15 things all Kiwis should do in New Zealand
New Zealand is such an incredible country with countless unique experiences to be had.
We have gorgeous warm weather and white sandy beaches up north, fresh weather and beautiful snowy alps down south, and lush native rainforests, geothermal activity, glaciers, crystal-blue lakes and volcanoes in between.
It really is every travellers paradise and it took leaving New Zealand for a couple of years and exploring the rest of the world for me to realise just how amazing our country is.
I was one of those typical Kiwis that was itching to get out and explore the rest of the big wide world. You know, where there's actually history and things older than a couple of hundred years.
It wasn't until I returned back to New Zealand (just for a brief holiday) after living in Europe and I honestly saw my country with new eyes.
I have always been a proud Kiwi, but I have a whole new level of appreciation now after actually realising our country is jam-packed with absolutely everything and it really is like no other.
Inspired, I decided to write a list of fifteen top experiences that are absolute must-do's in New Zealand. These are what tourists come to do in our country- because they are unique and amazing. Sadly, I know so many fellow Kiwis that have not even crossed more than a couple of things off this list. More of us need to get out and explore our incredible country and all of the wonderful experiences it has to offer.
1. Go bungy jumping
Commercial bungy jumping first started by New Zealander A J Hackett in 1986 and it is the ultimate Kiwi adventure activity.
It may seem terrifying - and it is. But it is also incredibly exhilarating and trust me, once you jump the first time you will just want to do it again and again - it's so much fun.
You can take the plunge in Auckland, Taupo and Queenstown. See bungy.co.nz.
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2. Go adventuring in Queenstown
Speaking of adventure activities - Queenstown is the perfect destination to do all of the fun things our country has to offer in one place - it's our adventure capital.
As well as bungy jumping you can find the world's highest canyon swing, go luging, skydiving, extreme jet boating, white water rafting, paragliding, helicoptering - you name it!
Queenstown is my favourite place in New Zealand, being surrounded by the Southern Alps it is incredibly picturesque - that alone is reason enough to go there even without all of the fun things to do there!
The official website of Queenstown is queenstownnz.co.nz for more information.
3. Discover the Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves in Waikato is a natural highlight of New Zealand and a must-see for any New Zealander and traveller alike.
The glow worm is unique to our country and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their luminescent light over the roof of the caves as you sail silently below on the world-famous boat ride. Learn all about them from the guides and the fascinating geology of the ancient caves. It's a mystical experience and one worth ticking off the list! For more information head to their website waitomo.com.
4. Go on a Lord of the Rings tour
If you are a fan then don't miss out on the many Lord of the Rings tours and places to visit dotted all over the country. My number one recommendation would be to visit Hobbiton in Matamata. It's an incredible tour for all ages and even my husband (who isn't a fan) enjoyed himself when I dragged him along.
The farm is immaculately kept, you learn a lot of interesting information about the filming and even finish up at the Green Dragon pub for a hobbity ale or cider. Head to their website for more information: hobbitontours.com.
Wellington - home to Sir Peter Jackson and where the movies were filmed offers many iconic movie location spots, tours and the Weta Cave to visit.
To discover more areas and filmed scenes all over the country check this website out for full Middle Earth tours if you're interested: discovernewzealand.com.
5. Trek the Tongariro Crossing
One of the most popular day hikes in the country - the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a spectacular 19.4-kilometre day trek that crosses stark and remarkable volcanic terrain.
It is New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site.
As well as seeing the awe-inspiring dramatic natural scenery and unique landforms - be rewarded at the top by the stunning emerald crater lakes.
Lord of the Rings fans would know this area to be 'Mount Doom'. Here is their website for more information: tongarirocrossing.org.nz.
6. Cruise through Milford Sound
Milford Sound is an absolute gem of the South Island in Fiordland National Park (another World Heritage Site). The remarkable natural environment features dramatic fiords, spectacular waterfalls and snowcapped peaks of stunning mountainous terrain.
Not far from Queenstown or Te Anau, enjoy an afternoon cruise or even sleep under the stars for an unforgettable boat ride.
There are many tour companies available but the official website is cruisemilfordnz.com for more details.
7. Go wine tasting
If you are a fellow wine-lover then you'll know that we are so very fortunate to live in a country where our wines have an excellent reputation. New Zealand's climate is perfect for wine-growing and we produce very delicious and internationally acclaimed wines including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
While living overseas and among foreign friends, it is very interesting just how many (all of them) will choose a New Zealand wine if it's on the menu, as they already know it's going to be good.
