New Zealand’s Top 5 Experiences
To coincide with the release of the updated New Zealand travel guide, the experts at Lonely Planet have provided us with New Zealand’s Top 5 experiences!
One of the coolest little capitals in the world, windy Wellington lives up to the hype. It’s long famed for a vibrant arts-and-music scene, fuelled by excellent espresso, a host of craft-beer bars, and more cafes and restaurants per head than New York. Edgy yet sociable, colourful yet often dressed in black, Wellington is big on the unexpected and unconventional. Erratic weather only adds zest to the experience…though it plays havoc with all those hip haircuts.
2. Tongariro National Park
At the centre of the North Island, Tongariro National Park presents an eye-popping landscape of alpine desert punctuated by three smouldering volcanoes. Often rated as one of the world’s best single-day wilderness walks, the challenging Tongariro Alpine Crossing skirts the base of two of the mountains and provides views of craters, brightly coloured lakes and the vast Central Plateau. The crossing’s popularity has skyrocketed, causing the DOC to step in and limit visitor numbers. Fortunately, there are numerous other ways to explore this alien landscape.
3. Waiheke Island & the Hauraki Gulf
A yachtie’s paradise, the island-studded Hauraki Gulf is Auckland’s aquatic playground, sheltering its harbour and east-coast bays and providing ample excuse for the City of Sails’ pleasure fleet to breeze into action. Despite the busy maritime traffic, the gulf has its own resident pods of whales and dolphins. Rangitoto Island is an icon of the city, its near-perfect volcanic cone providing the backdrop for many a tourist snapshot. Yet it’s Waiheke, with its beautiful beaches, acclaimed wineries and upmarket eateries that is Auckland’s most popular island escape.
4. Urban Auckland
Held in the embrace of two harbours and built on the remnants of long-extinct volcanoes, Auckland isn’t your average metropolis. It’s regularly rated one of the world’s most liveable cities, and while it’s never going to challenge NYC or London in the excitement stakes, it’s blessed with good beaches, wine regions and a thriving dining, drinking and live-music scene. Cultural festivals are celebrated with gusto in ethnically diverse Auckland, which has the biggest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
First settled by Maōri with their taste for seafood, Kaikoura (meaning ‘to eat crayfish’) is NZ’s best spot for both consuming and communing with marine life. Feast on crayfish, go on a fishing excursion, or take a boat tour or flight to see whales, dolphins, seals and marine bird life. In NZ, marine mammal tour operators adhere to strict guidelines developed and monitored by the country’s DOC. Following a severe earthquake in November 2016, Kaikoura has also rebounded to become a fascinating destination to observe the profound impact of seismic activity.