Forget the sporting rivalry, our friendly neighbour across the ditch has a lot more going for it than just rugby, sheep, kiwi (birds or fruit- you pick), fish and ‘chaps’, the haka and a badass female prime minister.
New Zealand is quite possibly the most picturesque country in the world with fjords for days, geothermal activity, giant glaciers, the tastiest wines in the world and a cultural heart that embraces all people. In fact, even the animal kingdom love New Zealand with dolphins, whales, seals, penguins and array of bird species all calling the country home.
If you only take the flight across the Tasman to New Zealand once in your life then we suggest you squeeze these 10 essential experiences into your itinerary to truly to get under the skin of the country that Australia is more than happy to adopt (and is secretly envious of). From the North Island to the South, these must do New Zealand experiences will take you across the nation covering cultural experiences, wildlife encounters and impossibly beautiful natural landmarks.
1. A Kiwi Encounter
Like the Koala is to Australia, the Kiwi Bird holds great cultural significance for New Zealand as the unofficial national symbol. The unique nocturnal bird can be found foraging in the forest with a furry feather like body and distinctly long beak easily spotted close to the ground because of their inability to fly. You can also see them in person by popping into to visit one of the many wildlife sanctuaries such as ZEALANDIA, Auckland and Wellington Zoo, Kiwi Encounters at Rainbow Springs and there is even a Kiwi Wildlife Park in Queenstown.
2. Learn about Maori Culture
No trip to New Zealand would be complete without meeting the locals and learning more about the Maori Culture that underpins modern New Zealand. You can experience aspects of the culture from art, language, storytelling, traditional performances and a mouth watering Hangi meal freshly prepared in front of you at the Tamaki Maori Village, Whakarewarewa Village or Mitai Maori Village or Te Puia in Rotorua, the cultural centre of New Zealand.
3. Taste world famous New Zealand wine in the vines
New Zealand has more than 10 wine regions across the country all mastering the art of winemaking. You can taste award winning Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough or Pinot Noir in Central Otago with spectacular mountainous backdrops and cooler climates making it the perfect location to blend a drop. Sample a wine or two while strolling through the vines.
4. Visit Hobbiton
If you are one of the few people who didn’t watch The Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit (gasp) then you may be unaware that New Zealand is the home of Middle Earth. Movie fans can join day tours to the centre of the action where some of the movie sets remain in the North Island at Hobbiton. And even if you aren’t a fan of the movies, it is still a great day out and a chance to view a piece of cinematic history.
5. Get a scream worthy adrenaline fix in Queenstown
Queenstown is the uncontested capital of the world for adventure and heart pumping experiences. You don’t have to look to far to get your dose of adrenaline whether it is bungy jumping off a bridge, throwing yourself out of an airplane, skiing out of a helicopter, swinging through a canyon, rafting down swift white waters or a white knuckle jet boat ride on the Shotover River.
6. Soak in the mud pools or hot springs
Treat the mind, body and soul to a refreshing soak in the natural geothermal mud pools or hot springs and let the mud and water work their magic. If pampering is high on the agenda than the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua or the Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown offer deluxe packages to relieve those aches and pains. Just make sure that you book weeks in advance.
7. Glaciers, Glaciers and more Glaciers
The most visited of all New Zealand Glaciers would have to be the Franz and Fox glaciers in the Southern Alps or the Tasman Glacier below Mount Cook which is noted as the largest. Fly over or land on these overwhelming glaciers, explore by boat or get a closer look on a guided ice walk- the choice is yours.
8. Be left speechless at Milford Sound
If you’ve ever seen any tourism ads of New Zealand it is likely that Milford Sound would have featured heavily and really who could blame them. Mother nature will leave you speechless on the South Island fjord. Surrounded by towering peaks and home to a colony of seals, dolphins and penguins, Milford Sound has been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. See for yourself cruising the glass like water on scenic cruises, flights or a tranquil kayaking trip.
9. Take a hike
A nation of great walks – New Zealand is a haven for hikers with spectacular scenery in every corner of the country. North Island natives will rave to you about the Tongariro Crossing, The Coromandel and Taupo while those on the South Island recommend the Queen Charlotte Track, the Abel Tasman Coast Track, Milford Track or the Ben Lomond with panoramic views of Earnslaw and Aspiring lakes.
10. See an active volcano
New Zealand sits perilously on the edge of the ‘Ring of Fire’ making it susceptible to volcanic activity and earthquakes. The most active volcano sits on White Island and tours can take you up close to walk the moon like landscape where you can see steaming vents spouting sulphur on land or from the air.
So there you have it- 10 essential New Zealand experiences that should be included on any first timers itinerary encompassing a cross section of cultural, wildlife and natural scenery that will take from the North to the South Island.
If we’ve inspired you to travel to New Zealand for the first time or perhaps return to complete some of the experiences then head to our experiences page and start planning the adventure of a lifetime.