5 Best Things to Do in New Zealand
Director James Cameron, with his wife Suzy Amis Cameron, hiking in Mt Alfred, Glenorchy, New Zealand (photo: Alistair Guthrie)
Looking for the best things to do in New Zealand? Look no further. There are so many interesting things to do in New Zealand, it’s hard to just pick five. We love our Kiwi cousins way down under. They’ve got a chill vibe and a connected, love of the great outdoors that we Canadians can appreciate, too.
This year, the country is hosting the World Masters Games, with most of the happenings in an around Auckland. From April 21 to 30, more than 25,000 athletes competing in 28 sports with ages ranging from 25 to 101 (an Indian athlete in the track event), will descend on New Zealand. A local hero, 77-year-old Sir Peter Snell, who competed in the Olympics in the 1960s, will be back on the track, or more accurately, playing doubles table tennis with his wife. www.worldmastersgames2017.co.nz
Canada will have the second largest contingent, just behind Australia, vying for the top prizes in the world’s largest multi-sport event.
Athletics aside, Wellington, New Zealand on the north island is also the part-time home of Canadian-born director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron, who turned tour guides recently. “I came as a stranger, I knew very little about New Zealand, and I left in love with it,” says the director. “Not just the beauty of the land that is very seductive, but the dynamic spirit of the people. I had never felt a connection to a place that strongly before. And I never really lost that dream.”
Need help planning the trip? Check out Edmonton-based Go Walkabout Travel‘s tour offerings, as the locally-run company specializes in New Zealand and Australia. Ask for Dianne Hall, the company’s director, and you can tell her we sent you. Toll Free 1 877 328 3798 (for North America); gowalkabouttravel.com
Hike, snowshoe or kayak in Abel Tasman National Park: “It’s not difficult to find great hikes in Abel Tasman National Park (above). You can kayak in the ocean before you start your hike in the forest. You can do both in one day because everything is fairly close together.”
Check out sea life in Kaikoura: “It’s an amazing place. There’s a deep valley under the ocean there so there’s an upswelling of nutrients and the place is just going crazy offshore. You’ve got dolphins, pilot whales and sperm whales feeding on squid down in the Kaikoura Canyon so you can see just about every kind of marine life in there.”
Tour the wine region: “Rent a car and drive to wine country. From Wellington, you can drive over the Rimutaka Range, into Featherston and then down into Martinborough, home of some of the best pinot noir. It’s only an hour’s drive from Wellington and there are over 20 wineries to visit.”
Jet boat in Queenstown: “If you’re looking for something more adventurous, jet boat around Queenstown – there are so many variations available to choose from. I think adventure is in the genes of this country. The jet boat was invented here and every personal watercraft, every jet ski in the world, is all derived from the DNA of that.”
- Rotorua Mud Festival
Rotorua is best known for its Maori culture and rich sense of history, its many lakes and bubbling geysers. Now, the city’s famed hot mud springs get their time in the sun thanks to the inaugural Mud Festival to be held next December. The festival is an international partnership with South Korea’s Boryeong City, which attracts more than three million people to its own mud festival.
Beer is big business in New Zealand these days, with imaginatively crafted boutique beers springing up all over the country. To celebrate the amber liquid, Wellington hosts the 16th Beervana, New Zealand’s most popular beer festival. With brewers descending on the capital in August, you’ll discover creative beer made with imaginative ingredients including lemongrass and lychees.
- Dunedin Street Art Trail
Famous for its Scottish heritage, student culture and bracing climate at the head of the Otago Harbour, Dunedin is also home to New Zealand’s first public art gallery and art society. The Dunedin Street Art Trail is a 90-minute walk that meanders from the harbour to Queens Gardens. Art lovers can either download the map or collect a printed edition from venues around the city.
- Ride the Alps 2 Ocean
The secret is out with New Zealand’s new Alps 2 Ocean Cycleway included in the Lonely Planet’s “Epic Bike Rides of the World.” This 301km multi-day cycle trail is an achievable adventure set in an incredible landscape that travels from the mountains of the magnificent Southern Alps, past alpine lakes and down a river valley, all the way to the sea.
- Auckland Arts Festival
From March 8 – 26, New Zealand’s largest city will be buzzing with a huge range of performances at the Auckland Arts Festival. From dance to poetry and visual arts to circus, this is one of the largest festivals in the southern hemisphere – drawing performers and audiences from around the world. The multi-disciplinary spectacle features as many free events as ticketed, including lots of family-friendly offerings to keep younger audiences transfixed.