The beauty of New Zealand simply cannot be fully appreciated without seeing it firsthand. New Zealand possesses a rich culture in this wonderland of thrill-seeking and natural beauty.
1. Queenstown: It’s Extreme
Queenstown is the “home of adventure tourism.” This picturesque town of about 30,000 sits at the foot of the Southern Alps on Lake Wakatipu also happens to be an adrenaline-junkie’s paradise. On the water, in the air, or on the slopes, there are more extreme adventures than you could pack into one trip. Set sail for Queenstown for river surfing, bungy jumping, canyon swinging, jet boating and white water rafting. Take flight with hang-gliding. skydiving, heli-tours for beautiful aerial views of the mountains, lakes and town that photographs cannot do justice.
Queenstown is New Zealand’s “premiere four-season lake and alpine resort.” If the breathtaking scenery weren’t already enough on its own, the early sunrises and sunsets mean you can enjoy it even longer. The slopes are open from June through October, which is good news for winter sport-lovers. Skiing, snowboarding for all skill levels are found only a short drive up the the nearby ski fields. There is no shortage of bars an nightlife from the city. so it’s pretty much a collection of young, adventurous, boozed up people in the beautiful New Zealand countryside.
2. The Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
The glowworm is a creature unique to New Zealand. In Te Anau, take a guided boat tour through the Waitomo Glow Worm Cave. It’s like a Willy Wonka tour of pure imagination, expect with thousands of bioluminescent insects dangling from the ceiling and lighting your way as you meander down the underground waterways in the Glow Worm Grotto.
The spectacle is quite romantic (once you get past the insect thing) and is unlike any you will ever see in the world. Guided tours take visitors through three levels of the cave: the Catacombs, to the Banquet Chamber to the Cathedral. The Cathedral’s ceiling is about 60 feet high, giving it amazing acoustics.
3. Explore Middle Earth
Whether or not you choose to take a guided tour, there are countless opportunities throughout the country to see the only lands beautiful enough to do The Lord of the Rings justice. Hobbiton offers a two-hour guided tour of the 44 Hobbit Holes that make up The Shire. The Green Dragon Inn, Bag End and The Party Tree have been recreated as permanent fixtures on this 1,250 acre-farm. The view across the Kaimai Ranges is stunning and this is a must for any Tolkien-lover.
The Hairy Feet Scenic Film Location Tour offers a guided tours of Mangaotaki Valley, which is featured in the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in the scenes of: the campfire of the three trolls, Gandalf bestowing the sword Sting upon Bilbo, Radagast’s first appearance and more. Tolkien fan or not, the scenery provides a majestic view of the stunning rock formations of the Denize Bluffs.
4. Cruise On Milford Sound
Milford Sound is one of the more accessible fjords, yet remains serene, quiet and still. It is located on the northernmost end of Fiordland National Park, on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Its steep cliffs, rugged rain forest, encircling mountains, cascading waterfalls and reflective waters make it a breathtaking experience for even the most seasoned traveler. Cruises offer an opportunity to sit back and take it all in, and many offer overnight experiences which give the opportunity for stargazing and watching the sunset and sunrise over one of the most magnificent places on Earth (not to mention dinner, breakfast and private cabins on board). If you’re lucky, some dolphins, penguins or seals may join you on your journey.
The high level of rainfall makes it one of the wettest inhabited places in New Zealand and creates countless temporary waterfalls cascading down the cliff faces, as well as contributing to the majestic, more permanent falls.
5. Enroll In Surf School At Te Arai Point
Te Arai is one of the only undeveloped beaches between Auckland and Whangarei. The miles of pristine white sand beaches, clear water, and consistent surf conditions have kept surfers coming back to this scenic spot for decades. It’s a suitable spot for all skill levels to enjoy the surf and the breathtakingly beautiful, uninterrupted natural scenery. This has been one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets for decades, although efforts are currently being made to preserve the natural beauty of Te Arai.
Surfing on the beach of this small community on the east coast on the North Island of New Zealand is an experience of total oneness with nature. The surf instructors in the area are known for their patience and accommodation, so don’t be afraid to hit the surf.
6. Tramp The Routeburn Track
This mountain track offers majestic views of the panoramic landscape: the Southern Alps, Lake Wakatipu, and Milford Sound. This is a track in the lower South Island that is suitable for less experienced “trampers” (hikers), although you should keep The Seven Rules of Tramping andThe Dos And Don’ts Of Tramping In New Zealand in mind and rent a locator beacon. Routeburn Track passes through two national parks: Fiordland and Mount Aspiring.
With its turquoise waters, alpine basins, mountain peaks pristine lakes, luxurious forests and abundant wildlife (the cute, not the ferocious kind), the Routeburn Track is one of the world’s top hiking destinations. Guided walks are available, which come highly recomended. The guides are very helpful and the walks can be completed in three days and two nights. Many tracks require that you book cabins along the way before you embark, for your safety and the environment’s.
7. Go Blackwater Rafting In Waitomo Cave
We’ve all been whitewater rafting, but you’ve probably never been blackwater rafting before. Go underground for this subterranean river adventure, which features a few different versions of the extreme tubing cavern tour. An experienced guide will lead you through the winding underground waterways, over minor rapids. Minor rapids, meaning just enough to make it exciting but not so terrifying you’ll have to update your last will and testament before you strap in to that inner tube.
