If A. J. Hackett jumped off a bridge would anyone follow him? That’s the question the New Zealand native asked back in 1986 when he opened the world’s first commercial bungy jumping operation in Queenstown. The world answered with a resounding “Yes!” and soon people from New Zealand and all over rushed to see the extreme sport of “bungy jumping”.
The rest is history and New Zealand’s place as the overseas adventure travel capital was solidified.
We’ll show you why picturesque Kiwi country continues to be known the world over for extreme adventure sports in our guide to overseas adventure travel in New Zealand.
Skydiving New Zealand
New Zealand’s landscape is some of the most picturesque in the world. Deep fiords, tall, snow-capped mountains and green, rolling vistas give New Zealand that postcard-look at every turn. What better way to see it all than by plummeting towards it from 12,000 feet up?
Skydiving in New Zealand is the most epic way to top off your overseas adventure travel vacation in New Zealand. You’ll receive instruction, suit up and strap on to an instructor for a safe dive. However, nothing can prepare you for that initial leap through the clouds!
Photo: NZOne Skydive
Not ready to take the plunge? Opt for a bungy-jump with the company that started it all. The A. J. Hackett Ledge Bungy provides you with nearly 9 seconds of free-fall before being hurtled back up by your ankles. It’s the unforgettable experience that put Queenstown on the extreme sport map.
High Speed River Boats and Kayaking New Zealand
Hop aboard a high-speed thrilling river boat for an exhilarating journey through the Shotover River Canyons. You’ll zip past past jagged cliff-faces at nearly 60 mph. Squeeze through stunning narrow canyons mere inches away from the rocky walls to your side. Hold on tight as the unique Shotover Jet performs high speed, 360-degree spins along the way. This is not your average river boat cruise.
Want to take it a little bit slower? Get your feet wet first with a bit of kayaking at Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Embark from Onetahuti Beach in a double-kayak and see some of Abel Tasman’s amazing landscape. Paddle around pristine waters and New Zealand’s renowned rugged coastline and rock formations. You’ll feel like you’re exploring uncharted land as you paddle your way through. Lay your eyes on the lush, jungle landscape that surrounds you.
Once you make landfall, you’ll have the chance to explore some of the island and continue your adventure on foot.
Photo: Camilla Stoddart
Tip: Paddle over to see the Seal Colony where you could see native fur seals frolicking in their natural habitat! Along the way, lookout for more of New Zealand’s great wildlife like sea birds or even a Little Blue Penguin. The pristine waters around the reserve are so clear, you can even see fish swimming by as you paddle through.
Caving and Canyoning New Zealand
Get to know New Zealand from the inside-out by trekking through some of its best caves and canyons. Strap on your helmet, turn on your headlamp and harness up. This spelunking adventure is the best way to see some amazing subterranean wonders. New Zealand’s cave system is among the most diverse and challenging in the world.
Sure, you can take the simple walk through wide caverns and see some great sights. Stalactites and black water rivers are pretty accessible to those looking for a slightly more hands-off experience.
Photo: Absolute Adventure
But what would overseas adventure travel be without the adventure? For a a more harrowing trek you’ll want to head in to New Zealand’s narrow cave system. You’ll crawl, squeeze and rappel through the complex cave network. Feel your way through certain sections with only the light of you and your cave mates headlamps. Along the way your guide will give you an informative run down of the caves history and geology.
Photo: Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
No trip to New Zealand is complete without heading to Waitomo for the iconic Glow Worm Caves. You’ll see beautiful rock formations and geological wonders before embarking on a silent “black-water raft” ride. The silent float on the river-cave offers a stunning look at thousands of glow worms that call the cave home. See the soft, blue light that these bio-luminescent insects give off as you drift silently through the dark expanse. Staring at the glow worms as you float through the silent, dark cave makes you feel like you’re looking at thousands of stars in the sky.
Glacier Walks and Volcano Hikes
Mountaineering has a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders. Did you know that Edmund Hilary, the first person to summit Mt. Everest, was a Kiwi? His interest in climbing mountains was spurned from a childhood trip to Mt. Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. Celebrate Hilary’s legacy with an adventure of your own in New Zealand’s glacier and volcano regions.
Start off at Franz Josef Glacier where you’ll take a scenic helicopter ride to the top. You’ll get an incredible view of the top of the glacier area along the way before landing right on the ice. An expert guide will lead you through the glacier’s rugged terrain. Walk through narrow ice canyons. See snow-capped mountains and pristine blue-ice. The almost Antarctic feel to Franz Josef Franz Josef Glacier makes you feel a thousand miles away.
Photo: Franz Josef Glacier Guides
From there head for the North Island. Make a stop in Tongariro National Park and participate in a “Great Walk of New Zealand“. You can even trek up Mt. Nguaruhoe – better known as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings.
Your final stop on this circuit of New Zealand wonders is the sulfuric, geothermal region in Rotorua. Once you arrive, don’t be alarmed if things smell a bit odd. “The Sulfur City” is more than just a nickname for Rotorua. The sulfur rich minerals brewing below the earth escape in to the atmosphere leaving a strong sulfuric smell all around. But after some getting used to, it’s just a reminder of the amazing geothermal activity happening just below you.
Just outside Rotorua proper sits the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This area was created by New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruption more than 100 years ago in 1886. In geologic terms, where things are measured in hundreds of millions of years, this valley is brand new. Valley walks take you through stunning emerald pools, hot springs and steaming crater lakes. Be sure to check out Frying Pan Lake – as the name implies, the lake cracks and sizzles from geothermal heating!
