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Travel and adventure tips: New Zealand

Updated on August 19, 2010
Mitre Peak at Milford Sound
Mitre Peak at Milford Sound

One thing comes to mind when I think New Zealand: beautiful scenery! No matter where you go, no matter what your ultimate goal is, you cannot achieve anything without finding some beautiful places to take some pictures! Now, I love photography and have had my share of compliments, but I don't care how good or bad you with a camera, you cannot (seriously cannot!) take a bad picture in New Zealand! The colors are vibrant, the scenery is vast and the whole country is just teeming with energy! Now, I know what you are thinking; what does this have to do with adventure tips? Well, what better way to document your adventures than with a picture!? So pack your camera, a tent and some extra undies cause we are going to New Zealand!!

Surfing spot at Raglan
Surfing spot at Raglan

First off, for those of you who didn't know, New Zealand is actually two separate islands. The North Island is diverse and if you don't have a lot of time to travel, the North Island is the way to go! You can go to Raglan for some surfing, Auckland or Wellington for some city life and shopping (tourist attractions abound!) or to Rotorua to see some redwood groves! I would recommend seeing the aquarium at Napier and take a little time to go off the beaten path to see Bridal Veil Falls. Also, check out the glow worm caves at Waitomo (go early!) and go bungee jumping at Lake Taupo! When I was there, 6 of my friends and myself rented a camper van and spent 6 days just touring the North Island going on day hikes, seeing tourist attractions and taking tons of pictures!! 

Lake Matheson and cloud-covered Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand
Lake Matheson and cloud-covered Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand

Now, I spent most of my time in New Zealand on the South Island, which is the bigger of the two islands. There is a lot more open space on the South Island but if you an adventure seeker, this is the place for you! Queenstown is widely recognized as the adventure capitol of New Zealand. There is something for everyone from bungee jumping and sky diving to jet boating and hiking. Nearby Wanaka and Glenorchy provide some more laid back tourist attractions such as horse-back trail rides in Glenorchy and plenty of snow-sports in Wanaka and the areas around Queenstown. For you movie buffs out there, the Otago region that Queenstown and Glenorchy are found in is home to several movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Willow and X-men Origins: Wolverine. 

Moving on to the West Coast of the Island, Milford Sound is one of the premiere attractions on the South Island. You can take a boat tour of the sound, including views of Mitre Peak and several of the beautiful waterfalls. As always, there are numerous hikes and trails to take if you would like to strike out on your own! Moving up the coast, Bruce Bay has some stunning views and plenty of history and cultural ties to the natives of the island, the Maori people. Also, nearby Fox Glacier and Frans Josef Glacier allow for some phenomenal, once in a lifetime opportunity to hike around or on a glacier. The amazingly gorgeous Southern Alps run along the West Coast and make up the spine of the island. They make for some great trails and offer many great opportunities for exploring and adventure making off the beaten track! On the way to the top of the South Island, take a stop at Hokitika, jade capitol of the island and take a mid-day stop for some lunch and jade shopping (New Zealand is known for its jade production!) on the beach in this quaint little town. 

We are at the most northern part of the South Island at Nelson, where you water-sport lovers are going to be calling home as soon as you arrive!! Plan to spend a few days here where you can rent some kayaks or canoes and investigate the coast and the beautiful blue waters! Take some hikes or just relax to the sound of the ocean!! After you've relaxed and recovered from your sunburn, take a drive to Kaikoura, where you can take a boat tour out to sea at certain times of the year for some whale and dolphin watching! Take a trip inland for some mud-soaking spa treatments at Hanmer Springs. This tiny little town is dominated by the spa but has some cute shops and is very laid back and a good place to relax after lots of traveling and sight seeing! Back to the coast and we are at New Zealands 3rd largest town, Christchurch. Now, Christchurch was my favorite city in New Zealand and it has many little hidden spots that I could go on and on about so if you have the time to spend, take a few days in this wonderful region to explore not just the city, but the areas around!! Lyttleton is charming and almost reminiscent of the Italian shore village. If you are looking for the college town feel abroad, Christchurch has some amazing schools but Dunedin is the place for the college feel!! If you want the home team support, beer pong every weekend, you want Dunedin!

Taking our eyes off the coast for a little, Arthurs Pass, which takes us through the South Alps from one side of the island to the other, is a beautiful highway (oxymoron right?). This pass takes us through the mountains and past some other good areas of interest, such as Castle Hill, another popular movie spot ( you might recognize scenes from Rohan in the Two Towers). If you follow the coast a little further south and inland again, we find Lake Tekapo, site of the Church of the Good Shepherd and some stunningly fantastic views. I could have stayed there for several days at the shore of the lake and been happy as a clam!!

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Lake TekapoChurch of the Good ShepherdFox GlacierBruce Bay
Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd
Church of the Good Shepherd
Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier
Bruce Bay
Bruce Bay

Now that you are stuffed full of names and places and pretty pictures, you are probably saying "Why would you tell me all of this!?!?!". In truth, I just want other people to have as much fun as I did while I was abroad. Take some chances and do some things you wouldn't normally do because most likely, you aren't going to get a chance to do this more than once!! Take precautions (there aren't as many gas stations as there are here in the states!! I made that mistake!!) and people are always willing to help!! I recommend taking advantage of the hostels because they are cheap and geared toward adventure seekers. Talk to the locals, visit a marae (the traditional maori community buildings) if you can and most of all have fun!! If you have any specific questions or want to share stories, please leave some comments!! Happy travels!!!

View of Governors Bay
View of Governors Bay

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