, and from it you can see all of Dubai and get perspective of the very clever man-made features."

Dubai Mall is one of the shopping highlights in the city.  It's the world's largest mall, with stores, eating places and entertainment. Themed areas for children and families include the Dubai Ice Rink (an Olympic sized rink), the Dubai Aquarium and Underground Zoo. The famed Dubai Fountain is on the man-made lake outside Dubai Mall, with nightly shows combining fountains as high as a 45-storey building with music, 6600 lights and colourful projected images.

Sam says there's nothing you can't buy in Dubai. "You don't pay tax in Dubai, you can barter, you can buy top-end designer labels, and will find gold, electronics, carpets, rugs, spices and dates, and more, to suit your budget."

To blow your mind, Sam suggests a visit to Ski Dubai, a ski field in the Mall of the Emirates. "It's difficult to believe this is in the middle of the desert, but it's where people ski, snowboard, go tobogganing, and meet penguins."

Sam recommends at least three nights in Dubai for a first visit, but says clients who spend a week there come home with a list of things to see the next time. "Like me, they would go back in a heartbeat."

Emirates flies its flagship A380 aircraft between Christchurch and Dubai every day. Christchurch is the smallest city on the planet to have a daily A380 service. This is made possible by the South Island tourism industry.




It's official - your airport is one of the best in the world! In the recent World Airport Awards, Christchurch Airport was named the Best Regional Airport in Australia/Pacific. These are the most prestigious accolades for the world airport industry because they are voted by air travellers. This year they were based on 13.82 million airport survey questionnaires completed by 105 different nationalities of airline customers in 550 airports.


Christchurch Airport recorded its busiest month on record over summer - twice in fact! In December, the number of passengers through the terminal (638,043) was the highest ever recorded here and equals more than the entire population of Canterbury and the West Coast through the doors. In March, we beat that record, with more than 650,000 passengers in the month. Over the summer we saw a total of 5.5% growth (4.1% domestic, 8.9% international) on the same time the previous year, which itself was a record year.


Next time you put a used coffee cup in our special bins, you'll be using something which has been recognised as a leading initiative internationally. The Airports Council International (ACI) is always on the look-out for projects which show airports minimising aviation's impact on the environment.  In March, ACI Asia-Pacific awarded Christchurch Airport silver recognition for the giant coffee cups as a simple innovative solution for a problem airports face globally.


A new vehicle is about to join New Zealand's first autonomous vehicle (AV) trials on the private roads at Christchurch Airport. The new vehicle is the first locally designed and built AV and uses artificial intelligence to repeat a charted course over and over. The second phase of the trial which began more than a year ago will allow the New Zealand vehicle to be proven and licenced. We look forward to continuing to explore how autonomous shuttles might play a part in our future at our airport.


California-based company Kitty Hawk, operating as Zephyr Airworks in New Zealand, is testing the world's first self-piloted and electric air taxi in Canterbury.  We have been working with the American company for some time now, supporting its search for a suitable test space for the autonomous air taxi, known as Cora. The American-based company was keen to work here to pay respect to Richard Pearse first pioneering flying here.


A mountain biking and tramping trail with a beguiling name is attracting visitors who value heritage, wilderness and some great stories.

The Old Ghost Road is a long-forgotten miners' road on the west coast of the South Island, though some call it an 85 kilometre-long outdoor museum. Run by enthusiastic volunteer trustees, the trail is a single-track adventure through remote valleys, mountain tops and river gorges.

Phil Rossiter, chairman of Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust, says more than 11,000 people went through the track last year. Experienced mountain bikers comprised more than two-thirds of visitors, however the proportion of intrepid trampers is growing.

"We'd love as many visitors as possible to enjoy this trail and landscape, but realistically it's not suitable for everyone, particularly to ride it. The Old Ghost Road is an advanced mountain biking trail - a narrow trail with some long steep climbs, technical descents and significant exposure."

Phil says people considering riding the trail must be realistic about their capability, but says there's plenty of riders who take their time and thoroughly enjoy it.

 "The feedback we get is humbling and overwhelming, dripping in superlatives. People describe their experience on the trail as life-changing and incredible. It's not just the landscape - they get the history and unique circumstances that created the trail."

 Trampers also enjoy the trail, but need experience in the backcountry. Tramping The Old Ghost Road usually takes four nights/five days, walking at least four hours a day, with one day around seven hours.

 Backcountry huts exist along the trail and there's a range of services such as transport, gear drops, guiding, catering, and gear hire if you want it. 'Old Ghost Adventures' even exist - tailored packages designed to cater for specific visitor needs and appetites.

Whichever way you choose to enjoy the trail, you're in for a spirited adventure and maybe even a ghost story to tell.


Southern All Blacks fans are about to see their local and national heroes play - at the same time.

In a South Island first, the All Blacks will play Canterbury and Otago in a Game of Three Halves in August.

The All Blacks will play 40-minute matches against each provincial side, with Canterbury and Otago also playing each other in a 40-minute match. The games will be the only opportunity to see the All Blacks play in Christchurch this year and will not be broadcast on TV.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen says the All Blacks look forward to bringing this concept to passionate Canterbury rugby fans. "A lot of great All Blacks have hailed from both Canterbury and Otago. We know they'll throw everything at the All Blacks, which is just what we need in the build up to the Rugby Championship," he says.

