Travelling has always been a passion of mine, and not to brag about it, but I class myself as being quite well travelled. Australia had always been somewhere that I was desperate to visit, and so I did… in fact I lived their for two years. While I was down that end of the world I decided to hop on over to New Zealand for a six week tour, and boy was I in for a treat. New Zealand completely blew me away and I have not been able to stop raving about this place ever since (it is now two years ago since I was there).
I believe that New Zealand should absolutely be on everyone’s travel bucket list and here are my ten reasons why…
- The Marlborough wine region. I was once told that one should get their reds from Australia and their whites from New Zealand. Now I do not claim to be a wine expert, but I know what I like and I can hands down say that my favourite wine in the world is a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. When I was passing through this area I was feeling a little worse for wear after a big night and early start in Wellington, but I still managed to head to a vineyard and taste their selection, and it was wondrous.
- Tongariro Crossing. This epic 19 kilometre walk up and down a mountain was my highlight of the North Island. If you complete the crossing in summer you can see beautiful lakes on your way down. I did mine in winter, which was still beautiful, but in a different way as everywhere up the top was covered in ice. It was during this crossing that I realised the true extent of my fear of heights… I realised this as I was clutching onto the side of the mountain with my crampons rammed as far into the ice as they would go terrified to take another step. However, despite a few shaky moments, and with the help of one of our amazing guides, I completed the whole crossing, faced my fears (which I didn’t realise I had till half way through) and celebrated with a beer at the finish point, marvelling at the fact that I was not the last of our group to complete it.
- Hot bubbling mud. When I arrived in Rotorua I was desperate to smother my whole body in mud at one of the spas, but I ended up being fascinated by mud in a different way. There is so much volcanic activity going on in this area and you will find patches fenced off because there are pools of boiling mud just bubbling away, quite an astonishing sight.
- Queenstown. This small ski town was without a doubt the highlight of my entire trip. I am pretty sure I had one of the best weeks of my life in Queenstown. The place has a great vibe and despite being fairly small it has plenty of lively night life. Like the rest of New Zealand it has a stunning backdrop in the way of The Remarkables, named as such (I assume) because they are remarkable. I recommend you take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak (or you can walk), take in the views and have a go on the luge. Also, no trip to Queenstown is complete without getting a pizza at Winnies and a Fergburger.
- Stunning scenery… at every turn. When I travelled New Zealand I did it through Stray (a completely awesome travel company aimed at backpackers), which meant that we went from place to place via bus. Now bus journeys are never exactly fun, but New Zealand is the best country I have ever travelled in by road because – and I cannot exaggerate this enough – the scenery is amazing… everywhere.
- View point at Kaikoura. If you visit Kaikoura as you drive into the town there is a view point up a hill. Take this road because the view at the top is fabulous, the mountains appear to come right up close to the ocean, a truly impressive spectacle.
- Warm water… where there shouldn’t be. New Zealand’s North Island is incredibly volcanic and so in rivers, lakes, pools, basically any natural water, you may find pockets of warm or even hot water, like a kind of outdoor bath.
- Lord of the Rings. I can’t really write a post on New Zealand without mentioning LOTR. When you travel around this country you can see why they chose this corner of the globe to shoot a film, everywhere you go the backdrop is so amazing that you feel like you are on set. The trilogy was filmed in both the North and the South Islands, but the main LOTR tourist attraction is Hobbiton.
- Visit a bar… in a bus. The devastating earthquakes in Christchurch have meant that the people here have had to get creative. Christchurch is home (at least when I was there in August 2013) to a shopping centre where each store is located in a different shipping container… genius! And to a bar that is housed in a bus… also genius!
- Golden kiwi fruit. An amazing discovery as not only do golden kiwis taste amazing, the skin is so soft (unlike a regular kiwi) that you can eat the fruit whole, skin included. Perfect for travellers as there is no peeling or cutting required.