Say “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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!