Canterbury Rugby CEO Nathan Godfrey is pleased local rugby fans will get this opportunity.

"When we heard last year that Christchurch wouldn't be awarded an All Blacks Test Match for the next two years, the city really rallied around the CRFU.  Without that support, this game simply wouldn't be possible and the low ticket prices will allow families to see the game live."  

Canterbury Head Coach Joe Maddock says the chance to take on the All Blacks and Otago is exciting for a lot of his players.  "They'll get to play 40 minutes against some of their heroes - that's a real dream come true." 

Otago Head Coach Cory Brown says the Game of Three Halves is a rare opportunity for players to come up against the All Blacks. "We hope a lot of our supporters travel to Christchurch to see the games."

Game of Three Halves - 6.30pm on Friday 10 August at AMI Stadium. Tickets $20 for adults and $5 for children.


If you're looking for a reason to admire and photograph Christchurch central city walls, here it is.

A new walking tour takes in some of the newest and most spectacular street art murals.

A group called Watch This Space launched the street art walking tours, at the time Christchurch was ranked by Lonely Planet as one of the street art capitals of the world.

Art historian Dr Reuben Woods has a PhD in the subject of street art, is a trustee of Watch This Space and one of the tour leaders.

"Street art tells a story of what the city is, what it was and what it could be," he says. "It was once something tucked away in Christchurch, but the earthquakes gave it new prominence. Christchurch deserves a street art resource as amazing as the art itself, so we want to keep it visible."

New Zealand artist DSide is one of the artists whose work is included in the tour and he chose to produce a cycle themed work.

"Christchurch is the cycle capital of the country, holds all the good stats for biking and encompasses environments for all avenues of the biking culture," he says. "Christchurch has the best collection of walls in New Zealand because of so many international big name artists."

Canadian muralist Kevin Ledo describes the new areas of the city as "gorgeous and well thought-out" and he enjoyed seeing murals from friends and colleagues from all over the world.

Dr Woods says people shouldn't just stare up at the city's huge masterpieces, but also look down and around.

"You'll find graffiti in some of the most out of the way and obscure places. Sometimes we miss things if we are not looking."


Whether going east to west, or west to east, crossing the South Island by rail is undoubtedly one of the great journeys of New Zealand.

TranzAlpine train travel evokes a sense of elegance and adventure, mixed with scenery which makes Kiwis proud and international travellers' jaws drop.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy says the train journey is one of the country's most popular attractions for local and overseas tourists.

"The idea for the TranzAlpine was born more than 30 years ago after it became clear how much passengers on our Christchurch-to-Greymouth service enjoyed the scenery on their journey," he says.

It carries about 140,000 passengers a year and has been named among the world's top train journeys by National Geographic Traveller. The journey takes just under five hours from Christchurch to Greymouth and goes through 16 tunnels, the longest being the 8.5km Otira Tunnel.

One recent passenger says "I'm an American living in Christchurch, and when my Mom visited recently, we turned the TranzAlpine train journey into a weekend treat. It was a magical experience and one I believe every visitor to the South Island should have. Around every corner there was a new, different and unexpected view, and within four hours we saw farmland, alpine passes, rain forest and ocean. I spent 98% of the trip in the outdoor carriage, in the fresh air and feeling the wind on my face, while my Mom enjoyed being inside, knitting and being wowed by the scenery."

No matter where they come from, consistent feedback from people who make this iconic journey is they love it because it passes through spectacular and untouched scenery, typical Kiwi towns, wildlife in natural settings, farmland, Southern Alps passes, and, depending on the time of year, deep white snow.


Things are literally looking up in Southland - the place to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights, when the winter sky is lit with pink, red and green light.

Dark areas away from city lights - Stewart Island/Rakiura, The Catlins and Bluff - are the best places to view this, and efforts are underway to have Stewart Island established as the world's fourth Dark Sky Sanctuary.

 Stephen Canny from Venture Southland says there's huge interest in the Aurora Australia.

"We get a lot of people planning a winter visit here specifically to see Aurora Australis. They research it carefully, so we consider them very special visitors."

 Auroras are electrically charged particles from solar winds that enter the Earth's atmosphere and react to its gases. Websites cite the Southern Lights as the world's most remarkable light show, the result of the type of gas molecule, the electrical state at the time and the type of solar wind particle the gas collides with.

"The Aurora Australis sometimes occurs with only 30 minutes' notice, but generally speaking the best time is around midnight or the early hours of the morning," says Stephen. "Information on the aurora conditions come from Invercargill's Unwin Radar and when combined with the Tasmanian Tiger Radar, a precise prediction of Aurora activity can be achieved.

"For the best views, you need a very clear night, a very dark sky with very little moonlight and no cloud cover. People tend to get away from city streetlights to see the light shows."

The aurora is always moving, so photographers recommend using a wide angle lens, slow shutter speed, wide aperture, a tripod and a remote trigger.

