Posted on: December 14th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
When people think New Zealand they think stunning mountains, rolling green landscapes and sky diving from every inch of the skies.
But there’s so many more unique things to see and do in New Zealand, and we think it’s important you know about all the different wonders this destination has to offer.
New Zealand is divided into two islands, almost as different as night and day. Head to the North Island for beaches, wine and Maori culture. Venture to the South Island for dramatic scenery, mountains and extreme adventures.
To help inspire you, we’ve rounded up a list of the best things to do in New Zealand, divided up into the North Island and South Island.
Map of the Best Things to do in New Zealand
New Zealand is a rather small nation, with roughly the same surface area as Colorado. But looking at New Zealand on a map can be deceiving because it stretches out north to south. We’ve made it easy with this map of all the best things to see in New Zealand to help you plan your trip.
1. Visit Hobbiton
Where to stay: Auckland or Rotorua
You don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to feel the magic of Hobbiton. The green rolling hills, the bursts of colorful gardens and picturesque hobbit holes will transport you straight into the Shire of the films.
Tours of the Hobbiton movie set are led by passionate guides offering insightful tidbits and knowledge even diehard Tolkien fans might not know. Stay at the head of the group for the best opportunities to capture that winning shot in front of a hobbit hole with no bystanders in the frame!
For an unforgettable experience, book an evening tour with an included banquet. Seeing the Shire by twilight is only beatable by the indulgent feast you’ll share with other enraptured fans.
Contact an About New Zealand specialist for the best arrangements on including Hobbiton on your New Zealand trip.
2. Explore the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Photo: Shaun Jeffers
Where to stay: Auckland or Rotorua
There’s something about twinkling lights that our eyes simply can’t resist.
That’s what makes the Waitomo Caves so enchanting. Adorned with thousands of tiny glowworms, the pitch-black caverns are illuminated by their unearthly blue glow. It seriously looks like something out of a fairy tale.
The most popular way to see the glowworm caves is on guided tours through the caverns, ending with a boat tour on the subterranean lake drifting through the illuminated caverns.
But one of our favorite ways to explore the caves is on a thrilling black water rafting adventure. Thrill seekers glide through the cave system and underground waterfalls, ultimately floating serenely through the Glowworm Grotto.
3. Indulge in Waiheke Island
Photo: Miles Holden
Where to stay: Auckland
New Zealand is dappled with wine regions all across the country, but nothing beats what’s known as New Zealand’s “Island of Wine.”
Waiheke Island, less than an hour ferry ride from Auckland, is an indulgent retreat for food and wine lovers. Complete with gorgeous bays, scenic walks and countless vineyards, this sublime island feels like something out of a Mediterranean legend.
Go on an endless wine-hopping adventure and delight your taste buds with the gourmet dishes of the island’s renowned restaurants. Everything from delectable oysters, Greek meze platters, woodfired pizzas and even gelato is on offer, paired with glasses of Waiheke’s finest wines.
The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the North Island’s idyllic stretches of green pastures, misty rainforests and golden beaches. It’s crown jewel is Cathedral Cove, a turquoise bay ringed by soft sands and gigantic arched caverns.
The secluded cove is perfect for a relaxing beach day, complete with several scenic walks and excellent snorkeling at the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. An array of sea sponges, delicate corals and colorful fish can be seen in the waters of the reserve.
The remoteness of the beach and its stunning natural beauty create an almost tangible sense of serenity. We recommend visiting early in the morning not only to beat the crowds, but to witness the sunrise cast a breathtaking glow upon the beach. Cathedral Cove by dawn is truly like a slice of paradise that time forgot.
5. Learn About Maori Culture
Photo: Fraser Clements
Location: Throughout the North Island
Where to stay: Rotorua
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture is rich in history, unique traditions and inspiring stories.
One of the best places to immerse yourself in Maori culture is at Te Puia in Rotorua. This center is where the Maori heritage is passed on through the arts institute, where Maori students hone their skills in traditional Maori woodwork and crafts.
