Have been inspired by many A to Z posts online, and I decided to come up with an A to Z list for New Zealand too. This is just my honest opinion on what I thought was the highlight of each alphabet. It was quite hard to pick only one thing for some of the alphabets.
A for Auckland
Everyone knows about Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, also known as City of Sails. The part I love most about Auckland is that although it is very city-ish in terms of convenience, the suburbs still retain some of its country qualities (eg good community of people and home gardens).
B for Beaches
Ninety mile beach is so endless that it amazes me even though it is only 55 miles. And the first time I saw black sand was at Himatangi Beach. For a first impression, it was not all that inviting. But it kinda grows on you, and I look forward to see more volcanic sand beaches in the future.
C for Christchurch
It is a beautiful garden city with English influences and a gateway to Antarctic. The city center was once a gorgeous place with heaps of old stone buildings. According to my friends who went there after the quake, it was still in a pretty bad state. Hope the city recovers soon.
D for Driving
In my opinion, I think New Zealand is a fantastic place to drive in. The roads are broad, easy to read signage, large number of parking space, spacious parking lots and heaps of friendly drivers. Somehow, I do not have the confidence to drive anywhere except except in New Zealand.
E for Earthquakes
The February 2011 earthquake at Christchurch was a scary catastrophe. The whole country is located on top of the boundary of Pacific and Australian plates, with heaps of fault lines all around. Minor earthquakes are happening daily. Let's keep our fingers crossed that major quakes do not strike again.
F for Franz Josef glacier
It is amazing to learn how glaciers are formed, and even more exciting to hike up a real glacier. Personally, I thought it looked the best from the bottom; it looks like glowing in a blue light and sort of 'flowing' toward you. The glacier is constantly flowing and changes every few days.
G for Glowworm
The Arachnocampa species are endemic to New Zealand and Australia. The glowworms are not worms, but the luminescent larval stage of the beetle. Can be spotted in many places, but more commonly found around Waitomo and Te Ana-au Caves, in North and South Island respectively.
H for Hangi and Haka
Hangi is the traditional Maori way of cooking using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. The meat taste kinda like a combination of smoked and grilled. Haka is traditional Maori war dance. The most famous one is by All Blacks. The Haka war dance looks really fierce and kinda scary in real life.
I for Intercity
What are we going to do without the InterCity buses in New Zealand? Yes, there is Naked bus, but I love InterCity buses. Simply because they usually have multiple good timings daily, decent pricing, comfy chairs and cool stopping points. Great for both long and short distance from cities to towns.
J for Jobs
There are heaps of jobs in NZ, especially nature-related ones. There are even more of such jobs during summer – from fruit picking and gardener. Pay might not be fantastic, but with somewhat a minimum wage policy, it is definitely sufficient to live and play in NZ with a summer job.
K for Kaikoura
Whale-watching, not common everywhere but is located here. Plus get to see dolphins and seals along the way. Sounds all spectacular, but all we see was a floating dark patch, which suddenly flipped and the tail stuck up (photo opportunity) and disappeared into the water. That's the gist.
L for LOTR
No visit to NZ is completed without checking out at least 1 film site of Lord of the Rings. My personal favorite is Kaitoke Regional Park which is the set for Rivendell. The place looks magical in lighter shade of green, even without any computer effects. Gotta see it in real life to feel it.
M for Mount Cook
Highest Mountain in NZ at 3,754m. There are heaps of walks around to see the snow-capped peaks, valleys, rivers and glaciers from the Mount Cook village. Even though all mountains look similar, guess it makes some difference when it is the highest peak in the country.
N for New Zealand
This is not meant to be a "duh" point. Every country has their beautiful history, culture and legends that are story worthy. After the initial physical attraction (scenery and landscape), I fell in love with NZ coz of the story (Maori and European stories) and personality (people and culture).
O for Organic food
I used to dislike veggies, but I love them now. Organic cherry tomatoes taste like chocolates! A freshly plucked apple is so sweet and crunchy! Organic kiwifruit tastes different from those in supermarket. Home-grown lettuces taste of health and wellness. I have converted since.
P for People
A country is beautiful because of her amazing people. I love how Kiwis smile and have small talks with one another everywhere. People help one another with no racial discrimination. Most people are giving and trusting. And it is such a relaxed and laidback culture. Great place for resignation!
Q for Queenstown
The strategically located resort town is surrounded by gorgeous scenery, from mountains range to lake. Most major attractions are just a few hours bus ride away, from Milford Sound to the first commercialized bungee jump, AJ Hackett. Parachutes and para-sails are part of the scenery too.
R for Rotorua
Most famous of the pungent sulphur smell, but you will stop noticing it after a while. With so many exciting things to see and do, from facial at Hell's Gates geothermal spa to zorbing, from quadbiking in paddock to taking a luge down a hill. The last thing in your head is the smell.
S for Sounds
Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are actually Fjords. NZ most photographed location is the famous Miter Peak at Milford Sound. Yes, it is that gorgeous to see it by foot, bus, cruise and flight. They probably miss out the fact that this place is also full of sand flies and insect repellent is a necessity.
T for Taupo
The town is famous for extreme sports in North Island, while the lake is the largest in New Zealand. It is only slightly smaller than Singapore in surface area, Lake Taupo is 616 sq km and Singapore is 700 sq km. Strategically located along State Highway 1, it is one of my fave stopover point.
U for yoU
Traveling is all about the traveler, not so much on the destination. It is easy to differentiate between a traveller and non-traveler. One is open-minded, accepting, humble, gracious, imaginative, spontaneous and fun-loving. The other is neither.
V for Vineyard
For people who love wine, New Zealand has heaps of winery, and wine tasting is a norm everywhere. Not an alcohol lover, but the wine culture grew on me. Now I drink a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc a few times a year. Prefer this over cocktails, beers and liquors.
W for Wellington
Not only is it the capital of New Zealand, it is also the southernmost capital in the world. Heaps of iconic structures here – from the famous beehive (Parliament House) to Te Papa Museum (NZ's best museum in my opinion). The less known ones are Weta Museum and Cable Car.
X for Xtreme sports
According to those who love adventure, they said New Zealand is the place. It offers most of the extreme sports without the extreme environment and weather conditions. A guide told me that out of all the extreme sports in the world, NZ offers half of them right here.
Y for Youth hostels
Cheap, comfortable and cozy. Might not be a 5-star hotel with room service, but the price for a twin room with ensuite bathroom is more than enough. After all, we are not in New Zealand to stay in the room. Having lived in some really good youth hostels, this is my preferred option in NZ.
Z for Zoo
I have been to Auckland Zoo and it was really not bad since I am more than a plant lover than animal lover. Some of my friends said the NZ zoos are must-visit destinations. In my opinion, Kelly Tarlton's and New Zealand National Aquarium are worth checking out too.
This list is based on my personal experiences and honest opinions. I hope they inspire you to check out some of the highlights in New Zealand too. There is nothing better than experiencing them yourself. Stories and sharing can not justify how awesome they really are until you try them out.