Visitors to Southland can also stare directly into the centre of the Milky Way and get the best views of Large and Small Magellanic Clouds - two extraordinary galaxies visible to the naked eye.


If you want a cool weekend that will definitely leave you highly entertained, warm right through and exhilarated, make plans right now to get to the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival later this month.

The festival has been running for 43 years and is billed as the southern hemisphere's biggest celebration of all things winter.

Festival Director Rae Baker says "This year's festival will see all the good stuff you know and love, so you should be getting your dog in training for the dog derby and prepping your wings for a polar plunge at the good old Day on the Bay. However this year there will be new features that will keep even the most seasoned festival fan surprised and entertained.

"The festival has evolved over the past 43 years and the party that launches Australasia's winter season continues to draw people from New Zealand and overseas to Queenstown for a celebration to remember," she says.

 Since its early days, the festival has been rated in the Top 10 'must do' festivals of the world by Yahoo Traveller and has previously won accolades such as the Best Marketed Event and Best Established Event at previous events awards.

This year's host mountain is Cardrona Alpine Resort, but the events take place all over Queenstown from June 21 to 24, so get in training now and prepare yourself for mega winter fun.

June 21 to 24


If there's one company famous for outstanding food and service, it's White Tie Catering.

The Christchurch-based company has a history of family and friend ownership and a reputation for contemporary high-end cuisine, delivered in some of New Zealand's most beautiful venues.

General Manager and Director Katie Duncan grew up around White Tie, working for the company while it was owned by her parents.

"These days I wear a chef's jacket at events, but I'll take my turn doing dishes and sweeping floors," she laughs. "We say all staff are created equal, and the owners are no exception."

Katie says winter catering is all about warming up from the inside out. 

"We love to do dishes that take hours to develop rich, dark flavours, alongside creamy mashes and gratins, with a warm sticky pudding with port or whiskey chaser."

Asked to share a recipe for a decadent winter treat, Katie offers a boozy hot chocolate.

"It's perfect for a winter wedding, celebration or party, and even more special because most of your guests won't have tried Amarula before. It's a creamy liqueur made from berries of the Marula tree, or Elephant Tree as locals call it in East Africa. 

"We recommend you use a good quality, relatively dark New Zealand chocolate, like Whittakers 50% or even better, 62%. Gently melt a 250gm block with a litre of cream, or cream and milk, and add Amarula to taste. This is decadent and very grown up."

Katie says adding Winter Spice Marshmallows takes it to the next level.

"Making marshmallows is quite easy if you've got a good mixer and thermometer. Use gladwrap sprayed well with canola oil spray, so your sticky mixture is easy to remove once it sets.  Cut it into cubes with a pair of scissors, stick it on a skewer and, voila, heaven in a mug!"

Winter Spice Marshmallow
Makes 40-50 pieces

3 tbsp powdered gelatine
½ cup cold water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cloves
¼ cup water
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar for dredging

In a bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatine over the ½ cup of water. Soak for 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, spices and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatine, and mix at a high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla and scrape into a 9"x9" cake tin lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. (Note: lightly oil hands and spatula). After pouring marshmallow mixture into the tin, take another piece of oiled plastic wrap and press over mixture in tin.

Let mixture sit for a few hours. Remove from tin, dredge the marshmallow slab with icing sugar and cut with scissors - the best tool for the job.

Completely coat marshmallow in icing sugar.





June 10

Registrations on the day only (from 9am) for this run, walk and kids' challenge on courses which separate the events and make the most of the countryside. The Grand Traverse is an 18km hill run, the Fun Run/Walk is 11km long and the Kids' Challenge is 2km out and back with smaller hills to climb. There's plenty to see no matter which course you are on.



June 29 - July 7

Wanaka, Cromwell and Queenstown will host this festival offering films, speakers, workshops and presentations from inspirational adventurers, both Kiwi and international. Billed as a "celebration of adventurous sports and lifestyles presented for adventurers, film and book enthusiasts and armchair adventurers", this festival will showcase adventure sports, travel and environmental issues.



July 6 - 10

Art, science, design and technology combine to offer this spectacular free outdoor gallery of works in the historic Queens Gardens, Albion Square, NMIT and surrounding areas. A garden walk on a clear winter night with some magic, illusion and fun.


August 4

A gravel and seal cycling event in multiple stages across the day and totalling 121km. The course takes in two passes south of Blenheim, as well as scenic backroads and you can choose to race or ride. Coffee, gourmet pies, craft beers and Marlborough wines may also count as attractions.


August 5

Make the most of Autumn in Mid Canterbury. From the Lake House, it's three laps around Lake Hood for the half marathon runners, walkers and hybrid (run and walk) entrants; one lap for the 1/6 marathon (7km) run or walk; and a Kidz Dash of 1.5km for seven to 15 year olds.


August 17-18

Fibre, art and glamour. Entries from all over New Zealand and overseas mean what started as a small show on a very limited budget is now a two night fashion extravaganza of garments with a minimum 75% wool content. Categories are Streetwear, Special Occasion and Avant-Garde, as well as Under-23 Emerging Designer and Novice, are among the sections which promise a memorable weekend.