Here you can also experience an authentic Maori hangi feast, where food is traditionally prepared by the heat of the earth.
Visit a recreated indigenous village at Tamaki Maori Village for a glimpse of how the Maori lived before European settler-days. Witness the powerful haka war dance, the graceful poi performance and other incredible Maori rituals.
6. Explore the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Where to stay: Rotorua
The North Island is famous for its turquoise bays and black sand beaches, but its most surreal landscapes are found in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
Some of New Zealand’s most spectacular volcanic features are found here. Bubbling mud pools, unusually colored lakes and spouting geysers highlight the trails laid out through the steaming valley.
Catch the spectacular colors of Champagne Pool, a hot spring of emerald water ringed by bright orange mineral deposits. See the neon green sulfur lake, Devil’s Bath, and catch the Lady Knox geyser in action.
7. Visit the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Photo: Te Papa Museum
Where to stay: Wellington
New Zealand’s most enrapturing museum resides in its capital, Wellington. Te Papa Tongarewa, located on Wellington’s waterfront, is a dedication to New Zealand’s art, history and culture.
This huge museum contains six levels, each with a central theme displayed through an array of exhibits. Discover the stories of New Zealanders during World War I in Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit, located on the second level. Explore the cultures of Maori and other Pacific peoples through artifacts, architecture and artworks located on the fourth level.
In short, you could spend days in this museum. Though you may like to wander on your own, we highly recommend a guided tour for the expert insight and information your guide will share. There’s no better way to explore a museum than with someone who knows it like the back of their hand.
Location: Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, West Coast
Where to stay: Fox or Franz Josef Villages, or Queenstown
You’ve probably never thought about climbing a glacier. It’s hardly a thought that enters the mind.
But once it does, don’t you kind of want to do it?
Thrill-seekers who aren’t afraid of a little ice can hike on New Zealand’s glaciers.
New Zealand’s most famous glaciers are Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, both located along the west coast of the South Island. What makes these glaciers so breathtaking is the sprawl of tropical rainforest hugging their base. One minute you’re in lush rainforest, the next you’ve stepped back in time into the ice age!
Both glaciers provide an array of adventures for all levels of fitness, from guided walks to climbs complete with ice picks and crampons. For a truly spectacular experience, opt for a heli-hike, beginning with a scenic helicopter ride to the top of the glacier and hiking your way down.
9. Dolphin and Whale Watching in Kaikoura
Photo: Sara Orme
Where to stay: Kaikoura or Christchurch
Kaikoura is New Zealand’s unofficial capital of marine wildlife. In fact, Kaikoura is considered as one of the world’s best whale watching destinations.
Visit between June through August to catch a whale watching cruise with up close encounters with migrating humpback whales.
These gentle giants aren’t the only thing you’ll see in Kaikoura’s waters. Dolphin swims are very popular, with local dusky dolphins frolicking in the waters beside you. Seal swims are also available, offering a truly unique opportunity to interact with New Zealand Fur Seals.
Cruises are the most popular way to see the sounds, departing from Queenstown and Te Anau. As you glide on the glassy waters, a pod of dolphins swimming before your vessel and crystal clear waterfalls cascading down the forested cliffs around you, you’ll know you’ll never see a place like this anywhere else on Earth.
Milford Sound is the more popular fiord, but we like to recommend a cruise on Doubtful Sound. Bigger and arguably more majestic, the fewer crowds make this fiord a true gem.
11. See Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki
Photo: Rob Suisted
Location: Mount Cook National Park
Where to stay: Queenstown or Christchurch
The milky turquoise color of Lake Pukaki, framed by purple lupin flowers and the Southern Alps in the distance create a scene straight out of a story book.
Rivaling the beauty of the Swiss Alps, this snowy mountain range is home to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. The glaciers atop the mountain peaks feed into the remarkable Lake Pukaki, giving it its unique turquoise color.
