What you should not miss in New Zealand
January 1, 1970
After coming back from a 3 weeks trip in New Zealand, the first and only thing that you want to do is to tell the whole world how amazing this place is. Whether you are after hiking, sunbathing or extreme sports, New Zealand has it all. It is also hard to sum up the best things to see or do as they are so varied. So, I guess, the best thing to do is simply going through what I did and what I would have done if I had had more time.
Me and my friend Sonia left for the North Island during the middle of July. It does not sound as the best time to travel around as it’s middle winter, but this country turns up to be a year-round travel destination. It was cold, indeed, so be sure you remember to bring warm clothes when you head there, but it was definitely not unbearable. We spent the first week travelling around Auckland, reaching down to Mount Ngauruhoe, close to Lake Taupo, the most southern point we managed to get during our quick trip to the North Island. We went like in a circle, passing from the Coromandel Peninsula, down to Tauranga, Rotorua and Taupo, and then going back up passing from Waitomo District, Hamilton and Piha, just outside Auckland. Needless to say that one week is not enough, but we had no choice and flew down to Christchurch, where we picked up our rented car and did another two weeks of travelling all around the South Island. In this case we tried not to miss any single worth stop. But the weather was not on our side and unfortunately we couldn’t really enjoy every stop. Anyway, we did an anti-clockwise trip, starting from Christchurch, heading up to Kaikoura and Blenheim, passing by Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui) and stopping at Nelson for two days to enjoy the Abel National Park at its best. Then we turned south to Greymouth and to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, right before arriving in Wanaka. After this, we spent a couple of days in Queenstown, where you find tourists at any time of the year as it offers any kind of entertainment, from exciting activities like the first Bungee Jumping or the Swing, to relaxing boat cruises and mountain walks. Winter is of course the best moment to go skiing or snowboarding, and there were hips of backpackers around, ready to get the best from the good snow. After leaving Queenstown we went down to Te Anau and cruised along Milford Sound, then we reached the most Southern Point of the entire Island (Slope Point) and went chasing penguins and albatross around Dunedin. On the way back to Christchurch we couldn’t miss the night sky over Lake Tekapo and the snowy land of Mount Cook, we also drove through the astonishing Arthur’s Pass and ended our trip at Hanmer Springs and at the Banks Peninsula, close to the airport. Words can’t describe our entire experience. We’ve been staying in different hostels every night, crossing path with many other travellers on their way. Heard interesting stories from other people livings and shared rooms with men and women of any possible nationality. No other experience will ever equal the power of this trip and I will never forget all the challenges we also went through (the snow storm being one of those).
Do Not Miss
Now, going down to details, this is what I think is a must see (or do) in New Zealand:
1- The Coromandel Peninsula.
There is a massive Forest Park that covers most of the Peninsula. Just driving through it is an experience, as there are plenty of lookouts that will leave you breathless. Once you arrive on the other side, step into a hot water pool in the sand of the Hot Water Beach. There is a volcanic basin leftover under the hill right on the beach that still heat up the water that gets there and then heads to the ocean. So, if you dig a small hole on the beach you may find a small stream of water coming out, just jump in it! It will warm you up even when it’s winter. Apart from that, the whole coast is amazing, and a stop at the Cathedral Cove is a must, especially at dusk or sunset, because the light creates a magical effect on the beach that will satisfy all the camera lovers.
2- Hobbiton Movie set Village.
Although it is almost all artificial, and you may or may not have seen the movies, this place will attract you and you will not be disappointed. The guides take you through the village, between the hobbit holes, and explain you all you need to know about the place and how it has been created. The admirable dedication of Peter Jackson towards this place will make you want to see the cinematographic result at the end (or to go through all the movies again if you’ve already seen them). [Find more information on the official website here]
3- Go camping.
If you like camping and hiking, New Zealand is the place for you. All over it there are tracks and walks that can take you from one coast to the other, keeping you busy and surrounded by nature for days and days. A few worth places, just to give you an idea, would be Mount Ngauruhoe, The Kepler Track down in Te Anau, or the one in the Abel Tasman National Park. You can find any possible walk existing in NZ, together with their description and level of difficulty on the government website (click here).
4- Do some crazy experience.
New Zealand has it all, as I’ve already said. Leave your fears behind and try some of its crazy attractions. You can choose between Bungee Jumping, Sky Diving, Kayaking, Rafting, Mountain or Quad Biking and so much more. It does not matter your age or your experience, the Kiwis will change the way you think about life.
5- Last but not least.
Here are a few places that anybody should see at least once in a lifetime and that can’t be really described, because they are just too good to be told. These places are: Milford Sound, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Lake Matheson, Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook and Arthur’s Pass. Go and check yourself, don’t ask, you will thank me later 😉
Back To Reality
Once you leave this country, you realize that you have changed. Everything that you will see on your everyday life will sound boring. You will start to miss the colours and the atmosphere that you breathe in New Zealand. You may even start to plan your next trip there (possibly in summer for myself). In conclusion, do I recommend a trip to this wonderful country? Hell yeah. Will I go back one day? I really hope so. Will I ever forget what I’ve seen there? Never.