Auckland

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and as such offers a wide variety of activities and attractions, restaurants, shops, bars and clubs and galleries and museums. The city itself has a fantastic vibe to it, being the largest city in the country but still relatively small by global standards. Like any city, it has a central hub, filled with backpacking lodges, hotels, restaurants and bars, which is also located a short walk to Auckland’s famous harbor. The city is known as the city of sails and has a large emphasis on its harbor. Auckland inner city nightlife has a fantastic energy, and a diverse spectrum of people. On a night out in the city, I began the evening drinking in the park as the sun went down with my South African friend, we were then joined by a French backpacker at our first pub, followed by two UAE guys, then two Germans and finally a middle aged Kiwi woman, who we spent the remainder of the evening pubcrawling with.

 

 

Kelly Tarlton’s

Kelly Tarlton’s is an Antarctic Centre/Aquarium located underground, just outside of Auckland city center. As a child, this was one of my favourite places and having returned as an adult, I can honestly say that I still loved it. Having been to several aquariums in sveral countries, this one is still one of my favourites. The easiest way to visit the aquarium if you do not have a car is to take the free private shuttle, which runs from in front of the city docks straight to the center and back throughout the day.

https://www.kellytarltons.co.nz/

 

Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Art Gallery isn’t quite as large as those in other major cities, but has some great pieces and the building itself is a work of art. The gallery has a fantastic collection of early settler Maori portraits, which will give you a unique insight into Maori dress and culture prior to European arrival.

http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/

 

Sky Tower

Sky Tower is one of Auckland and New Zealand’s most iconic attractions. The building itself towers over the city skyline. At the base, there is decently sized casino with several bars. Near the top of the tower is the sky deck, which gives a fantastic 360 degree view of the city. Located at the very top of the tower is the sky walk and sky jump (bungee jumping) platform.

https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/attractions/sky-tower/

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Oamaru

Oamaru is a relatively small town located near Dunedin, but has an extremely powerful sense of identity. The town is well known in the region for its pristine Victorian district. While being a small town, it has a vast array of beautifully  preserved Victorian buildings and is often used as a filming location. The town has fully embraced this identity and runs Victorian clothing stores, old style pubs, art galleries, whiskey distilleries, hosts Victorian galas and parades, etc. If you enjoy art or history, then Oamaru is definitely worth the stop.

 

 

Steampunk

The town has also adopted the title of New Zealand’s steampunk capital, proudly boasting a large steampunk gallery, café and park. Sculptures are all made from recycled metal and old parts. The gallery also features an amazing infinity room timed to three songs and a electronica programmed organ.

http://steampunkoamaru.co.nz/

 

The Grainstore Gallery

The Grainstore Gallery is a highly unusual art gallery in Oamaru run and owned by an artist known as Donna Demente who creates all of her own pieces in the gallery. For some highly unusual art pieces, some of which you may wish to buy, pay her a visit. Even if you don’t buy, at least meet the artist, she is a fantastic person to chat to.

http://donnademente.com/

Wellington

Wellington is the political, cultural, art, music, fashion and coffee capital of New Zealand and in my opinion, the nicest city I have been to anywhere in the world. The city is filled with cafes, museums, street art, sculptures, restaurants of all cuisines, music venues and beautiful architecture.

 

 

Te Papa

Te Papa is ranked as being amongst the top Museums in the world, having several floors stocked with a great variation of exhibits. At present, the building is home to the Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit, commissioned and created by Peter Jackson (the director of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogies). This is one of the most incredible exhibits I have had the pleasure of seeing, featuring giant, extremely lifelike wax replicas of soldiers fighting in Gallipoli. The exhibit features several fantastic interactive elements too and is highly immersive. Also included in the gallery is a great introduction into Maori history and culture.

http://www.gallipoli.tepapa.govt.nz/

 

Weta Workshop

If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit trilogy, District 9, King Kong, Kingdom of Heaven, World of Warcraft, or any movie worked on by Weta Workshop, then this is a must visit location. Not only will you see life-sized replicas of famous characters on site, you will actually be given a tour of the active workshop where movies are currently being worked on. You will get to handle and try on props from various movies and learn about what went on behind the scenes. For those who are Halo fans, you will get to see the world only working Warthog in the world.

 

Art/Statues

Wellington is full of street art, statues and galleries. Being referred to as the cultural capital of the country, it has proudly taken on the role. Wherever you go in the city center you will find fantastic pieces, alleyways are worth exploring to find hidden gems.

Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo is  small and in one of the cities suburbs, but is a fantastic way to spend the afternoon. While the zoo is small, they have a great spread of animals and they are kept in better conditions than many of the zoos I have visited.