Scenic helicopter rides and guided tours from Queenstown to Mount Cook Village are the best way to add Mount Cook into your New Zealand itinerary. More adventurous travelers can hike on tracks beginning near the village or climb the peaks for the ultimate challenge.
12. Go on a Bike Tour
Photo: Dean McKenzie
Location: Throughout the North and South Islands
Where to stay: Nelson
If the idea of mounting a bike while on vacation sounds dreadful, you definitely need to get on a bike in New Zealand.
This is just one of those places that makes you want to stay outside as much as possible.
The best part about cycling in New Zealand is that there are dozens of trails, ranging from super easy to hardcore mountain biking, in some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world.
One of our favorite bike trails is in Nelson, known as the Tasman Great Taste Trail. This leisurely trail loops through charming countryside and coastline, with stops at art galleries, boutiques, craft breweries and wineries.
Bike tours are also popular ways to explore New Zealand’s cities. There’s nothing like getting some fresh air in your lungs and color on your cheeks with an invigorating bike ride.
13. Bungy Jump in Queenstown
Photo: AJ Hackett Bungy
Where to stay: Queenstown
Queenstown is the destination for those extreme bucket list adventures. Skydiving, bungy jumping, canyon swinging – basically anything related to jumping through the air, with an optional cord attached to you.
If bungy jumping is on your list, there’s no better place to do it than Queenstown. As the birthplace of bungy jumping, you can jump from the Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first commercial bungy site. The breathtaking scenery around this historic bridge is enough to inspire your jump, with the turquoise waters of the Kawarau River rushing below the bridge.
For the more brave at heart, take the jump on the Nevis Bungy, the highest bungy site in all New Zealand. We guarantee the adrenaline rush will have you shouting and laughing with glee. And the bragging rights will be unbeatable.
The romance of train travel from days long past is still alive and well in New Zealand. With rails running through mountains, viaducts and along the coasts, these scenic train journeys are among the finest in the world.
For stunning views of the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine train is a must. This 5-hour train journey includes destination stops along its path from Greymouth to Christchurch, offering time to explore hidden gems of the South Island.
Ride in the observation car, wide open to the elements, to truly immerse yourself in the scenery around you.
Posted on: October 8th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Ready to step back in time into the Ice Age?
On New Zealand’s West Coast, rainforest-clad valleys dip into spectacular glaciers. Its most famous glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, draw travelers from around the world to hike and explore their stunning ice formations.
From blue ice caves to rippled ice currents, stepping onto these glaciers is like stepping into a completely different world.
Franz Josef and Fox glacier both provide an array of activities for all levels. From glacier valley walks to glacier hikes and scenic helicopter rides, seeing these natural wonders is easily done on your terms.
Fox Glacier is a 13 kilometer long (8.1 mi) glacier, the longest of New Zealand’s West Coast glaciers, located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. With gorgeous ice caves and dappled arches, Fox Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. During the high tourist season it sees about 1000 people daily. The glacier was named after one of New Zealand’s Prime Ministers, Sir William Fox. Its official name is Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe, incorporating its original Maori name.
Still flowing almost to sea level, the front of the glacier, known as the terminal face, rises at a slow incline, making valley walks and ice hikes fairly easy. However, shelving in the valley deep beneath the glacier causes the ice to crack and slide, constantly changing the face of the glacier along with surface melting. Guided tours are a must to get on the ice due to these unstable conditions.
Yet these changeable conditions can present breathtaking surprises along the way.
The Fox Glacier township, “Weheka,” lies 4 miles from the glacier with a population between 300 – 400 residents. With delightful cafes, restaurants and glow worm caves just a short walk from the town center, this cozy township will warm you up with its genuine Kiwi hospitality.
Meet the Glacier on a Terminal Face Walk
Visitors can walk close to the face of Fox Glacier, but a guided tour is where the real adventure lies.
Venture through the pristine Fox Valley toward the face of the glacier on a terminal face walk. This moderate trail is the perfect way to get closer to the glacier than any unguided walkers without leaving your footprints on the ice.
