Top 10 things to do in New Zealand

Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist destinations.

By Joshua Zimmerman

When it comes to out of the way places, nowhere is so far away from everything else as New Zealand. Which is all the more reason to travel there. Vast stretches of natural beauty, friendly people, and a relaxing atmosphere make it an ideal place to spend a winter vacation away from Japan. I took a trip to New Zealand last winter and had an amazing time.

And so I present to you a Top 10 list of reasons to visit New Zealand.

10.) Jump from the the Sky Tower.

The largest free-standing tower in the southern hemisphere sits in Auckland. For a small fee, you can take a ride to the top for a fabulous view of the Auckland harbor. For another small fee, you can walk around the outside of the tower and get an even better view of the city. For a bit more money still, you can take the fast way down by jumping off it and getting a very quick view of the city as it passes you by.

9.) Swim in the Bay of Islands.

Located to the north of New Zealand is the popular Bay of Island. The name kind of gives away the most popular attraction. Spend your days swimming, kayaking, or taking a cruise from one of the many boat companies in operation. If you’re lucky you’ll see pods of dolphins, and if you’re even more lucky still you might be able to swim with them.

8.) Witness Cape Regina.

The northernmost tip of New Zealand is a sight to see. It’s the meeting of two oceans that makes for one non-stop show. Plus the nearby attraction of the 90 Mile Beach will give you plenty to do for an afternoon.

7.) Hug a giant tree.

Not just any tree, a giant 3,000-year-old Kauri tree. New Zealand was once covered with these giants until recently, but thanks to a massive conservation effort some big ones still remain. Walking through a forest of these giants will transport you back in time.

6.) Experience extreme sports.

New Zealand is the original home of modern extreme sports. Besides being the inventors of the bungee jump, the locals also love their white water rafting and kayaking. Even if you’re not an expert, you can take part in guided white water sports. Just be prepared to get a nose full of water.

5.) Watch a whale.

Whale watching can be done in many places around New Zealand. Even in the Auckland Harbor. Killer whales, dolphins, and porpoise whales can be seen year round in New Zealand.  But for a real treat check out the massive sperm whales around the South Island city of Kaikoura. It’s the biggest animal you’ll ever see.

4.) Swim underwater.

New Zealand has some world-class diving. Though the seas are quite cold, they hold thousands of amazing types of fish and plant life. Besides seeing fish, you can also see a wide range of ship wrecks scattered around New Zealand. But for a very eerie thrill, try diving in Milford Sound on the South Island. This fjord features a strange environment where the top layer of the water is fresh and the bottom layers are salty, making for a unique marine environment found nowhere else on earth.

3.) Zip down a mountain.

Skiing is big business in New Zealand thanks to its subtropical climate and number of mountains. Plus, if you’re a skiing junkie you’ll be happy to know that while you may be suffering from Japan’s horrible humidity, the summer months are prime skiing season in New Zealand — a nice break from the Japanese summer.

2.) Drink a whole lot of wine.

If you planned a whole trip just touring wine country in New Zealand, you wouldn’t even touch 10 percent of the vineyards. Starting with just one vineyard in 1851, New Zealand is now home to over 650 spread across the entire country. Rent a car and spend the day driving to various vineyards, most of which offer free taste testing. What better way to relieve stress and see the country?

1.) Relax in a hot spring.

Much like Japan, New Zealand has a large number of volcanic regions. And just like Japan, its people use the natural hot springs around the country to relax. From the weird Hot Water Beach in the North to the Hamner Springs in the South, when in New Zealand you’re never too far away from a body of hot water.

Though, from personal experience, I can tell you that the real joy of New Zealand is combining as many of these things as possible. Nothing beats a day of skiing like relaxing in a hot spring while drinking wine.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia