There's only one way to enjoy New Zealand's wonders. That's a road trip. First, you need a car. Then the perfect playlist. As my car had only a cassette player, I had to listen in loop the Eagles' best of. During six months. But this music fits so well with the scenery, it was kind of cool. It reminds me this episode of HIMYM. Anyway. I digress.
The moment I step on the land of the long white cloud & the 60 millions sheep, I immediately fall in love with the place. I lived some of the most terrific experiences ever, there. I had six beautiful months to enjoy every recesses of the country. Was it enough? Of course NOT -that's ok, it gives me an perfect excuse to come back. The country, the people and the culture make the whole thing absolutely wonderful (see video at the end of the post).
DISCOVER THE 10 THINGS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR NEW ZEALAND TRIP WORTH IT
1|Embrace the kiwi lifestyle
As for any other destination in the world: you haven't seen New Zealand until you have met the locals. In that case, they are among the most friendly and interesting people we've met on our travels.
I spend six months traveling solo in New Zealand. Which means... low budget + the overwhelming desire to see/explore/taste & try everything. Working as a helper was, at first, a solution to avoid spending all my savings in a month. Then it became the ideal lifestyle.
How to? Simple: register on either HelpX or Woofing. You stay in a family's place, and in exchange for food and accommodation, you work 4h a day for them. What kind of work, you'll tell me... Well, I've been doing many things: from gardening, cooking, preparing parties, cleaning, baby-sitting, walking the dog to painting, making illustrations and, the top notch: helping an adorable 80 years old farmer with his hundreds sheep... Riding a quad!
So, that's the deal. Doesn't sound bad, right? On top of saving money, you meet the Kiwis and, for a certain period, you're part of the family. Instead of hanging out with people like you doing the same backpacker trip than you and living kind of the same experience, you meet different people from other paths of life. You eat and cook very good food, have the rest of the day to explore the countryside, get awesome tips for your explorations, NEVER feel lonely, and you get lots of good surprises. Things you can't plan. Like this day working with the sheep. The one surfing for the first time, surrounded by dolphins and sea lions. The day I had the time of my life with Taï, a paragliding champion, flying over Queenstown. The day Ruth helped me to buy my very first car.
Kiwis choose happiness. that's it. And if it means a trampoline, a pool and a boat in the garden, I'm in!
2|dive Into the Earth's heart in Rotorua
Rotorua is known for its spectacular geothermal activity, and features skyrocketing geysers, hot springs and boiling mud pools. I won't lie to you: this city stinks. The sulphurous vapour rises up your nostirils in all around. So... after your trip, you will stink too. You, your hair and your clothes. But trust me, it's worth it.
This place is supernatural. The kind of place that cannot be told -You have to see it. To hear it. touch it. And -clearly-, you have to smell it. There are many extraordinary places to see. I've visited Waimangu Volcanic Valley & Wai-O-Tapu Thermal wonderland -which is a REAL wonderland-, and both of them where breathtaking -and not only because of the smell-. You can also see some pool right in the middle of the city, which is pretty sensational.
3|Push your limits in The paradise for adrenaline-junkies city
Queenstown is the type of place you go for a couple of days, where you end up staying for weeks. Not only the city on the lake is super charming -that's just a detail-, but it's also a wonderful playground for thrill junkies.
Queenstown has been elected "Adventure Capital of the World' " -and she deserves her title! You can pretty much do every extreme sport you can imagine. Ski with lake view, bungy jump, paragliding, zipriding, helicoptere, rafting, thunder jet, quad, skydiving, dirt bike, rock climbing, luge, canyoning... You name it!
As my mother was with me when I've first been to Queenstown, she offered me a paragliding jump for my birthday. It was stunning, peaceful and imposing... But not enough. A few months later, I was back in the city, staying as an helper in family of paragliding champions' place. Aaand I might have said that paragliding was not that "extreme". The following day, I was flying crazy over Queenstown, with my friend Taï. Best. Time. Ever.
4|Make some surf buddies in the catlins
Swim with dolphins? It's so cliché, the dream of all perfect princess, nothing eccentric like cuddling a tiger. Well, yes, it is cliché. Before this dream came true, I didn't even know it was a dream. But believe me, swimming with dolphins is not as awesome as it sounds. NO. It's wayyy better.
Photography by Adam Gow
Our very first surf lesson. After an hour with our instructor, he left us practicing by ourselves. On a perfect autumn sunset, we had the sea for us, nobody around... Well. Nobody but the dolphins. As we were trying to catch a wave - let's be honest, you're not Kelly Slater in a day (or a year (or, ever)). Then we saw a fin... Two... Three. Hysteria. There's a huge bunch of dolphins swimming next to us! Yes there is a part of magic, but also a little fear. As small they can be, it was very impressive. And unexpected. SPLENDID.
We spent the following evening shocked, like after a skydiving jump or anything including adrenaline. It was the beginning of fifteen amazing days in Curio Bay. Every sunrise and sunset, we watched them playing in the waves. And Curio Bay is not only about the Hector dolphins, but also sea lions and yellow eyed penguins nest – not many places offer so much in one place!
