Hold on to your hats in New Zealand, where the beauty, mystery and magic amaze at every turn.
Having hovered thousands of feet in the air against colossal snow-cloaked glaciers that you could reach out and touch, it seemed unfathomable that the views of New Zealand’s Southern Alps could have left us more exuberant than we were already feeling. And then we stepped out of our ride with The Helicopter Line onto a mountaintop that belonged in an O’Keeffe painting, engulfed by clouds and crowning peaks, for a champagne toast.
“A lot of incentive groups land here for lunch or to hit biodegradable golf balls off the side of the mountain,” explained Tourism New Zealand’s business events manager for North America, Alexa Bennett. “We can arrange just about anything.”
Like the folding ridges before us, our week-long adventure in this extraordinary country would be marked by one pinnacle after the next.
Queenstown: An Adventure for Every Season
Gravity is your best and worst friend, we quickly learned, when winding around Skyline Queenstown’s 2,600 ft of open-air luge tracks. Groups climb to the summit on a steep cable car lift (almost parallel to the mountain) for tandem hangliding, skydiving, stargazing and a New Zealand-inspired dining experience served up with some of the best views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables mountain range and Coronet Peak. Buyouts for events of up to 900 take place here and Maori performances like the fearsome haka can add an unforgettable dose of authenticity.
At nearby Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the world’s first commercial bungee jump, the bravest in our group got another lesson on gravity during a heart-pounding swan dive 140 ft above Kawarau River. Kawarau holds room for 550 (and DJs, aerial silk dancers and other performers, if so desired), and up to 20 adventurous attendees can take the plunge every hour during events, perhaps under the twinkling lights of fireworks.
Wellington: A Journey Through Middle-earth
A bespoke VIP experience at Weta Workshop, an Oscar-winning special effects and props design company named after NZ’s weird and wonderful prehistoric cricket, has been giving groups of 20 to 80 a unique look at the underpinnings of hit TV shows and films for the past 30 years. More than 40,000 items from the locally filmed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are on display, as well as King Kong’s head, animatronics from “Ghost in the Shell” and “Avatar” props. “All hobbit characters were 3-D printed,” explains our tour guide. “You could have done it with computer-generated imagery but it just wouldn’t have the same effect.” At Weta, creative team building sessions with senior designers take place on sculpting and blood and chainmail making, and artists can turn members of the group into dwarfs and other characters during prosthetics demos.
At Weta, creative team building sessions with senior designers take place on sculpting and blood and chainmail making.
As New Zealand’s political and cultural capital, Wellington, on the country’s North Island, also offers numerous museums for events. We experienced a guided tour of the waterfront Te Papa, the country’s national museum, whose largest event space holds room for up to 1,000 attendees. The museum can also arrange behind-the-scenes experiences of exhibits that immerse attendees even deeper into the country’s distinct heritage.