New Zealand is an adventure land, but not everything has to provide adrenaline rush to be enjoyed. Often the best result is produced by the mix of experiences. Exciting or peaceful, physical or not – here are the highlights of our trip to New Zealand.
1. Skydiving in Abel Tasman
We both are incredibly sad that we didn’t get to spend more time in Abel Tasman National Park, but one of the greatest experiences of our trip was the skydive we did there. It was the first time for both of us, and it wasn’t even as scary as I imagined it to be. Instead, it was a beautiful experience. In the contrary to bungee jump, you don’t even have to look down to make a step out of the plane, if you’re doing your first tandem jump – the instructor does it together with you. In fact, instructors in this place are amazing, they tell you about every step you’re going to make and they show you around, telling what you can see while you fly. The views are absolutely beautiful; you see the national park, as well as good part of the North Island. And of course, the feeling of free falling is something everyone should experience in their lifetime. Strongly recommended! And don’t take the 9000 ft jump – the free fall goes by too quickly. I suggest to take either medium or the highest jump, even if you are a beginner.
2. Kayaking in Punakaiki
Okay, so, you know how in many tourist destinations they have these huge companies renting everything out, arranging tours and getting all the money? This is the total opposite. Punakaiki Canoe is a family business, run by a very relaxed guy. He will tell you about the river, recommend other places to go; you just rent a kayak and go to the river by yourself. The river area is beautiful and it’s also good for beginner, because you don’t have to go up to the more difficult part. It’s peaceful and lovely experience. We were just the two, and most of the time there was no one around – I absolutely loved it. Check out this article to find out what else you can do in Punakaiki.
3. Tongariro Crossing
If you have time, it’s a must. Don’t worry about your physical shape or how difficult it is – it’s totally doable. Just put some appropriate clothes on, bring water and snacks and go. You can read more about the Tongariro Crossing here. On the North Island it was definitely one of the highlights for us.
4. Driving around the South Island
This is perfect for combination of people who like to drive and the ones who like being a passenger. I don’t remember any time on the road on South Island when I though “Meeeh that’s getting a bit boring” (this definitely have happened on the North Island). The scenery is absolutely amazing, and changes so many times! Really, if you want to get from Norway to Texas in 15 minutes, you just have to go to the North Island. Plus, there’s lots of stops to make. But be careful when you drive – here are some driving tips from Anders.
Check out South Island West Coast itinerary by Sarah and Nathan from Exploring Kiwis.
5. Hiked to Lake Marian
While there are more famous lakes and views in New Zealand, this one is probably my personal favourite. The lake and mountains look mesmerizing, but the hike itself is also very interesting! It’s a matter of taste, and I love it when to get up you don’t just walk a normal path, but you have to go through forest, climb some stones and roots of the trees, get a bit of a workout out of it if you speed it up a little. The forest is quite enchanting and destination is so worth it! It’s not a long hike, but not so many people do it, so take your time and enjoy the lake – get some lunch, meditate, read, talk or just be there and be present. Find out more about how we got there.
6. Took a ferry from South to North Island
Yes! That’s the best way to get between islands. Two ferry companies serve that route: Interislander and Bluebridge. The ride is fantastic, and it’s not just 15 minutes in the water, but over 3 hours to enjoy. It’s great during sunset, but I believe any time of the day will be amazing. If you are renting a car, you’ll have to pay for it to get on the ferry. Therefore, you might want to consider leaving it in Picton and picking another one up in Wellington. Taking a ferry is also a great opportunity to meet new people, since everybody is in the same confined space which leads to, well, either talking or awkward silence. And, if the sun is down and you’re too cold to be outside, you can always go inside, grab some coffee or dinner and enjoy a movie.
If you don’t have time to visit both islands, read more about North Island vs South Island and find out which one is for you!
7. Tried Luge in Queenstown
It’s not an adrenaline activity, but it’s fun if you come with the company that likes to race each other. It’s also great for kids, so if you are traveling with the family, it could be a cool activity to do all together (check the minimum height requirements before coming). Visit the cafe on the top afterwards for some snacks and drinks after the “race”. You’ll find some other tips for visiting Queenstown here.
8. Didn’t get to go to Franz Josef Glacier
Sometimes things don’t go as planned and something else turns up on your way. We planned to visit Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, maybe try a helicopter ride; but a week before there was a cyclone, which washed out the road to the Fox Glacier, so we planned to drive to Franz Josef and spend the night there. However, on that day the slide happened on the road from Fox to Franz Josef, and the road was closed. It caught us unexpected, since we had accommodation booked in Franz Josef; but local people and businesses are very aware of the situations in the region. We were able to cancel our hostel in Franz Josef and local tourist shop helped us find a very nice stay in Fox. Because we were short on time and the next day we had to drive further, we didn’t see the glaciers. Instead, we saw stunning sunset close to Fox Township, we met a local farmer with whom we had some interesting conversations and we got to stay in a very nice hostel, hiking around the local lake next morning. Next time we’re in New Zealand, we’ll definitely go to glaciers, but so far – no regrets!
Those of you who do want to get to Franz Josef Glacier, check out THIS POST by Nina Out and About.
9. Saw seals in their natural habitat
As mentioned, in New Zealand, there’s always lots of things to see while driving. On one of our little detours from Punakaiki to Nelson we drove to a seal colony, where you could see a place where seals come up to rest, feed and relax. It’s a wonderful thing when you encounter animals not in the zoo, but free in their own natural way.
There’s tons of things to do in NZ, and we had an amazing trip and did so much – but I will stop at number 9, that’s much cooler than number 10!