I have always been a fan of New Zealand; the moment I watched Lord of The Rings, New Zealand has been on my bucketlist. National Geographic has likewise showcased New Zealand’s stunning geography and vibrant indigenous culture, further igniting the lover of nature and adventure in me.
Since then, I’ve made it a point to research about it so when the day comes that I get a chance to visit this country, I wont miss out on the things I definitely want to do.
Here’s my list of things to do in New Zealand!
- Visit The Shire.Hobbiton is one of the most-visited movie sets in the world. Located in Matamata, Waikato, this Shire village is known for its slowly undulating green hills, its white horizon, and of course its round doors.You will definitely see me taking a picture while standing in the doorway of Frodo’s house while staring off into the distance. I think I would fit perfectly in the scene? Wouldn’t I?
- Visit the North Island’s Glow Worm cave. I was told that the Glow Worm caves in Waitomo look like the night sky, completely covered with bioluminescent bodies of these “worms” (in reality, they’re a kind of fungus but still, they look really cool). I can’t decide yet if I want to see it upclose and personal or if I should just observe them from the comfort of my boat.
- Get an aerial view of White Island. While I’m in the North Island, I’ll make my way to the Bay of Plenty and get a chopper ride to see White Island. Seeing things in this perspective is just amazing. (It won’t be my first aerial view experience, as I’ve done so in Chicago and in Australia.)This is one of New Zealand’s points of interest. It’s an active volcano that perpetually spews out a white cloud of smoke that covers almost the whole island from the crater (hence the name).
Another option is to hop by via boat and take one of the walking tours. It’s not everyday one gets up close and personal with a volcano!
- Fly out to the Fiordland Glaciers.Talk about fire and ice! After the white steam of the volcano, I’d take another heli-hike and hop over to Fiordland National Park. The Milford Sound Helicopter Flight lands on a glacier right next to Mount Skelmorlie, and gives one an opportunity to explore this giant sheet of ice.
And, while I’m in Milford Sound (which, by the way, was once described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world), I’d also stop to appreciate the jaw-dropping wonders of New Zealand’s nature. Milford has mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and a whole lot of wildlife! Wait till you see those pics of green-and-gray crags sticking out of deep sapphire waters, and jutting into the endless expanse of New Zealand sky! I can imagine my brother and I enjoying this wonderful view. I’ve been hearing a lot about Milford Sound and I have seen a lot of photographs about it. Isn’t it better to experience it in person?
- Make a Jacuzzi at Hot Water Beach.New Zealand does make some of the most descriptive names for its locations. Hot Water Beach is so named because you can actually make your own jacuzzi by digging through the sand! A jacuzzi next to the ocean, now that’s something unique. This is only possible during low tide though, so I should time my visit right, which is around 9am to 2pm. I’ve already made a mental note to bring a spade along.
- Enjoy some Giapo Ice Cream. I know — gelato is Italy’s specialty. But when you have an Italian like Giapo Grazioli in the house, then there’s bound to be something awesome in the ice cream department. Giapo takes tradition and gives it a modern twist making it the most incredible ice cream in the worldTheir shop at 12 Gore Street, Britomart in even includes a sort of modelling studio, whose sole job is to create art out of gelato. This modelling studio is augmented by a dedicated “R&D Kitchen” — can you imagine the level of passion and dedication that goes into these products?And I don’t just mean amazing visual presentation, they’re also turning the established gelato flavors into gustatory art forms. With flavors like Blackberry & Martini and Hot Chips & Ice Cream, I’m sure it’s an experience unlike any other. Now gelato is traditionally Italian, but Giapo is completely New Zealand. I think it’ll be both soothing and exhilarating at the same time. I remembered even during the cold in Spain, we were eating Gelato. This one excites me even more.
- Walk the 12 miles at Tongariro. Just as I have always been curious about the tir-colored lakes at Indonesia’s Mt. Kelimutu, the lakes at New Zealand’s Tongariro are likewise on my bucketlist. Though I was told that these turquoise lakes aren’t tri-colored, they stand out like gemstones against the desert-like background of this alpine crossing. They’re also UNESCO Dual Heritage areas, so one can’t do “the crossing” without seeing them!
