New Zealand’s cities are growing and urban life is booming, but when it comes to things to do in New Zealand, you don’t travel half-way around the globe to take in a show or go clubbing. The idea is to enjoy the country for all its worth: the amazing natural world supported by easy-to-use infrastructure.
Be a beach bum
Beaches tend to be quiet, at the end of long roads — so you’re avoiding traffic noise — and as close to pristine as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Go and find one to relax at.
Caving for the not-so-adventurous
Auckland’s a bit manic, but once you’re free of that, New Zealand offers great on-road and mountain bike riding pretty much everywhere. Nga Haerenga: the NZ Cycle Trail is showcasing routes nationwide to make a complete set of trails for people wanting the challenge of riding through some of New Zealand’s most-beautiful areas. There’s good resources here.
At times it seems you can’t drive for 30 minutes without finding another winery… OK, maybe not in some areas of the country, but wine is huge. There’s the prestigious areas like Marlborough, Waiheke, Gibbston Valley and the Gisbourne/Hawkes Bay regions… and then there’s a whole lot more. Just make sure you have a sober driver.
Once again, we must mention the prestigious areas first: Kaikoura, Bay of Islands, and Akaroa are well-known for whale watching and swim-with-the-dolphin cruises.
What you might not know is that it’s possible to go on a whale-watching safari right from Auckland’s main harbour. Much of the Hauraki Gulf is a protected marine area, and there are daily dolphin and whale sightings, including — in season — the big orcas that come in after the sting-rays.
In the 80s, it was hard to talk about New Zealand tourism without mentioning bungy jumping. Now, it seems you can’t go too far without a compulsory Lord of the Rings reference. And fair enough: they did a great job on the trilogy, and the Hobbit is… well, let’s see how it pans out.
Ian Brodie’s The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook is the go-to resource here; Matamata is the central North Island pilgrimage spot, with the Weta Cave in Wellington being the geek’s best option for spotting digital magicians.
There’s the great walks, like the Milford Track or the Routeburn; the smaller, but no-less beautiful, like the Charlotte Sounds or the Tongariro Crossing… and then there’s the mother of all hikes: Te Araroa, the complete country in one set of interconnected paths. Read up on planning your summer hikes and stay safe!
How to get around
Intercity provides the country’s most convenient point-to-point public transport, with best prices found by booking ahead and online. They also have multi-day passes which could prove better value for some trips. Trains connect main centres, and tend towards slow and scenic.
Due to New Zealand’s low population density, public transport is often pricy and doesn’t reach a wide variety of the places you want to visit. It’s best to either buy a car, buy or hire a camper van, or make use of one of the tour companies or adventure-focussed hop-on, hop off trips.
I’d recommend checking your options on:
- A tour with Intrepid Travel (see below)
- Buying a car in New Zealand
- Spaceships for their “swiss-army knife of camper vans”
- or Intercity’s bus passes to rub shoulders with the locals and hit the main population centres.
Best pricing in New Zealand is often found by booking online and in advance, so keep an eye out for special deals, and make the most of your time in New Zealand.
For travelers who want to take a wrong turn every now and then, to be amazed and to see the unseen – Intrepid are your partners in adventure. From enjoying weird and wonderful modes of transportation, to visiting the world’s most eye-popping sights, or sharing a smile with a local family over dinner, it’s these transcendent moments when you know you’re really alive. We like to call them ‘real life experiences.’