8 Must Do New Zealand Experiences by Real World RunawaySay “New Zealand” and what do you think? For many, the first thought is of magnificent scenery and unique nature, for others, adrenaline activities and big thrills, and some minds will immediately go to Lord of the Rings. That’s the beauty of New Zealand. It can be so many different things to different people. So if, as a visitor, you really want to get a taste of what the country has to offer, try these 8 must-do New Zealand experiences to get the most out of your trip to Kiwiland.

1. Visit Another World

8 Must Do New Zealand Experiences - Real World Runaway

From the barren landscape of the Tongariro Crossing to the geothermal pools of Wai-O-Tapu, you’re never far from alien wonders that really separate New Zealand from the rest of the world. No trip to New Zealand is complete, however, without a visit to Hobbitton. Explore the Shire and get lost in the world of Lord of the Rings, untouched since filming ended.

Fancy taking on the Tongariro Crossing? Find my guide here.

2. Experience Maori Culture

New Zealand wouldn’t be what it is without it’s Maori heritage. The history of New Zealand’s indigenous people is fascinating and learning about Maori culture is important to maximise your kiwi experience. There are plenty of places that put on cultural performances and tradition hangi meals for tourists. While these may not be super authentic, they usually have really knowledgeable guides who can answer any questions you have.

3. Hike on a Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier by Real World Runaway

As someone from Europe, the concept of a glacier has always been one I never concerned myself with. I didn’t even know humans could go on them, never mind that it might be something I wanted to do. Until New Zealand. There are no shortage of glaciers here and some of them are open for the public to hike on (only with specialist guides of course). Spending a day on (and in, some of the ice crevasses are huge) a glacier is easily one of the best things I’ve done in my life and I could not recommend it more. There’s even the added bonus of a helicopter ride to get up there!

4. See a Perfect Night Sky

With so much wilderness, it’s easy to find completely untouched portions of New Zealand. This makes it the perfect place for star gazing. Head to the dark sky reserve in the Mt Cook National Park for truly breathtaking sights, untouched by light pollution. You can even get a tour where you’re guided through the beautiful sky from the comfort of a hot spring pool. Can’t make it down to Mt Cook? No worries. Just drive a few minutes out of any town and the view will still be pretty spectacular.

5. Meet the Local Wildlife

Zealandia Wellington by Real World Runaway

Zealandia Eco-sanctuary in Wellington

In it’s own little corner of the world, New Zealand is home to some incredible, unique wildlife. You can try and hunt down a kiwi on Stewart Island or chase Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa Harbour, but with so many species of native bird around, sometimes all you have to do is look up. For those who want a more guaranteed view of the wildlife, there are many great zoo and sanctuaries such as Zealandia, a patch of forest near Wellington city centre that is being resorted to it’s natural state before humans arrived in the country.

6. Take the Scenic Route

New Zealand South Island by Real World Runaway

Incredible views are literally hiding around every corner in New Zealand, many of which are best seen from the road. It really is no wonder that road trips are the most popular way to see this country. Whether driving the Milford Road, through the Southern Alps or just up a hill in the city, always be prepared to pull over and take in the amazing sights that await.

7. Jump Off Something Tall

Whether it’s from the SkyTower in Auckland or the world’s first bungy in Queenstown,there’s always the opportunity to jump off something tall in New Zealand. Kiwis pride themselves on being the original adrenaline junkies so it’d be rude not to join them. And with views like that, why would you want to sky dive anywhere else?

8. Cruise Down a Sound

Doubtful Sound by Real World Runaway

With a whole region named after them (Fjordland, how imaginative) New Zealand is home to some of the most amazing fjords in the world…although they try to disguise them as sounds, for some reason. Whether you chose the iconic Milford or the quieter, but equally impressive Doubtful, a boat trip through a sound should definitely be on everyone’s New Zealand bucket list.

What are your must-do New Zealand experiences? Let me know in the comments!

