New Zealand is unlike any other country in the world! Split into two main islands, this outstanding land is covered with natural wonders like volcanoes, mountains, waterfalls, fjords, and canyons that are home to rare animal species, and some of the best adventures around. If you’re a nature lover, you will be right at home! If not, the cities are bustling with rich nightlife, foodie culture, and plenty of history to uncover! There’s lots to see in NZ so pack your bags and fly ahead!
Start your journey off on the North Island in its largest populated city: Auckland! It is here that you will learn about some of the culture, by arriving at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. It currently has the largest visual arts experience in the whole country, with four award-winning floors that boast over 17,000 artworks. Historic, as well as modern and contemporary art, are featured here, and it’s a great way to learn more about New Zealand while admiring works by Māori artists, the indigenous Polynesian peoples of the country.
Another Auckland gem to be discovered is The Civic, a famous atmospheric theater that was built back in 1929; one of the few of its kind left in the world. Atmospheric theaters are unique in design because they have a soft-top ceiling that floats above the auditorium, which features a display of star and cloud effects that are absolutely mesmerizing! Make sure to check out their schedule to see if you can align your trip with a show. Some of the biggest plays and productions have played there like Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, Wicked, and Annie.
The Sky Tower is visible from practically anywhere in the huge city. Standing at over 1,000 feet tall, it’s the tallest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. This should be your next stop, where you will soak in phenomenal views in an extraordinary way! SkyJump allows you to base-jump by wire off of the incredible tower—if you dare! Once you’ve gotten your perfect panoramic pic, take the elevator down to the base of the tower, where SkyCity is. This entertainment complex consists of over 20 bars and restaurants, a 700-seat theater, and a world-class Casino, not to mention where you’re going to be staying for the night! SkyCity Grand Hotel resides here, and you will want to book the Grand Presidential Suite. The elegant suite comes with unlimited WiFi, a pillow menu, complimentary fruit, water, and chocolates upon arrival, breakfast for two, and overnight valet parking.
Discard your bags at your hotel, and sail away to one of the most stunning natural wonders the city has to offer! Take a ferry to the coast of central Auckland to reveal Rangitoto Island, the city’s most iconic island, which also happens to boast the youngest and largest volcano in the vicinity. Tap into your daring side as you complete the numerous trails available on this scenic wonder. Follow the most popular, Summit Track, to be led through lava fields, lava caves, the world’s largest pohutukawa forest, and eventually, the island’s summit. After, you’ll want to take advantage of the proximity of Rangitoto’s opposite neighboring island, Motutapu, by crossing the bridge that connects the two. While Rangitoto is the youngest island, Motutapu is one of the oldest! There are more than 300 archeological sites here to explore, as well as WWII military sites like gun emplacements, which served as NZ’s defense during the war.
Take the ferry back into the city as nightfall begins to emerge around you. It’s time to get some grub before bursting onto the nightlife scene! Make your way over to The Grove, an award-winning restaurant that offers modern New Zealand cuisine with a French twist. Their menu focuses on degustation dining that allows you to try numerous plates. Head chef Scott Denning has had broad experience in his field, which he uses to bring different influences to the kitchen. The menu changes seasonally, with options to choose between four course meals, seven course meals, or, if you’re with a group, a la carte!
Enjoy the chilly night breeze as you sway over to Viaduct Harbor, the location of Bungalow 8, one of Auckland’s biggest clubs. Different DJs spin the table every night as guests are welcome to break it down on the dancefloor. Described as “West Coast cool, with a dash of New York” you’ll likely feel just at home at this entertaining bar and club.
