THE TOP NEW ZEALAND EXPERIENCES
Our trip to New Zealand was the most action packed adventure we have been on so far. With so many outdoor activities and adrenaline rushes, it is hard to come up with our favorites. I think we can both agree these experiences made the cut, though with six months in this beautiful country, I am sure we've missed a fair few.
1. THE NEW ZEALAND GREAT WALKS
New Zealand has a reputation for being an active country, which I credit to their amazing outdoor experiences such as the Great Walks. These well-maintained tracks are the perfect, inexpensive way to see the beautiful and diverse countryside offered here.
The North Island is home to the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk and the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Tongariro shouldn't be missed: it gives the trekker the opportunity to hike volcanic and geothermal peaks, as well as offering the coveted accomplishment of climbing Mt. Doom (proper name Mt. Ngauruhoe) from Lord of the Rings.
Do the views get better than the top of Mt. Nguaruhoe (Mt. Doom!) on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?
South Island offers a larger number of tracks, including the Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track, Kepler Track, and Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Abel Tasman has warm weather, clear water, and sandy beaches along is roving coastline, with some beautiful campsite locations as an added bonus. In contrast, the Kepler track offers misty alpine views and a gorgeous mountain top hut to sleep in after a gradual but constant ascent though forest.
If you're looking for beaches take the Abel Tasman Coastal Track!
And, oft forgotten, Stewart Island offers the Rakiura Track.
Our experience was limited to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Tongariro Northern Circuit, and a day hike of the Kepler Track, but if I could do it again I would definitely do the Milford Sound Track as well.
What starts out as a tree covered climb turns into this vista on the Kepler Track!
BEING A TOURIST
No matter what backlash there is against tourism, I believe being a tourist is not the evil that people make it out to be. There is something about iconic tourism that represents a place, as much as the local realities do. And does New Zealand ever have a lot to boast in the tourism department.
2. Home to the first commercial bungy jump, it would be a shame to miss taking the plunge off of the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown. Of course, you can kick it up a notch by adding in the Nevis Bungy or Swing at a staggering 134 metres high.
Making our first bungy jump!
3. No New Zealand trip would be complete without visiting Hobbiton. Home to the Shire in the Lord of the Rings films, New Zealand has come to represent the trilogy, and having a beer at the Green Dragon is an item worthy of any bucket list.
Any LotR and Hobbit fan needs to visit Hobbiton, no matter how touristy!
4. Don't miss zorbing! I never expected to enjoy the experience of being thrown down a hill in a hamster wheel, but I had so much fun being tossed around in the watery ball I would definitely recommend this tourist attraction to anyone near Rotorua. Go with a friend to make it extra special!
TAKING IN NATURE
5. Near Queenstown, take a cruise to see the Unesco World Heritage Site, Milford Sound. Jaw dropping in its beauty, you will cruise through fjordland as beautiful in rain as it is in sunshine. If you are looking to go a bit off the beaten path, look into taking an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound. Like Milford's younger lesser known sibling, Doubtful Sound has overnight cruises that allow the brave to swim, or else kayak, the frigid waters
There is a reason the Milford Sound fjordland is a Unesco World Heritage Site!
6. An unexpected and amazing experience for us during our trip was swimming with seals in Kaikoura. Listed as one of the best marine encounters by Lonely Planet, it exceeds expectation. So hop in the water and play with these water dogs, they are as curious and playful underwater as they are shy and sluggish on land.
These adorable seals are so much less sluggish when you see what they can do under the water!
7. And for the relaxed traveller, try stargazing on a clear night at the Lake Tekapo Earth and Sky observatory. If you're from the northern hemisphere, you'll appreciate an almost completely new set of constellations using amazing telescopes, including the famous Southern Cross. And if you share the stars with the South, you'll appreciate the unique darkness that is offered in this dark sky reserve.
This photo was taken in complete darkness at the Earth and Sky Observatory in Tekapo!
New Zealand is such an amazing and diverse country, so this list is anything but exhaustive. Agree or disagree with my top picks? Share your favorite New Zealand experiences below!
For my full 6 week itinerary head here!