Top Ten NZ Adventures!
To this day, one of my favorite countries in the world to explore is New Zealand. When I was asked to write about my top ten, I knew I had to make some tough decisions. Some of which might seem quite arbitrary to this who also have spent time there. I created this list based up my own personal experiences but it in no way reflects a hierarchy of any kind. And I could have very easily replaced any one of these top ten with a number of other wonderful Kiwi adventures. But life is all about choices is it not? What I have attempted to do in with this list is give you a well rounded list of opportunities to explore. Though I will have to admit that the both the list and the country slant favorably towards my "nature boy" disposition.
I first really became interested in New Zealand after I had found out that a company there, The Flying Kiwi, was the sister company of another great adventure travel bus company located in San Francisco that I had done a lot of video promotion work for. That company was Green Tortoise Adventure Travel.
They had worked out a deal with each other so that the employees of each company could take a trip with the other, gratis. I looked around a bit on their site and was instantly captivated by the imagery I saw. These stunning landscapes called to me immediately and I knew I had to go. I contacted the flying Kiwi via email and before I knew it I was booked on a month long adventure that would cover both the north and south islands.
A few months later I was on a plane bound for Auckland. Even the airport in Auckland was impressive with it's two huge Maori carved figures welcoming you as you exited the arrival area. The faces were friendly, the space was inviting and I was excited!
After an amazing month i would later come back 2 more times. Once to spend 14 days on a cruise going around the 2 islands and another 10 days in a camper van driving around the south island. So without further adieu', here is my top ten things you must do (or see) if you're visiting New Zealand.
*1. New Zealand’s National Museum Te Papa - Wellington
Don't get me wrong, Auckland's museum is equally amazing but perhaps it's something about the location of Te Papa, it being right on the Wellington waterfront. Also the fact that it is toady FREE helps a great deal.
Te Papa, which translates as “My Place”, is an five-storey, 36,000 sq metre institution that is a tour de force of all things Kiwi. Te Papa’s strength, that it has turned history, culture and education into an interactive experience (including a first hand experience of being in an earthquake) the occasional earthquake). Unlike many museums of it's size, Te Papa is very bi-cultural. It celebrates the indigenous Maori people right along side those pale skinned westerners who had "discovered" it for themselves.
Within Te Papa you’ll also find 26 audio visuals, 28 audio shows, spectacular sound and light shows, 121 mechanical interactives and ten specially devised computer interactives.
The seemingly contrary displays often side by side create the feeling of being in less of a history museum and more of an art museum.
The way in which it celebrates......
Displays such as; corrugated-iron car in the same building as Te Marae (the meeting house); art exhibitions alongside a junk shop; weta hotels (purpose-built for live creepy crawlies) next door to a virtual bungy experience all point to a country that has come to terms with itself in a much more honest way than other colonial nations. I've been to this museum 3 times and I never seem to get through it all so definitely plan on spending a full day there.
*2. Walking the Milford Track
The Milford Track has a reputation for it’s stunning beauty. The Routeburn Track specifically has become one of the world’s most renowned walking tracks. But there are many tracks you can follow of various lengths and difficulties.
If you go, chances are you'll run into at least a few of the plethora of bird species NZ is famous for.
Robins, Keas, Wekas, Fantails, Tuis, Parakeets, Bellbirds, even the rare Kiwi have been seen by hikers on the Milford Track. It's also quite rare that you can enjoy this kind of natural beauty without the fear of being eaten by something bigger than you so take full advantage of that fact.
Along the way, why not check out Fiordland National Park with its seemingly bottomless lakes, quite fiords, verdant forest and sheer canyons cliffs carved out of rugged granite and defining the landscape.
There are many package deal you can do that allow you to basically just "show up". But my preference and the most cost effective way is simply to get a map, gear up and go!
If you are interested in a package deal. You can inquire with these guys. They will certainly take care of you although I can't say the same for your wallet.
*3. Hanmer Springs - Alpine Pacific Triangle South Island
It was my 3rd trip to New Zealand. My former girlfriend and I had rented a camper van in Christchurch (on the South Island) and were really enjoying the freedom of going where we wanted when we wanted.
It was a nice blend of semi-roughing it and luxurious and decadent experiences. On the more decadent side was a day spent at Hanmer Hot Springs.
