This is Our Guide to Must See Destinations in New Zealand
Not just a world-beating rugby team, but often seemingly at the very heart of what it is to be a New Zealander, these world-beating sports superstars transcend class and race. The pre-match haka is something else. Unlike many other major rugby nations, New Zealand does not have an official stadium for its national team, and the All Blacks play their matches at a variety of venues throughout New Zealand. Over the past few years, matches have been played in Auckland, Albany, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Dunedin.
The North Island holds many attractions for visitors, including some spectacular volcanic areas, idyllic beaches, almost tropical vegetation, and the surviving Maori culture. There’s an enormous amount to visit and see here, from the Bay of Plenty to the Coromandel peninsula, and from the East Cape to Ninety Mile Beach.
This busy commercial centre is home to more than a quarter of New Zealand’s population. Built on the waterfront, visitors may find that they can get the best views of the city, its beaches, the coast, and the mountains from the distinctive Sky Tower, a casino with a splendid circular, glass viewing gallery at its summit. At Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, visitors can walk underwater through long acrylic tunnels where they can observe large numbers of fish of all sizes, including sharks and rays. There’s also a reconstructed research station with a small colony of penguins. Other local attractions include the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), Auckland Art Gallery, the War Memorial Museum and the Winter Gardens.
Located on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region, Rotorua is well-known for geothermal activity and has become the most visited tourist area in New Zealand. Geysers and bubbling mud-pools, hot thermal springs and even a village buried by a major volcanic eruption, Te Wairoa, are all located within easy reach of the city. The hydrogen sulphide gas released by the geothermal activity produces a smell of rotten eggs, which is most noticeable on cooler and rainy days, especially when there is low cloud.
Rotorua (and close-by Whakarewarewa) has a strong Maori heritage and is a good place to witness a Maori concert of traditional songs, the haka (a Maori challenge usually witnessed before All Black rugby matches) and a hangi (a delicious feast cooked in an earth oven).In the arts centre, visitors can see how young Maori learn the skills of traditional wood, bone and greenstone carving.
Close by to Rotorua is the Waimangu Valley, which was formed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. Visitors may walk down the 4 km valley (shuttle buses are available for the return journey) where they may see the site of the world’s largest recorded geyser (Waimangu Geyser – now inactive), Inferno Crater – the world’s largest crypto geyser (geyser-like feature), Frying Pan Lake (the world’s largest hot water spring), the Waimangu Cauldron, a 4 ha lake of steaming hot water, along with a number of rare, geothermally adapted plants. A boat cruise may also be taken on Lake Rotomahana, the deepest lake in the North Island formed from 15 craters during the 1886 Tarawera Eruption.
The Waitomo Caves are located in the southern Waikato region, 12 kilometres northwest of Te Kuiti. The caves are noted for their stalactite and stalagmite displays, and for the presence of glowworms, and in fact Glowworm Grotto in Waitomo Cave is widely regarded as one of the country’s most impressive caving spectacles. There are a number of easily accessible caves that visitors may walk through; others may be explored by tubing, where the brave are kitted out with a wetsuit and helmet (complete with light) and then float through the cave system on custom-made tyres.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, located at the southern tip of the North Island, near the geographical centre of the country. Its main attraction is probably the Te Papa (Maori for ‘our country’) Museum of New Zealand, situated on the city’s pretty waterfront, which combines historical and cultural exhibitions with education and entertainment. Exhibits include explanations of how New Zealand was created, the economic significance of sheep farming and a giant canoe used as a Maori warship.
The South Island offers visitors quite a different experience to the North, with wild coastline, the west-coast fjords, the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps (including Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain), old colonial settlements, expanses of pastureland and the vineyards of Marlborough and Central Otago.
Christchurch is the regional capital of Canterbury, and is located just north of Banks Peninsula, midway down the South Island’s eastern coast. The city extends over an almost treeless plain that is bordered on the southeast by the hills, rising to some 400 m, between the city and Lyttleton Harbour (where the first settlers landed in the 19th C). Also known as the ‘Garden City’, Christchurch is home to spacious parks, well-tended gardens and numerous sports grounds – amounting altogether to more than 30 sq km of green space. The city also has some wonderful Neo-Gothic architecture that is reminiscent of an old English university town, leading many visitors to declare that it is the most British of New Zealand’s towns. Attractions include the Canterbury Museum, the botanical gardens, the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, the Old Canterbury University/Arts Centre and St Michael and All Angels Church, a beautiful wooden Neo-Gothic building containing a mixture of Maori and Catholic elements.
Located in the south west of the island, Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most striking natural wonders. Sheer peaks fall down to scuffed cliffs, over which dramatic waterfalls cascade into icy deep blue fiords below. The Sound extends inland for 15 km from its narrow mouth on the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or more on either side. Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while penguins, seals and dolphins frequent the waters.
This old gold-miners’ settlement in the south-west of the island and the east side of Lake Wakatipu is the leading adventure tourist centres on the South Island. Activities on offer include skiing, bungy jumping, paragliding, jet boating, white-water rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing and tramping.
Queenstown also has a reputation as one of New Zealand’s wine and cuisine centres. Neighbouring, historic Arrowtown features excellent bars and restaurants, and Queenstown lies close to the centre of a small wine producing region, reputed to be the world’s southernmost. Pinot noir produced in this area fetches premium prices.