Major Tourist Attractions: Milford Sound, Sky Tower, Bay of Islands, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Aukland Zoo, Eden Park
One of the hottest destinations on the planet for the 21st Century is New Zealand, thanks in large part to the genius of Peter Jackson and his visualization of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
You don’t even have to love Hobbits or J.R.R. Tolkien to love New Zealand, but it helps. Just watch a few minutes of one of the movies and you’ll be hooked on the spectacular effects Mother Nature has put in place here: glaciers, waterfalls, snow-covered mountain peaks, volcanoes, beautiful beaches, rich forests and so much more.
The people of New Zealand are called Kiwis and they are proud to call themselves just a little bit crazy when it comes to outdoor activities and athletic pursuits. These are the people who have made bungee jumping a national pastime. They invented jet boats, the Zorb, and any number of pushing-the-envelope kind of activities for thrill seekers. As one crazy Kiwi told us, “We have national health insurance and take advantage of that emergency room as often as possible.” (And if you’re visiting to try these activities, you might want to invest in a RoamRight Adventure travel insurance policy.)
New Zealand is divided into two islands, creatively named the North Island and the South Island. If you don’t have time to visit both islands, it’s hard to say which one you should choose, because both are fabulous for its scenery, its Maori culture and its cities. The South Island is a little less populated and more agricultural; the North Island a bit more mountainous and home to the capital of Wellington, known in movie making circles as Welly-wood.
English is the national language, so that’s a relief for North American travelers. But you’ll have to listen closely at times to understand this fun, clipped accent that’s part British, part Aussie and uniquely Kiwi.
Here are some of things to do that make this trip to the southern hemisphere so memorable:
- Bungee jump – anywhere
- Find a colony of fur seals and watch them play in the surf
- Watch the sun set on the Tasman Sea
- Buy some art on Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland
- Jump off the Sky Tower in Auckland, the tallest manmade structure in the southern hemisphere
- Get your Frodo Baggins on with a visit to Hobbiton, a filming location near Matamata
- Rub noses in greeting at Rotorua, the home of the Maori culture
- Hike the Tongariro Crossing, a tough route but great view of the North Island
- Soak in the Hamner Hot Springs
- Go under water at Lake Te Aunu and the GlowWorm Caves
- Explore the trails around Mount Cook in the Aoraki National Park
- Climb on the Pancake Rocks at Parapoa National Park
- Spend a day volunteering at Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington
- Cruise the Milford Sound
- Take a flight-seeing excursion over the Franz Josef Glacier
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