New-Zealand: best things to do

I have to admit it: I am a big fan of New-Zealand, and so far, it’s my favorite country. Here are the reasons why and the best things I did and enjoyed there.


1. Swimming with dolphins

In the East of Northland (Northern part of the North Island), there’s one of New-Zealand gem: the Bay of Islands. The flora is quite Mediterranean, and it’s one of New-Zealander best spot to spend the summer holidays, especially on boat sailing between more than a hundred of islands. There I had the occasion to swim with dolphins. NZ has one of the rare growing population of dolphins in its natural environment. This means swimming with those dolphins is a different experience than swimming with dolphins in some aquatic park. For example, you can’t touch them, because they remain wild. But it’s definitely a great experience, just to be in the water with them, swimming and playing around you, and you can hear their songs. This experience is quite physical because they swim very fast, but it’ll make you feel part of nature and its beauty.

In the Bay of Islands was also signed the Waitangi Treaty. You can visit the historical site. Nearby in the forest, you can see some of the tallest trees on Earth, Kauri trees. On the other side of the coast, there’s the mythic 90 miles beach, an interesting drive, before reaching Cape Reinga, the most Northerly point of NZ, with its beautiful scenic.

2. Speleology with glow-worms

Still in Northland, you should make a detour to visit the Waitomo Caves. If you’re not claustrophobic, speleology is the best way to discover it. I never did it before, and I really enjoyed abseiling along a waterfall, crawling in a small tunnel, climbing rocks. The underground is another world, not cold, not warm, sometimes there’s water, and sometimes it’s dry, but it’s all mineral. I quickly understood why I had to wear a helmet, as I was not really used to get a roof so low. I banged my head several times into it. The great reward for all this is the glow worms. It’s almost the only life you can find there. In a large cave, the guide asked to shut down the light, and suddenly a sky full of stars appeared. There are thousands of glow worms shining in the dark, a magnificent show.

3. Geothermal Wonderland

Rotorua is a must-see in New-Zeland, its geothermal area. Honestly, it’s true, it often smells like a rotten egg because of the sulfur in the atmosphere, but it worths it. There you can see some geysers, like the Pohutu which gushes at 30min or the Lady Knox which gushes every day at 10:15 am (I let you guess how this is possible). There are two great sites you must visit. In Wai-O-Tapu you’ll see of course some mud pool boiling, but also some caves from which hot stream is escaping, silica terraces, some lakes with strange colors with the most famous one “Champagne pool” (be carefully it’s really hot, 74°C, and acid). The other great site is Waimangu Valley, which was created by the eruption of the volcano Mount Tarawera in 1886, which means it’s the youngest geothermal site on Earth. You’ll see smoking lakes, like the Frying Pan 55°C (very acid PH is 3,5), a 50°C little river, and the Inferno crater with its 80°C lake (Ph 2,1). No need to mention: don’t touch anything and strictly follow the path.

Rotorua is also a great place to discover the Maori culture, there are daily representations of the Haka, the famous Maori dance performed by the All Blacks the national rugby team, before every match.

4. Tongariro crossing

This is the best hiking day you can in New-Zealand, across the Tongariro National Park, and its volcanoes. Probably the most famous one is Mt Ngauruhoe (2287m), used as the Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings. The walk is 17 km long and can take 7 hours for the slowest. It’s not really a hard walk, even if the ground is made of ashes. Sometimes the landscape made of volcanic rocks looks like Moon ground. The reward is at the top, where you’ll discover beautiful blue lakes you must not touch as there are very acid. From the top, if the weather is good enough, you can enjoy a wonderful 360° view, including Lake Taupo.

5. Te Papa Tongarewa

Wellington is New-Zealand capital city, more commonly known as Windy city, and home of the National Museum Te Papa Tongarewa, well located on the seafront. This museum is really well made, interactive. At the same time, it’s interesting regarding the History and Culture of New-Zealand, the Maori people, the colonization, but it’s also artistic.

6. Whales Watch

If there’s a place on Earth where I’ll probably settle myself one day, it’s in Kaikoura. Located on the East coast of the South Island, Kaikoura is a small peninsula, from where you can see the Southern Alps ending into the Pacific Ocean. People don’t visit this place because of its rocky beach, but because of its underwater pit, which attracts Sperm Whales. It’s the best place in New-Zealand to watch whales, and also black and white dolphins (as well as seals along the road).

7. Fjord cruise

On the Southwestern coast of the South Island, there’s the Fjordland National Park, where you can fjords. The most famous and visited one is Milford Sound. You can book a trip from Queenstown (capital of adventure sports) across this Park, to reach the fjord where you can enjoy a cruise. I really recommend you to do this cruise. The boat can take you under giant waterfalls (especially after rain) and you’ll probably see some seals, laying and sunbathing on the rocks.

November 2007 to January 2008 – Working Holiday Visa