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  1. My favourite New Zealand activities and sights

    posted by Guest blogger - Matt Kepnes | 0 Comments

    Jan112014

    New Zealand is one of my favorite countries in the world due to its natural landscape. If you have seen Lord of the Rings (if you haven’t, you are missing out on an epic film series), those stunning vistas and landscapes from the movie are of New Zealand. After watching those movies, I couldn’t wait to visit and explore New Zealand (though not battle any evil eyes!).

    A couple of years ago I fulfilled that desire and can say that New Zealand lives up to it’s adventure reputation and that of a land filled with immense natural beauty. If you’re traveling, here’s a list of my favorite activities and sights that can show the best of the country:

    Bay of Islands

    Located north of Auckland, this region is a popular summer retreat with locals. It has a beautiful beach area, there is decent scuba diving, and there are a plethora of dolphin watching opportunities in the bay. I enjoyed the region for its serenity and tranquility. It was a nice contrast to the physically demanding activities in the rest of the country.

    Franz Joseph Glacier

    Hiking glaciers is definitely as cool as it sounds and depending on the time of year you visit, there is also the possibility to hike through ice caves.

    Wine tours

    New Zealand is famous for its white wine and if you like wine, taking one of these tours is a no brainer.

    Maori Show

    The native population, the Maori, made out better than most native populations in the countries the English settled. Most of the Maori cultural shows are in Rotorua, which is where I saw one. They might be a bit touristy and all accentuated but it was still one of the best chances to learn about Maori cultural practices. Te Papa museum in Wellington has a large section devoted Maori history.

    Wellington

    I found the capital to be a lot cooler than expected. There’s great food here, amazing nightlife, good music, and nearby mountains for hiking. I had only planned on staying here for a few days but ended up for a week.

    Milford Sound

    Hugely popular but no less stunning, this sound is actually a fjord located in southern New Zealand. It rains a lot here allowing for stunning waterfalls through the fjord. There are a ton of sports to do here – from hiking, to boating, to kayaking, to swimming, and everything in between. It’s a beautiful place to visit and if you have some extra money, I would recommend taking a plane ride to see the area from above.

    Queenstown

    All the hype about this city is true. The adventure capital of New Zealand is situated around amazing mountains and set on a lake. Nearby, is the gateway to the highest bungee jump in New Zealand, wine tours, ziplining, sailing, and any other adventure sport you can think of. Plus, in town you have bars serving teapots full of liquor and Fergburger, the world’s best burger joint.

    Skydive

    I am very afraid of heights so I skipped this activity but the country is popular to do this. The best dives occur over Taupo where you get better stunning views of the Tongariro mountains, lake, and surrounding countryside.

    Bungy Jump

    Again, afraid of heights so I didn’t do this (Youtube video of someone who did), bungy jumping is a popular activity for travelers. You can jump in a few places around New Zealand (the Auckland bridge jump is a popular jump) but to make it memorable jump the Nevis, a 134 meter jump in a canyon near Queenstown.

    Glow worm caves

    By far the coolest adventure sport I did in New Zealand, you enter caves in the town of Waitomo and float down a dark river, staring up at glow worms that light up the darkness of the cave like stars in the night. You can do the option I did which is just floating down the river and a bit of caving and adventure, as well as abseiling, and repeal through a different section of the cave system.

    Tongariro Alpine Crossing

    This 22 km hike has just recently reopened after a volcanic eruption (don’t worry it’s safe now!). I hiked this path a few years ago. It takes a full day to do and takes you from desolate volcanic grounds to lush forests. This is where the scenes of Mordor were filmed and you can see (and sometimes hike) Mt. Doom! The highlight of my time in the country.

    New Zealand is a land of endless outdoor activities and a trip there will be action packed. Make sure you budget enough time and plenty of money because you don’t come here to sit indoors and while hiking is often free, those amazing adventure sports certainly aren’t.

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