Combine insane adrenalin sports, breathtaking scenery, beautiful bays, and big city life and you will get a tiny picture of what New Zealand is all about.
Known as Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand really does have to be seen to be believed. Comprised of three main islands; North, South, and Stewart, It’s no wonder more travellers are including New Zealand in their travels ‘Down Under’. The surprising thing is, no there is not a bridge across the Tasman, you will have to fly, and by any route its still at least 3 hours.
The distance between the Australia and New Zealand often surprises new arrivals. So, the best way to get to NZ, unless you are lucky enough to be on a ‘Round the World’ ticket! is to Grab A Seat with national carrier Air New Zealand.
Home to 1.3 million people, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and holds one third of the country’s population. Just like many large cities, Auckland offers a culturally diverse range of food, great shopping, and a pumping live music and clubbing scene.
– Where to stay: Queen Street is right in the midst of all the action and has a healthy collection of hostels and other accommodation options available.
• Bungy jump from the famous AJ Hackett site on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, or base jump from Sky Tower; the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere.
• Head to Auckland Museum for an insight into New Zealand’s history and Maori culture. Stick around for the Maori dance performances.
• Go canyoning, abseiling, and camping at the spectacular Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, just 30 minutes west of central Auckland.
• Catch a ferry to the Hauraki Gulf Islands. You may even spot some resident dolphins on the way.
• Pick up a late night or early morning kebab after clubbing on Karangahape Road (known to the locals as ‘K Road’). Ponsonby Road is also a hot spot for clubbing, cafes, and dining.
Don’t forget your camera when you visit the Bay of Islands, because you won’t be able to describe in words the stunning scenery to your friends and family back home. With about 150 unspoilt islands to explore, you’ll never want to leave.
– Where to stay: Base yourself in the town of Paihia. Transport is convenient, it is the starting point for many tours and more importantly, it has more bars.
• Scuba dive and explore the wreck of The Rainbow Warrior. The remains of the once Greenpeace support vessel lie in the waters of the Cavalli Islands. Most dive operators have this spot on their daily itinerary.
• Go on a dolphin tour. Dolphins love the waters of north New Zealand, so you’re almost guaranteed a sighting. If you’re lucky, you may even see whales (or even orcas).
• Visit the historical town of Russell; located just a short ferry ride from Paihia. Explore the amazing colonial buildings via bicycle.
• View the amazing ‘Hole in the Rock’, just off Cape Brett by taking a boat tour. If the weather is good, boats usually cruise all the way through the hole.
• Walk the 4km Kerikeri River Track, which encompasses Rainbow and Wharepoke Falls and the Fairy Pools. Waitangi National Reserve is also worth a visit.
Stretching from the base of the Coromandel Peninsula to Cape Runaway, the Bay of Plenty is aptly named. The region also extends inland, encompassing the ‘spa’ city of Rotorua. As for activities, scenery, and accommodation, there’s plenty!
– Where to stay: Tauranga (largest city in the Bay of Plenty region) and Rotorua are the best places to stay. Tauranga is a port city, so on the coast, while Rotorua is inland and offers access to the many lakes closeby.
• Get down and dirty, quite literally, and visit the thermal mud pools, geysers, and hot springs just outside Rotorua. Famous for geothermal activity and the sulphuric scent.
• Whakaari/White Island is most famous for Whakaari; an active marine volcano. It is a true natural wonder and a must see if you’re visiting the Bay of Plenty.
• Swim with dolphins, snorkel, and go white-water rafting in Tauranga. As the largest city in the Bay of plenty, Tauranga is not to be missed.
• Head just across the harbour from Tauranga to Mt Maunganui. You’ll find some great swimming spots and some awesome walking tracks.
• You should have a go at mountain biking in Rotorua. Whakarewarewa is a popular biking destination.
If you have watched Lord of the Rings, you will know what to expect when visiting the Waikato region. As well as seeing the place where this epic was filmed, there are many other things in rural New Zealand to whet your travelling appetite.
– Where to stay: Hamilton is the heart of the Waikato region and a good place to base yourself. The local University (Waikato) population also ensures a lively atmosphere. Taupo is another adventure activity hub with plenty of great accommodation options.
• Visit ‘Hobbiton’. Located in the town of Matamata, tours are available. You will see remnants of the Lord of the Rings film set and maybe even a few hobbit holes.
• Unlike ordinary worms, the ones who live in Waitomo Cave GLOW! Various tours are available through the Glowworm Caves, and for the more adventurous, try abseiling.
• Venture out of the centre to visit the Coromandel Peninsula. Dig yourself a hot bath at the amazing Hot Water Beach, kayak at Whitianga and don’t miss the spectacular Cathedral Cove.
• Go to Taupo. Visit the Tongariro National Park and marvel at its majestic volcanoes, bungy jump, bushwalk, and see New Zealand’s largest lake: Lake Taupo.
• Ride a wave in Raglan. Well known for its surf breaks, this town is also popular with pro surfers.
As capital of New Zealand, you can expect a city rich in culture, nightlife, and history. As the political heart of the country, Wellington is full of important landmarks and photographic opportunities. Wellington is not all politics though, it is full of many other things to keep you entertained!
– Where to stay: When in Wellington we chose Downtown Backpackers; right across the road from the railway, walkable from the ferry terminal and 300m from the local sports stadium. Happy days!