Photo: Rotorua Geothermal Region
New Zealand – Overseas Adventure Travel Mecca
In New Zealand you’re never short on options to push your vacation to the next level. Sure you’ll want to see the stunning landscapes that made Middle Earth come to life in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. But in between the relaxing walks and scenic drives, make a few stops that will truly take your breath away. Let us plan a trip that will show you why New Zealand’s reputation for overseas adventure travel is well-earned.
New Zealand is, pardon the pun, a hotbed of geothermal activity. It’s located in the “Ring of Fire”, an aptly named cluster of volcanic activity around the Pacific Ocean. In fact, many of the islands surrounding New Zealand were formed from volcanoes. Luckily, most of the New Zealand volcanoes and powerful cones haven’t erupted in hundreds or thousands of years. Shooting geysers, hot springs and sulfuric lakes are active reminders of the country’s volcanic history.
Check out our list of the best places to experience the sights, sounds and smells of New Zealand volcanoes and geothermal regions.
Whakaari / White Island
White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano. Its peak rises more than 1,000 feet in the air, but much of the mountain is hidden below sea level, making this the largest volcano in New Zealand!
Photo: Chris Sisarich
For an epic tour of White Island, you’ll arrive by helicopter and land on its surface. Walk the rugged surface and feel real volcanic rock beneath your feet. White Island seems to live and breathe as a living being as steam rises and falls. Vents and cracks along the islands exterior hiss and release gases up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit! You can get up close to the bubbling mud pits and steaming acid lakes that make up the island.
Photo: Rob Suisted
Like many New Zealand volcanoes and regions, White Island was originally named by the Maori. In Maori, the name for White Island is “Te Puia o Whakaari”, or “the dramatic volcano”. No stranger to drama, this volcano wants to be seen and heard. Numerous small eruptions and a peak with seemingly constant cover from thick, white steam ensure that White Island stays on the minds of native Kiwi’s and tourists alike.
Rotorua, The Sulphur City
Just a skip away from the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua is known for its unique Maori culture and amazing hot springs and geysers. You’ll know you’ve arrived in Rotorua when sense that distinct smell of sulfur that permeates the air. It might take some getting used to at first, but just think of it as the Earth’s magic at work! Besides, it’s a small price to pay for being in one of the most historically significant sites in all of New Zealand.
You’ll want to check out Te Puia, an amazing geothermal wonderland that is home to the Maori Arts and Culture Institute. Start your visit off with a visit to the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. Pohutu Geyser shoots steaming water more than 100 feet in to the air once or twice every single hour. It’s a geyser so reliable you could almost set your watch to it.
Photo: Chris McLennan
Boiling mud pools, hot springs and steaming valleys all cover the landscape of Te Puia. Witness unique Maori cooking that utilizes Te Puia’s boiling springs. Known as Ingo in Maori, meat and vegetables are placed in to baskets and lowered in to steaming water from the Earth which cooks it through. The Maori have used this method of cooking for centuries and it’s still used today.
At first glance this may look like a regular beach. But bubbling just beneath the sand is naturally heated mineral water from springs below. This makes Hot Water Beach a prime location to pull up, dig in and treat yourself to your own personal spay day. Dig a hole big enough for all of your friends, or keep it small for a solo soak.
You should plan on arriving to Hot Water Beach about 2 hours before or after low tide. This gives you a lot of easy digging area to hit the spa in no time. Forgot to pack a shovel? Local cafes and shops within rent out digging implements if you didn’t pack a shovel in your carry-on
Photo: Adam Bryce
TIP: Always test the temperature of your newly-dug hot spring before getting in. As its name suggests, the water can get VERY HOT!
New Zealand is a new island nation. Its land isn’t even 10,000 years old yet! That’s just a blink of an eye in geologic terms. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley was created just over 100 years ago from the eruption of Mount Tarawera. This eruption is New Zealand’s deadliest on record and remnants of the site’s violent history are still evident to this day.
Photo: Waimangu Geothermal Region
Take a walk through Waimangu’s Volcanic Valley and you’ll see the rising steam of hot springs and crater lakes. The Emerald Pools are a stunning bright green water feature that sit atop a crater left by Tarawera’s eruption. Many New Zealand volcanoes feature crater lakes and miniature ecosystems in the water atop extinct cones.
Be sure to check out Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world. You’ll be able hear the lake crack, sizzle, sputter and hiss from the geothermal heating below! It’s a sight and sound you surely won’t want to miss.
Tongariro National Park
Take a trip to Mt. Doom and see how the real-life mountain of Mt. Ngaruhoe became the fictional volcano of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings films. Tangariro National Park also provided the backdrop for many of the films iconic scenes. The amazing local landscape, incredible mountain peaks and lush forest is unlike any other. It’s no wonder that director and native Kiwi Peter Jackson chose to film much of the movie in his home country.
Photo: Camilla Rutherford
Tongariro is also the home of many of New Zealand’s greatest walks and hiking tracks. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Northern Circuit are among the top 9 Great Walks in the country. You’ll see the park’s amazing plant and animal life, snow-capped mountain tops and the emerald pools of the park’s crater lakes. Microscopic minerals suspended in the water give the lakes a super-saturated, amazing turquoise and blue color.
New Zealand Volcanoes
We have no doubt that you’ll find these great regions and New Zealand volcanoes just as amazing as we do. Maybe you’re a geology super-fan who wants to tour the “Ring of Fire”. Or you’re a Lord of the Rings super-fan who just has to see Mt. Doom. Or maybe you just want to walk on a real volcano. Either way, we can put together the perfect itinerary to see one or all of these amazing sights.
Give us a call at (888) 359 – 2877 Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST or and we’ll plan the New Zealand trip of your dreams.