5|Sip The best ice-chocolate ever in lake tekapo
The hike Mt John Observatory offers not only gorgeous views and cute rabbits on the way. As a reward on top of the hill, you'll taste the best Ice Chocolate, with the cream, the ice-cream, the homemade raspberry muffin, and on top of that, a 360 degrees scenic view of Lake Tekapo, the Southern Alps, the Mackenzie Basin flats and beyond.
The Mt John walkway is a 3 hour loop track up to the summit of Mount John. To end this kind of almost-perfect day, you can upgrade it to the really-perfect one, with an afternoon in the hot pools & spa. Situated at the base of Mt John, the pools take advantage of the wonderful views looking out over Lake Tekapo and the Two Thumb mountain range. It's stunning, and even better in winter, when it's all covered with snow.
6|Hike on prehistoric landscapes in the tongariro alpine crossing
4:00am : Wake up, lazy! New Zealand's natural treasures are waiting. After a long ride to Mangatepopo Valley, here I am, sleepy, waking up in the middle of a natural wonderland.
The Tongariro National Park was formed by a multitude of eruptions, with the oldest lava started flowing about 275,000 years ago. The result is dramatic. During the hike, you'll cross many different landscapes, from huge caldera desert to red craters, volcanic lakes and steamy sulphur springs, to end up in the jungle forest, teeming with exotic birds. It's the highlight of a road trip in New Zealand North Island.
Gossip for the fans: In autumn 2000, it was home to the most sinister of the Lord of the Rings locations: the Mordor. Then some scenes of The Hobbit have been filmed here as well, alongside the Mangawhero River.
7|become a real kiwi farmer
Obviously, it's a must. I mean, how can you tell you've been in New Zealand if you haven't put your hands in manure? Meeting the locals also means meet some of the 7.000.000 sheep living there! Ready?
As the South Island is mainly farms, it shouldn't be hard to find a farm. Maybe not even a farm, in New Zealand, it's common to have a few sheep or calves in the garden. We had an improbable experience during our trip in the Canterbury. Hour host was an airline pilot, managing her own Bed & Breakfast, and her ten calves and hinds in her garden. Classic! For a week, we took care of the calves, fed them, cleaned the paddock, used manure for plants... Running the farm like it was ours!
It's really part of the trip. Things you won't do back home.
8|Trek in The heavenly Abel Tasman national park
Beech forests, golden sands, abundant wildlife and glistening water. That's your program for the week. Wicked, isn't it?
From end to end, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track stretches 51 km and can be completed in anywhere from 3 to 5 days, depending on your motivation and level of fitness. You can also explore in a one-day-hike, kayaking or with a boat. Cruising around the park, the water taxis will give you a great tour of beautiful rock formations, shorelines, and local wildlife. It's basically a ride and a tour combined - pretty good deal.
It's the stuff your dreams are made of. The perfect picture of the beach. A happy place, where everybody smile at the beach, like a pleased idiot. Peaceful.
9|Explore The grandiose and magnificent Milford Sound
The experience starts with the roadtrip to Milford Sound. It's narrow and winding, with endless tunnels and huge highland surroundings. Magnificent, vertiginous, picturesque beauty. And it gets even better.
There, you're in another universe, far from everything you've ever seen in your life. The region is mind blowing. Vast waterfalls pouring from vertical rocks, abundant forests adhering perilously to the sea cliffs, and the penguins, seals and dolphins in the ocean... It's a gathering of natural splendors.
You'll struggle to believe that such a place can exist.
10|Party in Wellington, The coolest capital in the world
Wellington or Auckland? That's the question I'm not even gonna try to answer to. I've visited and loved both cities. But let's talk about the one that got elected "The coolest capital in the world".
Although you don't go in New Zealand to see the cities, Wellington is worth a stop. Time to experience the atmosphere, the coffee culture, the unbelievable marine live (if you're really lucky, you can sometimes see orcas swimming in the harbor), the cable car, Te Papa Museum -great place to get to know better New Zealand's culture and history-, Cuba St and its melting pot of buskers, world-class restaurants & art galleries, Mt Victoria, the Weta Cave in "Wellywood", the home to Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful “Lord of the Rings"...
It's hard to find the words to describe my road trip in New Zealand. Here's a video, though.
New Zealand. Those two words sound like heaven for me. Immerse myself in my roadtrip memories to write this article was not easy, as each places, pictures and maps bring me back in my old car, driving on New Zealand's roads. In the best trip I ever had. Is it because it was the first? Or is it because it is New Zealand? The only thing I know is that I am madly in love with this place, and I will never stop dreaming to settle down over there.
Have you been in New Zealand? What were the highlights or your trip? What's your feeling about the country? I'm curious to read your opinion about my deaaar New Zealand. If you've liked this article, comment it, like it, share it! :)
Thank you folks. Sweet as!