Decending into Auckland airport is one of the best landings I’ve ever encountered. Peering out of the small aircraft window I can see dozens of islands dotted around the coastline and the entire landscape appears a lush green colour. There’s just something about New Zealand, a feeling of pureness and freshness, a country with rolling hills in the north to mountainess landscapes in the south. Somehow the air feels cleaner to breathe here and it gives you the appetite to venture outdoors and experience things you never thought you would even contemplate doing!
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Auckland is New Zealands largest city with a population of around 1 million. That’s a quarter of the entire population, so you can see why this city is often mistaken for NZ’s capital. Auckland appears small in it’s CBD as it’s vast suburbs are what really creates it’s size. Venture out for a walk in Auckland to take in the sky tower (best seen at night) and it’s harbour. There isn’t too much to do here activity wise so you might want to spend less time here and visit the bay of islands further north (3-4 hrs drive) which is far more relaxed and has more activities for the backpacker including island boat tours which include a chance to swim with wild dolphins if your lucky.
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Roturua offers backpackers the chance to take a dip in natural hot pools, take a ride on the luge (to get some practice in before Queenstown) and also hop on a tour bus to Hobbiton, the set of where the hobbits lived in the Lord Of The Rings film. Due to the thermal activity in Roturua you can experience the smell of rotten eggs here due to the high quantities of sulphur in the air!
If you have time try to get to the coast to visit surf beaches like Raglan which is a small and relaxed coastal town on the west coast. Take a few surf lessons as this is one of the best spots in NZ for surfing!
Lake Taupo is next for a stop. This huge lake is actually a giant volcano crater. Taupo also has the chance for you to take a scenic skydive with views of the lake on the decent! What better way than to kick off your trip to New Zealand! We reccommend Skydive Taupo. Whilst your in Taupo make sure you visit the golf pontoon by the waterfront where you can hit balls into the lake and maybe win a prize if your lucky enough to get that illusive hole in one!
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Wellington is the captal city of New Zealand and boasts a cosmopolitan feel. It generally is used as a place people pass through as you will catch the interislander ferry or a small aircraft from here as you come to and from the south island. The ferry departs 3 times daily and you can book tickets online here. The ferry travels to/from Picton on the south island and takes around 4 hours in total. Wellington will not have too much to do activity wise for tourists but there is an excellent museum calle Te Papa which is free and take a ride up the cable car for good views and a walk through the botanical gardens, take a walk along the waterfront or to the viewing platform on top of Mount Vic. A couple of days at the most will be enough to get a feel for the city.
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More mountainess landscapes than the north island the south island feels more remote but with remoteness comes fun! I’m sure you’ll be itching to get to Queenstown, the backpacking mecca for fun, nightlife and extreme sports but first we’ll look at some things to do in other parts of the south island.
Christchurch is a major transportation hub in New Zealand as it handles international flights. The main attraction of Christchurch is it;s proximity to the snow fields in winter. This is where you will find excellent ski and snowboard facilities at Mount Hutt. There isn;t a lot to do in summertime for tourists here though so you might want to just spend a few days here and head up to Kaikora for some whale watching.
On the west coast be sure you don’t miss taking a hike on one of the glaciers at either Fox Glacier or the more popular Franz Josef Glacier. It’s a great opportunity to venture onto these amazing natural wonders and a hike with one of the many tour companies is well worth it. It’s worthwhile going for a slightly more expensive package that will get you further up the glacier as the views are so much better from further up. Take a full day hike rather than a half day and you’ll be pleased you did!
Ok so you finally get to go to Queenstown?! There’s loads of things to do here if you have the cash, jet boating, sky diving, bungee jumping, canyon swinging, you name it, it’s here! A good bet is to take the gondola ride up to the top of the mountain, it costs around $40 but you can also combine it with a package to get several goes on the luge track which is great fun. Visit the AJ Hackett shop on shotover street to book various activites including one of the highest bungies in the world! Take a look at the Nevis Bungy video, one of the scariest but amazing things you will do on your trip but well worth it! Finish off your day by visiting the famous Fergburger restaurant. A backpacker institution and a fantastic feed. Queenstown nightlife is vibrant and there’s a large selection of bars/pubs to choose from.
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Off the beaten track and also worth a mention is a visit to Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Stewart Island. These areas have stunning scenery and although Milford Sound may get a lot of tourist visits you can use any of the well guided walks and hikes in the area to experience things away from the crowds. Take the 40 minute boat ride over to Stewart Island and stay for a couple of nights. If your looking for piece and quiet and a place to get away from the world this is for you.
New Zealand is a place for the great outdoors. There’s so much to do and surrounded by amazing scenery you might not want to leave!
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