Katie x

Whether it’s long or short term, near or far, travel has a tendency to make us forget about our real world responsibilities. Forgetting to look after our bodies whilst away is something we’re probably all guilty of. Now, there’s no way I’m ever going to pass on an amazing French bakery or give up on my mission to find New York’s best pizza, but there are other ways you can easily stay healthy whilst on the move! Here are some top tips from Casey Williams, a writer, traveler and health enthusiast, to keep you fit whilst travelling.

Take your workout with you

You don’t have to exercise for hours every day. Just set aside half an hour or so for a workout before you get on with the rest of your day. You could make the most of the pool facilities or go on a run along the beach. But if you’d rather exercise in private, take a tablet or laptop with you and follow exercise videos. The Body Coach has some great ones you can do from your hotel room without the need for any equipment.

Use your feet

Avoiding taxis and public transport where possible is a great way of easily upping your daily exercise. You can walk a surprising amount when you’re on holiday, especially if you’re sightseeing. So avoid those hop-on hop-off bus tours and rely on your feet. Non-strenuous walking can at a moderate pace can burn 120 to 140 calories per hour for a 130-pound person.

Learn when to say no

With all-inclusive buffets and free refills, it can be hard to know when to stop. Generally, you should always stop eating before you’re full. You’ll be surprised how quickly your stomach can expand if you keep overeating, so it’s important to keep to portion sizes you’d have at home.

Be calorie conscious

On holiday, you do deserve to treat yourself. Around the world, different cuisines are bound to tempt you. But too many treats can quickly up your calorie count. TINZ highlight the following high-calorie favourites:

  • Hamburger and fries: 629 calories
  • Pizza: 1,000 calories
  • Pain au chocolat: 300 calories
  • Fish and chips: 838 calories

Now I’m definitely not saying to avoid indulging in the local cuisine, it’s just all about achieving a balance. Make sensible decisions and you’ll return home without regrets. Swapped battered fish for grilled, for example, or share a pizza.

stay fit whilst travelling by real world runaway

Try out an activity

Outdoor activities are  great way to explore your surrounding and keep things interesting whilst keeping active. Horse riding, white-water rafting, hiking, canoeing – the options are endless. Before you head off, do some research and book something you’d love to do.

How do you stay fit on holiday? Share your exercise and eating tips below.


The Auckland vs Wellington debate is real and can get heated here in New Zealand. I made my choice, siding with Wellington and making the move to the capital. Whatever you think of NZ’s biggest city, however, you can’t deny that Auckland provides a fantastic base to go out and explore. Some of the most beautiful places on the North Island can be reached in just a few hours, so what’s your excuse? Make your time in the city a little more interesting (no, of course I’m not biased) and head off on one of these amazing weekend trips from Auckland!

Coromandel Peninsula

Cathedral Cove Real World Runaway

Cathedral Cove

Drive Time: 2 hrs 30mins

Home of the famous Cathedral Cove, the Coromandel Peninsula is the perfect place for a summer getaway. Drag yourself out of bed early and head down to Hot Water Beach before the tide comes in. Here you can dig yourself your own personal hot spring to relax in. Or at least you can try. Ours just kept coming up cold until someone else left and we just stole theirs. After a morning of digging, head down to Cathedral Cove for some of the most screensaver worthy views around. Be warned, it’s a longer walk than you’d think so make sure you actually pack shoes. Even a beach day in New Zealand requires a 45 minute hike first. I don’t know how lazy me is surviving here. If you’d prefer somewhere I little more private, New Chums Beach is just up the road. The locals insisted that it was voted one of the Best 10 Beaches in the World, and, while I’m struggling to find that statistic on the internet, it’s definitely worth a visit. We didn’t see another person there for the entire morning.