When you imagine your ideal, relaxing getaway – what comes to mind? Is it idyllic, rolling green vistas? Walking though sun-kissed vineyards heavy with ripe grapes? Kicking your feet up with only the sound of the birds and rippling water to keep you company?
How about copious amounts of some of the best wine on the planet?
Waiheke Island, also known as the “Island of Wine”, is going to be your next favorite vacation destination.
Owhanake Bay Estate – This winery is located right on the edge of secluded Owhanake Bay. Idyllic rows of grape vines line the grounds of this more than 8-acre estate. The vineyard also grows organic olives, fruit and other produce that they use in their amazing food menu. Just a short stroll down to the Bay and you can enjoy your glass of wine right on the beach.
Try: ‘Anchorage’ Syrah 2013; Gold medal award-winning red
Photo: Miles Holden
Cable Bay Vineyards – These are the views that dreams are made of. Serene, lush vistas bob along the Cable Bay grounds. You’ll enjoy the hip, modern wine-bar aesthetic, the wide open-air patio and pristine lawn dotted with picnicking couples and friends. Sit on the lawn with a glass of Cable Bay’s amazing wines and charcuterie.
Try: 2016 Waiheke Island Rosé; Locally grown, Rosé all day
Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard – Although this list is all about the wine, it’s impossible not to mention the food at Mudbrick. Executive chef Matthias Schmitt has worked for some of the greatest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. He brings his expertise to Mudbrick creating dishes using fresh, local ingredients to pair with their award-winning wines. Grab a spot overlooking the lavender and rosemary fields and enjoy the sweet scent as you taste the vineyard’s best.
Try: Mudbrick Velvet 2015; 98/100 by renowned wine critic Sam Kim
Photo: Camilla Rutherford
Hay Paddock Vineyard – Short on frills, long on exceptionally flavored wine. Hay Paddock forgoes the high-profile chefs and high price tags that come along with visiting an amenity laden wine bar. Hay Paddock specializes solely in wine. Owners Chris Canning and Jules Silk, a novelist and painter respectively, put their passion for the arts in to every bottle they craft.
Try: Harvest Reserve Syrah 2012; Winning international favor when released, this wine showcases the ideal Waiheke Island climate that produces such amazing Syrahs.
Te Whau Vineyard and Restaurant – For more than 20 years Te Whau has been a premier vineyard and destination on Waiheke Island. It still retains the small, boutique family vineyard feel from their humble beginnings while still becoming one of the most renowned vineyards in the region. Te Whau produces ‘Bordeaux-style’ reds, a style found over much of Waiheke Island.
Try: ‘The Point’ Boreaux-style Blend 2013; The flagship wine of Te Whau, nationally rated and award-winning.
Photo: Julian Apse
Wild on Waiheke Estate Vineyard – Have you ever been drinking a glass of wine and thought to yourself, “I’d really like to shoot a bow and arrow right now”? Then Wild on Waiheke is the place for you.A family oriented vineyard and craft beer brewery, Wild on Waiheke is a quirky destination offering great wine and craft beer along with fun activities for the family or group outings. Try the life size chess board, archery, laser clay-pigeon shooting and more. Keep the kids occupied while you taste amazing wines or join in yourself.
Try: Sauvignon Blanc 2016; Self-described as “nothing too fancy”, these simple, honest wines are sometimes all you need on a hot day out on Waiheke.
Jurassic Ridge – A family owned vineyard run by true wine lovers. Lance Blumhardt, a former neurosurgeon, and his wife, a current neurosurgeon opened Jurassic Ridge purely for the love of exceptional wine. The vineyard is named Jurassic Ridge due to the geology under foot. Rock formations more than 155 million years old form an ancient mountain ridge where the vineyards were planted. Making wine may not be brain surgery, but Blumhardt and his wife bring that same attention to detail to crafting amazing, aged wines.
Try: Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano 2009; Blumhardt was the first to introduce Montepulciano grapes to Waiheke Island. Nearly two dozen other wineries have since adopted the variety for their wines.
Photo: Miles Holden
Tantalus Estate – In the heart of the Onetangi Valley sits the 20-acre estate of Tantalus. Arguably the top destination in Waiheke Island, Onetangi Valley has several top wineries all within walking distance. The pristine grounds of the estate are covered in amazing plant life and greenery in attention to the acres of vineyard. Special attention has been paid to sustainability in the production of Tantalus’ wines. The entire vineyard is pesticide-free. Wildflowers and other plants are grown with the grape vines to increase biodiversity. This allows beneficial insects that control pests to thrive.
Try: Évoque Reserve 2014; 10-year vintage that received a score of 96/100.
Stonyridge Vineyard – One of the first wineries on Waiheke Island, Stonyridge Vineyard is partly responsible for the New Zealand wine boom. Stonyridge produces some the top-rated wines not only in New Zealand, but worldwide. The picturesque vineyard is located at the same latitude as the southern tip of Sicily, another world class wine region. Stonyridge is settled behind a ridge that blocks cold southwesterly winds. This gives Stonyridge’s Cabernet’s a real chance to shine and thrive. Stonyridge currently holds the title for producing one of New Zealand’s most expensive reds. At $250 a bottle, the Larose Cabarnet Blend is pricy, but when it comes with this many accolades, it’s sure to please.
Te Motu Wine – Picky wine for picky palates. Using only prime specimen, fully ripe fruit, the wine at Te Motu Vineyard is pored over with the finest-toothed comb. Each step of the process is meticulously crafted to produce the same perfection for every bottle, every time. Te Motu produces only 4500 bottles of each vintage so that each small batch has the same attention to detail as the last. Stunning views of Onetangi Valley are reminiscent of the French countryside, while remaining distinctly Kiwi.
