Some of the most novel vacation experiences in the world may be found in New Zealand. All things are possible in this country so well-endowed by Nature. The only limitation may be your time. New Zealand can easily fill up vacations that last for several months and you will not even find yourself doing the same thing twice during that period. But for those on limited time, you will have to give serious thought in planning your holiday to get the most out of your trip.
A vacation in New Zealand means traveling to the other end of the earth so you should make the most of it. New Zealand is everything you have heard about, and many things more besides. New Zealand means unspoiled nature from volcanoes to glaciers, stunning scenery, with just the right touch of interesting history.
A unique New Zealand tourist treat is cave tubing in the dark Ruakuri Caves. It starts innocuously enough, with a rubber tire’s inflated inner tube to serve as your flotation device. Everything changes afterwards as you ride through roaring rapids, slip through tight crevices, and plummet down waterfalls while the limestone walls are bathed in the eerie light produced by innumerable glowworms. The thrilling ride is also known as black-water rafting and (so far) can be enjoyed only in New Zealand.
For those who have secretly longed to be a race-car driver, here is a way to indulge that dream. You can join New Zealand’s Kiwi Car Rally, one of the most popular sports events. You will compete against professional drivers. Not immediately, though, because you undergo one week’s training guided by a coach. After training, you don safety gear, seated in a real race car, and assigned a team manager. Then, you start racing in a one- or two-day endurance even over flat and hilly roads covered with snow, mud and gravel.
What else to do
New Zealand has two main islands, North Island and South Island. It is difficult to explore the best of both islands if you spend less than a month in the country. You would be better off focusing on one island (the South offers more variety) or a particular region, if you have limited time. The best regions to see are Rotorua, Taupo and Ruapehu in the North Island, and Otago, Fiordland and Nelson/Marlborough in the South Island.
On the North Island, you can visit the Bay of Islands for dolphin-watching. Visit Rotorua for two days to take in volcanic scenery or varied marine life in the Bay of Plenty, then head on to Taupo, making sure to drop by the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Reserve along the road. You should not miss Huka Falls and a dip in the hot pool of the plentiful thermal resorts. You can take a cruise on Lake Taupo or go to the Waitomo Caves for dark-water rafting. There is also the Tongariro Crossing to negotiate, if you are fit enough for a full day walk. The major cities in the North Island are Wellington, and the capital, Auckland.
On the South Island, take a trip out to the Marlborough Sounds for more dolphin-watching or kayaking. There are several vineyards you can visit. At Nelson, you can make your way to the Abel Tasman National Park or the Nelson Lakes National Park, near Franz Josef on the west coast. In Franz Josef, you can try the glacier walk or take a look at scenic Mount Cook. If you proceed to Wanaka, you can go exploring canyons or do some breath-taking skydiving. At Queenstown, you may consider the Shotover Jet or take a plunge on the bungee. You should spend a day in Christchurch, the biggest city on the South Island, before you head back to Auckland for your flight out.
Best time to go
The warm months in New Zealand are between November and April, and this is the best time for outdoor trips. If you want to avoid crowds – not only other tourists but also local folks– try not to visit key sites from mid-December to early February. However, these months are also filled with wine festivals, concerts, and sports events, so you could miss out on some beautiful cultural sights.
The slightly cooler transition months of October/November and April/May may be the best times to visit. Winter is June to August, so if you prefer winter activities, take these months for skiing.
Planning your trip
Three weeks is the usual “quick trip” people spend in New Zealand. The official websites of major towns and cities give you plenty of information to make good plans, but don’t try to fit too many places and things into a short time. For clothes, you can pack as little as possible; in this country, anything casual is fine.
You’ll need some warm clothes if you go hiking, and be sure to have a waterproof jacket or raincoat as the weather can change very quickly. If you plan to spend some time camping, a three-season sleeping bag should do fine. Make sure your camping gear is clean when you arrive at Auckland international airport. There may be inspections and disinfections by the agriculture ministry on your gear – the country is a big producer of cattle and sheep, and these need protection from pestilence.