New Zealand may only be two smallish islands in the South Pacific Ocean, but it packs a lot in. Many visitors underestimate how long they should spend there. If you’re heading there soon for the first time, make sure you fit in at least these six must do experiences in New Zealand.
1. Cruise on Milford Sound
Milford Sound is the most spectacular of the multiple fjords carved into the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, with its cliffs tumbling into the water and gushing waterfalls. Take a cruise boat our for a few hours during the day, or do an overnight cruise. Be warned that it rains a lot here, so be thankful if you have some blue sky! (On the plus side, the high rainfall forms the abundance of waterfalls…) It’s a long day trip to and from Queenstown by bus, so if you’re flush with cash pay for a helicopter upgrade one or both ways. Alternatively, join a tour starting in Te Anau.
2. Experience Maori Culture in Rotorua
The indigenous Maori culture is still strong throughout New Zealand, including the cultural centre of Rotorua on the middle of the North Island. Head to the Whakarewarewa The Living Maori Village on the edge of town for tours, cultural performances, craft displays and to try a “hangi” (a traditional form of cooking using holes in the ground covered with hot coals). It’s also a great site to view Rotorua’s geothermal activity, including bubbling mud and water, and geysers. Alternatively, head off an a tour to other villages and sites outside of the township with one of the many other local organisations.
3. Hike on a Glacier at Fox or Franz Josef Glaciers
On the west cost of New Zealand’s South Island are two glaciers that head from the mountains down to sea level, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Drive then walk by yourself up close to the edge of either of the glaciers (just be careful to stay behind the warning signs), or else pay to join a guided tour. Choose from a walking tour, where you will head up with a guide onto the ever changing glacier surfaces, or a helicopter landing higher up.
4. Do the Tongariro Crossing
One of the best day walks in the world, the Tongariro Crossing passes through the volcanic area of the Central North Island. Passing by the slopes of Mt Ngauruhoe (used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings) and the wonderful Blue Lakes, many operators will drop you at the starting point, before leaving you to complete at your own pace, then pick you up at the end point. If you’re up for an extra challenge and can organise a late pick-up, add on the tough but rewarding side ascent of Ngauruhoe.
5. Do Something that Scares You
New Zealand is the perfect place to experience adventurous activities, thanks to high safety standards and a generous accident compensation scheme, in case something does go run. This led to the pioneering of bungee jumping, that you can do in Queenstown, Auckland and Taupo. If bungee is not your thing, how about a giant swing, sky diving, blackwater rafting or an overnight kayaking trip?
6. Taste some New Zealand Wine
New Zealand has some of the best wines in the world, and it’s not just limited to Marlborough sauvignon blanc. There are 10 wine regions in all, including Northland, Auckland, Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawk’s Bay, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury/Wairapa and Central Otago. I particularly recommend the pinot noir from Central Otago; it’s up there with the world’s best!
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