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12 Experiences In New Zealand

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Firstly it was summer when we travelled around New Zealand but never fear snow still does get a mention. Skydiving, bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating on the other hand, DON’T! It’s not that we didn’t want to because jumping off something super tall with only a rope around my ankles sounds super thrilling, right? Well for us time and money were our enemies and without even meaning to we went to New Zealand without doing anything extreme. As this post will show it can be done and in fact if you are travelling on a budget I would recommend it.

We were only in the land of the long white cloud for 18 days, which was perfect for us, and as a local said ‘there are only two nationalities that are silly enough to come to New Zealand for two or three weeks. That is the Aussies and the Americans.’ I totally agree because NZ is so close for us Aussies and we know we will be back to explore even more at a later date. During our short time in this magnificent country we saw some incredible sights that 100% exceeded our expectations. Not matter when you visit NZ is amazing, however if you do wish to maximise everything check out when is the best time to visit New Zealand.

Table Of Contents

White Island, Volcano Experience – NO LONGER AVAILABLE

On the 9th of December 2019, White Island changed forever. What was one of our favourite elements of our New Zealand trip, is no longer available after the horrific eruption that occurred. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased and injured.

Kayaking Milford Sound – Fiordland, South Island

The sheer awe of Milford Sound is enough for most people let alone kayaking 12kms through it. Rosco’s Kayaking shows you Milford Sound from a different perspective. After taking a boat ride into the middle of the sound you jump in your kayaks ready to paddle back.  We paddled into a waterfall, filmed seals on the rocks at the base of the sheer cliffs and spent approximately 4 hours taking in the beauty of the sound. A slightly sore back at the end was well worth this experience.

Further details:
$189NZ includes the fully guided kayaking tour the ‘Stirling Sunriser’ through Rosco’s Milford Kayaks, from 9am to 2pm with all kayaking and safety gear included.

Other tours of different difficulty and prices are available, see Rosco’s Milford Kayaks.

Mount Aspiring National Park – South Island

We had the privilege of driving through this incredible national park twice and I wish we got to spend even more time there. Just the drive through the scenery is worth it on the way to the West Coast of the South Island. If you have time there are a multitude of walks through this natural beauty. Of the few we did our favourite quick stroll was definitely to the Blue Pools. As the name suggests these pools of a deep blue colour are beautiful and exceeded our expectations.

Want extra ideas for the Mt Aspiring National Park check out Thrifty Family Travels 16 Free Family Activities In New Zealand

Scenic Flight over the Southern Alps – Lake Tekapo, South Island

Yes, it was expensive but was it worth it? 100% unequivocally it was. On our 50 minute flight over the Southern Alps we got up close and personal with the top of Mt Cook, NZ’s tallest mountain. Saw the beginning (if you call the top the beginning) of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and witnessed how blue and spectacular glacial lakes are. The photos really say it all.

Further details:
$340NZ gets you a 50-minute flight over the Southern Alps and was the cheapest we could find at the time. Flights leave from a range of places, we left from Lake Tekapo. For further info check out Air Safaris.

For further ideas of South Island experiences check out Exploring Kiwi’s and their 10 Incredible Things To Do In New Zealand: South Island

Queen Charlotte Drive, Nelson to Picton – South Island

We didn’t plan to take this road but more the route our GPS told us was best. I never thought I would say this but thank you annoying electronic device for giving us a slow yet spectacular trip to the town of Picton. This road was easily the slowest we travelled on due to its constant sharp turns. Up and down the sides of cliffs we went as we meandered our way overlooking stunning fiords.

Looking for other amazing areas to drive in the South Island? Check out this 10 days South Island Road Trip Itinerary

The quaint town of Rapahoe – West Coast, South Island

The town of Rapahoe was a town we stumbled upon and stayed a night in. The Caravan Park in Rapahoe is like nothing I have seen before. Run by an old couple, the wife sits in her caravan knitting, while her husband, shirtless, keeps the park in good working order. There is badminton, a pool and not to mention the showers, which were located in a common sitting room where the tv and kitchen were. Odd, I know, and unlike anything I have witnessed before. Rapahoe also gets this mention not just for its odd and quaint caravan park but for its pub on the beach. Easily the best burger I had in NZ, yes I would rate it over the infamous Fergburger in Queenstown. Definitely worth a feed if you are passing through.