Top 5 things to do:
• Check out the beautiful coastline of Wellington’s eastern suburbs along the Miramar Peninsula. Cycling is a great way to explore it.
•Visit the Botanic Gardens, west of the city centre, via the Wellington Cable Car. Awesome city and bay views are guaranteed.
• With five levels of history and culture on display, a visit to the Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand) is a must. For those who don’t want to try the real thing, test out the virtual bungy jump!
• Go clubbing on and around Courtenay Place. You will find more than enough pubs, clubs, and bars to keep you pumped all night long.
• As the capital of New Zealand’s entertainment scene, Wellington is the perfect place to soak up some live jazz or rock music, enjoy a street festival, or watch the ballet.
As the unofficial capital of the South Island, Christchurch is experiecing some tough times at the moment. A 7.2 earthquake in September 2010 rocked the city, another in February 2011 has devastated it. It may not be appropriate to visit Christhchurch right now, but the Canterbury Region is ready and waiting to receive you. Enter via Wellington or Queenstown and head on over. Christchurch is well known for possessing an English feel. The beautiful parks and gardens in Christchurch have given it the title of ‘The Garden City’.
The top of New Zealand’s South Island encompasses Nelson, Picton, and Blenheim, as well as the natural wonders of Abel Tasman National Park and Marlborough Sounds. There is almost too much to do in the north of the South!
– Where to stay: Picton and Nelson are great bases for exploring this region. Nelson is a good, central location and Picton provides great access to Marlborough Sounds and other marine activities.
• Abel Tasman National Park is a must-not-miss location! Explore the famous 51km Coastal Track. It usually takes around four days to complete.
• Walk the 71km Queen Charlotte Track in Marlborough Sounds. Well known for gorgeous views and historical landmarks, the track also has a number of accommodation options.
• Get tipsy in Blenheim. Famous as a wine producing area – you know Marlbourough Sav Blanc? You definitely won’t be disappointed with the local drop. Renwick, which is just west of Blenheim also has some great wineries.
• Go sea kayaking in Marlborough Sounds as an alternate way of exploring the area.
• Visit Kaikoura. Just 1.5 hours from Picton, Kaikoura is famous for its snowcapped mountains and whale watching.
The West Coast and centre is full of natural wonders to admire. Glaciers, picturesque lakes, and gorgeous national parks are only part of the experience. It may suit those who are time-poor to take a tour of this part of the country, as you’ll find it hard to see everything with a limited amount of time.
– Where to stay: Because this area covers so much space, it is obviously best to spread yourself around. Hokitika has numerous accommodation options, but it’s best to plan around your travel route. If you travel on a tour, accommodation is usually included or at least organised at a cheaper price.
• Explore the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers by walking one or more of the various tracks. A great way to enhance the experience is by taking a heli-tour or ice-climbing.
• Visit the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Glaciers, great walking tracks, tours, and accommodation are all available.
• Admire the crystal waters of Lake Tekapo. Another must-see is Lake Pukaki, which lies just 45km southwest of Lake Tekapo.
• Go skiing or snowboarding at Arthur’s Pass National Park. Brimming with gorgeous scenery and panoramic views, Arthur’s Pass is also great for walking.
• The West Coast is a major source of greenstone (jade). Try jade carving in Hokitika and go home with an original souvenir.
The adventure capital of the World, Queenstown is definitely the place to be for all things adrenalin-related. For those who don’t fancy jumping from crazy heights, you don’t have to worry; the adrenalin side is only part of Queenstown’s personality.
– Where to stay: Shotover Street is the activity hub of Queenstown and there are plenty of places to stay either on or around it. As Queenstown is extremely popular with tourists, it is best to book in advance.
• Do the AJ Hackett ‘Thrillogy’. This is the combination of the Kawarau Bridge, Ledge, and Nevis Highwire bungy jumps.
• Enjoy the Queenstown clubbing and restaurant scene. You’ll find plenty of places to suit your needs.
• For some water action go white water rafting and/or jet boating in the Shotover or Kawarau Rivers. RIver boarding is great for something a little different. It is pretty similar to rafting except you’re on a body-board
• About 100km from Queenstown is the town of Wanaka. Head to Mt Aspiring National Park, go canyoning or abseiling and enjoy the laid back lifestyle.
• Go horseriding in Glenorchy. About 50km from Queenstown, Glenorchy’s beautiful scenery will amaze you.
Bursting with amazing fiordland and stunning scenery, Southern New Zealand is arguably the most beautiful part of the country. Though not considered part of the Southland, Dunedin is still fairly south on the map and is within short driving distance of many Southland attractions.
– Where to stay: Dunedin is bustling with activity and the local university (Otago) population, but as for the rest of Southland, you will probably be moving around alot and possibly camping
• Everybody knows Milford Sound is practically mandatory when travelling to New Zealand. The most popular of the Southland fiords can be explored by foot or even kayak.
• Te Anau is definitely worth a visit for its walking tracks and glowworm caves. Go on a cruise to explore this beautiful town.
• Stewart island is un-missable for many reasons. Walking, kayaking, and awesome scenery are just some. You can even go searching for the Stewart Island Kiwi!
• Well known for eco-activities and its abundance of wildllife, you can spot penguins, seals, and sea lions on the Otago Peninsula.
• Enjoy the pub scene in Dunedin and visit local attractions such as the Otago Museum and Dunedin Botanic Gardens.
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