New Zealand is rightfully known as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We spent almost 3 months driving all over the country, and at the time I thought each new place was prettier than the last.
These 8 places and experiences are the ones that I loved the best, and are the ones I will keep telling everyone who wants to hear about. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re a Tolkien fan or an animal fan or whether you prefer to drive, sail or fly.
Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
I am not much of a hiker – to be perfectly honest I’ve never had a proper hike before in my life. That’s why my first reaction to seeing the Tongariro track, which in the brochure was said to be 7 hours long, was ‘No way I can do that!’. Well I did, and I am so unutterably happy that I did. The weather was absolutely amazing – strong winds at the top of the volcanoes, but not a cloud in sight. The landscape was so special – a true experience of being in a place that you simply could not have gone to any other way than by walking. And then, when you’ve put all the high bits behind you and you’re about to walk all the way down again, the view slowly opens up to something almost otherworldly. Would do again if I got the chance.
As I am a big Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit nerd, it was a given that we had to go and see Hobbiton. It was expensive and brimming with tourists (such as ourselves), but I enjoyed it so much nonetheless. It was fantastic to actually see this very big movie set and hear about the immense care to detail that had been taken. The 2 hour tour was concluded in the Green Dragon, where we had some surprisingly good beer and meat pie.
If you go to Hobbiton you really shouldn’t cheat yourself out of staying at Brock’s Place, a campsite just a few kilometers down the road from Hobbiton. The owner is sweet, there’s a lemon tree in the garden that may be plucked from, and you get this view from the campsite.
We met a guy in Nelson who recommended that if we were to drive to Christchurch, we should drive through Arthur’s Pass. This turned out to be a very good advice. The road mostly lay at the bottom of the valley, rather than worming it’s way across up on the sides of the mountains as the roads in New Zealand tend to do.. It was such a beautiful drive, and I am hereby passing on the advice.
Dolphins at Akaroa
Akaroa is a small peninsula close to Christchurch, and it is home to, apart from an old French community, the oldest sailboat in New Zealand (from 1922 I think). We went for a ride, and got to see all kinds of animals – blue penguins, albatrosses, seals, and a few Hector’s Dolphins, a small and quite rare dolphin breed. That whole trip was amazing, but seeing those dolphins – well, that was something special. At least for someone like me who has never been any closer to a wild dolphin before..!
Driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy
I read somewhere that this particular one hour drive is rated among the 10 most beautiful in the world. I was lucky enough to get to drive that route a couple of times, both in sunny and cloudy weather, and I have to concur – it looks fantastic no matter what!
Horse riding in the Glenorchy area
Glenorchy is a small village on the road north from Queenstown, and you would probably overlook it if you didn’t have to go through it to get any further. Based just outside the village is Dart Stables, which conduct horse riding tours for beginners to experienced riders, into the landscape around the city. I have about 10 years of riding experience, but never before have I been galloping beneath mountains and through rivers. Unbeatable!
Helicopter flight from Wanaka
Since I am a certified helicopter pilot it was a big dream of mine to actually try and fly in New Zealand, a place with quite a few more challenges than my home country of Denmark. I was out for about one hour with the guidance of an instructor from Wanaka Helicopters. We flew up to land on a couple of the mountains close to Wanaka, and finished off racing over a river, just a few meters over the ground, with 70 miles an hour. That was fun! If you don’t know how to fly a helicopter (or airplane) there are still plenty of options in both Wanaka and Queenstown for sightseeing flights. I only have experience with Wanaka Helicopters who I was very happy to have flown with.
Driving through Fiordland National Park
We had been told by so many brochures and people that Milford Sound – that is, the sound itself – was the Umpth Wonder of the World and so on. While I thought it was beautiful (we took a boat tour), the drive there from Queenstown was what did it for me, especially from Te Anau to Milford. The colors, the steep mountains, the immense plateaus made it into my favourite place in the whole country.
What were your favourites from New Zealand? Or would you like to visit one of these? Comment below!
New Zealand as Middle Earth: North Island
New Zealand as Middle Earth: South Island
On Road Tripping in New Zealand
The Beginner’s Guide to Hiking in New Zealand
Horseback Riding in Glenorchy, New Zealand