New Chum's Beach Real World Runaway

New Chum’s Beach

If the beach isn’t your thing, head into the Forest Park for a hike or take a trip to the Karangahake Gorge. It’s worth staying in either Whitianga or Coromandel Town and using it as a base to explore. I actually had the honour of being stuck in Coromandel Town for a day after a storm closed all roads off the peninsula. (Yes, this large piece of land only has 2 access roads. Typical NZ.) But it was surprisingly cute, with plenty of places to eat and drink, so crisis averted.

Bay of Islands

Paihia Real World Runaway


Drive Time: 3hrs

I was completely surprised by how much more New Zealand exists north of Auckland. The beautiful Bay of Islands are a great place to go for beaches, walks and a taste of Kiwi culture. The Bay is home to the Waitangi Treaty Ground and Russell, New Zealand’s first capital, so is the perfect place to brush up on your NZ history. Stay in Paihia, a classic beach town full of backpacker bars, water sports and beach bums, but be sure to venture out of town. Take a drive along 90 Mile Beach, sit at northernmost tip of the country at Cape Reinga and try sand boarding on the dunes.


Wai-o-Tapu Real World Runaway


Drive Time: 3hrs

Chances are, you’ll smell Rotorua’s best attractions before you see them. The city is New Zealand’s geothermal capital and the constant eggy stench is an unfortunate byproduct of the incredible things the Earth does around there. Steaming hot pools are common in the city (I’m using the word city very loosely here) and geothermal parks such as Wai-o-Tapu are only short drives away from the centre. Here you’ll find countless geysers, coloured pools and mud baths, just not the kind you would ever want to get into. Save that for the luxurious Polynesian Spa.

Rotorua is also home to a large Maori population, with many communities opening their doors to tourists with tours, performances and traditional Hangi meals. For adrenaline junkies, take the gondola to the top of the Skyline Rotorua for great views of the city, mountain biking, zip lining and real-life Mario Kart (aka luge). The whole city is set up for tourism so expect to spend more here than you would on the beach in Coromandel. Definitely worth the extra cash though!

Waitomo and Hobbiton

Hobbiton Real World Runaway


There’s a reason why the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Hobbiton are two of the most popular attractions in New Zealand. They are absolute must do’s and can easily be combined into a weekend trip. Walk, tube, climb, abseil and zip through the breathtaking caves, taking in the glowworms as you go. This was easily the best day I’ve had in New Zealand after five months here. I couldn’t recommend by guides at The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co (yep, that’s their real name) more but the tour I did was tough and required previous, technical climbing experience. There are so many companies that do infinite kinds of cave tour though, so make sure you do your research. In the evening, take a walk around the area surrounding the caves to see even more glowworms and wildlife.

It’s pretty hard to escape from Lord of the Rings in NZ but Hobbiton is the King of LotR based fun. It’s obviously a must for super fans but even those raised on Team Harry Potter (aka, me) can enjoy the movie set tour. About an hour away from Waitomo, the set tour takes about 2 hours and involves a guided walk of The Shire and a drink in the Green Dragon. Many photos will be taken. Guaranteed.


Tongariro Crossing Real World Runaway

Tongariro Crossing

Drive Time: 3hrs 30mins

On the banks of huge Lake Taupo, lies the town/city (who even knows anymore?) of Taupo. Take a boat out on the lake to view the Maori Rock carvings or relax in Spa Park, a natural group of hot pools that are slightly less eggy than those in Rotorua. If you’re feeling active, spend a day doing New Zealand’s most famous 1 day hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Don’t let the hundreds of tourists fool you. It’s no walk in the park. But if you can make it, the views are well worth the burning legs and pure self loathing.

Interested in expereincing the crossing for yourself? Find my Lazy Girl Guide to the Tongariro Crossing here.

For a less strenuous walk, head down Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Rapids. You can drive between them easily, hop out and get that all-important Instagram snap, or the walk between them in a 4 hour round trip. Honestly, there isn’t much of interest in between, but walking makes you feel a lot better about the food you inevitably ending up eating in The World’s Coolest McDonalds later that evening.

