10 Uniquely Amazing Things to do in New Zealand

So you wanna go to New Zealand!

There are certainly things that alot of people think of or know about when it comes to these beautiful islands, but there are also some incredible things to do that are slightly lesser-known, you might not think to do it, or that you can ONLY do here.

First of all, all these things are awesome and I'd go just for these 10 things, but lucky for us, New Zealand is packed to the shores with incredible things to do for everyone.

 

1. See the All Blacks do the Haka

Intimidating. Beautiful. Chilling. This traditional Maori Haka was adopted by the All Blacks rugby team and is done before each game. The rugby tradition dates back to 1888 and is not meant only for intimidation, but was actually written by a warrior who hid from a war raid, survived, and wrote it as a victory chant in 1820. Hakas can be choreographed or improvised.

Lyrics:

Let me go back to my first gasp of breath
Let my life force return to the earth
It is New Zealand that thunders now
And it is my time! 
It is my moment! 
The passion ignites!
This defines us as the All Blacks
And it is my time! 
It is my moment! 
The anticipation explodes!
Feel the power
Our dominance rises
Our supremacy emerges
To be placed on high
Silver fern!
All Blacks!
Silver fern!
All Blacks!
aue hi! 

Taringa whakarongo!
Kia rite! Kia rite! Kia mau!
Hi!
Kia whakawhenua au i ahau!
Hi, aue! Hi!
Ko Aotearoa, e ngunguru nei!
Hi, au! Au! Aue, ha! Hi!
Ko kapa o pango, e ngunguru nei!
Hi, au! Au! Aue, ha! Hi!
I ahaha!
Ka tu te ihi-ihi
Ka tu te wanawana
Ki runga i te rangi, e tu iho nei, tu iho nei, hi!
Ponga ra!
Kapa o pango! Aue, hi!
Ponga ra!
Kapa o pango! Aue, hi!
Ha!

 

2. Scuba Dive

 
 

Wrecks, reefs, underwater gardens, rays, dolphins, walls, kelp, incredible amounts of life. You can get so many types of diving in here and all over both islands. Dive shops are pretty easy to find and there are some incredible shipwrecks to explore. Some very popular dive sites include:

Tutukaka shipwrecks (Tui and Waikato) - Awesome day or night dives. Turrets, propellers, guns. Awesome.

Poor Knights Islands - Marin and nature reserves off Tutukaka Coast in Northland, New Zealand. Caves, tunnels, arches, rays, sponge gardens, & SO much more

Milford Sound - Extreme drop-offs, kelp, enormous boulders, dolphins

Aramoana, Dunedin - Sharks, wrasse, sea lions, scuttled shipwrecks

Kaikoura, South Island - Sperm Whales, dolphins, kelp

Mikhail Lermontov, Marlborough Sound - Mysteriously sunk Russian cruise ship

 

3. Scour the Islands for Kiwi Birds

kiwi bird

The cutest damn bird you'll ever see is, in fact, endangered. There are actually 5 species of kiwis and the female are noticeably larger than the males. You can see them in sanctuaries scattered around the islands, but seeing them in the wild is also a treat. They are small and nocturnal, so you'll have to go at night. There are actually four places in the U.S. to see them in captivity, but who doesn't love seeing animals where they're supposed to be?

North Island (Wild Kiwis):
Trounson Kauri Park, Waipoua Forest, Northland
Aroha Island Ecological Centre, Kerikeri
Kiwi Wildlife Tours, Warkworth
Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary Experience, Wellington
Kapiti Island Alive, Kapiti Island
Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary, Whangarei
Habitat Tours, Tawharanui
Russell Nature Walks, Russell

South Island
Okarito Kiwi Tours, Franz Josef
Kiwi Wilderness Walks, Tuatapere
Nature Quest New Zealand Birding & Nature tours, Dunedin
Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin
Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience, Stewart Island/Rakiura
Wild Kiwi Encounter, Stewart Island

 

4. Visit the Glowing Cave

waitomo caves

This cavern is dotted with millions of tiny glow worms that are unique to New Zealand. Up on the ceilings, they resemble a neon, starry sky. You can take a float down the river and through the caverns for about $50 NZD for an adult. The caves were first explored by Chief Tane Tinerau and English surveyor Fred Mace and many of the cave's staff today are descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau and his wife Huti. There are other caves available for walking tours that are also dappled with glow worms. This is truly a spectacle you have to see to believe.

 

5. Climb the Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier
I'm not the only one that thinks this is funny...right?

I'm not the only one that thinks this is funny...right?

You know what's cool about this? You can do anything from heli-climb the ice walls to talk a casual walk on top of the glacier. There are all sorts of skills levels that can be appealed to here and almost all of them include going INSIDE the glacier. So. Awesome. It's on the west coast of the South island and flows down the southern Alps bumping head-on into Fox Glacier, another popular climbing and hiking spot.

(Some cool hiking gear for this HERE!)

 

6. Bungee (Bungy) Jump Where it all Began

the Kawarau Bridge

the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand is where it all began in 1988. This historic suspension bridge is home to the world's first commercial bungee launch pad and remains one of the most popular today. Started by a guy who was arrested in 1987 for apparently jumping off the Eiffel Tower (don't ask me how that's possible. I have no answer), he brought skiers and adrenaline junkies here to get there fix.

 

7. Wai-o-Tapu: Geothermal Wonderland

Wai-o-Tapu: Geothermal Wonderland

Considered New Zealand's most colorful thermal hotspot, this area actually contains some beautiful thermal pools, a fantastic geyser, and volcanic mud pool that bubbles and steams. You can choose various walks that take you through the park and around where all the action is. TripAdvisor rates this one of the 20 most surreal places in the world.

201 Waiotapu Loop Road, RD 3, 
Rotorua 3073, NZ,
Tel: +64 7 366 6333

 

8. Visit the Maori

hangi

How can you understand New Zealand without understanding its native people? Making up 14% of today's population, they carve gorgeous artwork, perform incredible Hakas, tell amazing myths and legends, and help us learn about their culture. There are many ways to meet and interact with them and many tour groups that can take you to performances or a Hangi feast, complete with smoking meat in the ground. Yes. Please.

 

9. Go to the Beach...to Warm Up.

hot water beach

This. Is. Awesome. You bring a shovel or spade and dig yourself a little pit, climb in, and let the warm water seep in and roast you. It's actually not boiling, but feels like stepping into a jacuzzi with a view.

http://www.hotwaterbeachtop10.co.nz/

 

10. See the Maori Carvings in Lake Taupo

Kayak, float plane, or sail to the beautiful cliff carvings done by the Maori people. Cruises are popular where you can BYOB (or food) and learn more about the incredible history of the Maori. Not only do you get to spend lots of time on this stunning lake, but you get views for days and an iconic historic site that can't get to any way but by water.

 

Other notable mentions, which I left off, are:

  • Visit Hobbiton and the Lord of the Rings sets
  • Go see the rainforest and take a photo tour
  • Do an Ironman or cycling endurance event

Going to New Zealand? Been to one or a few of these? I want to hear about your experience! What highlight would you recommend to someone who was going for the first time?

XO

Whitney