With many stunning wineries and vineyards all throughout the country why not work your way through all of them? (Over time!) Some of our top places to visit to sample the delights include Waiheke Island, Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Blenheim and Marlborough.
New Zealand offers many different classic wine trail tours, for more information visit newzealand.com.
8. Explore geothermal phenomena
Geysers, hot springs, boiling mud pools and huge volcanic craters are the backdrop in Rotorua and Taupo, where nature's forces escape by bubbling, steaming and hissing from the inner earth.
Indulge in a thermal pool spa therapy or take a walking tour to discover the sights and wonders of this mysterious place that sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
With more than 1200 geothermal phenomena in the region, the volcanic zone has drawn visitors since the 1800's and became the birthplace of New Zealand tourism.
9. Enjoy the world class snow
We are so blessed to have not only beautiful sandy beaches, but also world-class snowy mountains in our backyard.
Take your pick from the two ski fields on Mount Ruapehu in the North Island, or from numerous options in the South Island with Canterbury, Mount Cook and Queenstown all on offer.
Whichever you choose, each place offers picture-perfect views at every turn, alpine peaks and resort towns packed with Kiwi hospitality.
Our ski fields draw visitors from all over the world, so why not start planning a winter escape now for an epic trip to the snow this ski season.
10. Whale-watch in Kaikoura
The picturesque coastal town of Kaikoura is a two-hour drive north of Christchurch and one of the only places in the world where you can see magnificent sperm whales.
Meet these creatures up close and personal on a boat tour where you'll also be surrounded by friendly dolphins and fur seals, with the beautiful backdrop of mountains that meet the sea.
After the devastating earthquake last year, Kaikoura needs visitors and tourism dollars to help grow stronger and get back on its feet.
Every little bit helps and if you get to see some whales and wonderful scenery at the same time then it's certainly a win-win situation. Head to: whalewatch.co.nz for more details.
11. Soak up some history in the Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a magnificent area of New Zealand to visit with over 140 subtropical islands surrounding it. Aside from being known for its undeveloped beaches and big-game fishing, it's also home to the 19th-century whaling port of Russell, the first European settlement of New Zealand. Take a walk through time along the waterfront promenade, lined with remnants from its days as the country's first colonial capital and browse the magnificent Maori cultural artifacts on display in the museum. It's a must-visit place for any history lover and to dig deep into the roots of our country.
12. Go on a craft-beer tour
If you like your beer (like me) then you will love our rising craft-beer scene. New Zealand might be mostly known for its award-winning wines, but local craft-beer brewing has been gaining popularity over the last twenty years and today there are more than 250 beers brewed in our country.
While our most internationally well-known beer brands such as Steinlager, Tui and Speight's continue to prosper, more than 50 boutique micro-breweries have popped up in almost every region of New Zealand - each offering their own unique blends and identity.
You can find craft-beer tasting crawls, beer festivals and brewery tours all over and especially in Wellington and Auckland.
13. Dig your own spa pool
The popular beach town of Coromandel has a relaxed laid-back vibe and a stunning golden coastline, making it one of the best-loved holiday destinations in New Zealand.
Hot Water Beach is a very special place where you can dig your own 'hot pool' at low tide and enjoy the warm water, another of our geothermal phenomena.
The excellent surfing conditions, nearby cafes and art galleries all add to this very kiwi experience and make it a great place to visit during summer. Don't forget to visit Cathedral Cove while you're in the area - arguably one of the most picturesque spots in The Coromandel Peninsula.
14. Go on an incredible glacier hike
Glacier hiking in New Zealand is one of those bucket list dreams for adventure travellers from all over the world. It's impossible to over-state the impact of a glacier encounter and there is no better place to do it than right in our own country.
Two of our most accessible and awe-inspiring glaciers are Fox Glacier and Franz Josef on the West Coast of the South Island.
There are opportunities to glacier hike for people with all levels of ability, and there are many companies that offer guided walks to see these brilliantly blue ice formations.
For the experience of a lifetime head to: foxguides.co.nz for more information.
15. Fly through the Southern Alps
There's no better way to experience the mountainous peaks, glaciers and lakes of the Southern Alps than by taking a breathtaking scenic flight from Queenstown.
Seeing the vast tract of mountainous terrain from above would take your appreciation of the beauty of our country to a whole new level.
Sip on champagne in your helicopter and land for a scheduled picnic lunch in the mountains. Perfect for any special occasion, it would certainly be worth every penny for the unforgettable sights.
It's easy to book your dream day in the sky with plenty of tours available. Head to the Southern Alps Air website for more details: southernalpsair.co.nz.