New Zealand is an amazing place to visit. The scenery is like something from Lord of the Rings. In fact, the scenery can be exactly that from Lord of the Rings. The country itself is a bit of a contradiction. You can either spend your days hiking through the mountains and staying sleepy towns, or you can keep your adrenaline pumping by throwing yourself off a variety of different high-up objects. It’s one extreme or the other.
Each town I visited in New Zealand always seemed to have one or two must-dos, so with that in mind I thought I would put together my guide to New Zealand, what to do and where.
Mt Eden and bus tour
I have to admit, I can’t really think of too much to recommend specifically in the city. I did some shopping on the quirky Karangahape Road and then at Victoria Park Market, before embarking on a fantastic bar crawl with Nomads Hostel. Getting out of the city and going to somewhere like Mt. Eden, where you can get views of the city from a distance, is worth doing but, ultimately, Auckland is the place to start a tour of New Zealand. It was here I flew into and where I caught my bus with the Kiwi Experience, before making my way south.
Maori village visit and geothermal park
This was one of the places I most enjoyed. You can spend a cultural evening visiting a Maori village and learning about the culture and spend an afternoon visiting a geothermal park to see the geysers spouting steam out of the ground. I did my skydive here and it was very scenic, diving over the lakes, but I’ll recommend the place to do this later.
Arriving in Waitomo, I wasn’t really sure why we were there. There didn’t seem much to do, and indeed there wasn’t. We were told to go to the local cave and so we did, somewhat skeptically. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take photos, so I can’t illustrate how cool it was to see hundred of glow-worms stuck to the ceiling, glittering away like stars in the dark. You’ll have to go to the glow-worm cave and see for yourself.
Skydiving and Tongariro Crossing
Taupo was where the majority of my bus group did their skydive as. apparently, it is the best place to do it on a backpacker budget (note, I do not mean cheap and unsafe, just relatively wallet-friendly). At several of the places the Kiwi bus stopped off at, the driver would hand round a list of activities available, we’d sign up and they’d book us in. I didn’t know this, hence I’d already booked my skydive in Rotoura (which, to be fair, I don’t regret doing- it was fantastic). The other activity to do in Taupo is the Tongariro Crossing. This eight hour hike is unpleasant but the views are stunning and you’ll go right past Mount Doom, so it is pretty much essential for any fellow LOTR fans.
Travel Photo: Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom in New Zealand
Travel Photo: Tongariro National Park
Travel Photo: Tongariro National Park 2
New Zealand: the real Middle Earth
My Seven Wonders of the World
My UNESCO list
And then I jumped: extreme sports in New Zealand
New Zealand Part Three: worms, bin bags and glaciers
White water rafting
This was a mandatory stop on the Kiwi bus tour but sadly there was not much to do. The offered activity was white water rafting but sadly this wasn’t until the morning after we arrived, by which point we wanted to leave for Wellington as we only had limited time there. I kind of wish we’d done it though because I didn’t get another chance on my tight timeframe.
Cuba Street and South Island crossing
I didn’t really have too much time in Wellington but if you’re looking for a good place to wander in and out of some shops then head to the bohemian Cuba Street. Also, this is the place to cross from the North to the South Island.
Nelson National Lake
If you’re keen to see some of New Zealand’s scenic highlights, then a trip out of town to Nelson National Lake is a good bet. Not only will you get some good shots but there’s always the option of jumping off the end of the little pier into the cold water (which I didn’t do but this was probably a mistake in hindsight).
We didn’t get up to much in either of these towns. In Westport, our bus embarked on a three-legged bar crawl. If you’re on the Kiwi bus, then this is something to look forward to (if they’re still doing it that is). In Greymouth, we stocked up on fancy dress outfits (stay tuned for more on this). Driving between the two, we came to another scenic spot of the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki, which are basically rocks that look like they are made up of layers. The thing with New Zealand is that just looking out the window at the views is an activity in itself and stopping off between destinations affords some fantastic sights.
Poo pub fancy dress
Whilst the sunset over the lake was something to behold, the Poo Pub was the highlight. If this is still part of the Kiwi bus tour, then anyone on it is in for a treat. Here we spent the night having a fancy dress party, with a bin bag theme. Basically, we had to make a costume using bin bags. My group went as ninjas. Whilst I think we did pretty good, we even accessorised with crepe paper and plastic swords, it was sweltering hot and we had to shed some layers.
Glacier hike and skydiving
This thing to do here is hike over the Franz Josef glacier. Sadly, this involved having an extra day here which I couldn’t afford to do, thanks to my impending flight, so I skydived over it instead. If you’re skydiving in the South Island then there is nowhere more scenic, although our photos weren’t nearly as good. I really regret not staying for the hike, in fact I’d go back to NZ just to do it.
Cinema and Puzzle World
If you go to Wanaka, you have to go to the cinema. It had one screen, filled with a mish-mash of chairs, including a sofas, armchairs and a VW Beetle.The projectionist seemed to have a slip during the film and the image went but really that just added to the experience. There was also an interval, where fresh cookies were baked for our enjoyment- obviously not for free but man were they good. In the morning, the bus took us to Puzzle World. I can’t say we were thrilled with this but it actually turned out to be a laugh, complete with a maze.
Nevis bungee jump, canyon swing, Fergburger and nightlife
This is undoubtedly the highlight of New Zealand. You can participate in an array of extreme sports but the must-do is the bungee. I’d already done one in Taupo (whilst everyone else was doing their skydive) but this is where you can find (1) the highest bungee in NZ, the Nevis, and (2) the bungee you do wearing a harness, so you can run and jump as opposed to just fall, the Ledge. I chose to do the Nevis canyon swing instead and if you’re not into bungee jumping this is a great alternative. You feel more secure sitting in your harness and there is less plummeting involved. Despite all of this, the number one thing to do in this great town is visit Fergburger, for the best burger you will ever had. Now I know I said I’d go back to NZ for the Franz Josef Glacier hike but the truth is that is a cover, I’d go back for the burger. Lastly, I had the best night out here, starting at Base Hostel’s bar and moving onto teapot cocktails at World Bar. Have fun!
Ode to a Fergburger
Review: Fergburger @ Queenstown
And then I jumped: extreme sports in New Zealand
Travel Photo: mountain views from Queenstown
My four best burgers ever
5 places I’d love to revisit
New Zealand Part Four: burgers, teapot and swings
Ending the journey
Again this is another example of us not doing much. I went to an Art Gallery and were overjoyed to see a Wagamama, but ultimately, this is where our journey ended and we moved on to Australia. It’s a good place to just chill and wander about before getting on the plane.
…and the rest of the blogs
For your iPod: Guns N’ Roses
For your iPod: Lord of the Rings soundtrack
Travel Photo: a New Zealand view
Travel Photo: snow capped mountains and reflections in New Zealand
Weekly Photo Challenge: on the move