I love New Zealand and have spent some amazing holidays there with my family. There are so many awesome things to see and do that it can be difficult to plan a trip, there is so much to pack in! So I asked my friend Josh (who has lived in New Zealand for 40 years) what his top 10 recommendations were for anyone visiting the country. This is the result, and it is an interesting and varied list that would make a memorable holiday. I hope this will inspire you to visit one day.
1. Walk The Milford Track
Often described as the finest walk in the world, the Milford Track is a spectacular four-day walk through the mountains and rainforest of New Zealand's Fiordland National Park. The track is well-maintained and walkable either as part of an organized group or independently. Giant waterfalls, spectacular rainforest trees and plants and rocky mountain passes all await the walker. The Milford Track is one of the famous Nine Great Walks of New Zealand.
2. Thermal Attractions Around Rotorua
Famous for its geothermal activity – geysers, hot mud pools, steaming pools of volcanic bi-products – some of the areas around Rotorua feel more like a Marsian landscape than anything on Earth. The Whakarewarewa geothermal area offers the best experience – you'd be forgiven for thinking you were on the set of a Sci-Fi movie, steam billowing out of the ground, strange pools of green liquid hissing loud and bubbling mounds of mud. With all that hot water and mud being released from the ground no surprise Rotorua is the self-styled thermal spa capital of the South Pacific, with many opportunities to take to the warm waters, lounge in a mud bath or relax in a sulphur pool.
3. Catch the Ferry to Russell and Drink in New Zealand's Oldest Pub
Catch the small passenger ferry from Paihia over to Russell in the Bay of Islands and enjoy a drink outside The Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand's oldest pub. As you sip your drink, overlooking the shore, look around you and try to imagine this quaint, sleepy town as it was just over a hundred years ago – one of the roughest ports in the Pacific with a fearsome reputation! Often times have changed and Russell, the first capital of New Zealand, is now a charming Bay of Islands town. The perfect place to while away a summer's afternoon.
4. Catch a Trout in the Tongariro River, Taupo
New Zealand is world-renovated for its fishing – especially trout fishing – and Taupo is the center for that, with the Tongariro river at its heart. Even Taupo's welcome sign has a big trout on it! You do not have to be an expert to catch a fish and it's all about being out on the river in spectacular scenery as much as the fishing. If you do catch a trout then the good news is that local restaurants will be able to cook it for you to round off your day.
5. Go Whale Watching at Kaikoura
The best location in the world to get up close to giant Sperm Whales as they come up for air between dives to the bottom of the sea. Excellent whale watching trips are available from a company owned and operated by a local Maori tribe. Dolphins and seals are also plentiful and easily seen, as is the giant albatross, but it is the whales that are the reason to visit. The town has a strikingly beautiful setting, with the snow-capped Kaikoura mountains acting as a backdrop, as they tower over the coast. And no better way to finish your day than with a plate of crayfish, for which the town is famous.
6. Visit Te Papa Museum in Wellington
New Zealand's innovative and high-tech national museum, on the waterfront in Wellington The best way to understand the country and its people in a day and have fun at the same time. Plenty of interesting exhibits documenting the lives of the Maori and early settlers plus showcases explaining the natural beauty of New Zealand. A virtual bungy jump and an earthquake simulator add memorable high-tech appeal.
7. Drive to Glenorchy (from Queenstown)
If you are visiting Queenstown, leave a day aside for a drive around Lake Wakatipu to the beautiful township of Glenorchy which greets visitors with the sign "Welcome To Paradise". And the few locales lucky enough to live in this spot are not guilty of overstatement – it really is a beautiful place. The hour-long drive between Glenorchy and Queenstown is full of photograph opportunities. Afterwards return to Queenstown to explore its excellent bars.
8. Camp Overnight in Mahurangi Park
Shhh! I can not tell you too much about this one as it is one of New Zealand's best kept secrets, according to Josh. So you'll just have to take his word for it – or better still – experience it for yourself. Mahurangi Park is an hour north of Auckland, not particularly well-known and set in wonderful coastal and bush scenery. A haven for coastal walkers, kayakers and those looking to chill out. Beautiful bays, picturesque natural harbors, warm weather – that's as much as we are allowed to know apparently!
9. Spend a Weekend on Stewart Island
Visit Stewart Island for the weekend – and eat freshly cooked local oysters with fish and chips bought from the famous Oban Kai Kart. Stewart Islands is 90% nature reserve with lots of walks offering close up views of New Zealand's weird and wonderful bird life.
10. Enjoy Art Deco Weekend in Napier
Re-live the 1930s by visiting Napier on its annual Art Deco weekend. With memories of the recent Christchurch earthquake fresh in the mind the inclusion of Napier in this list serves to remind us what a city can do to pick itself up after a natural disaster. Napier was itself destroyed by earthquake in 1931 but with typical Kiwi resolve rebuilt itself in Art Deco style and it has become a living monument to that period of architecture. In fact it has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status as a result and its annual Art Deco weekend is a fitting celebration of this architectural heritage.