I wrote a lot of posts about New Zealand whilst we were away, and each place that we visited contained new highlights and things that I’ll remember forever. When people ask what my favourite things to do and places to see were, I have some obvious memorable moments. However, the more I think about a certain place, the more I remember and usually end up decided that that was a highlight to. So, to make things a little easier. Here’s my New Zealand top ten that I’d recommend to anyone travelling there.
Waiheke Island was a welcome couple of days in paradise after a few nights in the city of Auckland. We hadn’t particularly liked Auckland, but Waiheke Island felt completely different. We went on a crazily muddy walk and got slightly lost, experienced some kiwi hospitality and it just started to feel as if we were getting the hang of travelling after just over a week of being away.
I was always going to enjoy our time at Whangerei Heads as we were staying with friends rather than in a hostel and were taking things a little slower. We had time to plan some more of our trip, Skype home and play board games, but we also did some hikes, spent time on the beach and went kayaking. We were staying in a little slice of paradise and it was the only time that we seemed slightly removed from the main tourist trail.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
I’d seen the pictures before I went and I was really excited about going into a cave and seeing glowworms lit up like stars. It exceeded all my expectations and I think that’s partly because rather than just going into the caves, we went on a five hour caving adventure which involved abseiling, tubing, a zipline and much more. I felt exhilarated by the activity, and the glowworms in the cave had been just as impressive as I’d hoped.
I know this isn’t a place, but one of my favourite things that we did all over New Zealand was to go hiking (or tramping as it’s known by the locals). From the well known Tongariro Mountain Crossing and Ben Lomond tracks to the Robert’s Point track and shorter walks, we spent a lot of time physically active and it was the best way to see the countryside (plus it’s free!). If you’re going to New Zealand, make sure you leave some time for walking.
I’ve surprised myself by adding the wild west coast of the South Island to the list, but I think it was a highlight as this was part of the trip that I wasn’t really expecting much from. I’d been told it was going to be wet, that there wasn’t much there, and to be honest we only doing it as it was on our route. However it was a fantastic drive with great views up the coast and out to the ocean, there was lots of wildlife and the pancake rocks were pretty spectacular.
I expected that the heli-hike at Franz Josef was going to be a highlight. It was one of the things I seriously wanted to do before we had left the UK and I had been trying to save accordingly. It didn’t disappoint. But the reason that Franz Josef and not just the heli-hike was a highlight was because of the Robert’s Point track. It was a really tough walk, and boy did we ache afterwards, but it was definitely worth it. The view from the end was fantastic and I also enjoyed the physical challenge of the walk.
Since I’ve come home I have waxed lyrical about Wanaka to anyone who will listen. It’s a small town (but large enough that there are things going on) in a beautiful setting. Across the lake you can see snow-capped peaks and I was more than happy to sit on the beach and soak in the view. If I could afford it, Wanaka is the place I would live in New Zealand. I definitely want to return.
Queenstown seems to be everyone’s highlight and I can see why. It is beautiful. I enjoyed all the activities we did in Queenstown, I enjoyed eating ice cream whilst watching the sun set each evening, I enjoyed the view from the top of Ben Lomond (although the walk up was a bit of a killer) and I enjoyed my Fergburger. It’s not overrated, it’s just a great place.
We were so exceptionally lucky with the weather to see Milford Sound on a clear day with bright blue skies. I was fully expecting it to be misty and raining, but I think I would have still enjoyed it. Milford Sound was spectacular (apparently the waterfalls are even more so when it is raining) but it wasn’t just the fjord that was impressive. The drive there is one of the most scenic drives in the world and I can see why. I was so glad to be a passenger so I could just sit back and enjoy it.
Two of my dreams have been to swim with dolphins and to see a whale. I managed to tick both of these things off my bucket list when I went to Kaikoura so it will always have a special place in my heart. Swimming with dolphins is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done – there’s nothing quite like making a connection with a completely wild animal in its natural environment and it wanting to play with you.
So there you have it… a trip full of incredible experiences packed down into ten easy paragraphs. Is there anything I missed off my list that you would add?