If you’re visiting New Zealand and looking for some fun and entertaining things to do, here are some recommendations for activities that are often overlooked.
1. Kayak the Abel Tasman
This is one of my favorite NZ experiences. The Abel Tasman is a National Park at the top of the South Island; most people come to walk the 3-4 day hike, camping or staying in one of the huts. An alternative way to see it is to Kayak between the bays. You’ll get to stop off at remote beaches, see the seals and generally admire the coast line. The only downside to the trip has to be mosquitoes, but every place has a downside.
2. See the two seas collide at Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand
Cape Reinga is not quite the most northern tip of NZ, but it’s the tip where the road goes. That is state highway 1, although it’s a dirt road, but that’s NZ. Cape Reinga is essentially a lighthouse and photo opportunity, but my favorite part is actually watching the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide.
3. Visit Pancake Rocks on the West Coast
This is a free and very simple activity in the middle of nowhere. Whilst Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway is much bigger, you’ll be there with tons of people; at certain times of the year you could be the only people at Pancake Rocks and that’s mostly because it is on the West coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Most people visit whilst driving between Nelson and the West Coast towns of Greymouth and Hokitika.
4. Stay with the locals at a B&B
A bed and breakfast is nothing new, but if you spend your entire trip moving between hotels then you’re missing the best part of New Zealand – the locals. You’ll come across friendly Kiwis (New Zealanders) all along your trip. Splash out on a couple of nights in a B&B to get a better sense of New Zealand culture. Read the reviews to choose one of the best.
5. Wander the Wellington waterfront and read the poetry scattered artistically along the way
Wellington is New Zealand’s cultural town and besides all the museums and art galleries, one of Wellington’s best features is the waterfront on a sunny day. Grab a beer at one of the outdoor tables then wander along the waterfront looking out for hidden poetry. The council along with local poets has placed poetry into stones, walkways and seats along the waterfront. Just adds that little extra sparkle to the walk and people watching. Not so fun if it’s blowing a gale, which is also not unusual for Wellington.
6. Climb a volcano and take loads of pictures of more volcanos in Auckland
Auckland is basically a series of volcanoes, which makes it a terrible city to bicycle but full of loads of great views. You could climb Mt Eden, One Tree Hill on the city side, head to Devonport and go up North Head or Mt Victoria or go out on the ferry to the uninhabited Rangitoto. Any of these vantage points give you great views over Auckland.
7. Fall in love with the cafe culture, become a fan of brunch
New Zealand is the land of the independent cafe, hundreds of small businesses serving coffee and food. Whilst you might notice many similarities in the food, most are independently owned or very small chains. New Zealanders love going out for brunch. Try some eggs benedict or corn fritters for something a little more Kiwi.
8. Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins in the world’s most Southern French-influenced town, Akaroa
Akaroa is a small town not far from Christchurch. It has a decidedly French influence as it was first colonized by the French. So enjoy a few baguettes and pain au chocolat before you head off for a real cool experience, swimming with the world’s smallest dolphins, the Hector Dolphin. These little guys are tiny and ultra-cute and nothing beats actually getting in the water with them.
9. Stopping at the little church in Tekapo for an awesome photo.
Tekapo is the tiniest town in a very remote location between Christchurch and Queenstown. It’s a 6hr drive between the two cities and whilst it’s a long drive, it’s one of the most memorable in New Zealand. Somewhere along the drive is the film location for ‘Rohan’ from Lord of the Rings. It’s extremely remote and you might not pass another car for some time. About halfway is the town of Tekapo, overlooking a lake. A stunning bright blue lake. Seriously -it’s the minerals suspended in the water. There’s a tiny stone church with a window looking out on the lake. It’s magical.
10. Soaking in any number of the thermal hot pools anywhere in the central plateau
The whole of the central part of the North Island is on a volcanic plain, the outlet of which is thermal springs. So there are a ton of thermal hot pools, from the very basic to the opulent. Rotorua is most well-known tourist spot and there are some great places for a soak.
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