21 Amazing Experiences You Can Only Have in New Zealand

Milford Sound Cruise | © Bernard Spragg/Flickr
Milford Sound Cruise | © Bernard Spragg/Flickr
Photo of Thalita Alves
7 December 2017

New Zealand is a place for memorable experiences. The country’s remarkable beauty, adventurous thrills and one-of-a-kind attractions are guaranteed to awaken your sense of wanderlust. Here are just some of the bucket-list worthy must-dos that prove it.

See some of the world’s rarest wildlife

New Zealand is home to a plethora of birds, insects, reptiles and marine mammals that you won’t find elsewhere. Whether you want to catch sight of the endangered Hector’s Dolphin or the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin, you’ll find there are plenty of eco-friendly opportunities to get up close and personal to the native wildlife on your journey.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin at Harington Point, Otago | © Bernard Spragg/Flickr

Discover plants that don’t exist anywhere else

Just as New Zealand is filled with interesting critters, it is also known for its vast collection of native plants. In the warmer months, for instance, the country’s Christmas conifer — known as the Pohutukawa — will be colouring the landscapes in a vibrant red, in a fitting start to the summer season.

Pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas Tree) | © Sids1/Flickr

Live like a Hobbit for a day

If you’re an avid fan of all things Tolkien, a visit to Hobbiton is an absolute treat. The film set, which has been diligently preserved to look like a real-life Hobbit village, is quite handy to main centres like Auckland, Rotorua and Taupo.

Hobbiton Burrow | © Sheila Thomson/Flickr

Experience Maori culture first-hand

New Zealand protects its indigenous Maori culture and customs in a way that is exemplary to the rest of world. Besides seeing various examples of the language and traditions embedded in everyday life, travellers can also get involved in various encounters that include performances, historic showcases and a hangi feast at the end.

Maori warrior | © Pixabay

Immerse yourself in some Art Deco

Fun fact: the North Island city of Napier has the largest collection of Art Deco buildings outside Miami, and the highest concentration of the style in the entire Southern Hemisphere. These incredible structures emerged in the aftermath of one of New Zealand’s most destructive earthquakes, and are revered annually in the local Art Deco Festival.

Napier Art Deco Building | © Teacher Traveler/Flickr

Get your adrenaline fix in Queenstown

Aptly dubbed New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown is the place to visit if you want to get your heart racing. Its claim to fame includes being home to the world’s first commercial bungy jumping operations, having the world’s largest rope swing and being surrounded by a myriad of epic ski fields.

Rafting on the Shotover River, Queenstown | © QueenstownRafting/Flickr

Explore Wellington’s eclectic Cuba Street

If you love cities with alternative vibes, a trip to Wellington is an absolute must. Cuba Street is a favourite among locals and visitors alike for its eclectic cafes, markets, carnivals, live music venues, vintage shopping locations and colourful history.

The Cuba Street Carnival in Wellington | © Tony/Flickr

See the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere

At 328 metres (1,076 feet) high, Auckland’s Sky Tower is the tallest standing structure in the entire Southern Hemisphere. If that’s not impressive enough, this iconic landmark also serves as a local radio transmission tower, has a revolving restaurant and is a major go-to for an adventure fix.

Sky Tower, Auckland | © PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Do one of the nine Great Walks

Experienced hikers, this one’s for you. New Zealand’s nine Great Walks are multi-day journeys that have become quite famous for their challenging stretches, sublime landscapes and contrasting forces of nature. They are hosted in various national parks, and have allocated camping facilities for those wanting to tackle the full circuit.

Tongariro | © peterhallwright/Flickr

Classic cars and wearable art in a single space

Nelson’s World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum brings two different elements you wouldn’t think could fit together: the winning pieces from the town’s famous design competition and a vast collection of vintage cars. Interestingly, the quirky juxtaposition works.

Inside the World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum | © Jane Nearing/Flickr

Take a scenic train ride across the Canterbury plains

The TranzAlpine continues to marvel South Island travellers with its wonderful showcase of sublime landscapes. Ride the train from Christchurch to Greymouth, traversing Arthur’s Pass in between, to fully immerse yourself in the alpine vistas on show.

High country landscapes on the TranzAlpine train route | © Bob Hall/Flickr

Have a barbecue

A great way to feast like a local is to embrace the traditional New Zealand ‘barbie’, a summer ritual. If you don’t have your own equipment, various parks, campsites and selected beaches will have some that can be used on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kebabs and Vegetables Cooked on a New Zealand Barbecue | © Henry Burrows/Flickr

Explore the unique vineyards

New Zealand is globally renowned for its viticulture. Wine tours and tasting sessions are very easy to find. They’ll teach you everything you need to know about the white and red grape varietals that continue to please connoisseurs and enthusiasts from the world over.

Stony Ridge Winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand | © Chris Nener/Flickr

See some underground glowworms

The Waitomo Caves are a favourite among adventurous spelunkers and nature enthusiasts. Whether you prefer to plunge into the depths of the limestone caves on your own terms or you’d simply settle for an underground cruise, the glowworm lights will make your visit one to truly cherish.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves | © Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr

Get up close to an active volcano

One of the most compelling things about New Zealand is the sheer amount of volcanic and geothermal activity on show. Besides famous destinations like Rotorua and Taupo, the volcanic White Island is also a good place to get up close and personal to this stunning phenomenon.

White Island | © Krzysztof Belczyński/Flickr

Camp by the glistening waters

Summer in New Zealand is the prime time for camping. Be it by the lake, near the beach or surrounded by rivers and forests, pitching a tent is the best way to bask at the country’s natural beauty as you relish the outdoors.

Lake Hauea Campsite, New Zealand | © Flying Kiwi Tours/Flickr

Venture to Stewart Island

A place for hiking, seeing wildlife and soaking up the sun that might get overlooked if you fail to delve into the southernmost parts of New Zealand. You can easily reach Rakiura/Stewart Island by catching a ferry from Bluff or by aeroplane from Invercargill.

Lee Bay, Stewart Island, New Zealand | © Kristina D.C. Hoeppner/Flickr

Cruise Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of those places that looks just as good as, if not better than, its pictures. If you’re not one for multi-day treks, a cruise along the waters will introduce you to the waterfalls, forests and animal species that has make this a much-loved destination.

Watch a rugby match

New Zealand, you might know, is a rugby-mad nation. Its national team, the All Blacks, are renowned for being some of the very best in the world. Watch a match in any stadium or sports bar to get into the local culture and see how the pros thrive on their home turf.

The All Blacks rugby team | © David Molloy Photography/Flickr

Be the first to welcome the new day

Gisborne lays claim to being one of the first places in the world to see the sunrise. It’s not the first to welcome the New Year (the Chatham Islands get that honour) but it is pretty close — there’s even a New Year’s Eve festival to celebrate this fine occasion.

Sunrise, Wainui Beach, Gisborne | © studio tdes/Flickr

Cuddle up to a kiwi (the bird, that is)

No visit to New Zealand would be complete without a kiwi bird encounter. There are various reserves that will introduce you to this cute little bird and, if you’re lucky, you might even get to hold one in your arms.

Kiwi | © Allie_Caulfield/Flickr

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