Top 10 Things to do in New Zealand
New Zealand is one of those places that excites the imagination. A land of mystery, Māori folklore and magical scenery. A country where you can ski and surf on the same day, hike on a glacier before sinking into a natural hot pool the evening, or take a boat through a cave of glow worms before entering the mystical land of Hobbiton for the afternoon.
A small island nation home to around 4.5 million people located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is famous for its national rugby team, its indigenous Maori culture, its picturesque landscape and many more things. Check them out!
Visit Auckland – “City of Sails”
It may not be New Zealand’s capital, but it’s the country’s largest and most internationally diverse city. Built on a volcanic landscape and surrounded by the Manukau and Waitemata Harbours (hence the “City of Sails” nickname). Many people come here to volunteer in order to conserve the environment.
Watch a game of rugby – New Zealand’s national sport
“Kiwis” (as New Zealanders are known) are really passionate about rugby. If there’s one thing everyone knows about New Zealand, it’s the All Blacks – the country’s national rugby team. There’s also an intense, but friendly, rivalry between different rugby regions throughout the country. And with a rugby stadium in every major university town, there’s no excuse not to watch the game first-hand.
If you want to catch a piece of the atmosphere, dress up in the local team’s colors and head down to catch a game of New Zealand’s national sport with your fellow students (you might need to bring some locals along if you’re not sure about the rules or spectating etiquette!
Visit Wellington, New Zealand’s capital
New Zealanders are known for their innovative spirit, so it should come as no surprise that even their government does things a little bit differently. Part of the nation’s parliamentary operations happen within an architecturally unique building, fondly named The Beehive. But that’s not the only building of interest in the capital.
No visit to Wellington is complete without a visit to Te Papa. Situated on the city’s picturesque waterfront, New Zealand’s national museum hosts a range of both permanent and travelling exhibitions. Admire beautiful Maori cloaks, step into a traditional marae (meeting place), get up close to a colossal squid, or experience what an earthquake would feel like. Te Papa is in downtown Wellington, so once you’ve finished exploring the exhibitions take a walk up Cuba Street, where an eclectic array of shops and cafés awaits.
Walk up Auckland’s Highest Volcanic Cone
A surprisingly short walk will have you at the top of Auckland’s highest volcanic cone, Mount Eden. Catch your breath (it’s a short but steep walk) as you take in the expansive views of Auckland City and its busy harbour. The 50m deep crater is unlike anything you’re likely to have experienced before. It’s a sacred place, further witnessed by relics of an ancient Māori village. Then on the way back down, check out the Eden Gardens, a tranquil oasis in a bustling city.
Kayak around Cathedral Cove
Also called Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, Cathedral Cove is touted as one of the best places to see in New Zealand. Located on the North Island, its isolated position on the Coromandel Peninsula adds to its irresistible appeal. You can’t drive to the secluded cove, you only have the option of walking or taking to the seas. Boat tours will allow you to explore the caves and cliffs while learning about the history of the area, while kayaking allows a more intimate experience with the opportunity to ‘park up’ and enjoy the beach when the desire arises.
Immerse Yourself in Māori Culture
There are many ways to get acquainted with New Zealand’s indigenous culture, from spending the night in a marae, witnessing the power of a haka, eating a hangi, visiting an ancient Māori village, getting a greenstone carved in Hokitika, or learning about Māori heritage at Te Papa. Whichever way you chose to learn about New Zealand’s past, you’ll come away with a new respect for the land and its people.
Go Beach Hopping in the Abel Tasman National Park
Encompassing one of New Zealand’s most unforgettable and unspoilt stretches of coastline, the Abel Tasman National Park feels like a true tropical oasis. Located at the tip of New Zealand’s south island, the national park’s beaches are only accessible by foot or boat. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track will take you around 3-5 days to complete – longer if you stop to savour each golden cove. Boat tours and kayaks are also popular options and a good way to find secluded spots in this tranquil hideaway. Keep your eyes on the water at night and you may notice another natural phenomenon – phosphorescent plankton that glows in the dark as you move through the water. A unique New Zealand experience you’re unlikely to forget.
Go White River Rafting or Jet Boating Down the Waiau Uwha River
The Waiau Uwha River flows near the spa resort town of Hanmer Springs and is a popular spot for outdoor adventures! We opted for the family-friendly, yet still thrilling jet boat ride, but there’s also the more physically challenging option of white water rafting down the river. Either way, the stunning scenery is sure to impress! The 360-degree spins and sheer speed of the jet boat ride was exhilarating, and surprisingly also educational in the quieter moments. The expert drivers and guides will make this a memorable item on your New Zealand itinerary.
Swim With The World’s Smallest Dolphins
Hector’s Dolphins are an endangered dolphin native to the South Island of New Zealand. A marine reserve created at the mouth of the Akaroa Harbour has created a haven for Hector’s Dolphins, and consequently, it’s the best place to see these unique dolphins in the wild. A number of tour operators run excursions to see the dolphins, and also offer the chance to have a closer look. It will truly be an unforgettable experience.
Witness the Southern Lights
Everyone has heard of the northern lights, but did you know there’s another spectacle taking place down south? The aurora australis lights up the sky in hues of pink and green as it dances across the atmosphere, leaving spectators in awe of the incredible show being played out before them. The best place to witness the southern lights is in the deep south, away from major cities and interfering light. But even then, you’ll need a decent dose of luck too! Your best chance is in winter, in remote locations such as Stewart Island, the Catlins and around Lake Tekapo.
It's time to set out for an incredible gap year in New Zealand and experience the best of volunteering, traveling and adventure activities that are in store for you! Drop us a mail at [email protected] for more information. We would love to hear back from you!