After being back in the States for approximately a week now, I wanted to share some activities that were highlights of my trip and experiences that I think everyone should do if they visit New Zealand! This is my last blog post for Arcadia, so I hope you enjoy it!
1. Backpacking Trip: I did three different backpacking trips, one where we camped (Abel Tasman), and two where we stayed in huts (French Ridge and Silver Peaks). These were honestly some of my favorite trips of the semester, and there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are carrying everything you need on your back. Side note: this was very obviously the 1st time I had ever done a backpacking trip, so I did not have a backpack or anything, luckily Unipol at Otago University has bags and other tramping equipment that you can rent which is exactly what I did and makes this an affordable and accessible activity for everyone!
2. Wine Tastings: There are so many regions in NZ that are known for their wine: Central Otago (South Island) is known for Pinot Noir, Nelson/Blenheim (South Island) is known for whites, and Hawkes Bay (North Island) is another large vineyard area. Get yourself a designated driver, rent bikes, or go on an official tour and you can hit a ton in one day! When we did ours in Nelson, we had a DD and went to five tastings that were each $10NZD or less!
3. New Zealand Great Walks: There are 10 Great Walks in NZ throughout the North and South Islands, and I had the pleasure of doing parts of three of them. The Great Walks are multi-day hikes in New Zealand's National Parks. They are very obviously not the only hikes to do, but they are some of the most well-known hikes in the country. They are gorgeous, and I definitely recommend trying to hit one of the many great walks, whether it be just for one day or many!
4. Luge: This is such a small activity but still so fun! There is luge at the top of the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown and also in Rotorua. This is not luge that you see in the Winter Olympics but scooters you sit on and self-steer your way down a hill. I am a huge fan of Go-Karting, definitely one of my favorite past times, but this is honestly way better because you are in full control and there is no motor, just gravity taking you down as fast as you want to go without wiping out!
5. Thermal Pools: Rotorua and Taupo on the North Island are both known for geothermal activity, Rotorua even smells like rotten eggs because of the sulfur! Geothermal activity brings thermal pools and hot springs! During orientation, we went to a Polynesian Hot Spa in Rotorua which was super cool! There were different pools at different temperatures, and it seemed very much like a spa-- you also had to pay for it. When I went back to the North Island at the end of the semester, I went to a free thermal pool in Taupo that was all natural, the Otumuheke River. These were two very different experiences but both really awesome!
6. Waterfalls: There are waterfalls everywhere, and they are all amazing. A lot of them are only a 30-minute return walk, which makes it even better. Whangarei Falls in Whangarei on the North Island is absolutely amazing, the Catlins (South Island) had a ton, and of course, the Fiordland (South Island) was FULL of them, and they were all gorgeous. Grab your sneakers and camera and hop in the car to go see a bunch!
7. Milford Sound Boat Cruise: With waterfalls obviously, comes a tour of Milford Sound! I went on a morning boat cruise with Southern Discoveries which came with breakfast and admission to their Underwater Observatory, which were both some nice perks! I know people that have done kayaking tours which also sounded amazing, and there are also boat + kayak tours. Whatever floats your boat (haha) do it! Also, do as much as you can down the Milford Road-- stop at all the lookouts and little 30 minute walks because they are all so cool.
8. Camping: There is just something about sleeping in a tent all curled up in your sleeping bag like sardines next to your best friends. Waking up the next morning to the sunrise and birds chirping is something you do not get from a hotel. I had never camped in a tent before coming to New Zealand and I can say this probably won't be my last time!
Cheapest Campsites: all of the DOC campsites are fairly cheap, Albert Town in Wanaka, you can even find free campsites (they might just be a parking lot on the side of the road).
Nicest Campsite: Curio Bay in the Catlins! At the campsite there are bathrooms/showers, kitchen, café, gift shop, a small beach where you can see dolphins, a petrified forest where you can see Penguins, and a live forest, I believe it was $18NZD per person for a tent site.
9. Roys Peak at Sunrise: Roy's Peak is one of the most pictured views in New Zealand and is a steep but doable hike, so of course that means we had to do it in the dark, so we were at the top for sunrise!! This was one of the most colorful sunrises I have ever seen, and it was across the entire sky, a must do hike if you are in Wanaka!
10. Cafes, plenty of them: All of the towns and cities throughout New Zealand have their streets lined with cafes. It is a necessity to stop into as many cafes as you can and actually enjoy a coffee sitting down and not just taking it to go, or as New Zealanders say: 'take away'. There is something totally different about coffee when you drink it out of mug rather than a cup that you take with you and end up throwing away.
11. Beaches: Explore as many beaches as you can! This was always a local Dunedin activity for my friends and me, we would make trips to the local beaches after class or on a weekend when we weren't traveling anywhere far. They are all so unique, and you can see different wildlife on each! Allan's Beach on the Otago Peninsula has Sea Lions whereas Long Beach 30 minutes outside of Dunedin has a large cave filled with Penguins!
12. Adrenaline-Rushing Activities: Whether it be the Bungy Jump or Swing, Skydiving, etc, there are so many places around New Zealand for the adrenaline-seeker.
Top Bungys: Queenstown, Taupo
Top SkyDives: Wanaka, Auckland, Queenstown, Franz Josef/Fox Glaciers