Hanmer was founded by William Jones when he noticed fog rising from a walking track in Hanmer in 1859, little did he know that his discovery would become the area’s main tourist attraction. The fog William followed turned out to be steam rising from holes filled with hot water. Located a brief 90 minute drive north of Christchurch, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa, which incorporates sulphur pools, a café and spa facilities, is a literal tourist "hotspot"!
Hamner won "Best Visitor Attraction in the New Zealand Tourism Awards" in both 2004 and 2005. But it’s not just the healing thermal waters that draw visitors to the area. Hanmer’s South Island high-country location, and the fact that the Waiau River is its next-door-neighbour, has turned this Alpine community into an adventure destination.
Both Hanmer Springs and near by Mt Lyford ski areas are top destinations for heliskiing and snowboarding. The village has plenty of accommodation options, massage and spa facilities, restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as some boutique shops.
*4. Rafting – River Valley - South Island
I've doe a fair amount of river rafting, even having gone over 200 miles down the length of the mighty colorado river some years back. But my day off rafting the on the Rangitikei River on New Zealand’s North Island was as good as any. It was only the lack of time one could spend on the river that was regrettable.
The Rangitikei River is a wild, remote, free-flowing river with grade 4 and 5 white-water. World class rafting run with famous rapids such as Max’s Drop, Fulcrum and Foamy. There are 10 major grade 4 - 5 rapids on this 12 km run, plus numerous smaller rapids. A friend of mine had expressed on not a few times that she was none to excited about doing this river run expressing a certain unexplainable fear of fats flowing water. This same friend was more than eager to jump out of a plane so I tried to reveal the inconsistency in her logic and her representation that one as a more dangerous experience than the other. She knew it wasn't rational but it didn't matter. She decided the night before our departure that she would "just do it". I knew she'd love it. Once we were under way I could see her fear transform into exhilaration as they water splashed our faces, the river guide barked out orders and we adjusted as quickly and efficiently as we could as a team. Various rafts in our group had flipped on the way down either by intent or default but it was no matter. The whole crew was having a blast. We even stopped near a cliff side, ambled up to the top and more than a few of us launched ourselves off the 13 meter cliff into the cold rushing water below only to be safely pushed by the current to the side of the river again. If you go, know that you will have an amazing time and that the company provides every you'll need. They'll even provide you with pictures if you don't want to risk losing your camera in the rapids.
*5. Abel Tasman National Park - Nelson
One could spend days exploring Abel Tasman, In fact many people do just that. My first time there, I wandered into the park's dense forest on a trail which cut along the ridge of the coast line for about 6 miles before trying to catch a ride back by sea from one of the few sea taxi companies that operate there.
I was just hitting low tide as I came out from the tree line when I saw my ride at the edge of the water pulling up it's latter. I was far enough off that most would have just left without me. But this boat crew lingered. I stopped and started a run a few times
as I was unsure they were sticking for me but when I realized they were waiting I ran through the sand and out into the surf, where the boat waited, as fast as I could. They lowered the ladder again for me and I jumped aboard. I was suprosed to see thatthere was no sense of irruption either on anyone's part. Just business as usual for these guys. The funny thing was that the boat would leave me several miles further back down the coast fro where I was camped. So I would have to hitch another ride with a returning Sailboat captain who had just returned from taking a grow p of tourist out himself. One of which happened to be in my group and had apparently ben a real pain in the ass.
Abel Tasman is an extraordinary eco-system that is world-renowned for kayaking, hiking, trekking and of course it's marine reserve.
Abel Tasman National Park is located at the top of the South Island, this 22,530 hectare water-fringed playground must be one of the most easily recognized locations in the country. With it's golden sandy beaches cradling the turquoise colored water and swept over with lush vegetation it's easy to see why this 50 kilometers of coastline has such a draw.
The Tonga Island Marine Reserve has gone to great lengths in providing a predator-free space for seal colonies to call home. You'll also find Dolphins and penguins are also regular spectators in your wanderings around the park. And if you’re planning on trekking the 51 kilometer coastal track, then chances are you’ll also get to see Tui and Bellbirds, as well as the occasional Pukeko around the estuaries and wetlands.
*6. Marlborough Wine Trail - Marlborough
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest grape growing region. During my camper van experience, my partner and I over-indulged in about a dozen or more cellar door wine tastings in a single day.
Much to our disappointment we had just missed one of their yearly wine festivals by about a month. but based upon what we were told, it was something worth returning for.
