It’s known as the Adventure Capital of the World for good reason. New Zealand, with its breathtaking scenery, offers a voyage of discovery on so many levels; from rare endemic plants and animals, extreme sports, and cuisine unlike any other, New Zealand offers something for everyone.
While it would be impossible to place everything New Zealand has to offer into one “Best Of” list, the following attractions are my personal favourites and recommendations that will suit every type traveller.
This is a bucket list destination sure to provide you with an unforgettable holiday, so much so that you will leave the country with a determined mindset to return (or even decide to move!).
Hotels are obviously available in the cities, but consider Freedom Camping in New Zealand if you’re wanting to fully immerse yourself in the spell binding nature the country has become so well known for. So without further ado, let’s dive into what makes New Zealand so special.
Things to do in New Zealand
City: Sky Tower
Standing at 328 metres, Auckland’s Sky Tower is the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building. It offers a main observation deck, sky lounge, and revolving restaurant, and, for the more adventurous of things to do in New Zealand, you can experience SkyWalk and Sky Jump.
With Sky Walk, you make your way along the edge of the Sky Tower’s pergola, securely harnessed nearly 200 metres in the air.
Sky Jump offers even more adrenaline pumping action as you base-jump off New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure by way of a safe guide-cable-controlled system where you can reach speeds of up to 85kph.
Would you jump?
Photo courtesy of Sky City Entertainment Group
Located in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity where one can relax in the geothermal Polynesian Spa facility. This is a great place to recoup after hiking the wilds of New Zealand, and a fabulous choice of destination for NZ honeymoons.
Of course there is no shortage of excitement in Rotorua as well. Velocity Valley Adventure Park offers extreme adventures such as jet boating, freestyle bike airbags, bungee jumping, and super swings. Head to ZORB New Zealand to tackle wet and dry zorbing tracks.
Giapo is an absolute must-do when visiting New Zealand. What you’ll discover is unlike anything you’ve ever had before. The one-and-only Giapo location is on Gore Stree, Downtown Auckland.
Be wowed by incredible edible masterpieces (Sky Tower ice cream anyone?) and unbelievable culinary mashups like the uber-popular and delicious Yorkshire pudding or pani puri ice creams.
These days it’s easy to stumble across gelaterias serving countless wacky creative flavours, but Giapo is on another level. You’ll still be able to sample and choose from an exciting lineup of creative, seasonal local ice cream flavours which you probably never heard of, – but beyond that, the Giapo team is doing things very differently. This is much more than an ice cream counter.
You’ve Never Seen Ice-cream Like This!
From way you choose your ice cream, the way the kitchen prepares each and every order, the detailed presentation of each ice cream, not to mention the wow factor of Giapo’s flagship creations, it’s a complete revelation about what ice cream can be. This is likely to be the best ice cream experience in the world.
A variety of options makes Giapo just as delicious no matter your dietary requirements or sense of adventure: you’ll find milks made from almond, macadamia or coconut plus as well as cows milk, you’ll find buffalo, sheep and even deer milk (yes, it’s a thing!) on the menu.
Much like staying in a 5 star hotel, at Giapo you feel doted upon and pampered with genuinely kind staff on hand to serve you. Whether you are going for a city walk or coming out from a restaurant, my advice is to hit this place.
If you think ice cream is one of the best things ever invented, just wait til you experience Giapo. It will blow your mind more than any ordinary ice cream-induced brain freeze!
Easter egg anyone?
Wildlife: Zealandia Sanctuary
Located just outside of Wellington, you can witness some of New Zealand’s most rare and endangered wildlife in the world’s first fully fenced urban eco-sanctuary.
The 225 hectare Zealandia Sanctuary, with its nearly 9km fence, keeps out introduced predators, providing a safe habitat for endemic birds like the kaka, tui, and little spotted kiwi as well as reptiles like the prehistoric looking tuatara.
Explore the hiking trails by yourself or take part in one of their several tours led by knowledgeable guides. A large portion of the reserve is wheelchair accessible, making it available to be enjoyed by all.
Legend: Moeraki Boulders
Along the South Island’s Otago Coast, lie massive spherical boulders that are strewn along Koekohe Beach. According to Māori legend, they symbolise the remains that washed ashore from the wrecked Āraiteuru, the canoe that is said to have brought the ancestors of the Ngāi Tahu people of the South Island.
The spherical boulders weigh in at several tonnes and reach over two metres in width. They provide a setting that is a photographer’s dream and simply makes a wonderful spot to sit and take in the beautiful coastline.
The boulders are located about an hour’s drive north of Dunedin, the South Island’s second largest city where you can witness colonies of albatross, sea lions, and rare yellow-eyed penguins.
Photo credit: russellstreet
Adventure: Waitomo Caves
Located on the North Island, Waitomo offers up more than just caves. In addition to its glowworm caves, it offers sinkholes, underground rivers, waterfalls, and other natural wonders.
Above ground, check out Marokopa Falls, Mangapohue Bridge, and the Otorohanga Kiwi House located a short distance away.
Below ground, abseil or zip-line through the darkness of the caves or try your skills at blackwater rafting. Weave, float, climb, and jump your way through the subterranean abyss of Ruakuri Cave.
Nature: Fjordland National Park
This National Park is famous for it being home to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is consistently rated as New Zealand’s top attraction and was considered the eighth Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling.
Visited by nearly a million people annually, Milford Sound can be accessed by boat, road, or scenic air flight. The park is home to some of NZ’s great walks, including the well known Milford Hiking Track which passes through mountains and temperate rain forest.
The 50+km hike runs from Lake Te Anau to the Milford Sound, where hikers may come across southern brown kiwi birds and the rare flightless kakapo.
Photo credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ
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