Adrenalin junkies, foodies and chilled-out road trippers will find something to love in the home of Middle-earth. Adrenalin junkies, foodies and chilled-out road trippers will find something to love in the home of Middle-earth.
New Zealand is a land of dramatic landscapes and heaven for anyone who loves the outdoors. Whether you’re keen to try an extreme activity against a striking setting or prefer to take the slow road and taste the country’s fresh foods along the way, this little country has loads to offer.
Soak up the scenery
If you enjoy cycling, walking and hiking, you’ll find there’s no shortage of beautiful tracks and trails to explore. But whether you choose an active holiday, or prefer something more relaxed (the country can be easily explored by car), you’ll be able to surround yourself with some stunning scenery. New Zealand is home to 25 marine reserves and a diverse coastline that includes white sand beaches and good surfing conditions on the east coast, and black sand and wild cliffs on the west.
Inland, both the North and South Islands boast gorgeous lakes, which can be explored by boat, or visited for the fishing and bird-watching opportunities they provide, while there are 14 national parks open to the public. In fact, parks and reserves make up more than a third of the country, making the natural wonders of the country (from volcanoes and boiling mud to glaciers and craters) very accessible.
New Zealand is well known for its adventure travel, and for good reason. Bungee jumping is big – in fact, the country’s first commercial bungee operation was established back in the 80’s at the historic Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown. Now, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can jump off a range of bridges, roofs and platforms – from the Nevis bungee with a drop of 134 metres to the beautifully set Auckland Harbour Bridge, or the Taupo bungee above the Waikato River.
Caving is another leisure activity that has taken New Zealand by storm. The country has some of the world’s most spectacular caves and experienced spelunkers will enjoy some of the challenging systems, while beginners and first-timers needn’t miss out, as there are some easy routes as well. Some caves are big enough to simply walk through, while others offer the chance to try black water rafting (look out for glow worms!). Serious spelunkers can try abseiling, roping and climbing. Both the North and South Islands have caving areas, and it’s easy to find an experienced operator to guide your underground adventure.
If adventure travel is your cup of tea, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of opportunities to try the ultimate extreme activity – skydiving. The adrenalin rush won’t disappoint, and the gorgeous landscape of the country adds an extra special element. Depending on where you choose to go, you can see snow-capped mountains, bright blue lakes, volcanoes, mountains and forests.
Wine and dine
Surely one of the best parts of international travel is experiencing the unique culinary surprises a new country has to offer, and New Zealand is no different. The country boasts loads of fresh produce, and a lot of the local farmers open their fields to visitors, allowing them to pick their own fruits and berries during certain seasons. If you’re driving through the countryside, look out for roadside stalls selling fresh fruits and veggies, often with an honesty box in which you can leave your payment!
For a taste of something unique to New Zealand, try hāngī, food cooked in a traditional Māori method. Hāngī food was traditionally wrapped in flax leaves and slow cooked on hot stones in a hole in the ground. Nowadays, the process is used to prepare a range of foods, from root vegetables and fish to meats like pork and mutton, which become very tender and tasty during the slow cooking process.
There are also a number of foodie events held throughout the year, one of the largest of which is Visa Wellington On a Plate. It’s held for two weeks in August and involves a jam-packed programme of culinary events. Beervana, also hosted in Wellington, is an annual beer festival, where visitors can enjoy the latest from local breweries as well as some international brews.
Wine-lovers will enjoy the country’s various wine routes – the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail stretches from Napier on the North Island, to Blenheim in the South Island, and covers over 120 cellars along the way, as well as some beautiful scenery.
There’s also the option of exploring the wine lands in the Upper South Island near Christchurch, where you can incorporate a visit to some hot springs into your trip, while the Central North Island is known for its dramatic landscape of lakes, hot geysers and forests.
Go luxeA number of operators have taken the country’s travel scene to new levels of luxury. Try one of these bespoke experiences for something special…
- Play golf on a cliff-top course in the Bay of Islands and Hawkes Bay
- Sail around the coastline on a super-yacht
- Go skiing in the Southern Alps near Christchurch
- Take a helicopter ride to Kaikoura, home to large populations of Humpback and Sperm Whales
- Go on a tailor-made fly-fishing trip with a local guide or take a helicopter ride to an untouched section of river
- Hire a private guide and explore traditional Māori cuisine and culture in Northland, Auckland and Rotorua