The Essential New Zealand Bucket List
Here at Discover the World, we have a passion for ‘the land of the long white cloud’ that runs deep. On every trip our accredited Kiwi Specialists take, we discover new and wonderful activities to recommend. Here we have compiled some of our favourites into a ‘bucket list’ that everyone taking a holiday to New Zealand should experience.
1) Overnight Cruise on Doubtful Sound, Fiordland
The magnificent Doubtful Sound, nestled in South Island’s beautiful and remote Fiordland, makes you feel like you are truly a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. An overnight cruise is an ideal way to fully immerse yourself in the splendour and tranquillity surrounded by waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and marine life. For the more adventurous, there are optional excursions by kayak or tender vessel, after which the three-course evening meal will feel well-earned. There really is no better way to enjoy the natural beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
2) Visit Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve
The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was only named a reserve in 2012, but this insurance against further light pollution guarantees some of the best stargazing in the world. Set in a remote part of New Zealand’s South Island, it is already well known among astronomers for its unequalled views of the night sky.
With a telescope that observes fifty million stars, you’ll catch sight of the Southern Cross constellation, visible only from the southern hemisphere, as well as the stunning Magellanic clouds that surround. Make sure you allow a couple of days in Lake Tekapo to ensure you have the best chance of viewing the night sky at the Mt John Observatory.
3) Meet a White Kiwi at Pukaha Mount Bruce
With the birth in 2011 of the first white kiwi at Pukaha Mount Bruce, the charm factor of this iconic, yet most elusive of birds was raised a notch or two. Born at the conservation centre, Manukura is not an albino but has white feathers due to a recessive gene handed down by her parents. Visitors to this conservation centre, which is around 2 hours drive from Wellington on North Island, have the chance to see these endearing birds up close as well as other native fauna and learn more about the centre’s wildlife protection programme.
4) Swim with Hector’s Dolphins from Akaroa
Swimming with dolphins is always incredible, but a swim with New Zealand’s only endemic cetacean, the Hector’s Dolphin, is truly a unique experience. Something only possible from Akaroa on South Island, if you’re lucky you could spend up to forty-five minutes in the water with these amazing mammals. Cruise out from the harbour and enjoy stunning views of this picturesque French-influenced enclave on the Banks Peninsula.
5) Hit the hiking trail… anywhere
The Great Walks of New Zealand are world-famous for a reason, and no holiday would be complete without taking to the trail at least once. Through the valleys and mountains of the Milford Track to the twisting turns alongside Whanganui River on the Whanganui Journey, these hikes have achieved legendary status among trekkers worldwide. If a day trek is more your style, there are a numerous available, with the lava fields and emerald-green lakes of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing being a stand-out highlight. Whether you prefer a casual day trek or a longer overnight journey, there is something to suit.
6) Drive the East Cape
One of the lesser visited regions of New Zealand, Eastland easily falls into the category of ‘hidden gem’. Offering some beautiful coastline, this region of the North Island is steeped in over 1000 years of Maori heritage. It was the location for the 2002 film Whale Rider and is a favourite area for camping, surfing, fishing and even diving. At Gisborne you can trace the history of New Zealand’s early settlement. The first landing place of both the Polynesians voyagers and Captain Cook, it was the site of the first meeting between Maori and the European visitors in 1769. Few places in New Zealand offer this unique blend of culture and natural beauty and a few days leisurely exploring are richly rewarded.
7) Explore Orakei Korako
Heading south from Rotorua to Taupo, Orakei Korako, is a must-visit thermal park a short detour off State Hwy 5. It is New Zealand’s largest geyser field and sits alongside the Waikato River. With over 20 active geysers, the dramatic silica terraces are the main draw, together with Ruatapu Cave the country’s only geothermal cave. Head off on a short bush walk, then relax in cafe admiring the extraordinary landscape.