What is there to do in New Zealand?
So, What is there to do in New Zealand?
As I have mentioned in some of the other sections of this review there is something for everyone to do in New Zealand but to recap check out the list below for a few of the options:
•Visit the cities –
(all the usual stuff a city has to offer along with diverse culture, sights to see and festivals that are held)
•Visit the wine regions and valleys
•The extreme sport scene,
(Bungee, caving, white and dark water rafting, canyon swings, sky diving, skiing / snowboarding)
•Visit the different landscapes, mountains, beaches, rainforest and geothermal
•Visit the oceans
•Check out the wild life
•Socialise with some friendly, fun and sometimes crazy people
•Get on a plane, train, bus, boat and tram and take a tour
The list of things to do goes on and on and I am sure you will not have to look far to find what you need.
With so much on offer; What is good?
In no particular here are my top 10 destination recommendations
I have been to them all and can thoroughly recommend them all, it may not be the “conventional” top 10 but then you already know that one and that why its worth a read…
The North Island
Bay of Islands
90 mile beach & Cape Reinga
What is there to do in New Zealand – Auckland
Auckland is one of the most popular destinations to enter New Zealand as it is relatively close to the east-west coast of Australia and the Fijian islands.
When I stepped off the plane it felt like I had was home, it was raining lightly and a bit overcast but was fresh and had that feeling of energy buzzing in the air.
Even the trees, plant and vibe around the airport reminded me of the UK it was a surreal moment and instantly put me at ease.
Auckland is home of the Sky tower which is the predominant feature of the cities skyline (along with the Auckland arbour Bridge).
The Auckland harbour bridge is another impressive structure and home to the(the site of the AJ Hackett Bungee) which was well worth a go!
Another site you may wish to visit when you are there is the Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium built in a disused sewage works which may sound a little quirky but is certainly worth a visit if you have time!
This is not the largest city you will ever go to but there is plenty to do there. In the city itself and around the surrounding area there is a multitude of activities including the following:
and a host of free activities including,
•climbing a volcano,
•Taking a free tour at the Art Gallery
•Snorkelling at goat island
•Visiting a black sand beach on the west coast
Historically the first sailors to settle here were the Maori, and in later years migrants from the Pacific Islands. It was a place desired by many and fought over for its riches, including its forested hills, productive volcanic soils and harbours full of seafood
What is there to do in New Zealand – Taupo
Taupo is located in the New Zealand Heartland and is home to the largest freshwater lake in the whole of Australasia. Lake Taupo’s surrounding mountains are most famously known across the world for their staring role as Mt Doom in the Lord of the rings trilogy.
For me Taupo was also home to my first tandem parachute jump! If you book make sure you let them know experience backpacking recommended you for a great deal.
Believe me that was a fantastic experience and right up there with the best things I have achieved so far….. Floating down from 13,000ft overlooking that picturesque lake and those famous mountains while hurtling to the ground made it all the more memorable! I do need a cheeky reminder from the DVD every now and again though.
Taupo is also well known as it is in the much loved volcanic and geothermal region of New Zealand not only know for the bizarre, wonderful and unique geological and natural features but also the boating, fishing, sports and extreme sports that are in abundance throughout this area.
There are many activities on offer in Taupo and the surrounding area including
•White water rafting
•Sky diving – New Zealands largest skydive drop zone
•Waipahihi Botanical Garden – 30 volunteers spend 2 or 3 hours tending the garden
•Walking / hiking
Oh and did I mention the views….
In the winter months Taupo gives you access to the ski fields ready for the snowy winter season.
winter is July to September but snow has been known to come as early as June and if conditions are suitable, can last till late November.
As with most of the featured areas I cover in this blog there is plenty to experience for all budget with some free activities including the following:
•Huka Falls – a highly visited and photographed attraction
•Aratiatia rapids – make sure you are there for the hydro gates to open
•Hurka Honey hives – free honey, mead, liqueurs and fruit wine tasting (oh and there are bee hives)
•Art in the park – This is a weekly art and crafts market
I am sure you can tell there is plenty to experience and why that is why this little gem found its way into my top 10…
Taupo is full of Maori historical significance read more at http://www.greatlaketaupo.com/new-zealand/History_and_Culture/
What is there to do in New Zealand – Rotorua
Rotorua is on the central North Island of New Zealand not too far from Taupo.
