Sorry to rub it in to anyone currently residing in the northern hemisphere, but down here in the southern hemisphere it’s that glorious slide into summer. As thoughts turn more summery (and sunshiny), here’s our pick of the top five things to do that really show off New Zealand at its sunny best. It’s pretty hard to whittle down the to-do list but this is our attempt – purely based on personal experiences!
PS: We’ll follow this up with the top five things to do in Australia and Canada too in the coming weeks.
1. Tongariro alpine crossing
If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings (let’s face it, if you’re considering a move to New Zealand, you should be), then you’ll love the chance to walk through what was used by the film crew as Mordor. Touted as one of the world’s best day walks, a 19.4km walk will see you tackling steep climbs, catching glimpses of hidden emerald lakes and feasting your eyes upon old lava flows, active craters and thermal steam vents. Even if the idea of walking up a serious sweat doesn’t get the adrenalin pumping enough, you might like to know that Tongariro has recently started erupting again after a 115-year silence – thrilling enough for you now?
Don’t let the smell of rotten eggs pervading the region put you off – it’s the smell of living, breathing New Zealand (well, sulphur actually). Nowhere else in NZ are you as close to its geology than in Rotorua, where steam spews from the earth, mud bubbles in pools and geysers erupt from the hot ground. The geothermal heartland of New Zealand, immerse yourself in exploring thermal parks. Or if the smell gets a bit overpowering, Rotorua is also renowned for its proud Maori culture where you can experience traditional crafts, music and legends.
3. Bay of Islands
Close to the tip of New Zealand’s north island lies the spectacular Bay of Islands, comprising of 144 islands all ripe for exploring. The best way to explore these is on water, whether you fancy fishing, snorkelling or kayaking. You can’t visit the Bay of Islands without joining a dolphin watching tour where pods of dolphins leap through the unbelievably blue water. Additionally, from the Bay of Islands you can travel north to Cape Reinga (where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet) and 90-mile beach, a world of forest, sand and ocean waves.
4. The Coromandel
Known as the playground of Aucklanders, the Coromandel is a wonderland of golden beaches and natural beauty, including rainforests. You can relax in your own spa at Hot Water beach where you can dig your own hot pool to laze the day away in. Access the spectacular Cathedral Cove on foot or by boat or explore the old tunnels, walkways and rich history of the Karangahake Gorge. Although with views and surroundings as stunning as this, we won’t blame you for just lounging on the beach.
Arguably we’re saving the best for last here. The jewel in New Zealand’s crown is Queenstown in the south island – the adventure capital of the country. Whether you fancy hurtling downhill incredibly quickly on a luge; bungy jumping from the world’s first bungy site (or New Zealand’s highest); or jet boating through one of the world’s most scenic settings; you can do it all in Queenstown. If just reading that makes your palms sweaty, you’ll be glad to hear Queenstown is equally phenomenal if you don’t fancy risking mortal injury. Explore historic Arrowtown or take advantage of Queenstown being the gateway to the Milford Sound and all the cascading waterfalls, sheer rock faces and serene beauty it offers.
Over to you
Have you been to New Zealand? What was your top five? And if you haven’t been yet, what are you most tempted to try?