What are your favourite weekend trips from Auckland? And if you have any ideas on where I can head to get out of Wellington for a few days, let me know in the comments!

Katie x

TRAVEL HACKSTravel, however amazing it may be, comes with a lot of stress and planning. As lazy humans, of course we look for ways to make the whole process easier. Enter, travel hacks. These super simple tips have been tried and tested by travel bloggers and are guaranteed* to make your trip a whole lot easier!

*As much as I love these tips, I can’t actually guarantee anything.

Take an Extension Lead

This is my ultimate, number one travel hack. An extension lead is way cheaper and easier than buying multiple adaptors and carrying them around. It’s also incredibly handy in a hostel room with limited plugs and multiple young travellers in desperate need to charge their phones. Just remember to bring it with you as it’s pretty impossible to find one with the correct plugs when you’re away.

by Katie from Real World Runaway

Use Solid Toiletries

Solid toiletries are amazing to travel with. They not only reduce plastic, which is great for the environment, but they are smaller and a lot lighter, and last much longer than their liquid alternatives! They also can be taken in carry on baggage, whereas liquid toiletries cannot.

Solid shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash and toothpaste are all available. While they are generally a bit more expensive than liquid toiletries, you more than make your money back as they last for so much longer. To give some idea of time; I took a solid shampoo travelling with me, washed my hair about twice a week and it lasted me over four months. Solid toiletries are perfect for a long backpacking stint when you’re unsure how accessible big shops will be, or for short trips when you’re wanting to save space and weight in your bag!

by Claire from Claire’s Footsteps

Use Google Maps Offline

One of my most helpful travel hacks is to download offline areas to the Google Maps app on my phone before traveling. I don’t always buy a local sim everywhere I travel so I am often out and about without any internet and I almost always get lost or want to find my way to a new place. Having the offline areas already downloaded into my phone means I can use Google Maps while my phone is in airplane mode so that I can find my way around while traveling without incurring huge data fees while abroad. It always comes in handy

by Katie from The Katie Show Blog

Kitekite Falls by Real World Runaway

Keep Valuables in your Bra

Sorry boys, this one isn’t for you. My best travel hack is stashing valuables in my bra – a creative solution for a woman travelling alone! I usually keep a big, visible padlock on my backpack to deter thieves and hide the key in my bra. It’s also a good place to put my phone, so it’s easy to whip out for photos, but hidden away and impossible to snatch quickly.

by Amy from Page Traveller

Take a Binder Clip to Keep Curtains Shut

I like it to be pitch black when I sleep. I don’t want to see any slivers of light in the room when it’s time for bed. The more cave-like, the better. I’ve even been known to put electrical tape over the little lights on chargers that show that they’re on if they’re too bright.
All too many hotel rooms have curtains that don’t quite close all the way though. After being annoyed by lights shining in from the outside, I now carry a binder clip in my suitcase to solve the problem. When I end up in a room with curtains that won’t stay all the way shut, I can just clip them together and block all of that unwanted light out. I get perfect sleeping conditions every time.

by Kris from Nomad by Trade

Always Take Ziplock Bags

Ziplock bags are the one thing I could never travel without. To start with they’re super easy to stuff into a side pocket of your backpack, they’re also reusable so eco-friendly and of course super cheap. They have so many uses you could never list all of them. Things like: keeping food in them, protecting your clothes from leaking cosmetics, using them to put wet/dirty clothes in to separate them from the rest of your pack. The possibilities are endless!
Often they’re water proof so you can also use them as a cheap gadget protecter if you’re doing a water based activity, while still being able to use your touchscreen over the plastic. Keep in mind though that although they will protect your gadgets from splashes, it’s definitely not guaranteed to protect them from a drop in the sea!
by Sarah from The Wandering Welshie

