Top 10 New Zealand Vacation Ideas

Oct 19, 2017 | Beautiful South, Elegant South, New Zealand Travel Advice, Pristine New Zealand, Timeless North

1. Explore the Great Walks of New Zealand.

Hikers walking along New Zealand Great Walking trail with a glacier in the background

New Zealand’s iconic countryside is made extremely accessible by over 500 stunning hiking trails that connect our densest rainforests, our most dramatic granite peaks, and every fiord, lake, river valley and rugged coastline in between. Of these hiking trails, the New Zealand government has created 9 that are deemed particularly special – New Zealand’s Great Walks, which are hand-picked for their unique characteristics, accommodation along the trail, general trail quality and safety. Choose to hike one in its entirety, or absorb a greater variety of landscapes and take day hikes on an number of nearby Great Walks. You may have heard of the Milford Track? This Great Walk deserves its fame, but believe our local advice when we tell you there’s so much more to discover than this one trail.

2. Discover our distinct wine regions.

Looking down a row of vines at a Marlborough Winery

Prepare your pallet to be put through its paces! The South Island of New Zealand is split by a famous mountain range called the Southern Alps. To the west of the Alps is dense rainforest, to the east lays the vast, dry and fertile Canterbury Plains, the southern tip of the South Island is home to harsh and barren gold mining valleys, while the northern tip of the Alps roll into fertile river planes, as the Marlborough wine region absorbs the North Island’s temperate climate to become the centrepiece of New Zealand’s wine industry.

Take your taste buds on a journey through the North Island and discover an array of soil types – from the ancient volcanic regions of the Central Plateau, tropical islands on the northern tip and warm coastal plains of the Hawkes Bay. Around 21.5km by ferry, off the coast of Auckland, you’ll find Waiheke Island – famous for its low-volume of production of outstanding, organic reds. Take a walk around the island and get a glimpse of rural New Zealand – with dense jungle and picturesque wineries rolling down into the ocean.

3. Hike, helicopter and jet boat in a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

Helicopter flying near a waterfall

The Hollyford Experience is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. This overnight experience starts by catching a helicopter from Milford Sound, flying you into Martins Bay – which is home to one of New Zealand’s most remote luxury lodges; Martins Bay Lodge. Mountainous, wild, isolated, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful are the best words to describe its surroundings.

When you land you’ll enjoy an incredible lunch as you absorb your surroundings. Take a short walk out to Long Reef for panoramic views of the wild West Coast, before enjoying dinner in pure luxury. Every diet is catered for – fresh locally grown produce will be served alongside locally-sourced venison, beef and salmon. Every meal is complemented with an array of wines – but never forget, the whole time, that you’re on a beach in the middle of one of New Zealand’s most iconic national parks.

The second day kicks off with an exhilarating jet boat ride across Lake McKerrow, before walking out along the Hollyford Track. Enjoy the ancient beech and podocarp forests, and you’ll be treated to crossing one of New Zealand’s longest swing bridges!

4. Experience real magic, in New Zealand’s smallest National Park.

Glowing phosphuressence on a beach at night time

The Abel Tasman National Park is famous for being New Zealand’s smallest, but arguably most iconic national park. Its picturesque golden sand beaches are surrounded by turquoise green ocean waters, lush native forest and New Zealand’s longest annual sunshine hours. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is part of the original 9 New Zealand Great Walks, and connects numerous campsites along its 60 kilometre (37 mile) journey. For those who prefer to stay in comfort and luxury, the Awaroa Lodge lies in the heart of this tropical wonderland and is one of New Zealand’s most iconic isolated retreats.

But there’s a hidden secret in the Abel Tasman National Park, one that only somebody who grew up near the park will tell you… and here’s how to find it:

  1. When the night is at its darkest, make your way down to the nearest beach – and try to keep your flashlights turned off for the journey. There isn’t any light pollution in the Abel Tasman, and you should be able to navigate safely under the light of the stars and moon.
  2. Make your way down to the water, and wade your way into the ocean, moving the water with your hands.
  3. Watch in awe as the ocean comes to life. Billions of ocean phosphorescence emit light as the ocean is disturbed, and the peaceful night will turn into a scene out of the movie ‘Avatar’. Take it a step further and take your swimmers. Sitting on the beach, your friends will watch you light up the ocean as you make your way through this magical wonderland. This may be the highlight of any traveller’s New Zealand experience.

5. Hike the Milford Track.

2 hikers posing for a photo high on a mountainside on the Milford Track

Without a doubt, the Milford Track is the most famous of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Starting at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau, the Milford Track spans 53.3 kilometres (33.5 miles) and meanders through dense rain forests, and scales epic granite saddles on route to Sandfly Point, in Milford Sound. But don’t be confused, many people think the trail starts and finishes in Milford Sound, where in fact a hiker’s Milford Sound experience begins once the trail is completed in its entirety.

If the full Milford Track hike sounds like something you’ll enjoy, Active Adventures will provide the entire guided walk and take care of all the finer details – so all you need to do is turn up and start walking. Otherwise, take a day hike from Sandfly Point up to the Giant Gate Falls, and get a first-hand taste of the Great Walk, while having time to cruise or sea kayak Milford Sound all in the same day.

6. Hike a volcano.

Hikers walking near emerald lakes on the Tongariro Crossing

Tongariro National Park is home to New Zealand’s volcanic activity, and arguably the world’s greatest day walk – the Tongariro Crossing. This 19.4 kilometre (12.1 mile) walk passes over Mount Tongariro, an active volcano with scattered crystal blue crater pools and live steam vents. Hikers will walk through a variety of landscapes, including ancient lava fields, wetland boardwalks, barren alpine peaks and lush rainforest.

But due to its popularity, the Tongariro Crossing does get fairly crowded and loses a bit of its wilderness feel. So if you would prefer to avoid the crowds and get a unique experience in this volcanic World Heritage Area, take a walk along the lower slopes of Mt Ruapehu – which is another active volcano nearby to Tongariro. The Silica Rapids walk follows a cascading stream through beech forest, to an incredible outlook over milky white terraced rapids. Thousands of years of volcanic activity have formed these natural beauties, and the best part… nobody knows they exist! But now you do, so enjoy the peaceful tranquility.

7. Explore an ancient island.

View of misty islands and bays

New Zealand’s North Island is surrounded by small uninhabited islands. Some of the most famous island areas include the Bay of Islands, the Poor Knights, and the Bay of Plenty – where you’ll find the lesser known Moutohora Island.

Access to Moutohora Island is strictly controlled by the Department of Conservation – because in 1965 it was declared a wildlife refuge. Now, it’s home to 190 native plant species, and it’s a bird lover’s paradise. In a day of exploring the islands, walkers have the chance to see saddleback/tieke, kakariki/red crowned parakeet, little brown kiwi, bellbirds, tui, grey warbler and many species of sea birds. Keep an eye out for the nearby NZ fur seal colony while you’re there too!

8. Explore the adventure capital of the world – Queenstown.

Shotover Jet Boat motoring through a canyon on the Shotover River

Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, near the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island – Queenstown has earnt itself the name of Adventure Capital of the World. The giant granite peaks of the surrounding Southern Alps set the scene for an array of outdoor adventure activities. In the winter you’ll be within an hour’s drive of 4 of New Zealand’s best ski fields, and those fields turn into a mountain biking haven in summer. You’ll find paragliders floating around the peaks, sky divers freefalling over the lake, jet boats gliding their way through canyons, bungee jumpers leaping from bridges or cable cars, and the hiking is world class.

In the evening, the town comes to life with an eclectic mix of eateries and bars. The lakefront is lit up with talented street performers, and a ride up the Skyline gondola will give you a bird’s eye view of the bright lights of the medium-sized town. Queenstown really might be the most exciting town in the world, but if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, there are dozens of waterfront bars and restaurants that will give you stunning lake views, in a peaceful environment.

9. Take a boat ride under a waterfall, in Milford Sound.

Misty granite mountain with waterfalls streaming down it

Milford Sound is famously regarded as the ‘8th Wonder of the World’, an assertion that will never be challenged by any visitor to the great fiord. As travellers enter Milford Sound from the Homer Tunnel, they’re met by a cul-de-sac of giant granite peaks… and this is a moment that will stand the hairs on your neck, and your camera won’t keep up with the shutter button. The peaks of Milford Sound are often clad in thousands of waterfalls as a result of Milford Sound’s 300 days of rainfall each calendar year, and the mountains not absorbing a drop of it.

As you journey further down into the sound, meandering your way through the thick and lush rainforest, you’ll soon catch glimpses of the black waters of the famous fiord. All of this rainfall washes a tannin from the forest that sits in a 4 metre deep layer of fresh water on the surface of the fiord – which absorbs light as it enters the water. But Milford is carved out by an ancient glacier, so you won’t find a beach between the mountains and the ocean along the sides of the fiord. Therefore, this tannin-filled rain water forms giant waterfalls, falling straight from mountains to the ocean. And something that perfects the picture, is New Zealand’s clean and green image. You won’t find any rubbish or debris in sight, it’s 100% pure – a philosophy that hasn’t made it to many of the 7 traditional Wonders of the World.

Exploring Milford Sound can be a kayak trip at sunrise, paddling your way out as the steam rises off the mystical fiord. Otherwise a charter cruise is a great option – and a great way to have a waterfall-shower as the captain gently places the nose of the boat under one of the tremendous waterfalls.

10. Stay in the world’s most luxurious NetZero Energy campground.

Bed and bedroom inside a cabin at Headwaters Camp Glenorchy

Camping at the head of Lake Wakatipu on a campground in the heart of New Zealand’s most iconic mountains should be at the top of your bucket-list of New Zealand experiences. Although it’s called ‘camping’ and you’re in an incredible wilderness location – Mrs Woolly’s Campground is certainly not your average camping experience – it’s ‘glamping’ at its finest. The luxury cabins are so quiet and air tight that an o2 sensor controls the air quality while you’re sleeping, and you’ll be cosy and warm even in the harshest winter temperatures. It’s all made possible by the solar field, on-site ground-sourced heating system and extensive insulation detailing. The toilets are composting, but we promise you won’t be able to smell them.

Camp Glenorchy was developed to make a statement, telling the world that it’s possible to live off-the-grid, be 100% sustainable, retain the down to earth Kiwi camping experience, and treat guests to 5 star luxury comforts. And the best part? The campground was developed by a generous developer who placed the ownership in a trust, and gifted it to the small town of Glenorchy. So staying at Camp Glenorchy isn’t only helping the planet, but it’s also helping to grow a beautiful community in the heart of New Zealand’s most iconic mountains.

Start Planning Your New Zealand Vacation Today!

As you can see, there’s so much to see and do in New Zealand. But don’t forget that us Kiwis live in a small country, and it’s possible to show you it all in a relatively short time. So start planning your New Zealand vacation today, simply request a free New Zealand tour brochure below and we’ll send you an amazing info pack straight to your email inbox, or post one to your street address… anywhere in the world. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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