Now this is another awesome pace to go and experience and a really top destination for backpackers. (who said the North island had nothing to offer?!?)
What is it like?
In the heart of the volcanic / geothermic region you will never be too far away from the eerie mists and steam coming out of the ground and vents. The scent of Sulphur and the large array of mineral pools, bubbling mud pools, crater lakes and hissing geysers in this crazy and exiting place refuse not to be known and they make this place like nowhere else I have ever seen.
New Zealand’s general location on the globe is where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates collide and while the guys in Christchurch may have something to say about this (Given their recent history of earthquakes) nowhere is this more evident of this than Rotorua.
The history of Rotorua talks about lake Rotorua which has quite a violent history. Around 240,000 years ago one of the Rotorua Caledra one of the volcanoes in the Rotorua volcanic zone had a major eruption. As the eruption subsided the magma chamber underneath the volcano collapsed. This collapse created a circular depression which is now full of water called Lake Rotorua.
What can I do there?
There are many activities on offer in Roturua including but certainly not limited to the following:
•Mountain biking – you will just love the Whakarewarewa Forest
•River Jet –
•Thermal pools and SPA’s
•Paradise Valley Spring wildlife park
•Freefall Xtreme body flying
•Walking / hiking
•Hells gate Geothermal Park & Mud SPA – check out those crazy mineral pools up close and personal
Along with the attractions above there are a whole array of SPA, Health and wellbeing, super foods and Maori healing, art & crafts and cooking opportunities for you to check out, chill out and indulge in if you feel it’s all a little too much….
It’s not just these attractions that make Rotorua such a hot backpacking destination.
As any true backpacker would love, there are loads of opportunities to pick cheap deals and activities.
Also it is really easy to get involved in the many backpacker parties that go on in the town especially when most of them are organised and hosted by local bars.
The various hostels motels and apartments will really help you to get an idea of what’s on offer at the time of your visit and they will also give you plenty of advice so you can find best way to go about it.
Festivals and Events
You guessed it if there’s a market there’s and event.
In this popular destination there is plenty on offer so see if any of the below may tickle your fancy..
- •Concerts and Gigs – a wide ranging variety, check out the guides
•Festivals – from books, home & garden, markets and fairs to dog shows, food and wine and a museum horror walk there is something for every one
•Sports – Enduro cycling, trampolining, the ITM cup fishing and the tough gym challenge there is plenty to do if you are into your sports
•Performing arts – Dancing in the street, Theatre fest and many more performing arts come to Rotorua frequently so check the guides
•Make sure you check out the guides to see whats going on when you are likely to arrive
What is there to do in New Zealand – The Bay of Islands
The Bay of islands is exactly as it sounds it is a bay on the North East coast of the North island of New Zealand (about 3 hours from Auckland) filled with around 144 islands.
As you can imagine this is a very scenic part of the North Island and is a popular destination for both tourists and natives alike. With the large number of beaches & well maintained walking trails you can be assured that you will never be far from a fantastic view or chill out spot.
Activities are available in their abundance particularly in the summer months so don’t be surprised if you find yourself indulging in some of those offered there like the examples below:
- Water sports activities
Camping on the Urupukapuka Island
And some free activities
- Scenic, historic & archaeological walking
Lying on a beach
Swimming / snorkelling
Check out some of the wildlife including penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, gannets
For the more adventurous
- Diving a ship wreck
Speed boat rides
The largest island in the Bay is Urupukapuka Island.
Urupukapuka has a long history for both Maori and European settlers, is the only island open and accessible to the public (which is possibly why you are able to camp there) and has been protected by the department of conservation since 1970.