Rise and shine! On your second day, wake up early so you don’t miss a minute of fun! Today you will be travelling to the South Island, where the “adventure capital of the world” awaits you. The city of Queenstown is a delight due to its jaw dropping natural sights, and adrenaline-inducing activities. If you have any doubts about the extreme nature of this place, jump right into your voyage, and a canyon…At Shotover Canyon Swing, propel yourself off of a cliff 357 feet over the famous Shotover River. You’ll then endure a 196- foot vertical freefall before you’re whipped forward on your attached cord, swinging an additional 656 feet over the river. The popular tourist attraction prides itself on creating 70 different “jumping styles,” which allows you to customize your fall off of the cliff. You can be kicked “Sparta” style, fall backwards while in a chair, ride off the cliff in a tricycle, and many other wacky ways. Once you decide on your style and you begin your descent, take in the breathtaking views of the river all while feeling your heart beat a mile a minute!
Now that you’ve experienced what it feels like to fall downwards into a canyon, get your spirits back up…with a trek to the peak of Ben Lomond! This mountain offers spectacular panoramic scenes, and a work out! Hike through the various trails, which lead you through the beautiful beech forest, to finally reach Bob’s Peak, where a wonderful outlook of Queenstown, neighboring mountains, lakes, and more await you. Once you reach the top, don’t hesitate to hop in a luge to get back down! These little sleds have no gas or battery power, solely working with the force of gravity to operate. As you race down the track, pull back on the handles to slow down, or push forward to go faster. There are two 10-15-foot-wide luge tracks at the top of Ben Lomond, and from there you will be able to take in the scenery as you speed down—but don’t forget to watch where you’re steering!
All of that adrenaline has probably got your appetite soaring by now! Luckily for you, Queenstown is home to some of the best burgers in the world. Fergburger’s beefy creations have drawn fans from all over, and the line will usually extend down the block. No matter how long the line extends, it will definitely be worth it. Don’t miss out on trying one of their most famed orders: The Big Al, which comes with New Zealand beef, bacon, cheese, eggs, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, and aioli.
If you’re looking to get your animal spotting on, head to Kiwi Birdlife Park! The Kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand, and it’s so loved by the residents that they too, refer to themselves as the adorable nickname. Kiwis are flightless birds that have a round body, stumpy feet, and a timid nature. At this park, you’ll have a higher chance of seeing the cute animals due to how widespread they are here, in addition to other rare species like the Tuataras lizard, and the colorful bird, Rainbow Lorikeets.
The final sightseeing spot on your journey has been described by some as “eighth wonder of the world.” Milford Sound is a definite must-see on your trip. A fjord that was formed by glaciers during the ice ages, it is now a picture-perfect wonderland of mountaintops that scrape the sky, waterfalls that gracefully splash into the lake, and cliffs that line your way through the waters. To fully take in the breathtaking sights, get out on the water! Boat cruises, kayaks, and diving are all ways to navigate the gorgeous waters, or you can sightsee from above on a plane!
When you arrive back into the city, it’s up to you to change the tone, and the temperature of your night for a simply cool experience! At Minus 5 Ice Bar, you’ll be suited up in a coat, Ugg-style boots, and warm gloves to withstand the -5 ° to -10° temperatures! The walls, furniture, bar, decorations, and just about everything are intricately carved and designed out of 18 tons of ice—even the drink glasses! Immerse yourself in this winter wonderland as you sip on cocktails and dance all night, but just be careful not to slip!
At the end of the night, you’ll be tired and ready to hit the hay. Thankfully, your hotel is only a seven-minute drive out from the city. When you’ve found yourself washed up on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, you’ve arrived. It is here that you will find your solace for the remainder of your night. Matakauri lodge sits right on the edge of the famous lake, surrounded by the big three: The Remarkables, Ceil, and Walter Peak. These mountainous ranges will have you entranced as you relax in your tub and enjoy the starry night sky.
By now you’ve probably realized that NZ is the place to be! With attractions that will help you check off more than half of your bucket list, beauteous natural wonders and sights, out-of-this-world food, and a loving and proud people, New Zealand is a joy to visit time and time again. You’ll be back, because this country is seriously sweet as!
By Aaliyah Pasols