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Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud, whatever you call it New Zealand has been jostling for number one spot in adventure and nature tourism for, well pretty much forever. Incredible landscapes, great weather, laid back locals, and the world’s best reputation for adventure sports can all be found on these two skinny islands holding a population of less than five million. I lived there for six years with my family and have returned numerous times since, experiencing a new side to it each time.
For someone so small, New Zealand sure makes a big impact. Whole books are written about the adventures to be had on this land but for those wanting the basics, here is the abridged version and four reasons why you need to go.
1. The Walks
Seen Lord of the Rings? Imagine hiking up and over those incredible film sets which are not actually film sets but backyards for everyday New Zealanders. There are dozens of hiking trails dotted all around the country, each offering something unique, be it snowy mountain passes or sparkling white sandy beaches. Hiking and camping are a big deal down under so look out for well-maintained trails and lots of options in the way of accommodation.
Looking to tackle something a little bigger? Check out the Milford Track or the Fox Glacier heli-hike in the South Island. Oh and yes you read that correctly, you have to get a helicopter just to get in and out of there; we’re talking serious adventure here people!
2. The Thrills and Spills
If you have ever had the crazy urge to jump, leap, or fly off something, into something or over something, look no further! As a survivor of one of the three Bungee Jumps created by bungee legend AJ Hackett, I can personally state these moments of adrenaline spiked thrills are as scary and amazing as they say!
With a huge range of activities to choose from including sky diving, white water rafting, caving, parasailing, zorbing (look it up!), and canyon swinging there is something for everyone. All of them come with impeccable safety records and highly trained staff so you will be in the best of hands. Do be prepared to get your wallet out, but trust me it is worth every penny and the views aren’t half bad either.
3. The Heat
Ever wondered what it would be like to live in town built on natural thermal springs? Wonder no longer and turn your rental car towards Rotorua. First thing you will notice the second you get there – it stinks. And I don’t mean figuratively. The smell of rotten eggs is a by-product of the thermal gases and fills the entire town. It can take some getting used to but it’s worth it to push through – the locals will tell you they do not even notice anymore!
Rotorua offers the opportunity to spend your day lazing around in the naturally heated pools and soak up the therapeutic mud. It is also a notable Maori cultural location and offers some really interesting experiences that shouldn’t be missed for those looking to get an insight into the Maori way of life.
4. The Culture
Like their Australian neighbors from (as they say it) “across the ditch” you will not find any friendlier people than the New Zealanders. Life in New Zealand runs at a slightly slower pace. With incredible snowy winters and perfect 100 degree summer days there is not much for the locals to be stressed about.
You can enjoy the hustle and bustle of some of the bigger cities including Auckland and Wellington, while also be out in the country where the guy serving you at the gas station has lived there for 30 years and can direct you to country’s best ice cream.
With a large indigenous population, New Zealand is also a somewhat isolated example of how multiculturalism can work really well.The Maori people and their culture is deeply ingrained in the history and everyday life of all New Zealanders and is celebrated in lots of authentic ways. Bonus points if you have time to check out a “hangi”: a traditional meal of meat and vegetables cooked under the ground using rocks that have been heated for several hours. Delicious!
If you’re considering jetting down south for your next holiday, I would encourage you to do some more research and look into everything New Zealand has to offer. One thing is for sure, you will need at least two weeks to get the full experience to create lasting memories for a lifetime. Kia Ora! (that means hello and goodbye in Maori!).
Photos courtesy Sarah Bown. Photos cannot be used or reproduced without express permission from the owner.