Try: Cabarnet-Sauvignon 2013; Te Motu’s flagship wine.
Obsidian Vineyard – So named for it’s almost pure rock soil, Obsidian may as well be called the “little vineyard that could”. Growing wine grapes in conditions like Obsidian’s is difficult. The Knight’s Valley region is warm, almost too warm. The rocky-soil drains very fast, almost too fast. The fruit takes a long time to ripen and drop, almost too long. But, the wine that eventually is produced from the struggle has a subtle complexity that is hard to find in other wines.
Try: Obsidian Syrah 2015; Described by vineyard owners as “if black had a smell, this would be it… The wine is dark and mysterious with tremendous intensity and tannin.”
Peacock Sky Vineyard – A true family-owned affair run by a wine enthusiast husband and wife team. Peacock Sky has produced world class wines since 2008. The alfresco patio offers idyllic views of the vineyard. Enjoy a Mediterranean-inspired menu paired perfectly with the wines of the season.
Try: Pure Malbec 2014; 4-star single varietal.
Batch Winery – Take a tour of this craft vineyard and winery for a look at the winemaking process from start to finish. You’ll peruse rows upon rows of ripe grape vines. See the harvesting and fermenting process up close. You’ll even get a chance to see the actual bottling and corking process in the bottling room. Not to mention, the views outside are some of the most picturesque on the Island. “Bach” (pronounced “batch”) in New Zealand means a simple holiday home where families congregate, relax and bond. A concept synonymous with Batch Winery.
Try: Thomas’ Batch Pinot Noir 2016; A fruity Pinot with hints of strawberries and cream, raspberry licorice and juicy red summer berries.
Destiny Bay Vineyards – There is a lot more to Destiny Bay then just impeccable attention to detail for their award-winning wines. Special attention was also given to the structure and layout of the winery itself. Utilizing the latest in energy efficient structures and winemaking practices, the vineyard is a model for sustainable practices. More than 500 native trees were planted around the vineyard to increase biodiversity and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of the site.
Try: Destiny Bay Mystae 2013; A blend of all 5 varietals for a unique bouquet of fruit taste.
Casita Miro Restaurant and Vineyard – Inspired by the food and wine of Spain and the Mediterranean, Casita Miro specializes in shared plate tapas-style service and amazing wine. The world-renowned restaurant has stunning views overlooking the vineyard below. No detail was lost in the Spanish architecture inspired building. The ambiance provided by this fine dining and wine experience is unmatched.
Man O’ War Vineyards – This vineyard is secluded away from the “wine belt” of the Onetangi Valley on Man O’ War Bay. The drive out to this vineyard is surely rewarded with the views you have that overlook the water. Sip a glass or three of any vintage (trust us, they’re all amazing) and soak in that Bay view.
Take your wine straight down to the water’s edge and relax on the lawn or walk along the rocky beach. Watch yachts and sailboats drifting lazily in front of you. The ambiance here is nothing less than serene.
Try: Man O’ War Pinot Gris 2008; A Waiheke staple.
Passage Rock Wines & Bistro – You’ll feel like you’re amongst old friends in this intimate vineyard venue and restaurant. The unassuming, small estate produces a Syrah that is the most awarded in all of Waiheke. An outdoor dining area that is directly adjacent to the vineyards make dining at this classic bistro an event you’ll never forget.
Try: Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2015; Continuing the tradition of their multiple 5-star awarded wines.
Kennedy Point Vineyard – Waiheke Island’s only certified organic vineyard. Grapes are grown to organic standard without chemical fertilizers, sprays or pesticides. Olive groves are grown to the same standard, for production of truly organic New Zealand olive oil.
Poderi Crisci Vineyard and Restaurant– Inspired in wine and design by Mediterranean vineyards, this winery is a small slice of Italy in New Zealand. You’ll love the Italian inspired villa that offers great wine and a fine dining menu of seasonal dishes. Figs, olives, greens and herbs are also grown on the estate and used in the menu.
Try: Poderi Crisci Chardonnay 2012; An inspired Burgundy-inspired white.
Waiheke Island is a mecca for the wine enthusiast. The Napa Valley of New Zealand has produced some serious wines that have won some serious awards. Try a tour of Waiheke Island and taste your way through the Island of Wine.
Sometimes seeing a place in photos is all it takes to get yourself excited to take a trip. You browse through photos imagining yourself in far off places. But plain old photos are officially a thing of the past. These 360-degree images show off some of the most scenic places in New Zealand in the second best way possible – right behind seeing them live in person.
Be sure to click and drag around these breathtaking 360-degree photo-spheres and you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be there yourself.
Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park
Aoraki / Mt. Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand and offers incredible views. Alpine flora and crystal lakes dot the landscape of this incredible mountain trek.
Zoom in close on the crater lakes at the foot of the mountain for a small look at how glacial minerals give the waters that beautiful sapphire look.
Tip: Want to see more amazing glacier-lakes? Jump right over to Franz-Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier for guided tours through these amazing natural wonders. You’ll fly in on a helicopter to hike these icy landscapes – truly incredible!
Horuhoru Rock / Waiheke Island
Waiheke is the second largest island in New Zealand, just behind Great Barrier Island. Horuhoru Rock sits just off the coast of Waiheke and is most notable for being a a safe nesting site for more than 2500 Australian gannets, a large seabird native to New Zealand. Access to Horuhoru Rock is limited, but we love the remoteness of this uninhabited isle! Not to mention that great panorama of the Hauraki Gulf.