Walk along the flowing Fox River, emerging from the ice, as your expert guide brings the dynamic terrain to life with their informative commentary. Come across fantastic ice boulders and if you’re lucky, you might witness extraordinary ice collapses.
Explore the Glacier on a Heli Hike
Combine the thrills of soaring high above the ice and walking the spectacular glacier formations on a Heli Hike on Fox Glacier.
Flying in by helicopter allows you access to remote parts of the glacier where its dynamic forces work hardest and create stunning ice caves and arches. Once you land your guide will fit you with crampons, spiked footwear used for secure mobility on the ice.
One of the biggest differences between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef is in how they are guided. Fox Glacier, with its extremely varying conditions, offers more spontaneous hikes set by your guide as you make your way. A tour on one day may be completely different than a tour the next day.
As you step through narrow ice caverns, a blue glow emanating from the icy depths, you’ll feel like you’re on an expedition in the Arctic. The photo ops will be out of this world.
Franz Josef Glacier
The more popular of the two glaciers, Franz Josef draws around 250,000 visitors each year. It is named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by German explorer Julius von Haast in 1865. Maori call the glacier Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, meaning “The tears of Hine Hukatere.”
With a length of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) and a steeper drop from the Southern Alps, Franz Josef constantly shifts, create rippled ice formations and icy crevasses. Guided walks and hikes on the glacier are usually on pre-cut and predetermined paths, more suitable for beginners. This also affords more opportunities to see extraordinary ice formations.
Located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park only 12 miles away from Fox Glacier, you can easily see the face of both glaciers on a quick road trip.
But you’re in New Zealand’s West Coast, where the scenery is as varied as the continuously changing glaciers. Become one with the landscape and explore these incredible rivers of ice.
Challenge Yourself on a Heli Ice Climb
Get your heart racing with an exciting Heli Ice Climb on Franz Josef. Offering some of the best glacier climbing in the world, this experience rewards you with unique views and an unbeatable sense of accomplishment.
You’ll begin with a scenic helicopter flight, surrounded in the full panoramic majesty of the glacier and nearby mountains. Once on the ice your guide will lead you to your climbing starting point, where your adventure begins.
With all technical equipment and climbing gear provided, the Heli Ice Climb serves all skill levels with expert guides instructing you along the way. The high you’ll feel as you reach the top of the blue ice will be just as thrilling as the jaw-dropping scenery around you.
Take it Slow on a Franz Josef Glacier Walk
For those seeking the beauty of the glacier at a slower speed, 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.
This adventure gets you up close to the blue ice tunnels, between towering walls of ice and in the ice caves carved out of the glacier. Your guide will reveal extraordinary knowledge of the glacier along the way, leaving you with a deeper understanding of why this special landmark is so special.
One of the highlights of a Franz Josef excursion is complimentary access to the Franz Josef Hot Pools. What better way to soothe your tired muscles after an incredible hike out on the ice? The township of Franz Josef also boasts an array of accommodation and places to grab a bite to eat, setting up the perfect stay for your Franz Josef adventure.
Explore New Zealand’s Iconic Glaciers
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).
Posted on: June 20th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Photo: AJ Hackett Bungy
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.
(...) activities, drop offs/pick ups, hotel accommodations etc. and did a great job. The trip was awesome, even though we did miss one or two of our already paid for activities haha! Would definitely recommend About Australia to anyone traveling to an unknown country/continent :) Thanks Darin!
Outstanding trip and customer service
Wound up with an opportunity to take some vacation time on short notice. After reaching out with a little less than a month to go til departure, we were able to arrange the most active and(...)
(...) exciting vacation we’ve ever done. Our agent, Ana, took care of everything and was a pleasure to work with. NZ is an amazing destination. Definitely recommend the Glowworm/Rotorua tour out of Auckland and the Doubtful Sound tour that runs out of Queenstown. Ana also took care of our arrangements for the second half of our trip in Australia. Definitely recommend visiting both if you have the time.