Need more ideas for travel around the South Island? Check out this one-week road trip itinerary of New Zealand’s South Island.

Spa Park, FREE Hot Springs – Lake Taupo, North Island

Why pay for hot springs when you can experience them in nature for free! We found that there are a multitude of spas where you pay to sit in the warm geothermal waters of New Zealand. The water is taken from nature and filtered into man made pools for you to experience, which to me isn’t the true experience at all. Therefore if you want the natural experience when in Lake Taupo head to Spa Park. After a short walk from the carpark you come to a river and a small section of waterfalls with hot geothermal water. It is literally like a hot shower and bath all in one and is like nothing I have experienced before.

Spending the morning in snow and the afternoon swimming in Lake Taupo – North Island

Taking the chair lift up to the beautiful Mt Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park in the middle of summer results in still being able to see and play in snow.  On leaving Mt Ruapehu it was approximately a 1-2 hour drive to the free camp spot of 5 mile Bay Recreation Reserve on Lake Taupo. We were lucky enough to score a lake side spot and a few metres from our van was the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo. It was here we were able to swim in the warm waters of Lake Taupo literally three hours after playing in the snow.

Sand boarding at the end of 90 Mile Beach – Northland, North Island

Fair to say I was terrified. JLO left me huffing and puffing walking up a monstrous sand dune while he bounded up leaving me in his wake. Therefore I was left fearing for my life at the top of a sand dune about to throw myself on a body board down it. What a rush it was! Only a few minor sand burns were left on ones feet but the rush of adrenaline was well worth it.  We had this opportunity as part of a full day guided tour to Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand.

For more info check out Cape Reinga Tours.

The flight into Queenstown – South Island

Earlier I mentioned the scenic flight over the Southern Alps was a must, yet expensive. If money is an issue for you, you can get a similar experience by planning your flight into New Zealand via Queenstown. I have never experienced anything like it. Having mountains either side of your plane as you are landing is something you can’t really describe and needs to be experienced. Unfortunately I was far too gobsmacked to have my camera out so this is something you will have to book to experience. Not flying into Queenstown? The next best way to check out the views of Queenstown are via some incredible day hikes.

Looking for other unique transport options with views? Check out the train from Wellington to Auckland on the North Island as well as the train from Christchurch to Greymouth on the South Island. 

Interested in what else you can do in Queenstown? Check out the ultimate guide to things to do in Queenstown.

Fox Glacier & The West Coast – South Island

The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is incredible. It is rugged, it is wet, it is picturesque and is a place I wish I got to explore further. Fox Glacier, situated on the West Coast, is Franz Josef Glacier’s little bro. Geographically it was easier for us to get to and was also less touristy, which sold it to us straight away. We chose to do a guided walk to terminal face of the glacier for $59NZ each and in hindsight I wouldn’t have worried. The public can get almost as close to the terminal face as the guided tour and hence save your money on that one. The glacier has receded quite a bit in recent times so if you are travelling to NZ make sure you visit because one day it may not be there.

If you want to be more adventurous and step foot on the Glacier check out Passport Collective’s guide to Hiking Fox Glacier

Love hiking? Need another hike to do on the West Coast? Check out The Ridgeline’s – Copland Track in Westland, New Zealand.

For different tours to Fox Glacier including helicopter trip check out Fox Guides.

Hiring a campervan for the entirety of the trip

A favourite aspect of the trip was having our home on wheels. As the pictures portray we went through the company Jucy and what a fantastic company they were. Our first vehicle, Jules pictured above, was a smaller vehicle with a broken air conditioner. When notifying Jucy we were able to make a stop in Christchurch and were offered an upgrade for the hassle. We then hit the road in Julius, pictured below. After the initial sadness of leaving Jules behind we grew found of Julius and realised this was the type of vehicle we should have started with. The bigger van with a few extra creature comforts made our trip of New Zealand the best it could be. Between booking in to the odd caravan park and free camping we experienced all types of campervanning in NZ.

Paired up with the app Camping NZ, approximately $20AU, that worked without the internet we were unstoppable on our road trip of New Zealand.

Want more tips on driving in New Zealand check out Bel Around the World’s latest post on Driving In New Zealand The First Time.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with our list? Are there places you think are better or don’t deserve to be on there? Has this helped you with your travels to New Zealand? We would love to hear your feedback.