New Zealand has just been named in Lonely Planet͛’s Best in Travel top countries to visit in 2018 so it will feature on many bucket lists. Celebrated for cinematic landscapes, alpine heights, towering forest giants, pristine coastlines and welcoming locals, Aotearoa – the Land of the Long White Cloud offers unlimited activity.
Whether you are after adventure experiences or you have more refined pleasures in mind, you͛’ll find 18 good reasons to start planning a trip to Aotearoa New Zealand right here.
1.Breaking the Ice
Glaciers within three hours of Australia? No need to travel north, across continents to far flung corners to see glacial wonders. A three-hour flight to Queenstown puts you on the doorstep of two of the world͛s most accessible glaciers – the famed Franz Josef and Fox glaciers which finish in rainforests just a few kilometres from the West Coast. Take a helicopter flight for the bird͛s eye view, then a spectacular glacier landing and a heli-hike on the blue ice.
2.Reconnect with Nature
Milford Sound Milford Sound – the eighth wonder of the world according to Rudyard Kipling – is in reality a fjord and the crown jewel in Fiordland National Park / South Westland World Heritage Site. Reconnect with nature in a breathtaking wilderness that͛’s at once alpine, glacial, coastal, and a rainforest, and embrace the sounds of silence on an overnight cruise once the day͛s visitors have left. The scenic drive into Milford Sound is yet another memorable experience.
3.Book In: NZ͛’s hottest new hotels and luxury travel
With tourism coming in at New Zealand͛’s #1 export industry and foreign exchange earner, it͛s no surprise there͛’s new investment into accommodation. New Zealand͛’s first-ever Park Hyatt will open in Auckland late 2018 along with a new Sofitel significantly increasing five-star beds in the biggest city. QT Queenstown has opened and new Omapere @ the Heads in Northland.
4.Look up: Night skies and Southern Lights
Since the establishment of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve over the Southern Alps and the influx of overnighters that͛ come to Lake Tekapo, other communities are increasingly aware of protecting their night skies. Great Barrier Island (in the Hauraki Gulf, off Auckland) has just earned the prized Dark Sky Sanctuary status, and Dunedin is earning a reputation with aurora hunters where the southern lights (aurora australis) appear just over the southern horizon creating remarkable reflections.
5.Light show: Waitomo Glowworm Caves
An ancient subterranean world in the limestone heart of the central North Island, the Waitomo Cave system is a vast network of dramatic natural wonders lit by millions of unique New Zealand glow worms. The guided boat tour in the glow-worm grotto is the most popular attraction but you can also take a guided walk, abseil into the depths or leap into the black waters to float through the caverns.
Celebrate 150 years of beer on the wild West Coast Untamed and rugged, the South Island West Coast region attracted the hardiest early pioneers and fortune seekers. Those windswept landscapes blow out the cobwebs and, back then, it was the beer that kept the men happy. Monteith͛s Brewing Company celebrates 150 years in 2018 with parties planned and new brews in the making. Arrive in Greymouth on the TranzAlpine scenic train (designated driver sorted) then settle by the fire for top of the hops.
Hot foot it on White Island Ever dreamed of hot-footing it on an active volcano? Off the North Island͛s Bay of Plenty, White Island – New Zealand͛’s only active marine volcano – rises from the horizon in a thick plume of smoke, the first visible sign of one of New Zealand͛s most fascinating natural attractions. From Whakatane, just south of Tauranga, take a boat trip or helicopter out to the island for an otherworldly hiking experience.
8.Self discovery: Northland͛’s Ancient Kauri Trail
Leave city lights behind and go off grid in New Zealand͛’s northern parts on a self-drive to discover ancient secrets. This route uncovers country hamlets, the sprawling Kaipara Harbour, and ancient Waipoua Forest before descending into the great Hokianga Harbour where the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe made first landfall. Lord of the Waipoua Forest, Tane Mahuta is ancient kauri tree standing 51m tall and an estimated 2000-years-old. Meet Tane on a night tour with Footprints Waipoua. Stay over at The Heads Omapere – 10 one bedroom villas apartments with private hot tubs and outdoor fireplaces on the harbour edge.