As we said above there is plenty to explore and the bay of islands is pretty well set up for the traveller and you will be able to find a free tourist map in the local tourist offices to help you navigate around and the scenery can be truly stunning on the right day!
This is the type of place you could easily while away the hours, day weeks…you get the drift!
What is there to do in New Zealand – 90 Mile Beach & Cape Reinga
So you may be wondering why I need to add some comments for you about a 90 mile beach, isnt it obvious? is a beach thats 90 miles long, why is that place interesting?
Well the first thing that may surprise you is that despite its name, 90 Mile Beach is actually only about 55 miles long (90km).
Located on the western coast at the top of the North Island of New Zealand 90 mile beach runs from Reef Point almost up to Cape Reinga which is at the very tip of the North Island.
Another interesting fact is that the beach is actually a public highway, you are able to drive along the beach, take in the views of the sea, beach and imposing sand dunes and cruise along assuming the tide isn’t in too far.
Littered along the beach you will find warning signs telling you to be careful and that you enter at your own risk.
The tides in this areas can be particularly tough and regularly claim vehicles that have had to be abandoned so that the owner can escape!
As a popular tourist area what can you expect?
Well you know it is popular as you can book tours along the beach, you can do sandboarding and travel along to Cape Reinga right at the top.
With all the fun going on why would you want to travel to cape Reinga?
Cape Reinga is the most Northerly Point you are likely to reach in the New Zealand North Island and is situated more than 100km from the nearest town on route called Kaitaia. (The Maori name Kaitaia means ample food which is surely a hint so make sure you get any supplies you need before you venture on!
Now I have already mentioned the natural beauty I witnessed right across the North Island along with the more Quirky features that you can find but you will truly be amazed at how you feel once you have driven for over 100k without seeing a town and start to bear down on Cape Reinga.
The windy roads and hills help to build your anticipation as you wonder what you may see when you finally get there and as you travel along you are faced with ever improving & fantastic views.
When you arrive you can park up and start the walk along a thin path the the furtherst point you will be able to reach.
Stand back and take it all in, well worth the drive and all the more impressive as you take to the path.
Ta Da you arrive at Cape Reinga also know as Te Rerenga Wairua the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld according to Maori traditions.
There you will find a Lighthouse overlooking where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean and it is from here that you can witness the 2 seas clashing in a tidal race.
While you take in all the views and the beauty of the area you can lose track of time for a while and if you start looking at the classic sign-age showing you just how far away everything is from that point you may just feel like you are sitting at the edge of the world.
I am sure I have convinced you to follow some of the other 120k visitors a year to this part of the island but if not I am sure there is something else NZ could tempt you with….
The South Island
Milford sound and other fiord lands
Ok so in no particular order lets give you some information about the New Zealand South Island.
What is there to do in New Zealand – Queenstown
Type Queenstown New Zealand into the search engine and you will find “Adventure Awaits” and this is certainly the case.
So someone asks you what is there to do in New Zealand? you answer; well you could go to Queenstown….
Queens town has to be the most popular places in New Zealand, particularly for for backpackers particularly on the south island. It is almost assumed that you haven’t visited New Zealand if you haven’t visited Queenstown.
There is loads to do here, this town is full of energy and enthusiasm, you have access to the various ski fields in winter time and access to the Wakatipu lake in the summer.
With Queenstown the adventure capital of the extreme sports country some of the activities you will find there include the following:
- Queenstown Bungee –
Not only the original bungee site just on the outskirts of QT but a second half way up the mountain and the tallest in New Zealand the Nevis high wire and swing 134m in a suspended cable car over a canyon (not for the faint hearted!
The Shotover Jet Boat – this speedboat runs in an inch of water and will have you inches away from rocks and you spin about the river
Caddyshack Crazy Golf – only the best crazy golf I ever played
A pretty cool Ice bar, Winnies, a pizza bar with a roof that opens just as it gets a bit hot which becomes a popular bar in the evening and pub circuit meaning you can follow happy hour as it move round…AWESOME!