Take the classic three-hour Black Labyrinth Tour over cascading waterfalls, or opt for the Black Abyss Expedition, which combines tubing, rappelling, climbing and more.
8. Drive The Desert Road Across the Volcanic Plateu
Desert Road is a rugged part of State Highway 1, which takes you across the picturesque Volcanic Plateau. It’s a scenic drive that you shouldn’t miss while you’re in the country. This route winds through vast stretches of volcanoes and mountains. Desert Road is subject to road closures during the winter, however, so check for road closures before you embark.
State Highway one reaches over 3,000 feet above sea level on Desert Road, the highest point on the New Zealand State Highway network.
9. Cruise Or Kayak To The Maori Rock Carvings
Hop on a sailboat and embark on Lake Taupo to see the awe-inspiring Maori Rock Carvings up-close. These carvings tower over 30 feet high and are only accessible by boat or kayak. Although they may look like the carvings of an ancient tribal people, they were actually created in the 1970s by John Randall and master carver Mahati Whakataka-Brightwell as a gift to his mother’s land of Taupo.
These carvings hold great spiritual and cultural significance and are believed to represent the perseverance of traditional Maori art through the generations.
10. Sea Kayak Through Marlborough Sounds
Kayaking is one of the most intimate ways to get acquainted with the majesty of New Zealand. The Marlborough Sounds make up 20% of New Zealand’s coastline, with waters ranging from a deep green and blue, and the pristine, lush native forestland decorating the shorelines. It isn’t unusual for dolphins, penguins, and other marine life to join you on your kayaking trip.
This coastal adventure can be a voyage on the water alone, but if you can find the time, tramping The Queen Charlotte Track is a wonderful way to experience the Sounds as well. Opt for a small guided walk or freedom walk. Freedom walks are designed for independent walkers and include resort accommodation, packed lunch daily, maps and base support.
11. Have Dinner And A Show At Mitai Maori Village
Mitai Maori Village is a dazzling spectacle of New Zealand’s indigenous Polynesian culture. Experience a traditionally cooked Hangai meal in the earth oven known as the “Hangai pit,” as well as bountiful side dishes. Witness warriors in traditional dress demonstrate combat and weaponry as well as the grace and beauty of the poi dance.
Experience the performance of the Maori to learn about their past, carving, and tattoo art. The crystal clear water flows from the sacred Fairy Spring and is teeming with eel and trout. The warriors paddle their ancient warrior canoe down the spring. The Haka Finale is one you wont soon forget.
12. Celebrate The Food And Drink Of The West Coast At The Hokitika Wildfoods Festival
The small town of Hokitika is transformed during the last Saturday in March and has been for the past 20 years. The culinary creativity of the locals is demonstrated through 12,000 different gourmets during the festival, which includes live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, costume and photography contets. Sample seagull eggs, huhu beetle grubs, and much more.
If you’re brave enough to try to mountain oysters, those are served up at the festival as well. It is WILDfoods, after all. While you’re there, you may want to check out the black sand beaches of the West Coast.
13. Indulge In Rotorua Mud Baths And Spas
The unique geothermal muds and sulfur waters of the Rotorua thermal park are renowned for their curative and invigorating properties. Have an all-natural day at this uniquely New Zealand spa experience. Relax, and soak in the benefit of nature’s spa. Not only is it therapeutic, it’s also beautiful, like basically everything else in New Zealand. Here you’ll find the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere, because that’s apparently a thing.
The geothermal muds have a strong affinity to moisture in the skin and promote the regeneration of skin cells, detoxify the skin while drying, absorb excess oils and fatty secretions from the skin’s pores, and kills bacteria, which helps with the elimination of acne. Take a tour of the geyser’s or get a full body massage: or why not both?
14. Visit The Waiheke Island Of Wine
Take a ferry out to Waiheke Island to a wine-lovers paradise. This scenic, rolling landscape features twenty wineries of intense and varying flavor. Many of the vineyards are open year-round for tours and tastings. It’s more than just a collection of vineyards, though. There are dozens of art galleries and craft stores to explore, as well as luxurious lodging if you decide to stay the night (or a couple).
The freshness and purity of Waikheke’s pristine environment is reflected in the taste of the wine produced on the island. There are plenty of vineyard cafes and restaurants on the island, as well as picturesque accommodations.
15. Mountain Bike Through The Redwoods At Whakarewarewa
The natural beauty alone of the Whakarewarewa Forest is a reason to visit all on its own, but there’s plenty to do while you’re there. The forest is most well known for its networks of mountain biking and horseback riding trails and panoramic views. This is one of the oldest forests in New Zealand. 170 species of trees were planted as a trial in the early 1900s, if you were wondering how California Redwoods ended up here. Many of the Redwoods survived and flourished.
The forest features a diverse range of exotic tree species, thermal area, and a mix of native undergrowth – ferns, flowers, shrubs and fungi – over 5600 hectacres. There are many assorted flora and fauna, but no dangerous wildlife, so it’s a safe place to visit.
Featured Image © clownfish33