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New Zealand has plenty in store for its visitors. Whether you’re a keen cultural explorer, an adventure junkie, or a nature and wildlife enthusiast, it won’t take long for you to find your happy place in this incredibly diverse country. In fact, here are 13 uniquely Kiwi experiences that all travellers should try at least once.
Or any New Zealand wildlife, really. The kiwi is probably the most recognisable of the lot, with its long nostril and hair-like feathers. You can catch sight of these flightless, nocturnal birds in various zoos and bird sanctuaries across the North and South Islands, including the Auckland Zoo, Zealandia in Wellington, Otorohanga’s Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, Rotorua’s Rainbow Springs Nature Park, and Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park.
Since you’re in the country, you might as well verse yourself in local culture and tradition. Each town you’ll pass through will have its own special heritage sites you can explore. Remember, if you are lucky enough to enter a Marae, have a Hangi, or participate in any other kind of local custom, make sure to brush up on the appropriate etiquette and rules.
Rotorua is home to the world’s first Zorbing track. For those who haven’t heard of this before, the Zorb is a giant ball you get into before running along various tracks. The original circuit will take you down a hill, through a zig-zagging obstacle course with many slips and turns.
Auckland-bound thrill-seekers will love this. Waiheke Island has ziplines fitted across its vast forested plains, bringing you plenty of views of the coastline as well as showcasing the exquisite native trees in the vicinity. Each of these are 200 metres long, and the company that runs the course offers special tour packages too.
When else will you get the chance to visit a city built around 48 volcanic cones? (They’re all dormant, don’t worry). The most prominent of these resides in Rangitoto Island; the namesake volcano can be seen anywhere in Auckland with a coastal view. You can catch the ferry to the island, to spend the day hiking up the summit. Not only will you get to see a majestic volcano up close, you’ll also be able to catch sight of New Zealand’s largest collection of native pohutukawa trees.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are definitely majestic sights to see. If you’re not confident mountaineering solo, there are guided tours you can take of each of these icy wonders. Of the two, Fox Glacier is the largest, coming in at 12 kilometres in length and soaring 3,000 metres in height. The neighbouring Franz Josef, by comparison, is 10 kilometres long and descends into the lush Westland National Park.
This is a great way to immerse yourself in the South Island’s most breathtaking mainland landscapes. The Tranzalpine train runs daily, with the scenic trip to Greymouth taking approximately one hour to complete. You’ll start your journey in Christchurch, passing through the exquisite Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains. For a North Island alternative, there’s always the picturesque Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington.
New Zealand’s location and climate makes it an ideal place for wine production. The country’s reputation in the viticulture industry draws visitors from across the globe. There are many wine tasting tours and vineyards worth exploring. Some of the most popular stopovers include Matakana, Waiheke Island, Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough, and the Otago region.
This is the place which cemented bungy jumping’s place as New Zealand’s adrenaline-inducing rite of passage. In 1988, A.J. Hackett and Henry van Asch launched the world’s first commercial bungy jumping experience at the iconic Kawarau Bridge. These days, the 43-metre (141-foot) drop continues to be a favourite among the most adventurous Queenstown visitors.
Aoraki/Mount Cook attracts ski bunnies from the world over, and it’s also a fantastic spot to do a bit of star-gazing. Light pollution is minimal around the Mackenzie Region, making it an ideal location for those who truly want to relish New Zealand’s dark skies. If you haven’t seen the Southern Cross constellation before, this is the place to do it.
Middle Earth exists beyond Tolkien fans’ imaginations. The Hobbiton movie set resides less than an hour’s drive from Auckland. With tours operating on a daily basis, this is the perfect day trip destination. Cool places you’ll get to see on your visit include the Green Dragon Inn, various Hobbit Holes, the Mill, and the paths to The Shire.
The Waitomo Caves are popular with abseilers, hikers and those who are fascinated by its remarkable rock formations. Regular boat tours will introduce you to its limestone walls which, in the darkest places, are beautifully illuminated by glow worms.
You may already know that New Zealand is the very first place to see the sunrise. Well, Gisborne gets the glory of being the place to catch that first glimpse of sun coming up. The East Cape Lighthouse, which is a couple of hours’ drive from Gisborne, is New Zealand’s easternmost point, and where you’ll get a front-seat view of the rising sun. Truth be told, the early-bird trip and its ensuing hike will be worth it for this once in a lifetime experience.