2. Whale watching in Kaikoura
If possible, we always go for a cruise with a goal to watch whales in their habitat. We have always enjoyed this activity, and that is why we could not miss it in New Zealand either. Kaikoura is an ideal place to do so, because of the shape of its sea bed. Close to the sea shore, the sea gets very deep quickly, which apart from watching birds, seals, dolphins and various sea animals, allows you to see one of the largest whales in the world. Giant Sperm Whale, or cachalot, is a mammal which dives down to the deepest waters. Watching cachalots is more difficult than regular whale watching, because of their long dive time, and thus their ability to swim long distances underwater. There are cruises on which you simply won’t spot a single sperm whale. Between dives they go up to the surface to take a breath, and stay there for 8-10 minutes. Which is a very short time for a ship to spot and move towards them. Generally, sperm whales dive 400m deep and they take about 30-45 minutes long. That is also how long we waited for them to re-emerge in the same place, we had spotted them for the first time. And it was worth it. It worked. They showed up, and thanks to this experience Kaikoura made a really big impression on me.
3. Bungee jumping in Queenstown
The atmosphere of this conventional holiday town at the Wakatipu lake really astonished us. We could easily see ourselves staying longer in this place, playing frisbee golf in the Queenstown Gardens. An interesting game if you ask me, where you must throw a disc into a chain basket. Queenstown is a touristic centre with an average 1 million visits per annum. It is also the main New Zealand’s centre for practising winter sports. Because of the wide range of adrenaline activities practised here, it is also known as the main adventurous and adrenaline fuelled fun town in the world. Apart from the regular adrenaline water sports, you can also try to bungee jump. What you should go for is a Kawaru Bungy from the adjacent Kawaru Bridge. It is actually the first commercial bungee jump in the world, which was founded by J. Hackett in 1988. You can enjoy this experience right in the world home of bungee; tandem, or water touch, for approximately 200 NZ dollars per person.
4. Cruise in Milford Sound
Milford Sound is a fjord and one of the main attractions of the South Island, situated in Fiordland National Park. Apart from the touristic trails around it, tourists come here seeking the experience of seeing this spectacular piece of land from deck of a ship. There is a wide range of cruises to choose from. Cruises taking hours, two days, day, or night cruises. Plenty of choices to make, and decide which to go for, but don’t forget to book in advance in high season. It is surely worth to consider kayaking in Milford Sound, which offers a different angle at the fjord, and brings you even closer to get in touch with nature as such. There is one thing, which you – as a possible future visitor, should know about. A bit of a nuisance alright, bearable though, if you are aware and prepared for it. I have never ever in my life of a traveller, come across such annoying insect. Sandflies will ruthlessly attack you, as soon as you get out of your shelter, or when you stop to take a picture. They are everywhere. And there are thousands of them. Their bite is very unpleasant, and the legend says that their presence is supposed to protect this place, by keeping people away from it. Sandflies are very unyielding creatures, but the beauty of this spot and a good repellent in your bag will make it up to you for sure.
5. Camping at New Zealand Lakes
You can find some gorgeous lakes in New Zealand, especially in its south part. Wanaka, Taupo, Pukaki, Tekapo are generally known and popular, but there are other water gems to see too. Lake Rotoiti was the one that won our attention. It is not the most visited, largest and by far the best known lake in NZ, but we got attracted to its specific atmosphere. Cloudy sky just underlined the dramatic vibe of this already quite photogenic place, and made it a perfect object for our camera. We enjoyed camping around the lakes profoundly. Solitude and peace. There is nothing more, than to fall asleep and wake up in the nature’s womb itself.
6. Hiking in Mt.Cook National Park
The National Park of Mt. Cook and everything around it, that was really something! It is thought to be the best mountain climbing region in the whole Australasia – meaning: Australia, New Zealand, and all the islands in the Pacific Ocean. You can find high mountains here, of which 20 are higher than 3000 m.a.s.l., with the New Zealand’s highest peak being Mt. Cook, 3724m. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be a professional mountain climber to be able to enjoy the beauty of this place. There are about 10 less demanding hiking trails, which are accessible and easily managed by kids, or those less skilled ones. The most popular tracks are Hooker Valley and Tasman Valley tracks. At the end of those, you are going to find glaciers named after the tracks. Glaciers cover 40% of the Mt.Cook National Park, with Tasman Glacier being the longest one. Melted part of the glacier has formed a lake at the bottom of it, where you can take a boat, if you want to get closer to the glacier itself. Hooker Valley track is a bit longer, but a very pleasant walk, which will not take longer than 3 hours. It offers spectacular views of the mountains surrounding it, photogenic vistas just made for your camera, and terrain which is not demanding much at all.
7. Beer in Hobbiton
Hobbiton is more or less a very commercial and overpriced thing, but if you are a fan of stories which happened in it, then it is impossible to resist the temptation to visit. It is going to cost you 80 bugs, to get the guide share some interesting facts from building the village and from filming with you and 20 other people. You can walk around the magical faerie hobbit place, but it is going to be a bit difficult (if not impossible) to take a picture with no tourist in it. Which can be kind of annoying. At the end of the 2 hour tour, you can enjoy a pint of beer in The Green Dragon™ Inn. The first beer is covered by your admission fee, and you are not likely to have time for more pints, because of the whole bus crew ready to go back to the tourist centre.
8. Fleeing high tide at the Elephant Rock
The Elephant Rock is a rock formation in the sea, west of the North Island. Its shape is the one of an elephant, and it stands right next to another rock formation known as Three Sisters. All of these formations are accessible only at low tide. (The time of which I highly recommend to check in advance) We got there when the sea level began rising again, and as you can see in the video, we had to hurry up a bit with the sight seeing. On the way back, we had to ford in certain places. The getaway from high tide was fun and a little adrenaline adventure, but next time I would definitely take more time for exploring this place as such. The Elephant Rock and Three Sisters in its background were worth to pay a visit to, and if you can, put it on your ‘Must see’ list. We’ve seen the Elephant Rock two days before the earthquake, which is said had damaged the rock itself, and caused the elephant lose its trunk. If you have been to the place, and can confirm this piece of information with some photos, feel free to post them to me.