Gardens by the Bay by Real World Runaway

Charge Using USBs

I try to travel with only hand luggage as much as possible, so space saving hacks are a huge priority of mine!  I travel with 2 universal travel adaptors that support both plugs and USB cables and they work all over the world.  The majority of my electronics and cameras can be charged with a USB cable so this eliminates bulky plugs.  I can just carry the leads in a pencil case and they plug straight into the adaptor!

by Kylie from Between England and Iowa

More often than not, I don’t have enough plug adaptors with me and it can be a real pain when I need to charge my phone and my camera. One of my favourites and a hack that has saved me a few times now is to use my phone wire and plug it into the USB slot in the back of the hotel room TV!

by Georgina from Georgina Does

What are your favourite travel hacks? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Katie x

The tongariro crossingThe Tongariro Crossing is one of the most popular and celebrated walks in New Zealand and has been given the title of the country’s best one day hike. The views of the volcanic landscape are breathtaking and draw thousands of people to the 19.4km track. But is it for everyone? As a fairly unfit person, that’s what I wanted to find out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to exercise. I play a lot of sport and can sometimes be found at the gym (almost an equal number of times as I can be found at the takeaway next door) so I’d normally say that my fitness is that of an above average human, but the idea of walking up hills is a big no from me. I don’t know why, but I can happily run after a ball or on a treadmill for hours (ok, minutes), but put me on a hill and I really struggle.


The Crossing was something I really wanted to do in New Zealand so I set out to find some blog posts about other people’s experiences to see if I could do it and could not find a negative word about the trek. I even found a lot of stuff about people doing it with their kids and grandparents All confident in my ability to walk that walk, I headed off, and this is what I found.

My Experience

The first struggle of the day was waking up at 5am. The shuttles from Taupo to the crossing usually leave around 5.30am. Yay. After a short bus nap, we were ready to walk! The first hour or so went pretty quickly. The barren landscape was strangely beautiful and the beginning of the track was pretty flat and easy. “I’m gonna ace this,” I was thinking to myself, standing in the shadow of Mt Doom (real name Mt Ngauruhoe). LOL. The first clue to what was coming was a sign asking you assess your physical fitness and to turn back if you don’t think you’re up to it. As a woman, tired from the flat walk, slumped over the sign, I thought that I was of course fit enough. I’m a 21 year old athlete.

Again, LOL.

The following hour was possibly the hardest hour of my life. Consistent, steep uphill paths and steps stretched ahead. 2 minute breaks, broken up by 30 seconds of walking became the norm. It was pretty much hell (hence the name, the Devil’s Staircase). The only positive though was the guilt free eating that occurred every few minutes. The view from the top was worth it though. Or at least, time has numbed the pain so it seems worth it. A huge volcanic crater waits for you, the perfect place to stop for a longer break for even more food.

The next step is to decide whether or not you want to climb Mt Doom. It takes around 2 extra hours, is incredibly steep and is made entirely from crumbling gravel. So for me it was a no. But my boyfriend went up while I sat at the bottom, you guessed it, eating. He raced up and down, which made me feel pretty bad about myself, but I appreciated not being made to wait for too long. During my snack break, I heard a tour guide tell her group that there were no more stairs, so we were pretty excited to plod on.

The guide did not lie. But she was not entirely truthful either as on the other side on the ridge I was sat on was another steep hill. No steps, no. Just a big steep hill. The path to the summit. After another hour of hell (maybe, I lost all sense of time), we arrived at the top. The summit of the Crossing. The iconic view. Over the other side of the summit were the Emerald Lakes. The reason most people visit Tongariro in the first place. They didn’t disappoint. It’s weird how quickly your mood can change from ‘this place is hell on Earth’ to ‘this is the most beautiful pace in the world, I love it here’.

We were maybe 4 hours in at this point. 4 hours spent wishing for a bit of down to go with all of the up. Well my wishes were granted. The road to the lakes was basically a vertical gravel slide. It was more like skiing than walking. People were hitting the deck wherever you looked, which would’ve been pretty funny if you weren’t incredibly aware of how easy it would be for that to be you.