9.White Out: Gearing up to be snowed in
After a hugely successful 2017 season, New Zealand͛’s ski destinations are already in preparation for the 2018 season. Earlybird season passes are on sale and massive investment is taking place at New Zealand͛’s premier ski resorts. While summer has just arrived, snow bunnies should be gearing up and preparing for powder on the slopes in New Zealand. Winter is coming.
10.Dig this: Relax in your personal hot pool.
Geothermal wonders are synonymous with New Zealand tourism from geysers to naturally heated creeks. At Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, the beach and geothermal activity collide. With a bit of DIY, beach bums can create their own natural jacuzzi in the wet sand during low tide. Purchase a spade at the nearby shop or bring your own and build a private hot pool with an ocean view.
11. Eat up
Māori food comes of age While New Zealand͛’s reputation as a food destination has been on the rise for some time, the resurgence of Māori ingredients and techniques is coming to the fore. Restaurants, tourism operators, festivals, food truck operators and pop-ups celebrate traditional food and culture, adding modern flavours and cooking methods to redefine customary fare.
12.Drink it in: The wine of Aotearoa
There are 450-plus wine experiences on New Zealand͛’s official wine website providing barrels of compelling reasons to visit for the viticulturally inclined. Take in a festival or push the boat right out and set course for Cloudy Bay in the heart of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc country with options ranging from a simple tasting to a mouth-watering meal or helicopter wine tour, or an outing aboard a 54ft Beneteau Oceanis yacht.
13.On yer bike:
Cycling across NZ New Zealand is paradise for cyclists thanks to all manner of great rides from the National Cycleway network to shorter gourmet rides. There are rental e-bikes in the cities and for most of the great rides, from the Otago Rail Trail to the Twin Coast Trail in Northland. Queenstown͛s Over the Top Helicopters offers full-day e-bike tours on backcountry trails or ferry across pretty Lake Wakatipu with Real Journeys to the gentle trails of Walter Peak.
14.Get walking: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes in incredible scenery on a 19.4km one-day hike, past Mt Ngauruhoe and over Mt Tongariro, with panoramic views of active volcanic areas and crater lakes in this UNESCO Dual Heritage area. This is one of a network of day hikes and short walks all over New Zealand promoted alongside the popular Great Walks network of nine multi-day trails (soon to become 10 with the addition of the Paparoa Track).
Visit the only living film set in the world Near the Waikato town of Matamata, Sir Peter Jackson discovered the perfect place to create The Shire and village of Hobbiton. The movie set has become a must-do visit for fans of Middle-earth but this gorgeous country garden equally impresses non-movie fans. Each 22 September, International Hobbit Day is celebrated in style at Hobbiton with festivities including twilight tours, market stalls, roaming entertainers, and ample Hobbit servings of delicious food and beverages.
16.Go up in the world: Wildwire Wanaka͛’s ͞Lord of the Rungs
Fulfill those New Year resolutions or scale new heights with Wildwire Waterfall Adventure near Wanaka. Climbers ascend perpendicular twin waterfalls using a via ferrata system of iron rungs and wires. Three climbs of varying difficulty range from the easy short Go Wild (half-day) to the demanding full-day Lord of the Rungs – highest via ferrata waterfall climb in the world which involves slipping behind a 6m waterfall and a helicopter descent.
17.Let go: Experience the ͚new bungy͛
Since AJ Hackett commercialised the modern bungy jump 30 years ago, his name has been at the forefront of New Zealand͛’s adventure tourism industry.
Now there͛’s a new thrill in the pipeline and the top secret experience at the Nevis site will be unveiled in 2018. Tentatively named ͚Nevis Thriller͛, it will combine bungy, flight and serious speed, promising to push people to the limits in ways not previously imagined. The outstanding natural beauty of the Nevis River location with its icy green water amid the dramatic Central Otago mountains will add a scenic dimension to this new adventure.
18.Dive in: Poor Knights Islands with Dive! Tutukaka
Twenty-three kilometres off the Tutukaka Coast (north of Auckland) the Poor Knights Islands are an international icon – the world͛s best dive spot in subtropical temperate waters (Jacques Cousteau). This marine reserve enshrines an incredibly varied ecosystem. Plunge and swim with marine life or, if you prefer to keep your head above water, paddle or cruise into the Rikoriko Cave – the world͛s largest sea cave (130m by 80m, 26 metres below water, 35 metres above).