For those who love being outdoors, New Zealand is not a bad place to be in! There are many great hikes to go on, loads of big open spaces, amazing natural wonders, plus we are very well set up when it comes to fun, adventurous outdoorsy activities. Here is our top 5 favourite activities and things to do around the country.
1. Milford Sound – by boat
Undoubtedly one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the country is Milford Sound. Located within the amazing Fiordland National Park, which is part of Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Milford Sound is actually a fiord (not a sound!), which was formed by the erosion of ancient glaciers. The waterfalls (which get bigger and better when it rains), the captivating dark waters, high cliffs, dense rainforest and rocky valleys all make this place one of the most stunning natural beauties in the country, and the world. The famous Mitre Peak, which is 1692 metres high, was named because of its resemblance with a bishop’s mitre (hat) and it is truly impressive!
One of the best ways to see Milford Sound is by boat and there are a few options there to choose from. Our favourite is the Nature Cruise by Real Journeys. This leisurely cruise will take you through the whole length of the fiord, past St Anne’s Point Lighthouse and right out to the Tasman Sea (weather permitting). They have specialist nature guides on board the cruise who will provide full commentary so you can learn about the area and the wildlife. They are also able to cater their itineraries on the day to take into consideration recent wildlife sightings which means you might be lucky enough to see seals, dolphins, and, in season, and if you’re truly lucky, the rare Fiordland crested penguins.
If you are staying in Te Anau (where most of the accommodation in the area is located), the drive is pretty long (about 3 hours) so we would recommend doing the option that includes the cruise and coach transfers. That way you can enjoy the Milford Road, one of the world’s finest alpine roads without having to worry about driving.
2. Kaikoura - Whale Watching
The seaside settlement of Kaikoura is the most northern district in the Canterbury region, located about 2 and a half hours from Christchurch. Kaikoura is world-renowned for its variety of marine mammals and spectacular coastline scenery. There, you can view sperm whales, dusky dolphins, seals, Hector dolphins and albatross all year round. Otherwise you might be lucky enough to see pods of orca between October and March, or humpback whales and blue whales between June and August.
If you are staying in Christchurch and are looking for a day trip, we would recommend doing a Kaikoura Whale Watch Tour with Leisure Tours. This day tour includes the transport from Christchurch, a whale watch cruise of course, as well as a visit to a seal colony and even a stop at a vineyard on the way back to Christchurch including a wine tasting (time permitting).
3. Wanaka - by bike
Wanaka, located in the Southern Alps in Otago, is again another breath-taking natural wonder. The beauty of Wanaka is undeniable and there’s lots to do there, all against the backdrop of Mt Aspiring National Park. So for outdoor lovers, there are tons of walks as well as multi-day hikes, and let’s not forget skiing, kayaking, off-roading, jet boating, rock climbing and more! One of our favourite ways to see the area, is by bike. There are some epic mountain bike tracks in Wanaka, in fact over 750km of tracks! You can enjoy the banks and berms of Deans Bank or explore the Minaret Burn or Dingle Burn Tracks. Or for an uphill mission and get those legs a really big workout try the Melina Ridge Track, Lindis Peak and Grandview Range Tracks (best for experienced riders). Or if you want to take it a little bit easier, there are some great bike tours in the area, and some of them are very family-friendly too. Hassle-free, these tours provide all the equipment (bikes, helmets, gloves), transport to the trails, refreshments and local guides to take you to the best spots.
4. Coromandel - Cathedral Cove by kayak
Cathedral Cove, near Hahei in the Coromandel is one of most picturesque spots in the peninsula. From Hahei, you can take a beautiful scenic walk down to the cove (about one hour one way), but one of the best ways to really explore the area around the cove is by kayaking. The Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve is a paradise of white sand beaches, caves, islands, boulders and marine life, all surrounded by crystal-clear waters. There are some great guided kayak tours you can take, which we highly recommend doing as the local guides can take you to the best spots as well as share some of the fascinating Maori legends from the area.
5. Rotorua – Redwoods Forest Treewalk
If you’re in Rotorua, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to fun outdoors activities. There’s the gondola and luge of course, the Duck boat tours, which are super fun, there’s also jet boating, the Zorb, white water rafting and way way more! But one of our favourite activities to do in Rotorua is the Redwoods Treewalk. This award-winning 700-metre walkway consists of a series of 28 suspension bridges between the majestic 118-year-old redwood trees. You will be going between heights of 9 to 20 metres, really giving you the chance to see this amazing forest from high up in the trees - although some of the trees can be as tall as 75 metres, so you won’t quite be right at the top! This is truly an awesome eco-friendly experience and great for families too (they even have special strollers for the littlest ones - available on a first come, first served basis). The forest is also evergreen so this is an activity that can be done year-round. The walk is about 40 minutes in total, and it is good for all fitness levels.
For an even more unique experience, they also offer a night time option. The Redwoods Nighlights experience features 30 amazing lanterns designed by famous designer and sustainability champion David Trubridge. The way the lanterns illuminate the forest is just magical - a great experience not to be missed!
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