If you look up and to the left of the island and the distance you can even see an Australian gannet swooping in to Horuhoru Rock!
This active volcanic vent is located in Tongariro National Park. Mt. Ngauruhoe breaths sulphurous gases in to the atmosphere from the cone. This volcano shot to worldwide stardom with the release of the Lord of the Rings films. Director Peter Jackson used Mt. Ngauruhoe to represent Mt. Doom in the films.
After you see Mt. Ngauruhoe, see the rest of Tongariro National Park. Go with a guide on a trek of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – a hike you’ll never forget in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Fiordland National Park
This park is the largest national park in New Zealand. Its giant fiords were carved out by glaciers little by little for hundreds of thousands of years. What’s left is an amazing natural wonderland that is pure New Zealand. Fiordland is consistently voted one of the best places to go in New Zealand. Milford and Doubtful Sound’s amazing landscapes are some of the top travel destinations in the world. Take a guided tour of Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
Mt. Aspiring National Park
Just north of Fiordland, Mount Aspiring National park is located in the Southern Alps in New Zealand. Some of the country’s greatest walks and hiking sites are located in the park. Incredible rock formations and crater lakes are some of the best and most accessible in New Zealand.
New Zealand has more than 9,000 miles of coastline, making it a premier destination for beach-goers. Whether you prefer active adventures like surfing and kayaking, or tranquil days soaking up the sun with a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful scenery, New Zealand’s diverse beach culture is worth a top spot on your vacation to-do list. We’ve compiled 11 of the most amazing New Zealand beaches to check out on your next vacation to Kiwi Country.
Alright, so you’re on your way to Rangitoto Island. You’ve got your flip-flops, your sand buckets. You’re all set.
But wait… where’s the sand? Where are the umbrellas? The lifeguard stands??
New Zealand isn’t your average country and this isn’t your average day at the beach. You didn’t fly halfway around the world to see the same old thing you could see back home!
What you will find is a 600 year old (just a baby in geological terms!) volcanic island with its rugged, black volcanic rock. Rangitoto Island and Scenic reserve is part nature hike and part sea kayaking adventure.
Take a sea kayaking tour, ending up with a hike to the top of the island that provides vast 360-degree views of the water and land around you. Along the way, you can explore the native flora and volcanic rock.
Start things off with a unique visit to this island reserve and we assure you won’t even miss the sand!
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula
Despite Cathedral Cove being tucked away from the main roads, it still proves to be one of the most popular – and picturesque – New Zealand beaches. The 2,100 acre marine reserve, accessible only by foot or by sea, still manages to attract more than 150,000 visitors per year. A one mile hike in over gorgeous terrain takes you deep in to the heart of some of New Zealand’s most beautiful topography, rock formations, and coastline. Sure to be worth the trek, Cathedral Cove’s crystal clear waters provide some of the best snorkeling in the area, while white sand beaches provide the perfect spot to simply sit and relax surrounded by some of the most pristine, undeveloped natural land in New Zealand.
Hot Water Beach
A staple among all New Zealand beaches, Hot Water Beach is notable for its heated mineral water that naturally springs up through the sand. The interesting thing about the beach and the hot natural spring below the sand, is that you can dig your own personal hot spring beneath the sand. Forgot to pack your shovel? Local cafes and stands have taken to renting shovels out for curious tourists. Be sure to arrive two hours before or after low tide, as the stretch of sand that is hiding the hot water will be exposed enough to dig.
A small coastal city on the northeast portion of the South Island, Kaikoura is a must see just a short drive from Christchurch. While the coast has plenty of great recreation options such as kayaking, white water rafting, and mountain biking, the real highlights in Kaikoura are the numerous wildlife experiences available. Whale watching trips leave throughout the day and the coastal area is home to many of New Zealand’s native animals, such as dolphins and fur seals.
Piha Beach, Auckland
Best known for its striking black sand, Piha Beach – on the west coast of Auckland – is a must see for your New Zealand trip. The shining feature of this rugged coastline is Lion Rock, a large rock formation eroded from a volcanic neck some 16 million years old. In fact, the black sand of the beach is caused by its high iron content, a by-product of its volcanic beginnings. Although this beach is also known as the birthplace of surfing in New Zealand, its calm looking waters hide deceptive rip currents invisible to the untrained eye. For this reason, surfing and swimming at Piha Beach are recommended for confident swimmers, while lifeguards are on duty.
Piha Beach is also part of the overall Piha Canyon area, where more adventurous visitors can participate in canyon adventuring. Taking you rappelling through narrow canyon crevices, through waterfalls, swimming through canyon waterways and jumping in to natural pools, a canyon adventure is the most heart pounding way to experience the entirety of the Piha Beach and Canyon Area.
In Eastland, you can truly be the earliest riser in the entire world. Due to its geographical location, Eastland holds the unique distinction of being the first land in the world that the sun touches every morning. Whether from the soft sand beach or standing atop Mount Hikurangi, the sunrise in Eastland is a breathtaking event not to be missed. After the sunrise, the beach area is pure New Zealand splendor with its quintessential white sand beaches and clear waters. Don’t forget to take some time out to walk along the pier at Tolaga Bay, the longest pier in the country at nearly half a mile in length.
Located on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, Buffalo Beach is another of New Zealand’s beaches famous for its white-sand coast and surrounding local beach culture. While named for a ship that crashed off the coast in 1840, Buffalo Beach has calm waters suitable for all swimming during all tides of the day. While you are in the area, check out the surrounding Lost Spring Thermal resort close to Buffalo Beach.