Most famous for its exquisite Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough’s cool, long-ripening season also produces other quality varietals including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, There's much to enjoy in this region and Marlborough has a vibrant café culture and a wealth of award-winning restaurants. Here you'll find some of the finest cuisine in New Zealand so take advantage of it.
*7. International Arctic Centre - Christchurch
I was bait skeptical when I first looked into the Arctic Centre. I had skipped it on my first trip to Christchurch but having talked to a few more people about it decided it was worth a look. Let me just saw right now, I was not disappointed. The Arctic Hagglund ride alone was worth the price of admission.
The I.A.C is very unique experience that gives the visitor some degree of what it must be like living life at the south pole. It is both educational and experiential. I have since found out that the I.A.C has actually twice been judged the best attraction in New Zealand. Be sure to set aside a good 2-3 hours for a visit. It's time well spent. And don't miss the 'The Antarctic Storm' experience! It's quite literally a "blast"!
The I.A.C. is about an 8 minute walk from the Christchurch International Airport at 38 Orchard Road so deepening on how you're getting in to town you may want to go there first.
*8. Black Water Rafting Company
It's hard to explain an experience that your brain has no reference for. What came to mind to me while floating through the dark cave waters surround by hundreds of thousands of glowing green creatures was, well…Disneyland and the Peter Pan ride. Cave tubing involves use an inflated rubber
inner tube, the kind you would normally find in a car or truck tire, as a flotation device to take you down river. Each Black Water Rafting expedition includes 8-12 people and two expert guides. With B.W.R.C. you'll have the chance to abseil, weave, jump, and float through a glowworm-studded subterranean wonderland. It offers two exhilarating tours, Black Labyrinth and Black Abyss. Either one is certain to be an experience you'll not soon forget.
It’s also the only tour that takes you through the incomparable Ruakuri Cave.
*9. Monteith’s Brewery Tour - Greymouth - South Island & Speights brewery Tour Dunedin
Both of these wonderful breweries are thankfully on the South island so inspire of it being known as the more rugged island at least you know you wont get thirsty.
All kidding aside. With these breweries you can watch history being made right before your eyes.
Since it's humble origins in 1868, the Monteith’s family-owned Phoenix Brewery has become the West Coast’s most popular brewery for its strong tasting, full-bodied ale and offers detailed information about their process for making it's ales. The Speights brewery tour even goes so far as to give you the history of beer in general showcasing the ancient egyptians love and various recipes for this nectar of the gods.
I found both tours well worth any cost associated with them and very educational. But in the end, it's about the beer for me. Neither brewery fails in that department, offering generous tastings of high quality brews at the end of each tour.
*10. Visit Queenstown - New Zealand’s Adventure and Adrenaline Capital
Adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is "full on" with year round activities. There’s something for everyone - golf to jet boating, skiing to skydiving and opportunities to get out and explore the beautiful countryside are infinite. The skiing and snowboarding are world class, the mountainous terrain also makes activities like mountain biking and rock climbing highly enjoyed.
There's plenty of hiking, and nature lovers will enjoy the various eco attractions in and around town. Queenstown is big on thrills. Adrenaline activities define the town – if it’s airborne, gravity-defying, exhilarating or just plain scary, Queenstown’s bound to have it! I particularly enjoyed the mountain top lug, canyoneering and assailing.
Geographically suited to all manner of adventure sport, you’ll find the mountains, white water rapids, lakes, canyons and rock faces perfectly suited to adventure. But it doesn't all have to be high energy. There is a slobbered paced Queenstown too offering world class golf courses, tranquil mountain walks, stunning scenery and acclaimed vineyards. Queenstown’s history lies in its gold mining past. Check out picturesque Arrowtown – a lovingly restored gold mining village – or explore the abandoned gold fields of Skippers Canyon to round out your visit.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER:
Jon is a travel & personal growth writer, filmmaker, singer-songwriter, scuba diver, public speaker, part time yoga teacher and tour guide. He has a passion for both inner and outer exploration, enjoys learning about people and places and inspiring creativity and vision. He has been on his own personal vision quest & traveling internationally since 2000 and has worked as a filmmaker on 3 continents and released 2 albums of original rock music.
Learn more about Jon here: http://tantrictraveler.com
Find Jon on Facebook: https://facebook.com/tantrictraveler
Follow Jon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonprophet