In awe of Auckland

CHILDHOOD TV ads taught me that nutritious milk comes from the udders of black-and-white cows from the pastures of New Zealand.

So when AirAsia X offered me the chance to make my way to Auckland, a city in New Zealand's North Island, I knew I had to milk it for all its worth.

The first thing you should do upon arrival is get a 360° bird's eye view from the Sky Tower in Auckland's city centre.

From its 220m Sky Deck, you can get your bearings and plan where to travel in this city which is set on a volcanic field.

And at night, the bright city lights provide a breathtaking view of the landscape.

Auckland is also surrounded by many nearby natural attractions including the region of Rotorua, located two-and-half hours south of Auckland.

Rotorua is mainly known for its geothermal spectacles. You know you've arrived at one of them when you start questioning if someone has silently farted in the bus.

Thanks to the natural heat rising from the Earth's depths, the air here is rich in sulphur. For the uninitiated, it smells like rotten eggs.

To witness Mother Earth in action, travel along the trails of Wai-O-Tapu, which will take you into a park filled with spurting geysers, volcanic craters and bubbling mud pools.

You won't be disappointed when you reach the park's Champagne Pool, with its fog of steam, and the nearby Devil's Bath – a stagnant pond the colour of neon green which resembles toxic waste – smells so strongly of something evil, yet so mystical, that given the chance you would still likely dip your toes in.

Rotorua is also rich in the spirited Maori culture which is strongly connected to the land.

Rotorua's Te Puia centre hosts captivating cultural performances daily, which includes the world-renowned Hakka warrior ritual, right before serving a tantalizing buffet of food steamed traditionally in its geothermal environment.

The centre is also the site of the famous Põhutu geyser, and also has a conservation enclosure where you can glimpse the shy kiwi bird.

Speaking of animals, what about those milk-churning cows? As it turned out, the countryside is full of them!

Our entourage almost tipped the van when the driver stopped to allow us to snap photos of not just ordinary fat cows, but a pen of pregnant ones!

You also can't miss the sight of white cotton balls that are sheep dotting the hills.

If you want a closer look at the farm life without having to throw on dungarees, catch a live show at the family-friendly Agrodome.

You can witness an array of sheep specimens strutting their stuff on-stage, and a wool-shearing demonstration loaded with cheeky jokes.

The place also has a nursery to boot, where visitors can dote on little lambs.

If ungulates are not for you, maybe prawns would serve the family better, with a more relaxing atmosphere at the Huka Prawn Park in Taupo, where you can partake in laid-back activities such as feeding baby prawns, and prawn fishing.

For fans of all things Lord of the Rings, Hobbiton in Matamata needs no introduction, as the place is literally the stuff of ­movies.

Many have left feeling like their lives were completed by their journey to the Shire, where guided tours take visitors into the magical dwellings of Peter Jackson's popular trilogy.

As for the consenting adults, if wine is your poison, you'll be pleased to know that Waiheke is New Zealand's 'island of wine', where it produces its own internationally-recognised vintages for visitors to sip on while taking in vineyard views.

The island also grows and manufactures its own award-winning olive oil.

New Zealand has truly been blessed with an array of breathtaking marvels, from inactive volcanoes which you can watch from cable cars at Skyline Rotorua, to glorious Maori rock carvings which you can see at the end of the Chris Jolly ferry cruise in Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is also home to the magnificent, gushing Huka Falls.

And for the spacey daydreamers, Waitomo Cave is the stuff of cosmic wonder, with millions of tiny ­glowworms shining their lights in the darkness, giving the cave a secret constellation of its own.

AirAsia X flies to Auckland via Gold Coast daily at greatly attractive prices. Be sure to book tasty Santan meals and other inflight services online for more savings. More details are available at www.airasia.com.