Tunnel Beach, Dunedin
Located in Dunedin, in the southeast region of the South Island, the tunnel for which Tunnel Beach was named was hand carved nearly 150 years ago to provide an entrance to a small, secluded beach at the bottom of a rock cliff. Tunnel Beach is popular for its stunning views, interesting geology, and crystal clear waters. Tunnel Beach is one of the most popular of New Zealand’s beaches, attracting both locals and tourists all throughout the year. Even in the colder months, the views and rock formations make Tunnel Beach a must visit no matter when you travel. The walk to and from tunnel beach features a fairly steep grade, so wear your walking shoes and come prepared for an experience well worth the short hike in and out.
Located on a private stretch of coastal bay, Scrubby Bay is perfect for those seeking a private beach retreat that features everything New Zealand nature has to offer. Surrounded by high cliffs, vistas, and beautiful rock formations, Scrubby Bay features a semi-open air farmhouse nestled in a valley overlooking the water. A lush, green meadow takes place of sand on this coastline just east of Christchurch, making Scrubby Bay a unique inclusion on our list, but its feeling of seclusion and relaxation is unprecedented. Spend your day in nearby Christchurch before taking the 1.5 hour drive on a highway that takes you through the beautiful rolling vistas of New Zealand, straight to your own private bay.
Very much a locals hang out spot, Sumner Beach is sure to provide an intimate look at local beach culture in New Zealand, besides being a spectacular natural site to behold. Surrounded by a quintessentially coastal, beachy town, Sumner Beach provides both your standard feet in the sand beach experience, along with easy walks and strolls along the promenade, giving you picturesque views of coastal New Zealand. Along the promenade, take some time to stop in to local cafes and restaurants, many of which provide open air café-style outdoor seating, allowing you to drink in the local scenery with your latte.
Dangerous rip currents, rough breaching waves, and not a speck of sand in site, Birdlings Flat is not your average day at the beach. Due to dangerous conditions in the actual water, it is not advised to swim in the ocean here, but what Birdlings Flat lacks in water sport, is made up for with wildlife spotting, gemstone hunting, and walking along the unique flat, pebbly surface of the coast. Birdlings Flat is worth a visit for those not looking to take a dip, but simply enjoy the natural beauty of a beach that trades tons of sand for millions of tiny flat rocks, hiding agates and other semi-precious stones. Also keep an eye out for the local wildlife like dolphins, whales, and seals that are known to call this coast home. Birdlings Flat is by far one of the most unique New Zealand beaches and a can’t miss on your next trip!
The diversity of beaches and relative ease of getting to them make New Zealand’s coast a must visit for anyone planning a trip to the country. Because New Zealand is such a great country to rent a car and get around yourself, you can easily jump from some of the larger cities to several beaches in no time, at your own pace. If you’re ready to see all that New Zealand has to offer, let us do the work for you and book your next custom New Zealand vacation today.
If you’re not convinced yet, give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)! Our Destination Specialists are experts in planning the best vacations in New Zealand. Tell them what you like and let them give you 33 more reasons to visit New Zealand!
A vacation in the Cook Islands is a vacation in tropical paradise. The Cook Islands consists of 15 small islands in the South Pacific. Rarotonga, where you will most likely stay, is the largest island and the capital. It’s surrounded by a reef, making the sandy beaches white and calm waters a tropical turquoise color. You’ll also find lush dense rainforests and mountain peaks on this island.
Unlike many Caribbean islands, the ‘Cooks’ remains unspoiled. Many of the islands are uninhabited making this destination one of the few paradises in the world to remain relatively ‘undiscovered’. It’s a great place to relax, hike, swim, snorkel, and really just ‘get away from it all’. Here is what you might expect when you travel to the Cook Islands.
Coming from the US, you’ll likely fly out of Los Angeles (LAX) on an Air New Zealand red eye. Maybe you’ll watch some New Zealand sitcoms, read, or catch up on your sleep. Air New Zealand is a notoriously fun airline and most people have a pleasant experience with the staff and crew. You’ll arrive in Rarotonga around 6am and your tropical paradise awaits!
Where to stay in Rarotonga
Still relatively untouched by “Western Culture” you won’t find common franchise properties anywhere on the island. The locals are quite proud of this fact and even through you won’t recognize the name of your hotel, you will have great service and a wonderful experience. Your About New Zealand Destination Specialist will find you the best deal on the perfect Rarotonga accommodation for you.
At this point, you’ll want a way to get around the island. Most people rent a car or a scooter. To rent one of these, you will have to buy a Rarotonga driver’s license. It’s a fairly easy process, you just have to have a current driver’s license and pay about $20. For the scooter rental, you either have to have a motorcycle license or take a test for an additional $5 to show you can handle the motorbike.
There is also a bus that goes around the island (about 20 miles) and takes about an hour to circle the entire thing. The buses are labeled “Clockwise” and “Anti-Clockwise” so it’s pretty easy to get around without the rental.
You can also rent a bike.
Insider Tip: Scooter rental is the way to go. It’s a great experience and adds to the uniqueness of the vacation. Just be careful! Scooters aren’t toys but often seem like it while you’re on vacation. “Scooter Scars” (as the locals call them) are common due to many tourists’ lackadaisical attitudes.
Stuff to do in Rarotonga
There is an abundance of well-priced tours and adventures in The Cook Islands to keep you entertained. Ask your About New Zealand Destination Specialist to find you the best deals that fit in with your idea of fun.
Options include boat tours to surrounding islands, snorkeling around the reefs, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, hiking, lagoon cruises, sunset sailboat rides, horseback riding, safaris into the jungle, and more.
We highly recommend visiting Te Vara Nui Village where you can enjoy a delicious dinner and night show featuring the traditional hip shaking Polynesian dancing. Yes, just like in Hawaii!
