Travelled in: April 2014
Facebook keeps reminding me that this time 4 years ago I was in New Zealand. New Zealand is the country where I have the best memories from my 6 month travel stint. I spent 6 weeks travelling both the North and South island in 2014, and have been dreaming of returning ever since.
I have been debating posting about New Zealand since I visited such a long time ago. A lot has probably changed in the past 4 years, however everything I am about to share with you is timeless and can not go out of date. Here is a round up of my best New Zealand memories/recommendations…
There are a few ways to travel around New Zealand. Most backpackers opt for one of the hop on hop off bus packages or hire a camper-van. I was travelling to by myself so chose the STRAY hop on hop off bus package. I booked my bus package at the Melbourne branch of Peterpans travel agents.
There are a few options of hop on hop off buses, the most popular being The Kiwi Express, which is renowned for being a bit of a party bus. By this point I was partied out having been in Australia for 3 months and just wanted something a bit more chilled.
STRAY promises their passengers an off the beaten track tour of New Zealand. Their routes take you to all of the tourist hot spots, but also venture beyond to lesser known, but brilliant locations. STRAY is great for travelers who are in New Zealand for the nature, the adventure, making friends and a having a
genuinely good time. I booked a 21 Day tour which took me on this route…
Aukland – Paihia – Aukland – Hahei – Rotorua – Tongariro Crossing – Wellington – Abel Tasman – Punakaiki – Frans Josef – Wanaka – Queenstown – Kaikora – Christchurch. (With plenty of amazing day trips along the way.)
I would definitely recommend looking in to the STRAY bus routes when travelling in New Zealand. It is a super easy way to travel, your bus driver will pretty much arrange everything for you and you can sit back and enjoy an adventure of a lifetime.
Hot Water Beach…
Hot Water Beach is about a 3 hour drive from Aukland. This is no ordinary beach! Underneath the sand lies a naturally heated hot spring. Tourists flock to this beach to dig their own spa pools.
The best time to visit the beach is 2 hours before or after low tide. It is quite an amazing feeling to sit in a spa pool that you have dug out yourself, on a beach, whilst looking out at the pacific ocean. It is a must do on the North Island. Be careful when you are digging your pool though as the water can be extremely hot!
No trip to New Zealand would be complete without a hike up an active volcano… The Tongariro Crossing on the North Island is a 19.4 km trek through the alpine crossing in the Tongariro National Park. The trek took me around 6 hours to complete, however some of my STRAY pals completed it in 4 hours, so it really depends at what pace you walk.
I have to warn you this trek is pretty tough! There were times when I genuinely didn’t think I was going to make it to the end. The trek starts off deceivingly easy, but there are some seriously steep inclines and declines throughout the route, with the terrain changing frequently. The weather also changes constantly so you need to be prepared for all seasons. If the volcano is showing levels of high activity some of the route will be shut off for your safety. There is a traffic light system in the danger areas so you can easily tell the safety level on your hike.
I would 100% recommend trekking the Tongariro Crossing! Although difficult at times, my effort was rewarded in the form of outstanding natural beauty… I have never seen views like it and it gave me such a huge sense of achievement/relief when I finally made it to the end.
Make sure you book a nice hotel at the end (with a hot tub) so you can get a well earned rest. You will need it!
AJ Hackett Bungy…
New Zealand is an adrenaline junkies playground. This country is full of incredible opportunities to get the blood pumping and partake in some seriously exhilarating activities. One of the best being an AJ Hackett Bungy Jump… There are a few AJ Hackett Bungys located throughout New Zealand. The most popular ones being in Queenstown.
I have always considered myself to be brave and willing to try anything once so I was so up for doing a bungy. I jumped (no pun intended) at the chance to do The Nevis Bungy, which is the highest in Australiasia at 134m, with an 8.5 second free fall. This was of course until it came to the time where I actually had to jump…
When you arrive at the AJ Hackett Bungy check in you will be weighed and have your weight written on the back of your hand. Usually the heaviest of your group will jump first, I was unfortunately the lightest in the group, and therefore the last to jump. Having watched 5 people take the plunge before me I was a bag of nerves when it came to my turn. STUPIDLY I LOOKED DOWN and froze meaning I physically could not throw myself off of the platform. I got myself in a right state and had to sit back down, compose myself and then try again. Second time round having had a pep talk from my STRAY pals I finally did it. Here is some video evidence…
The sense of achievement having actually jumped was incredible. High on adrenaline with a new found confidence I took myself over to the Nevis Swing for my second bungy jump. This one being much easier, as instead of actually jumping off myself I was strapped up, suspended in the air and then released by one of the bungy staff instead. I would definitely say this bungy was far more enjoyable than the first one!
There are no words to describe the feeling of a bungy jump, so you will have to check it out for yourself to see what it’s like ;).
Kaikora is a beautiful little fishing village on the South Island. The main attraction is the marine activity. Kaikora is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching and swim with wild dolphins. I was lucky enough to do both of these activities.
My whale watching tour was booked with Whale Watch Kaikora… On the day of the tour the weather was terrible, and visibility was poor. I still managed to see a whale and amazingly witnessed an incredible tail flip! If you do go out on one of these tours and do not see a whale most of the tour companies will usually offer you a refund or to book on to the trip for another time.
Swimming with wild dolphins in the ocean was such a highlight of my time in New Zealand. It was just the most incredible experience. Being out in the middle of the ocean with the dolphins jumping around me was an absolute dream! You have to wake up at the crack of dawn and swim in freezing cold water until you turn blue, but it is totally worth it! I booked this tour with Dolphin Encounter.
Whilst in New Zealand it would be rude to not experience some traditional Maori culture. As part of my STRAY package the driver organised for us to stay with the primary hapu of Hurungaterangi, just outside of Rotorua.
A primary hapu is a otherwise known as a Maori community. We were welcomed in to their community for one night, cooked traditional food with them, listened to their stories and even learnt how to do the Haka – the famous New Zealand war dance, typically performed before a rugby match!
Queenstown was by far my favourite city in New Zealand! It is THE most beautiful place and it just had it all! There is so much to do here…
I’ve already spoken about the AJ Hackett Bungys – in total I believe there are 4 jumps to chose from in & around Queenstown alone.
There is also the Shotover Jet, which is an extreme water boat ride through a canyon. This was a spontaneous booking, which turned out to be so worth it. Riding the shotover jet is a bit like being on a roller coaster. The boat storms through the Shotover Canyon at high speeds, making random 360 degree spins along the way, whilst getting unbelievably close to the rocks above. It is a lot of fun. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took a ride on the Shotover Jet a couple of weeks before I did… If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me!
Luging is also a fun activity in Queenstown, you can take the cable car up to the top of the mountain which in itself is a great thing to do. The views from the top are outstanding. Luging is located right at the top and it a lot of fun and a great way to take in the spectacular surroundings.
In the winter the mountains become covered in snow and the SKI resorts open in Queenstown. I can’t imagine a better place to spend a winter, I will definitely be back one day!
I really hope this post might have inspired you to venture to New Zealand if you find yourself in this part of the world! 4 years on, and many more countries traveled to I would still say that New Zealand is the most outstandingly beautiful place I have ever been.
If my rambling post hasn’t convinced you, maybe some more pictures will… (Excuse the poor quality, I only had an Iphone 4 back in 2014!)