The real New Zealand isn’t just the small, happy little country out of the way from everyone else, and it isn’t about generic bus tours to crappy “tourist” spots, either. If you want a true adventure in New Zealand, you need to do it by yourself. Oh, and just to get this straight from the get-go, we aren’t like hobbits from Lord Of The Rings!
New Zealand balances equal parts of lifestyle and environment, and the best way to experience these is by renting a camper-van or car. Go off the beaten track and take your time in exploring the whole country, allowing yourself six months if you can. Though the country may be small, it is vast and the variety from one location to another is breathtaking. Even if you only do the whole North or South Island, you’re welcome to come back to discover some more New Zealand at any time.
The TRUE experiences on an NZ Checklist:
- Give yourself plenty of time to fall in love with our country.
- Don’t rush to see every part of New Zealand, just enjoy the moment.
- Be brave and venture beyond the typical tourist spots.
- Experience our country in every way: camp, tramp (i.e. hike), bus, fly, travel by train and ferry, sail, walk, run, cycle.
- Eat kiwi food! Think kiwi fruit, pavlova, baked beans, hokey pokey ice-cream, goody-goody gumdrops, pineapple lumps, fish and chips, Whittaker’s chocolate, milk, meat.
- Talk to the locals and make new friends.
- Stick to one typical tourist activity and be open to trying different things to make your money go further.
- Invest in some kiwiana! A Ta Moko (Maori tattoo), a greenstone necklace, a generic t-shirt—you get the idea!
- Live like a kiwi. Relax, go with the flow and don’t be afraid to have a drink after 12 pm.
- Don’t laugh at our accents, because you have a funny one too.
To pique your interest, here are just a few of the many off-the-beaten-path locations on the North Island:
- Coromandel Peninsula – Among other fantastic activities here, The Driving Creek Railway is great fun for families and railroad fans.
- Waitomo Caves – Famous for their impressive stalagmites and stalactites and colonies of glowworms.
- Cape Brett – The lighthouse has stood over the spectacular Bay of Islands since 1906. You can also take a cruise to the ‘Hole in the Rock’ and Grand Cathedral Cave.
- Cape Palliser – Located at the southernmost point of the North Island, the 18-metre high lighthouse offers a panorama of the coast and South Island.
- Morere Hot Springs – These natural mineral pools have been rejuvenating visitors since the 1890s. The Nikau Pools are a 10-minute walk into the nearby rain forest.
- Puheke Beach – You’ll have 70 kilometres of coastline virtually all to yourself. For amazing views of the area, head up Mt. Puheke.
And while you’re on the South Island, check out the following:
- Farewell Spit – It’s the longest natural sand bar in the world at the northernmost point on the South Island. Since it’s a protected area, you can join an organized tour to visit.
- Earnslaw Burn – Albeit a popular place to visit, there is space to be on your own. And, yes, it’s the location from the film: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
- Curio Bay – Travel the Southern Scenic Route in the South Catlins region and enjoy the unique flora and fauna at the southernmost part of the island—marine life included.
- Kahurangi National Park – If you love tramping (i.e. hiking), then you’ll love this park. The Heaphy Track is the longest of the Great Walks and takes 4-6 days to complete.
- Lake Manpouri – Located in the Fjordland, the lake is the second deepest in the country and the jumping-off point to Doubtful Sound.
- Long Island Kokomohua Marine Reserve – A boat trip to the reserve is an ideal way to take in the beauty of Marlborough Sound. You may even see some marine life on the way.
All in all, New Zealand is a really laid-back country. We love getting a little bit crazy, having good company, going on wicked adventures, sinking a few beverages, enjoying the new Zealand summer and chilling out.