New Zealand is all about adventure and exploration. With only 4.5 million people in a stunningly beautiful land mass the size of Colorado, there is plenty to be discovered and not a lot of people to get in the way. There’s a reason they filmed Lord of the Rings here. It’s a big playground complete with jaw-dropping mountain ranges, gorgeous beaches, glaciers, volcanoes, and complementary adrenaline activities that will keep your heart racing until you can’t take it anymore.
There are so many awesome things to do in New Zealand but these were the 11 that topped our list:
11. Making our own hot tub at Hot Water Beach (Coromandel Peninsula) – New Zealand is a very active volcanic region. The central part of the North Island is almost like a mini-Yellowstone with hot pools, geysers, and a ubiquitous stench of sulfur. A little further north in the Coromandel Peninsula there is a hot pool directly under a beach and it is quite popular to grab a shovel and create your own “hot tub.”
10. Exploring Arthur’s Pass (southern Nelson) – This was an area we stayed with my family that was a bit off the beaten path on the South Island. We were actually the only people staying at the hotel the first night, which meant we got to really know the staff well. Shooting skeet, hiking, and just relaxing in a valley surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains was a great way to spend a few days.
9. Zorbing (Rotorua) – Rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable ball. That’s all there is to say. Apparently they have these in Tennessee and Massachusetts for anyone interested. Might want to make sure you have health insurance first.
8. Wine tours! (Central Otago and Marlborough Sounds) – New Zealand only produces 1% of the world’s wine but they do a damn good job with their whites and pinot noirs. Seeing Mom drink a lot of wine is always good fun.
7. Driving! Yes, driving (Everywhere) – There is so much beauty in all directions here and just driving around is a great way to get a look at as much of it as possible. A big thanks to my Dad who logged plenty of miles on the South Island while we relaxed and enjoyed the natural beauty.
6. Milford Sound – This place is awesome. An absolute must-do on the South Island.
5. Tongariro Alpine Crossing (South of Lake Taupo) – The coolest day hike we’ve ever done in the 2nd oldest national park in the world (behind Yellowstone). A volcano erupted here just off the hiking path in 2012. It was not easy, especially in certain points on the col between two volcanoes where the wind was probably up to 60mph gusts, but a truly rewarding day.
4. Flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown – Some of the most spectacular mountain beauty you’ll ever see.
3. Fly Fishing (Taupo) – I absolutely have to come back here and fish the rest of this country. During our time here, the trout fishing in the tributaries east of Lake Taupo was the best around. The trout here are freaks of nature. Twice the size of similar species in the western US.
2. Nevis Bungy and Swing (Queenstown) – Alison absolutely crushed the Bungy jump, making Drew and I look like cowards on the lowly Swing. Check out Alison’s Instagram video.
1. Heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier – Alison and I both agree this was our favorite experience in NZ. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
I came here eight years ago and remember thinking at the time it was the most beautiful country I’d ever seen and that still holds true. Hopefully another eight years from now we’ll be back again and add to this list, likely through some walking tracks in Fiordland and Nelson, which we were unable to see due to weather this time around.
Have you been to New Zealand? Any other must-dos to add to our list?