Hobbit-hunting is all the rage in New Zealand these days, and while we don’t want to riddle away your precious Tolkien-themed trip, there’s a ton of adventures beyond the borders of the Shire.
The New Zealand Cycle Trail project, Nga Haerenga, is linking up the whole country in brilliant sections which connect mountains with vineyards, beaches with cities, and lots of verdant farmland in between. If there was ever a time to mountain bike in New Zealand, it’s now.
People normally think of walking, not cycling, when it comes to New Zealand; and there are some beautiful multi-day hikes, including the famous Milford Sounds and Tongariro Crossing tracks. A personal favourite is the Queen Charlotte Sound, where you can forage some fresh mussels or other shellfish for dinner.
We could hardly ignore bungy jumping when it comes to Kiwi adventures: Queenstown is the home to the commercial bungy jump. It’s also home to all kinds of heli-jumping, canyon swings, paragliding, and other things to jump off of or out from. Not that keen? Enjoy the lakes, the skiing, the vineyards and the Fergburger (a delicious hamburger, in case you were wondering). And then there are those less-known wonders…
Hurtling downhill in a plastic bubble is a complete rush: there’s something about the seeming fragility of your vehicle that adds to the event, short though it is. If you want more of an adventure, you can choose from several added extras — they’ll put water or bubbles into the mix, for example.
Being so far from the rest of the world has some advantages, and clean waters and unique flora and fauna are amongst them. There are plenty of excellent spots for snorkelling and scuba diving, but the Poor Knights are a particularly good bet. Jacques Cousteau rated this as one of the best places to dive in the world, and that’s saying something. And there are adventures for the mind and spirit too.
Black Water Rafting
White water rafting you know about, and there are some good rapids to ride in various places throughout the country, but black water rafting is something else. Float down gentle waters in a rubber ring, jump off waterfalls, and enjoy the ride through the darkness of the Waitomo Caves. Above, a host of glowworms shine, and around you limestone caves continue to be shaped by the constant flow of water.
Experience a bit of the culture of New Zealand’s native people, the Maori, at the excellent Auckland War Memorial Museum, or at the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua — sure, it’s a bit touristy, but you’ll get an idea of what life was like in New Zealand several hundred years ago and also chow down on delicious Maori food. Gastronomic adventure As a country of immigrants, New Zealand cuisine is a melting pot of flavours — whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it, from Indian curries to South American barbecue. However, if you want to taste New Zealand, it’s easy to do: start in the farmers markets for delicious locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, eat as many dairy products as you can handle, and pick up some meat for a barbecue. If you don’t have cooking facilities, it’s no problem — choose a steak or lamb shank at a restaurant instead. And, of course, you can’t forget the beer and wine — your tasting tour options are endless.
It’s a young country, but New Zealand has its share of history — and the fact that it’s a short one makes it easier to get your head around. No lists of kings or presidents to memorise here! A lot of historical events took place in the beautiful Bay of Islands, so start your historical adventure in Waitangi, where New Zealand’s most important document (the Treaty of Waitangi) was signed in 1840. Nearby Kerikeri and Russell also have their share of historic buildings, so it’s easy to make a weekend of it (and enjoy the fishing, diving, and whale-watching while you’re there).