You can visit a Kiwi bird in the Kiwi Birdlife Park pretty cool as you just dont see them otherwise
Skline Gondola & Luge – strange to think it but they have a Luge track just a Gondola ride away
You can go white water rafting and use the code expbackpack for an exclusive 10% off.
Quad biking, Hiking, Touring – check out these guys combining trips to save you money Nomad Safaris
Take on Hydro Attack – an 80kph 18 foot shark ride! need I say anymore! ha ha
The list just goes on and on…..
Did I mention that it pretty dam awesome!!
On top of this you will find the surroundings something special as well, some of the scenes are featured in the Lord Of the Rings & the X-men origins – wolverine among others. The waters in some places are a beautiful turquoise blue filled with minerals from the mountains.
What is there to do in New Zealand – Milford sound
Milford is a truly spectacular site to see, the most well known and popular of all the fiord’s that you can visit in New Zealand.
Situated in-between the mountains and the rain forest Milford sounds is the only one of the New Zealand Fiord lands accessible by road and this is possibly why it is so popular with tourists along with the stunning natural beauty wildlife that you could be lucky enough to witness there.
Despite being named a sound Milford sound is a fiord with the fijord being formed by the erosive effects of the glacier rather than by a river carving its way through the valley.
There is even an underwater observatory which allows you to see into the natural depths of the sound.
This is usually accessible as part of the boat tour packages available if you so fancy it but I don’t think you really need it other than for the novelty.
On a good day your journey there literally through the mountain will be rewarded by crystal clear mirrored reflections of the mountains and surrounding scenery in the water making for an amazing picture or 2 your journey
The deepest part of the fiord is around 400m and Milford is known as one of the most wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and it has been know to have up to 2.5m of rainfall drop in a 24 hour period.
For the tourist as a result you will be able to witness a whole variety of temporary waterfalls that span along the c16km journey from the head to where it meats the sea.
With so much beauty you will be in awe of this part of New Zealand and it just wouldn’t be right if you couldn’t get out there to have a more emotional, up close and personal visit and that’s exactly what the tour operators thought.
You can organise boat trips before you get there or once you get there, you can purchase guided trips and packages that will take care of your transport, boating and touring needs all around the surrounding areas and there are of course places you can stay there if a one off visit just inst enough!
One day might just not be enough unless you get that perfect day….
Lets have a look at some of the options available to you if you were to head on over to Milford (and believe me you really should do)
Take a tour check out Awesomenz
Go for a walk or hike in Fiordland National park
Or try Kiwi Discovery and use the code expbackpack for an exclusive 10% off.
Keep an eye out for the wildlife – As you would expect in the fiords and rain forest there are plenty of different species of animals, some common and other species on the endangered list, keep them peeled and you may just be lucky enough to discover something very rare to witness. From Birds like the mischievous Kia, to insects, dolphins and the penguins including the fiord-land crested penguin a world rare penguin.
Take a cruise up the fiord – the no brainer of the lot
Kayak the fiord, for the more adventurous and possibly fit!
Visit the underwater discovery centre – To be honest it was interesting but I could have skipped it myself…
What is there to do in New Zealand – Kaikoura
I am pretty sure that some of you will have already heard of Kaikoura as it is widely known that the main attraction is dolphins (although this may be a little unfair)
So many people adore these friendly and playful creatures that it could be why Kaikoura is so well known for them. If it is dolphins you want then this is certainly a great spot to get your fill!
As you approach the town you will notice the obvious decent from the mountains to the ocean and this is also continues under the water.
Just offshore you will find the edge of the continental shelf and the change in the depth of the water is what scientists believe make the waters here so attractive to abundance of sea life providing a rich variety of species for you to witness for yourself.
Not only is Kaikoura well known for its marine and wildlife the name itself gives you a clue to something else… the Maori translation may give you a better idea with Kai meaning eat or food and koura meaning crayfish. I you are going to eat them can you think of a better place?
So where is Kaikoura and what else is there to do there?
As you are in the “South Island” section of the page you probably know which part of New Zealand to head for but more specifically….
If you jump off at Picton (the main port between the North and the South island) and head towards Christchurch along the coast for around 2 hours you will arrive at Kaikoura.
Alternatively if you fly into Christchurch you need to head along the east coast towards Picton for around 2.5 hours.
I can tell you are excited about Kaikoura already so you may wish to consider some of the following activities although many will have a marine theme to them …
- Swim with the Dolphins –
There are lots of variety of dolphin in the waters of Kaikoura including the largest Orca) and smallest and most rare the hectors dolphins
Dolphin watching –
If you don’t fancy getting in there with the dolphins it doesn’t mean you cant get up close and personal, there is plenty of opportunity to take a boat trip and see them for yourself, in fact you may even be able to see more that way and you get to witness the great variety of scary looking Albatross in the process
Whale watching –
With the sperm Whale, Humpback whale, blue whale, pilot whale and Orca (actually a dolphin) but these all vary on the season
Hiking Trekking – take a wander up Mt Fyffe for mouth-watering view of the
Birdwatching – see the albatross, petrels, shearwaters, shags, terns and gulls
Diving & Snorkelling – one of the best spots in NZ
Surfing – some of the best waves in NZ
Horse Trekking – if you don’t fancy the hike yourself; then why not!
Maori leap – cave
When I went here I stayed in an awesome hostel featured on my hostel page under my personally recommended hostels. It’s well worth a look and still gets great reviews so make sure you take a look…
What is there to do in New Zealand – Dunedin
You know what I just really liked the place, I had been travelling for a while and came to rest here for a bit, I liked the people, the atmosphere and the vibe. You get to hone your instincts when you have been on the road for a while and you just get a feel for what you like and whether this is a place you will like!
I will add some extra info for you as I have in most posts but if I am honest I didn’t do a great deal other than visit the Cadbury’s chocolate factory, take a tour around the Speits brewery (you can get a great deal on the 2 combined but at $12 (Cadbury) and $25 (brewery) it is worth looking about) and visit the casino.
What more do you need some might say but there is plenty more of interest if you have the time and inclination.
So really what is there to see and do in New Zealand in terms of Dunedin?
There is plenty of history in Dunedin so let me take you through a couple of the highlights…
In 1861 gold was discovered at Gabriel’s Gully and as usual this meant a sudden rush of people hoping to make their fortunes and this rush helped Dunedin to become the first city of New Zealand by growth of population in 1865.
I am not sure what the chances are of discovering gold there these days but you may just fancy a visit to the Gully to see what all the fuss was about!
Dunedin really is quite an interesting place you know, it is one of the 4 main cities in New Zealand and its hills and harbour are made up by the remains of an extinct volcano.
The University of Otago still has a greatly admired education system continues to attract hoards of students and as a result remains home to a large percentage of students relative to its overall population.
It is a great place for education with Dunedin providing a home to the first ever university of New Zealand back in 1869.
Could be worth looking at that student VISA option?
Where is Dunedin?
Dunedin is situated West along the East coast is linked to Invercargill and Christchurch which are connected by the main highway.
Is it fun?
So Dunedin is predominantly a student town that means young and friendly student types, backpackers and fun right?
Check out some of the things on offer in Dunedin and the surrounding area
There are certainly some pretty special beaches in the area including the vibrant and cosmo esplanade of St. Clair, Long Beach which is great for rock climbers and cave dwellers and Brighton which is popular with swimmers and surfers. Brighton is also where the Dunedin to Brighton Veteran Car Rally takes place so if you happen to be there at the time this is well worth checking out in my view!
Visit Otago Museum has its very own Tropical Rainforest and Butterfly House so if you fancy looking at some old stuff, hanging out in a rainforest or flirting with some butterflies then this could make for a great day out for you!
Just outside Dunedin you will be able to track down Larnach Castle which is New Zealand’s ONLY Castle, I quick like wandering about old castles when I get a spare 5 mins once the Bungee is done so if you have time check it out, not too many people can say that they visited the only castle in NZ!
What is there to do in New Zealand? – Frans Joseph
Last but by no means least I would love to tell you all about Frans Joseph!