Likely, you’ll have a lot of free time to relax on the beach. Most resorts we work with are walking distance from the beach but we also recommend checking out Muri Beach. The water is blue, warm and inviting. The sand is golden white and soft. It’s easy to rent kayaks, catamarans and windsurfers here. The best part about this beach is that it’s swimming or canoeing distance from the smaller islands of Koromiri. These smaller islands are nearly uninhabited and pretty amazing to see.
If you enjoy a good hike, be sure to hike out to Papua Waterfall. There you will find a natural pool where you can take a swim after your long hike!
Another spot to check out for snorkelers is the Maitai Wreck. The Maitai was on her way from San Francisco to Wellington when she wrecked on South Reef, Avarue, Raratonga on Christmas Day in 1916. Pretty amazing history! You can dive there too, but the wreck is only about 16 feet underwater, so it’s great for snorkelers.
Last tip! Don’t leave Rarotonga without checking out a black pearl shop. The black pearl is a great Cook Islands souvenir. Every time you see it, you’ll be reminded of the time you spent in a true tropical paradise with a small-town community feel to it. You’ll remember the sandy beaches, the Polynesian culture, the amazing marine life, the reef, the forests, the lush tropic plants, and the delicious tropical fruit.
The people, the atmosphere, the sights and the experience all make a Cook Islands vacation a truly magical adventure.
Thinking about a vacation to New Zealand and not sure when to go? We think the best time to visit New Zealand is in the Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov.) The weather is beautiful, the flowers are blooming and the food & wine are at their best! Don’t believe us? Here are 33 reasons to visit New Zealand in Spring!
21. Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. (This happens in late spring!)
Image credit: Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival on Facebook
22. Warm, sunny days in Nelson. And absolutely incredible chardonnay. I mean, if you’re into that kind of stuff.
23. Better deals on hotels and airfare during non-peak seasons!
24. It’s fishing season in New Zealand, anglers are welcome!
25. Baby yellow-eyed penguins in Dunedin!
26. Golf courses in New Zealand. Enough said.
27. Hiking in Rotorua along the awesome volcanic and geothermal landscapes is a must.
28. Seeing the gorgeous peaks in Wanaka with an experienced guide is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
29. The weather in the Bay of Plenty is perfect for full gardens, vibrant wildlife and spectacular sunsets!
30. Visit the rain forest in the Coromandel Peninsula in spring and have your own personal safari without the hustle and bustle of lots of tourists. Even better, try it by bike!
31. The culture and sights in Northland in spring. Out of this world.
32. Do you have a green thumb? Check out the Taranaki Garden Spectacular, an event filled with gardens, landcape design ideas, tours, garden walks and community events.
Image credit: Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular on Facebook.com
33. And best of all, longer daylight hours means you’ll maximize the time you can spend in the beautiful landscapes on the North and South Islands.
If you’re not convinced yet, give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)! Our Destination Specialists are experts in planning the best vacations in New Zealand. Tell them what you like and let them give you 33 more reasons to visit New Zealand!
New Zealand is made up of gorgeous rolling hills, natural hot springs, awe-inspiring mountains and a lot of lovely coastline. In fact, no matter where you are in the country, you’re never more than 79 miles from the ocean! The scenery and lush landscape are breathtaking and often the reason people travel to the country. But in New Zealand, there is just as much life brimming under the sea!
Kaikoura, which is a Maori word for “meal of crayfish”, is home to some of the most diverse marine life on the island. In fact, it is considered to be one of the world’s best whale watching locations in the southern Hemisphere. Large male Sperm Whales feed just off the coast and the unique geographic make up allows Kaikoura to host these majestic residents.
There is aten thousand footdrop off in to the ocean just off the shore that has a pocket of cool ocean water where the whales reside. The large fish that live off the coast provide a great diet year round.
Thinking about visiting Kaikoura? The US summer months (June, July & August) are when the whales come much closer to shore.
This is also migration season for the Humpback Whales from Antarctica. They pass the coast of Kaikoura as they move towards warmer waters so there’s a high possibility of seeing the majestic creature during this time.
You may also spot a number of other whales including:
Southern Right Whales
What else is there to do in Kaikoura?
Not only is Kaikoura home to some of the most gorgeous and majestic whales, there’s a thriving marine life of a smaller size in the waters. Perhaps the most adorable are the New Zealand Fur Seals that make their home in Kaikoura.
Make Friends with the Seals
New Zealand Fur Seals are known for their sleepy nature, in fact, many who visit New Zealand might run into a seal or two snoozing off the coast line! They can often be quite the road block too, as seen in the below picture! It’s important to give seals the space and respect they deserve. They maybe cute, but can be dangerous to humans and dogs if they feel threatened.
Photo Credit: Jacanruss from Instagram
Though fur seals are usually pretty docile, they can scoot pretty quickly if they feel threatened or want to protect their pups. Luckily, if you’re hoping to get a good snapshot of these cuties, there’s a spot where you can see hundreds of seal pups tucked away just north of Kaikoura.
A Kiwi who lives in Kaikoura told us that every year these seal pups find their way from the ocean up to this waterfall and it becomes nature’s day care center for the pups. Even our Destination Specialists ensure us it’s something you won’t want to miss.
If you can handle the cuteness, check out this video below!
Want to swim with the seals? Why not ask your specialist about this Seal Swim Tour?
Meet the friendly dolphins
Dusky Dolphins have also been known to be found in the Kaikoura waters. They almost always try to steal the show when visitors are on whale watching tours.