New Zealand’s West Coast

Fox Glacier

Located on the West Coast of the South Island, Fox Glacier is one of two famous attractions in the region known as Glacier Country.Fox is the name of both the glacier itself and the local village. While the glacier itself is the lesser known of the two in the region, it is definitely worth the visit. For a price, you are able to fly by helicopter and land on top of the glacier in order to explore its ice caves. Sadly on the day that we visited, the weather was too unclear to fly safely and all flights were suspended. The trail to view the glacier itself is short, but the scenery is stunning, particularly on a misty day. Be sure to bring a raincoat if visiting the West Coast, because you are guaranteed to experience plenty of it.

http://www.glaciercountry.co.nz/

 

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef, just like Fox, is the name of both the glacier itself and the neighboring village.To reach the glacier viewing point, a longer hike is required than that of fox glacier. The trail itself is absolutely stunning and gives you a clear view of the edge of the glacier. If you decide to stay in the Franz Josef village, I highly recommend Sir Cedrics Chateau Franz for accommodation, they’re a great backpackers located right in the middle of the village center. If you need evening entertainment, I suggest visiting Snakebite Brewery, they’re located on the main street of the village and have some of the best craft beers that I’ve had the pleasure of trying, along with the single best cider I have ever had, Cobra Berry Cider.

http://sircedrics.co.nz/hostels-franz-josef/chateau-franz/

http://www.snakebite.co.nz/

 

Blue Pools

The Blue Pools are very easy to miss while driving to the two glacier villages. There is a small roadside stop that is located part way between Wanaka and Fox Glacier that is definitely worth keeping an eye out for. There is a short forest walk that arrives at a fork in a bright blue river with some stunning scenery.

http://www.newzealand.com/us/article/blue-pool-track/

Rob Roy Glacier Track/ Mount Aspiring National Park

The Rob Roy Glacier Track, located in Mount Aspiring National Park is one of New Zealand’s lesser known attractions. This trail is located a short drive from Wanaka, accessed by gravel road. This trail can be done in one of two ways, one can hike to the glacier in a matter of about two hours and then return, or they can hike the full trail, staying in huts along the way. The hike begins in a valley, crosses a few rivers and ends in the mountains, where the glacier and countless waterfalls are located. You will witness some incredible panoramic views at the glacier site. Being a short beginner hike, I highly recommend at least attempting the glacier segment.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/mount-aspiring-national-park/

Milford Sound/Fiordland

Milford Sound is New Zealand’s number one tourist attraction and has consistently ranked as one of the world’s top tourist attractions. With some of the world’s greatest scenery and completely untouched landscape, it is easy to see why. The entire state of Fiordland is a national park, meaning that for the entire drive, once leaving Southland, you will not see any towns or houses along the drive. This adds to the beauty of the entire region, how natural and untouched it all really is. The only buildings that you will come across are actually in the sound itself, which include the ferry station, underwater research center, airport and staff living quarters. As far as cruises go, I would recommend using Cruise Milford, as their tours only cost $90 and include lunch. We paid an additional cost to include the underwater research center which is definitely worth the cost. If you would like to see a rare breed of coral (called black coral, despite seeming white), that normally grows in the deep see, but is tricked into growing in Milford Sound due to sediment runoff, then definitely pay the additional fee. Make sure to stop often along the drive to the sound, as there are countless photo spots and small sights worth seeing. Watch out for Kia along the journey, they are a highly intelligent mountain parrot, only found in New Zealand and are also part of the unique experience.

http://www.cruisemilfordnz.com/

Queenstown

Queenstown is in many ways, New Zealand’s number one tourist destination. The town is located between picturesque mountain ranges and a stunning lakefront with crystal clear water. The town is the capital of everything adventure, from sky-diving to bungy jumping, luging, paragliding, water skiing, BMX racing, you name it, it has it. In addition to outdoor activities, the town has some of the best food in New Zealand, with everything from gourmet burgers to fine dining. If you’re ever in town, make a point of it to visit Fergburger for one of the best burgers you will have in your life, but make sure to beat the lines for dinner and lunch or wait up to an hour to eat. If you want to fully enjoy the scenery, then either hike or take the gondola up to the Skyline building above the city. From this building, you will get an amazing view of the city in almost all directions. Also located in the Skyline are amazing jellybean pictures, including one of Frodo from LOTR. If Lord of the Rings is your thing, then make sure to head to the movie themed jewelry store located in the center of town. At night the city is full of fantastic bars and clubs, packed with people from around the world, if you’re looking to meet people then I recommend doing one of the pub crawls hosted by the numerous backpacking lodges in the city. For accommodation purposes, I would recommend using Nomads as it is an amazing hostel, affordable, friendly, clean and located right in the city center. For other evening activities, remember that drinking in public is legal in New Zealand and join countless others for a drink on the lakefront as the sun goes down, which is around 10pm in summer. If you’re interested in thrill rides or arcades, then make sure to visit the 4D interactive cinema called Dark Ride, it’s a great experience. For breakfast,I highly, HIGHLY recommend visiting Bob’s Weigh, for a meal that you will struggle to finish, but force yourself to, because it’s so damn good. Also when out at night, keep an eye out for the famous balloon man, who is always out at local pubs in the town making balloon animals until all hours of the night while intoxicated.

http://www.fergburger.com/fullscreen.html

http://www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/

http://darkridequeenstown.co.nz/

 

Nearby Attractions

Not far from Queenstown are numerous river filled gorges and valleys. Many of these rivers have begun to be used by tourism companies to run speed/jet boating tours. If you are able to, make sure to give this a try, it is absolutely awesome. Even if you aren’t the biggest thrill seeker, at least try this. I recommend using Skippers Canyon Jet Boating if you are on a budget, but if you have more to spend, then use Shotover Jet. The scenery in the surrounding areas is worth seeing, even if just driving through the area on the way to another destination. If you have a few free hours, make your way to Arrowtown, this small historic town is absolutely stunning. Once an old mining town, it houses an historic Chinese mountain village and is home to a ridiculous number of beautiful trees.

http://www.skipperscanyonjet.co.nz/

http://www.shotoverjet.com