To be honest with you this is one of the most disappointing places I visited and now I have said that you are going to not only want to know why but also to know how the hell it made the top 10 if I was soooo disappointed!
Frans Joseph is a massive glacier located along on the top / left (depending on the way you look at the map) or a Wikipidia would put it “The Franz Josef is a 12 km long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.”
Massive glacier on the top / left works for me and as you head along the road to get there you slowly build you anticipation and excitement as the roads get more difficult to navigate and the hills get higher.
The chances are that you will have a shower or two along the way after all if memory serves me correctly it rains 1-2 out of every 3 days of the year. This amounts to generally between 2 & 3 meters a month.
It is the rain that dashed my hopes of getting up the glacier and the main reason behind the disappointment, add a little bit of stupidity from me and there is a short story for mew to tell you.
There were 3 of us travelling together for a while in NZ, we covered all sorts of gound, checking out some great places along the way (including Mcrackens rest as I am sure you wish you hadnt now seen)
We headed over to Frans Joseph for a spot of Heli-Hiking and ended up staying at a pretty decent hostel with an outdoor jacuzzi, friendly staff, great rooms in a separate block and some pretty sweet chill out areas.
It wasn’t long before we headed to the local for a beer or 2 and we got chatting to some of the guides (really helpful and friendly guides I may add) and headed straight to the main town to book the long awaited Heli-Hike.
Now everything was going well at this point of the journey.
The tour guides offer half day hike, full day hike and heli-hike, by all accounts the best hike you can do is the heli-hike as not only do you get to take a ride in the helicopter (or more amusingly nicknames chopper) but you get to reach a much higher point of the glacier.
The main advantage of this is that it opens up much more of the glacier so that you are able to experience the ice caves an other natural delights you just would not be able to get to on the regular hikes.
It is kind obvious that the heli-hike is a little more on the pricey side, with the full day hike the next most costly followed by the half day that you may as well not bother to go on.
So the highly anticipated wait begins, a bit of food and a quick pint before an early night after a long journey that day.
The next day it is early and time to call in to the tour company to confirm the time etc of the heli-hike. If the weather conditions aren’t right your helicopter is not going to leave the ground, the one advantage you have is that if the hike doesnt go you can have a full refund. Guess what… Yep the helicopter is grounded for day 1…
The day was a bit of a write off and so we repeat the previous days activity, add in a bit of food, a few more beers, a soak in the jacuzzi, a few games of cards and a bit of banta with the local; guides once they got back from the days hiking.
Day 2, call up in anticipation of the amazing heli-hike experience… Call back in an hour and see how it is looking…its a no-go the chopper aint moving for 5h1t!
Repeat much of yesterdays activities and have another chat with the local tour guides who cant recommend the heli-hike enough but are starting to tell we are a little frustrated, add several more beers and another early start.
Day 3…oh come on same again this sux, we are all pretty fed up by now, lets make up for it by repeating the previous 2 days! as nice as a chill is we want to get over to Queenstown for some fun!
That night we get the most amazing offer, a FREE yes FREE full day hike with another one of the local tour companies who feel pretty sorry for us at this stage. What a great offer, only 1 little snag….
If you want to go on the full day hike you have to be up and leaving before you can call to find out about the heli-hike and so the dilemma begins…
We were there to do the heli-hike, we wanted to do the heli-hike, we are drinking a lot of celebratory beers and enjoying the night with our great local friends…
An so comes the morning, the difficulty in opening the eyes after a pretty heavy night and the prospect of heading up the mountain for a hike OR we could chill for another hour or so and take our heli-hike right….
Wrong and that my friends is why this place is in my top 10 even though it is the most frustrating and disappointing place I visited in New Zealand…
Great from a distance and weather clears but if you are below it and it is raining you wont see sweet FA!
Now check out some of the links below if you like the sound of it and if you manage the heli-hike then I really want to hear how it was and if it was really worth missing out completely for and if you are more sensible take the full day hike and get up close and personal with the elusive glacier…