There are estimated to be several hundred dusky dolphins in the waters of Kaikoura. They are fun, energetic animals that like to put on a good show. They can be seen splashing and jumping when visitors in boats & kayaks venture by.
Pods containing several hundred dolphins are said to call Kaikoura home. You’re able to swim with the dolphins, kayak alongside them or if you want to just sit back — you’re sure to see dolphins on a boat tour!
Check out a few of our favorite shots from travelers who explored the vibrant marine life of Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea!
Plus lots of other activities including..
Maori Cultural Events
Museums & Theatres
White Water Rafting
Just to name a few…
Want to visit Kaikoura and see this gorgeous wildlife? Give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)!
Let us help you find the perfect time to take part in Kaikoura Whale Watching or maybe a swim with the dolphins. Our Destination Specialist would love to help plan your dream vacation.
New Zealand is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world. From the rolling hills in Matamata to the breathtaking mountains in both the North and South islands. Something very unique to New Zealand are glaciers that feed into breathtaking rain forests.
Two of the most famous glaciers to visit are Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. There are a number of experiences that are available on both glaciers for visitors of all activity levels.
Fox Glacier is a 13-kilometre-long (8.1 mi) Glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of the South Island. Home to gorgeous ice caves and arches, Fox Glacier was named after one of New Zealand’s Prime Ministers. The Maori name is Te Moeka o Tuawe.
If you want to visit this incredible glacier, there are multiple ways to see it which cater to both active and leisurely travelers. You can go ice hiking, see its spectacular areal views from a scenic flight or get-right-on-it during the glacier face walk. Guided tours are available. It is not recommended to go beyond the barriers and climb onto the glacier due to the unstable terminal face.
Stay in the Fox Glacier township, “Weheka” 4 miles from the glacier.
The fly-in, fly-out heli hike combines the excitement of walking on the Fox Glacier with the thrill of helicopter flights. By flying in you are able to access and explore a part of the glacier where its forces work hardest and often create spectacular ice caves and arches.
This is an informative and leisurely trip to the dynamic face of the glacier. It is here that the Fox River emerges from the ice and where ice collapses are often heard and seen.
Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef is visited by adventure seekers from all over the world. Maori call the glacier Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere. Located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of the South Island, this glacier welcomes 250,000 visitors every year and is a must-see for adrenaline seeking adventurers. The glacier has different activities for all travelers, so you don’t want to miss out! Guided and unguided walks are available, but a helicopter is required to get up to the glacier due to the unstable terminal face.
Explore the glacier in a heart pumping way by vertically climbing the ice. This is a day packed with adventure and adrenaline highs. You’ll have an expert guide you through the glacier every step of the way, whilst still enjoying the dramatic scenery and awesome terrain of the Franz Josef Glacier.
For those who are seeking the beauty of the glacier at a slower speed, why not try the two hour Guided Glacier Walk? You’ll take a flight up to the top of the glacier and get to see the beauty of the surrounding mountains as the guide lets you explore the awe-inspiring formations.
Whether you want to take a heli flight to the top of the glacier and walk around, or just want to see where the glacier runs into the waters below, there are glacier experiences fit for every person’s adventure level. Don’t miss out on this gorgeous sight you can only see in New Zealand.
If you are ready to start planning your glacier exploration, call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).
Ever have the urge to jump into the ocean in the middle of winter? Maybe you’d wish it was warm enough outside to take a swim. New Zealand doesn’t let silly things like seasons dictate when you can enjoy the water. In fact, there are countless number of hot spring experiences all across the North and South Islands. Here are our (and the world’s) favorite Hot Springs in New Zealand.
Hot Water Beach New Zealand – Mercury Bay
Located on the east side of the North Island, Hot Water Beach is a unique experience to dig your toes in the sand and relax in the natural hot water. You can rent a shovel for $5 and dig your own spa in the sand! The water can get very hot but luckily the ocean is just a short walk away!
Waiwera Thermal Resort – Waiwera
Just north of Auckland, Waiwera is a popular thermal water destination. There are hot water thermal pools surrounded by native New Zealand fauna. And this destination is family friendly! Whether you want to relax or relive your childhood, don’t miss out on Waiwera.
Taupo Thermal Hot Pools – Taupo
Located in the middle of the North Island, the Hot Pools in Taupo are a great place to stop. It offers a number of attractions anyone can enjoy. While some of their services do cost, Otumuheke Stream is a hot stream that flows into Waikato River and free for visitors. There are lots of little hot spots along the way – just follow the steam!
Hells Gate – Rotorua
Hells Gate is an awesome way to experience the thermal phenomenon in Rotorua in a relaxing spa setting. Most people come to see Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere! It’s a special waterfall to the Maori people because they believe the sulfur in the water healed their ancestor’s years ago. If you’d rather stay in, there are a number of hot mud spas in the park too.
Polynesian Springs – Rotorua
This is one of NZ’s oldest spa attractions and a must see if you’re traveling through Rotorua. You can choose to relax in a Hot Mineral Bath, take part in one of their numerous spa treatments or experience the healing properties of one of their mud treatments. Whatever you choose, the Polynesian Springs provide a place to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the hot water year-round.
Onsen Hot Pools – Queenstown
Travel down to Queenstown in the South Island for this relaxing gem. The Onsen Hot Pools provide a romantic backdrop for any traveling couple. Filled with a soothing and nature provided combination of rain water, purified lake water and mountain spring water, the pools are truly a natural source of relaxation.
Whether you’re traveling during the US Winter or the NZ Winter (May-July), these New Zealand hot springs experiences will not disappoint. Start planning your trip today and make sure to include some of these glorious, natural H2O experiences!
If you need some help planning, call us Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US).