I’ve been to New Zealand twice and both times to this disconnected country were enchanting, exhilarating, non-stop and yet over far too quickly. New Zealand was the first country in Oceania that I visited, some two years before I even landed in Australia. Both times, I traveled alone, often without purpose. It might be one of the furthest countries away from your hometown (as it was for me) but this list will hopefully convince you that it’s worth investing in some flights to New Zealand. It’s a country just aching to be visited by everyone. Here’s my personal top 20, though a top 100 could easily have been concocted.
“You’ll never see the end of the road when you’re travelling with me ” – Neil Finn (Crowded House).
Bungy Jumping in Auckland, North Island
I had just checked into my hotel in Auckland, jet lagged to the hilt and was asked if I fancied going on a bus tour of Auckland the next day, including the option to do a bungy jump. Why not?
Breathtaking and transformative at best.
Glow Worms Trek, Franz Josef Township, South Island
On my second visit to New Zealand, I headed to the west side of the South Island and ended up in Franz Josef for a few nights where I met some fellow travelers who joined me on a glow worm trek. Into the night, we headed with torches through the rain to catch evening shots of glow worms.
Climbing Mount Maunganui, North Island
Mount Maunganui was a highlight as you can see from the views.
“Sometimes you need to turn the wrong way round” – Neil Finn
Palmerston North “Suicide Capital Tour”, North Island
Most people go backpacking in New Zealand to stay happy and tick off stuff on their Phuket List. Palmerston North was once described by Basil Fawlty as “the suicide capital of New Zealand” so I made a beeline for it.
Touring the suicide capital of Palmerston North
As I dandered through the town centre of Palmerston North, I realized how much I loved it. It’s a great city full of colour and vibrance and off the standard travelers list. Basil Fawlty might have been cool, but he was wrong.
“Dust from a distant sun will shower over everyone” – Neil Finn
A colourful building in Palmerston North
Waihi Gold Mines, North Island
Together with friends Steve and Flavia, we drove to explore the Waihi Gold Mines, which was a real treat. On a road in the middle of nowhere are these massive mines and loads of information and machinery to go with it.
“Either side of the world, chase the sun. Pay the maximum rate to feel so lonesome.” – Neil Finn
Amazing views at Waihi Gold Mines.
The Other Belfast
I boarded a local bus in Christchurch bound for Belfast and on the bus a guy from Belfast (the New Zealand one) notices my Northern Ireland football shirt. It turns out he has family from Londonderry and spent some time in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland!
Even cooler, after explaining to me some sights to see in Belfast, Sam invited me into his pub for a beer – Robbie’s Bar – where we posed with the Belfast flag! The other one.
Running with the Unicorns, Wellington, North Island
Have you ever been to Wellington? Yes. Have you ever been to Mighty Mighty nightclub? Yes. Have you ever gone running with unicorns? Yes. Truly bizarre but in a nightclub that has a table tennis table on the dancefloor (with no winner – just hit the ball as you circle) you run around and around with a bunch of people dressed as unicorns. Yes, really.
Interislander Ferry, South to North Island
The best way to travel within the two islands of New Zealand is on the Interislander ferry between Picton and Wellington. Having spent a brave length of time working on the ferries in England, France and the Channel Islands, this was dreamlike journey.
South Westland Salmon Farm, South Island
Fishing is significant in New Zealand and in the remote south west corner of the South Island, I visited a salmon farm. Yes, a custom built indoor pool where they make sure there were salmon in reproduction to be caught and sold.
Seeing the Kiwi Bird, Rotorua, North Island
I visited the Kiwi bird in a special enclosure on the edge of Rotorua with travelers I met on the road. No photos inside of course and they are nocturnal.
Paragliding over Queenstown, South Island
Queenstown is the world home of the bungy jump — I felt like a bit of Paragliding was needed when I traveled through Queenstown!
Pohutu Geysir, North Island
This is the most prominent geysir in the volcanic area.
Hamilton Gardens, North Island
Sometimes you just want to sit in nature, write and have a cup of tea. After the madness of Sky Diving and Bungy Jumping, I spent a couple of days in Hamilton. It was here where I relaxed by Hamilton Gardens.
Sky Diving in Lake Taupo, North Island
Ahhh yes, the day I sky dived over Lake Taupo. I remember all the details of a mad day in Taupo. So worth doing – consider it a transformative travel experience at best.
Tamaki Maori Village, Tamaki, North Island
This country is Aotearoa in Maori, not New Zealand. The natives were here long before the British came in and it’s highly important to know and respect their culture. I headed to the Tamaki Maori Village in the North Island for a Maori performance and some Hangi food. It was another fantastic memory where they make me perform a dance and ritual in an old school custom built Maori Village by a fire. I was leader of my pack and got a souvenir to keep.
Franz Josef Glacier Hike, South Island
The Franz Josef Glacier Day Hike was brilliant and strange at the same time but oh so very beautiful every step of the way.
Zorbing, Rotorua, North Island
Zorbing (rolling down the hill in a huge ball) is a fun and exhilarating thing to do.
New Zealand micronations – Theocratic Unitary States of Holy Gearlist
– 4 Micronations – I’m very keen to check out the 4 Micronations that border or have bordered New Zealand:
1. Soviet Socialist Union of the Wakatipu (no longer active but the location is still there)
2. The Republic of Frigus
3. The Republic of Meropis
4. Theocratic Unitary States of Holy Gearlist (no longer active but the location is still there)
The boot at the Gumboot Manor, Taihape, New Zealand
People always ask me if I prefer the South Island or the North Island, but I think that’s unfair on Stewart Island, which is the real south island. The truth is that while the South Island is beautiful, the North Island held more interest for me — travel for me is more about meeting people than it is about hiking mountains. Yes, the South Island has better scenery but my best moments from this country remain in the north.