Things to do in New Zealand
This is a real toughie! New Zealand is a long way off from anywhere especially when deciding to go for a holiday. You may well ask ‘Why New Zealand?’
No matter how hard you try you cannot nail down just ten reasons to love New Zealand. First off there so many wonderful and breathtaking places to visit in New Zealand that listing them alone would fill an entire guidebook. So I am going to cheat here.
This listing is a mash-up. We highlight individual activities and locations and also provide wide-ranging sections to cover a number of them. Hopefully that will give you the big picture so that you can fully experience the stunning landscape, incredible weather and get in a huge dose of adventure. We also hope our highlights will encourage you to take the journey and help organise your limited time in The Land of the Long White Cloud.
The Scenery and Landscape
New Zealand is the result of nature’s genius. The forces unleashed by the ice age, tectonic forces, volcanism and erosion have created a landscape, flora and scenery unequalled anywhere in the world. It has produced one of the most unspoilt, diverse and dramatic terrains in the world. Just the memory of those majestic mountain ranges, crystal clear alpine lakes, craggy fiords and ancient forests (some of which are over a thousand years old) brings a lump to my throat and go all dreamy-eyed.
New Zealand possesses the unique opportunity to “tramp” (hike in Kiwi-speak) through native forests where many trees are more than 1,000 years old, kayak the turquoise waters of a tranquil bay, conquer a mountain, bathe in a thermal pool, ski a volcano, walk on a glacier, swim with dolphins, shoot the rapids in a jet boat, or just lie about on a sandy beach. Oh yeah! No place is more than 75 miles from a beach.
Without a single doubt, the New Zealand climate is a major appeal as a holiday destination. It does not have extremes. The hottest it gets is 25°C and the coldest daytime temperature gets to 12°C. The country has a long summer and with just enough snow in winter for skiing. Spring and autumn make a beautiful country gorgeous when the normally green landscape explodes into a hundred different colours.
That’s right! Kiwi culture plays a huge part in the attractiveness of the country. The people are fantastically friendly and genuinely hospitable. That probably lies in the fact that they are such a mixed bunch. The New Zealand population is an interesting mix of English, Scottish, Maori, Asian and Pacific Islanders who have woven their different customs and traditions into a splendid tapestry. Thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi, between the Maori and Britain, Maori cultural influence on society is all over and its character is one of the most marvellous and appealing aspects of New Zealand life.
Another attractive and audible aspect about New Zealanders is the accent. They all speak English but many of their expressions, phrases and pronunciation will be apt to confuse. The Zealand accent has strong Scottish and Irish influences with softer tones. Such is its appeal you will soon be speaking the same way and long after you leave the islands.
Despite what other countries around the world may claim New Zealand is the true owner of the title – Adventure Capital of the World. It’s in the Kiwi DNA. They are always off and indulging in some wild activity or the other. They constantly crave a blood rush, accelerated heart rate or adrenaline overdose (all three if possible). This has seen New Zealander’s invent some really wild sports and activities. Among their awesome pioneering achievements are jet boating, bungee jumping and zorbing. So get out of your bed and comfortable, unexciting room and head down to God zone country, because heaven knows what next heart-stopping crazy idea the Kiwis will come up with. And you just have to get in on the act.
Okay! So we covered some general and wide reaching New Zealand activities that will make you fall in love with the country. Let’s move onto specific things and places that could have you either deciding to stay for the rest of your life or returning again and again.
Bay Of Islands
The Bay of Islands – to employ that overused expression – is truly a paradise. Located in the north east section of North Island, it is an area of stunning beauty and has a gorgeous sub-tropical climate. Just a three hour drive away from Auckland, the Bay comprises of 144 islands, each one a treat in itself. Three locations deserve special mention.
Kerikeri: Famed for the Rainbow Falls and the Puketi Forest that is home to the magnificent and ancient kauri trees. The island also has some really good wineries, orchards and art galleries.
Paihia: In a place of abundant beauty Paihia is the jewel in the crown of the Bay of Islands. You can go whale and dolphin watching; take off on a tandem parasail over the gorgeous waters; skydive, scuba dive or go exploring on a sea kayak or just loll around on one of its magnificent beaches.
Russell: It was the first capital of New Zealand. Once known as the “hell hole of the Pacific” because of the exciting, often violent and rowdy behaviour of whalers, traders and sailors who frequented the place and settled here. Today Russell is a superb big game fishing destination. You can catch tuna, broad bill, kingfish, shark and other game fish off its shores. It has also transformed into an elegant town of waterfront restaurants and cafés. Russell is also the gateway to the Cape Brett Tramping Track and the Okiato to Russell Walkway.
Located in the south west part of South Island, Milford Sound is the location of the world famous Mitre Peak. Universally recognised the image of the peak has been the inspiration for many a visitor’s arrival on New Zealand’s shores. Called by Rudyard Kipling the Eight Wonder of the World, Milford Sound is an intensely beautiful fjord with steep rising rocks and cliffs with hundreds of waterfalls that add to its captivating charm.
Kayaking in the Sound or hiking along the Milford Track are wonderful and fantastically rewarding activities that will give you a physical satisfaction and soul-filling dose of beauty.
The city and area of Rotorua is located in the Bay of Plenty of North Island. It is a spectacular place of geothermal springs, bubbling mud pools, steaming hot geysers and eye-watering sulphur lakes. Besides the wonderful scenery Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s cultural hot spots with many Maori landmarks, history, shows and related activities. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about Maori culture and traditions.
The area is also one of New Zealand’s adventure sports hubs. You can go wild indulging in your fill of rafting, zorbing or shweebing (Rotorua’s pioneering and latest adrenaline attraction – pedal-powered vehicles hanging from monorail racetracks)
Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
In a land of splendid scenic plenty the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers rank near the top of anyone’s listing. These two icy wonders are truly remarkable because they are only 300 metres above sea level, the lowest in the world; accessible to all – no need for climbing gear and most astonishing of all they are both flanked on both sides by lush, thick rainforests!
In any other country lovely Queenstown, its captive glacier Lake Wakatipu, snow-capped mountains, forests and breathtaking scenery would be the top attraction. Even here in New Zealand in south west South Island it is a gem. Famed for its beauty Queenstown however has acquired world-wide fame as being the world’s greatest adventure destination. The nearby Kawerau River is home to the famed and original bungy jump.
Queenstown’s reputation as the ultimate adventure sport destination also lies in the variety and number of adrenaline activities that you can take part in here. There is sky diving, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking, downhill mountain biking and river rafting all year round and in winter there is skiing and snowboarding. You can never get bored!
This achingly beautiful corner of New Zealand sits on the northern west coast of South Island and a couple of hours from Christchurch. The little fishing village of Kaikoura is framed by the stunning Kaikoura Mountain Range and the dramatic Pacific Ocean.
Unsurprisingly most of the activities here are marine-oriented. You can go fishing and kayaking. Just outside on the eastern edge of the town is a large resident community of southern fur seals for your viewing pleasure. The speciality though is whale and dolphin watching. Ships from the town go out several times a day taking visitors to see these magnificent sea creatures. Hiking is also another good option. Bird-watching enthusiasts will have no problem seeing ocean seabirds such as albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, including the Hutton’s shearwater
We hope that our picks will give you enough motivation (not that it needs it) to visit New Zealand, right now! Your visit will be one of the best trips you will ever make and the most memorable.