New Zealand Adventures
May 21, 2012 § 1 Comment
New Zealand may be famous its for rugby, sheep and Lord of the Rings, but head to this slice of paradise and you’ll soon realise there is so much more to experience.
From stunning landscapes, glow-worm caves, wine tasting and bungee jumping, this island in the South Pacific has it all.
New Zealand has an incredibly diverse landscape including 15,000km of coastline, mountains, native forests, glaciers and volcanic plateaus.
One of the most rewarding ways of experiencing the beauty of the country is to take one (or more) of Kiwi Rail’s three scenic journeys, each with optional stopover points which you can explore before catching a later train.
The TranzAlpine rail takes you across the South Island, heading from Christchurch on the East coast to Greymouth on the West, carrying you through farmland, the alpine Arthur’s Pass, and beech forests.
For another South Island adventure, board the Coastal Pacific for a 98km journey along the coastline. You again start from the garden city, Christchurch and arrive at the port of Picton where you can catch a ferry to the North Island.
The final Kiwi Rail scenic adventure, the Overlander, takes you on a twelve hour journey, travelling nearly the entire length of the North Island from the largest city, Auckland, to the capital, Wellington. Throughout the day you’ll traverse through native forests, over river gorges and cross the volcanic plateau.
Whether you choose to travel in one of the carriages, or face the elements and stand outside, you’ll have the perfect opportunity for photographing the breath-taking scenery.
With such diverse landscapes, it should be no surprise that there are a number of natural encounters awaiting you in New Zealand.
For relaxation, head to Rotorua in the centre of the North Island, which has been attracting visitors since the 1800s due to its natural geothermal activity, producing geysers, mud pools and thermal springs.
The Polynesian Spa is one of the best in the city. Located alongside the shores of Lake Rotorua, this spa offers 26 hot mineral bathing pools. In addition there are a range of spa therapies provided, including massage (aromatherapy and relaxation), facials as well as body wraps and scrubs.
For a truly unique experience, visit the Waitomo Glow-worm Caves, a two-hour drive from Rotorua. The glow-worm Arachnocampa luminosa, are only found in New Zealand, and in the darkness they radiate their luminescent light.
The 45 minute tour of the subterranean caves takes you through the ‘Cathedral’, an area famous for its acoustics, and in which New Zealand opera singer, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa once sang.
You then board a boat to glide silently through the Glow-worm Grotto, where thousands of the insects glimmer, creating the impression of being beneath the stars.
On visiting Aotearoa (the Maori word for the country, meaning ‘land of the long white cloud’) a personal encounter with the indigenous Maori culture is all but mandatory. And one of the most authentic experiences is with the highly regarded Tamaki Maori Village tour, in Rotorua.
The evening starts on a waka (journey) where the protocols are explained to you and a leader is chosen. This is followed by the te wero (challenge) where you are greeted by a haka and a Powhiri (female dance) and walk through a recreated marae (village).
After speeches, song and dance in the wharenui (meeting house) you are invited to enjoy a hangi – a traditional Maori meal, which is cooked for hours under the ground on hot rocks. The evening finishes with a poroporoaki, or closing ceremony, composed of song and speeches.
While touring through New Zealand, don’t think a Maori evening is the only cultural experience to be had. Head to Wellington, the windy little capital and soak up its café culture.
Here, cafés are all about being independent, with hardly a chain store in sight (the exception being a Starbucks or two). Now, that may frighten some of you: at least with a chain store you know what kind of coffee you are getting, for better or worse.
But walk along trendy, pedestrianized Cuba Street, lined with cafés, tables and chairs spilling out into the street and you can’t help but be tempted to pop in and try a taste of independence.
Personal favourites include the classy Floriditas Café and Restaurant, which serves elegant, locally sourced food throughout the day and the relaxed Midnight Espresso, a late-night café, offering a wide vegetarian menu and Havana coffee.
Slightly North of Wellington sits the Wairarapa region and another cultural experience: wine tasting.
Visit the Te Kairanga vineyard, in the small town of Martinborough, where the staff are extremely knowledgeable and for a mere £2.64 you can taste the entire range, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, accompanied by New Zealand cheeses.
Frequently described as the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand offers a wide range of adrenaline-fuelled thrills that literally take your breath away.
For starters there is paragliding, jet boating, white-water rafting and sky diving, but for a classic New Zealand adventure you can’t go past a bungee jump.
Pioneered by New Zealander A.J Hackett, along with Henry van Asch, the original bungee jump is the 43metre Kawarau Bridge bungee, located just 20km from the tourist-centric city of Queenstown in the middle of the South Island.
It is just one of many bungee jumping options throughout the country. Mandy Lim, 23, bunged off the Gravity Canyon bridge in Taihape, which at 80metres is New Zealand’s highest bridge bungee.
She described the experience as being a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing.
“There are a million things running through your mind and body before you bungee jump. It’s exciting but terrifying at the same time,” she said.
“You definitely have a huge amount of adrenaline pumping through you mostly because at the end you can’t believe you are still alive and didn’t plummet to your death.”
Another adrenaline-fuelled adventure is the Sky Jump off the Auckland Sky Tower where whilst attached to a wire you literally leap off the Tower and at roughly 85km an hour, fall 192metres to the Sky City plaza below.
All over in 11 seconds, Lonely Planet 2009 described it as, “One of the best things to throw yourself off.”
So for a memorable holidaying experience, pack your bags and head to this wonderful isle down under.
Originally written for Flying High Heels: a one-issue only magazine for Magazine course