The Tongariro National Park is among the most famous hikes in the country, and is very much like Yellowstone National Park — it has craters, steam vents, and more! Snowy peaks also abound, reminding you of just where you are.
This entire trek would last from 6 to 9 hours, so it’s a fair bit of challenge! I’ll want some great companion to be able to motivate me to finish the hike. I am sure that it will be worth it though.
- Trek through Mt. Aspiring National Park.Located on the South Island, Mt. Aspiring is a place of crystal clear rivers (fed by nearby glaciers), green patches, and snow-capped mountain tops. It’s also one of the most physically challenging and visually satisfying treks in this side of the world. It’s a wilderness, but there are mountain guides I can call on for a good time with nature. A full trek here could last up to more than a week, so I should allot a good chunk of my time for this one!
- Plunge from the world’s first commercial bungee jump.Did you know that New Zealand was the first country to have a commercial bungee jump? This is located outside of Queenstown, at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. Now who says you can’t have an adrenaline-pumping, where’s-my-soul kind of nature adventure within vicinity of the city? I say nature, because the bungee also gives you a one-of-a-kind view of the beautiful Kawarau River.
If I’m feeling up to it, I might also rack up the nerves to try the highest bungee in the country — Nevis Highwire, which stands at 134 meters. You know me as an adrenaline junkie, so this is a great challenge! The bungee leads down a river gorge so the scare factor is something else!
- Taste the oysters.After all this adventure, it’s time for a little food break! New Zealand is also known for having some of the world’s best oysters, and I would take some sweet time slurping them down. Of course this isn’t a good idea on an empty stomach. So I’d also be binging on some of the country’s tasty local cuisine.
- Conquer the Tasman Great Taste Trail.After eating, why not some drinking? And some biking? Or both? Yep, these two disparate “hobbies” come together at the Great Taste Biking Trail, which takes you through some of the best wineries and breweries in the country. Located in Nelson, this is actually a network of trails that also takes you through some pristine fruit orchards and some cute cafes. Of course, ‘cause you need someplace to order some fish and chips with your beer” !
Aside from these, the trail also offers the natural attraction of wild meadows and rolling earth. It’s times like this when you really get to appreciate life.
- Paddle at the Abel Tasman National Park. I‘ve mentioned a lot of activities that require a lot of leg work out and cardio. This time around, I want to do a full body work out and try paddling at the Abel Tasman National Park. This is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. The Abel Tasman Coast is located in the town of Marahau, and offers a real treat for those who love golden sand.
- Watch the whales at the Kaikoura waters.Almost all other whale watching destinations in the the world are seasonal. In some, spotting these giants of the oceans are hard unless you time them perfectly. In New Zealand’s Kaikoura, whale-watching is a year-round deal that’s set against the backdrop of a scenic coastline and the majesty of the southern Alps. Imagine a whale floating up to the surface and doing its massive, graceful pirouettes amidst this natural beauty! I should be practicing my shutter finger to make sure I catch the pics right. Maybe, I should even invest on a telephoto camera.
- Greeting Each Day by Catching the sunrise. In other parts of the world, sunsets provide the most picturesque display of solar beauty. Here, it’s the sunrise that will really make you utter, “Wow!”. There’s nothing better than waking up from your sweet sleep and seeing that golden orb float above the lavender skies. Even better if there are mountains or the ocean in the background!
- Catch the Southern Lights.So many people are hyped up about the Northern Lights, that many are forgetting its equally mesmerizing sibling down south. Officially known as “aurora australis” (as opposed to “aurora borealis”), the Southern Lights are known for “touching” the waters and creating beautiful reflections. It’s a once in a lifetime view, and I hope I get there at the right time of the year when these are most prominent! Dunedin is one of the more picturesque places where the Southern Lights can be viewed, with an unobstructed view of the sky and a clear line of sight to the southern horizon.
- Get high up on the SkyWalk.One of the things to do in Auckland is to visit the SkyWalk, a platform more than 600 feet above the ground. This is located on top of the Sky Tower and comes with a tour. This tour lets you view the many points of interest in the city all without the extensive walking.
