Kaikoura, New Zealand
Why Go: The Kaikoura peninsula may not have reindeer, but it is teeming with sperm whales, fur seals, dusky dolphins, pilot whales, and albatross in Kaikoura Bay. Since it’ll be summertime when you visit, you can encounter almost all of them by boat or kayak, then catch some yuletide rays on the beach.
Where to Stay: Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses is the ne plus ultra of New Zealand’s eco-tourism accommodations: a complex of cedar-covered buildings and six treehouses with views of both the bay and the imperial Kaikoura mountain range. Luxe high design reigns inside and out.
Holiday Dinner: The hotel's decadent winter menu features starters of porcini and truffle ravioli and lamb backstrap on crispy fried spinach. For main dishes, try the wild venison loin with blueberries and port reduction, or the pan-fried Kaikoura blue cod with basil and chervil mayo.
In the Maori language, Kaikoura means "meal of crayfish," a nod to the New Zealand township's seafood-rich origins. Remnants of those early days can be found at Fyffe House, the oldest surviving building, and Kaikoura Museum. Today, the South Island settlement provides an ideal base camp for observing the abundant offshore wildlife (sperm whales, dusky dolphins, orcas and fur seals) and dining on fresh local catch. Numerous galleries showcase the knitting, pottery and jewelry of area artisans.