Recommendation: Go down sideways. Most valuable advice I’ve ever been given.

Honestly, once you’re at the lakes, the hard part is finally over. The rest is about endurance. We took about 6.5 hours to finish the Crossing is you take off the Mt Doom time. The last 3 hours involve a winding path through fields and forest. Not particularly challenging, if you hadn’t already been walking for hours. It all blurred into one after a while. The last hour added exactly nothing to my experience. We spent the whole time thinking we were there, only to find another stretch of path leading deeper into the trees. So close but so far.

But hey, I did it! I made it to the end, quicker that average, and didn’t break any bones or die in the process. I think I’m gonna put that in the success column.

Can You Do the Crossing?

Well, can you walk 19.4km and be on your feet for 8hrs? Only you can really answer that. What I can tell you is, the amount of tourists that do the crossing, and the solely positive reviews I’ve seen, gave me the impression that it would be pretty easy. It isn’t.


I’m not trying to put you off, in fact, I think it’s a great challenge and well worth doing. I think it’s possible for anyone to complete but you have to be realistic. As I said, I’m no stranger to sport and exercise, but I really struggled. Don’t expect to have a nice time doing the trek if you don’t have an active background. If you’re of a lower fitness level, maybe do a little training beforehand. It’ll definitely make a difference and make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. You can break as much as you like, so anyone can get there with a little will power!

Which Route?

The crossing joins Mangatepopo in the Ruapehu region to Ketetahi Hot Springs and can be walked in either direction. The most popular is from Mangatepopo to Keteahi. Mangatepopo sits at a higher altitude so this route involves less steep climbing. It also lets you climb Mt Doom closer to the start of the trek while you’re still feeling fresh.

One bonus of the Keteahi route is that you get the boring bush walk out of the way first, emerging from the greenery into the volcanic landscape. I think overall though, it’s better to go with the crowds. It’s so busy, the walk is basically like a trail of ants, and the paths are narrow in places. You don’t want to be walking against the flow.

Because it is a crossing and not a loop, you’ll have to arrange shuttles. Book Me sometimes has good deals if you book far enough in advance, but you can usually book through your hostel.

Mt Doom

Whether or not you should climb Mt Doom is a big question, mainly for younger climbers. Our shuttle driver asked who’d be going to the summit and most of the adults looked blankly while Mt Doom is a hot topic in hostel dorms. From the photos I’ve seen, the surrounding view is pretty similar to that of the crossing. The only bonus is the crater. A guide was telling me that it’s horrible to get up and even worse to get down. The only reason people seem to go up is because of the Lord of the Rings connection. For me, that’s not a good enough reason, but for many it is. It’s recommended that only extremely fit people attempt it so keep that in mind.

There is another optional mountain, Mt Tongariro, which is supposed to be a much easier walk and a nicer view. I would’ve loved to go up this but you realistically only get to do one, and Lord of the Rings won with the rest of the group.

What to Take

  • Water: There’s no fresh water up there so you need to take at least 1.5 litres per person.
  • Food: I did a lot of eating up there but remember, you have to carry everything. I took a small pizza and 3 sandwiches as well as a large bar of chocolate and didn’t eat it all. Pete, on the other hand, had read that you need an extra 2000 calories doing the trek so brought at least 9 sandwiches as well as other snacks. He did not need 9 sandwiches.
  • Layers: I’m pretty sure I was both the hottest and coldest I’ve ever been on this walk. Dress accordingly.
  • Sun Cream: You’re outside in New Zealand, therefore you need sun cream.
  • Walking Boots: Don’t be that idiot in Converse sliding down the hill on their arse.
  • Phone: 1. In case of emergency 2. We didn’t take a big camera because of the weight so our phones were incredibly useful. Also good for music in the last few, dull hours.

Have you done the Tongariro Crossing? Tell me about your experience below!

Katie x