- Visit the wineries of Waiheke Island.Since I’ll be in and around Auckland anyway, I’ll be taking a ferry to Waiheke Island where there are some really awesome wineries! There are also some really good views here, such as the clumps of trees and hedges edging the sea.
- Go for a horseback ride in Pakiri.Since I’ll be riding all sorts of vehicles and even diving through the air and water, might as well take the opportunity to have a classic horseback ride on the sands of Pakiri beach as well. It would be a nice way to while away a lazy afternoon.
- Visit the Tane Mahuta.The Tane Mahuta is considered the largest kauri tree in the world. Its name is the local translation for “Lord of the Forest”, which is a good title — the tree is estimated to have been living for 2,500 years!
- Chill out in Raglan.Raglan is known in the region as a beach that is both active and relaxing. It’s another nice place to spend a lazy afternoon in, and while at it I might even have time to get a surfing lesson or two. Adventure everywhere!
- Sky Divin over Bay of Islands. I’ve done skydiving before and for me, it starts out with a thrill and then you get that moment where the sky diving master pulls the parachute and you get that chance to take in the beauty of your surroundings. This is exactly what I am looking forward to when I sky dive over Bay of Islands. I want to experience that thrill and then appreciate that beautiful beach.You do know that if it’s skydiving, I’m definitely in.
- Get curious in Rotorua.This would be much more suited for science geeks, but still… it’s an adventure! Rotorua is a town that they say smells vaguely of sulphur and other elements. I’ll know for sure once I set foot there, but I do know I want to see the geysers and mud pools first hand. Oh, and my mention of Mount Kelimutu in Indonesia? There are multi-colored mineral pools here, too! Maybe not of that size or magnitude, but equally impressive and charming.
- Feel like a hamster.While I’m at Rotorua, I might as well take the chance to enter a giant hamster ball! We know this as zorbing, but we’re not just floating on a makeshift pond or on a flat piece of earth. The zorb grounds here are specifically made for a workout, or just a fun time rolling around with yourselves or by yourself. I can just imagine how hard it would be to get up from one of those “valleys” in the field.
- Attend a cultural show.The Maori are world-famous for their colorful culture, and I can’t leave New Zealand without seeing more of them. Also in Rotorua, I can get a chance to see a traditional Maori village and join them for a hangi —- food that is steamed from the ground! Cultural presentations also include song and dance.
- Check out Wellington.Aside from Auckland, Wellington is also one of the New Zealand points of interest. When I get here, I’ll be dropping by Cuba Street where there’s lots of food pickings! It’s where one goes if she wants international food. There are also many street performers in the place. Another must-see here is the cable car, which is a convenient transport to the city’s pretty botanical gardens.
- Get on the TranzAlpine Train.Levelling up from the Wellington Cable Car, the TranzAlpine Train leads from Christchurch to Greymouth. It crosses the Southern Alps, and it presents some great sceneries, as if I haven’t had enough of it yet by then!
- Stargaze at Lake Tekapo.In the South Island lies Lake Tekapo, where you can find some of the darkest and clearest patches of the night sky anywhere in this hemisphere. This is the perfect place to view the constellations, and maybe doze off under the watchful eye of the stars.
- Watch something at Cinema Paradiso.How about a movie theater where intermissions are filled with the smell of freshly-baked cookies? Or where the seats are couches and car seats instead of the regular theater ones?
- Ride a jet boat.So I’ve been on a boat and a plane, I’d very much love to ride a combination of the two! These jet boats were meant to zip on the surface on Queenstown’s waters, and it can also do some pretty cool acrobatics.
- Explore the deep in Pool Knights Islands.I’m not even halfway through my list, and I’ve gone up in the sky, down underground, over rolling hills, and above a volcano. Next stop? Underwater! The Poor Knights Islands, off the coast of Tutukaka, are known globally as one of the best dive spots in these temperate waters. The whole place is a marine reserve, so there would be a parade of underwater features and creatures.
I’m pretty sure I’ll have my hands full when I set foot here, what with keeping up with the best things to do in New Zealand. Then again, it’s something I would not miss for the world. Here’s to this bucket list being reality soon