For most of our readers in North America and Europe, New Zealand is close to or literally the other side of the planet. It’s a long and usually expensive flight or combination of flights to get there. As with its down-under neighbour Australia (if a country 2400 km away can still be considered a neighbour), if you decide to visit you should really plan on staying for a while, at least 2-3 weeks.
New Zealand is a nation of islands, the two major ones make up 98.5% of it land mass, and are called (quite sensibly) the North Island and the South Island. However, New Zealand is also made of up of over 600 smaller (some tiny) islands, a few as far away as 1000 km, and you could spend a lifetime discovering all of them. The two major islands, each one roughly the size of England, have diverse climates and landscapes, from snow covered mountains great for winter skiing in the south to palm tree lined beaches great for summer swims in the north.
You’ve seen a great deal of New Zealand already in great movies franchises such as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia movies, Underworld, District 9, Wolverine and many more. Here are a few things you should consider checking out when you make it to the land of the Kiwi (the bird, not the fruit – that’s actually a Chinese thing).
Fun times at Mount Doom
Yes, we have a couple LOTR suggestions in our list, but this one would still be here anyways. Visit Tongariro National Park to experience stunningly beautiful and otherworldly scenery, including three active volcanoes (yes, one of those was Sauron’s Mount Doom in the movies). The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of the best alpine hikes in the world, you can check out hot springs, boiling mud pools along the way and easily imagine you’re an explorer on an alien planet.
Visit the wineries in Marlborough
At the northern end of the South Island, you’ll find Marlborough, the country’s most important wine region, famous worldwide for its zesty Sauvignon Blancs. It’s a sunny and beautiful part of New Zealand, and there are numerous wineries, big and small that offer tours and tasting, many paired with food or full sit down meals.
Go see a rugby game
No country is as passionate about rugby, and internationally successful as New Zealand. Their national team the All Blacks are legendary and if you have a chance to catch one of their matches, played at the country’s largest stadium in Auckland, you have to go! Get there early, you don’t want to miss the team’s iconic ritual chant before the game, known as a “haka”.
Enjoy a night on the town in Auckland
Auckland isn’t the capital city of New Zealand (Wellington on South Island is) but it definitely is the largest city by far in the country and it’s the place to enjoy nightlife. Plan a night out with a special someone or friends, There is a great selection of restaurants with a wide range of cuisines from very casual to fancy. Afterwards go check out the Auckland club scene, see a show, visit one of few different night markets. Auckland also is home to the largest of the country’s six casinos offering standard table games and well as slots machines, nicknamed pokies. Before heading there maybe practice a little at Kiwislots.nz and make sure to limit yourself to a set budget when you go.
Hit the ski slopes
While we highly recommend visiting New Zealand in the summer, if you happen to be there during the colder months (June to October) you should make the most of it. New Zealand is home to over 20 ski resorts, and most of them have stunning views. And for a uniquely New Zealand experience, look out the big, clever alpine parrots known as keas that will be keen to get hold of any food you may not be keeping an eye on.
Pay a visit to Hobbiton
Peter Jackson’s epic Tolkien films are some of the greatest movie making of our generation, and will be viewed lovingly for decades to come. Jackson’s New Zealand locations combined were as much the star of the films as Gandalf or Bilbo. Check out the magical set of Hobbiton in the Shire, which each film series started and ended with. It’s located North Island, a nice two hour drive south of Auckland.
Obviously, we’re only scratching the surface, New Zealand is vast and varied and you’ll find endless outdoor adventures awaiting you, and wonderful culture events to attend. It’s a long way to travel, so plan your vacation well, and most the absolute most of it!