Kia Ora – New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations on the planet. From the stunning vistas of the Southern Alps, to the hot springs and geysers and traditional Māori cultural experiences in Rotorua, the award-winning wineries of Auckland, and Hobbiton, the home of The Shire from the Lord of the Rings series, New Zealand absolutely takes your breath away. Adventure seekers will find New Zealand, the country that invented bungee jumping to be paradise. From jumping off the Sky Tower in Auckland or the Queenstown Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the world’s first bungy jump, to racing in a speedboat in Shotover canyon, skiing, ice-climbing and a host of other adventure activities, New Zealand delivers an adrenaline rush, like no other destination.
The North Island
Our journey begins in the city of Auckland, on the North Island. Located on a narrow isthmus between the Manukau harbour on the Tasman Sea and Waitemata harbour on the Pacific Ocean, Auckland is a beautiful city with spectacular beaches and hiking trails, award-winning wineries, and exciting cultural and adventure activities, including the adrenaline pumping SkyWalk and SkyJump, a 192 meter jump from the top of the Sky Tower.
Beyond the city, the Auckland region has several quaint destinations a short ferry ride away from the city, including Waiheke Island, known as the ‘island of wine’ for its many award-winning wineries, and Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano with hiking trails all the way up to the summit.
Next, we visit Hobbiton, the movie set where director Peter Jackson filmed several scenes in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and The Hobbit film series. Once a family owned farm called the Alexander Farm, Peter Jackson and his team built an elaborate movie set including 37 hobbit holes, associated gardens and hedges, a mill and a double arch bridge, and a 26 ton artificial oak tree to transform the location into the Shire, the home of the Hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous books.
Today, visitors can take a 2 hour guided tour of the movie set and visit such locations as Bagshot Row, the Party Tree, and Bilbo’s Bag End home. The tour is one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand and is booked well in advance.
Finally, we visit Rotorua, famous for the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, which has over 500 hot springs and mud pools, and at least 65 geyser vents. There are two geothermal sites in Rotorua called Te Puia and Wai-O-Tapu with world-famous sights like the Pohutu Geyser, the Artist’s Palette, and the Champagne Pool. Rotorua is also known as a center of Māori (indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) culture, and offers several opportunities to explore traditional Māori arts & crafts and cuisine.
The South Island
Located on the edge of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown is a little slice of heaven on earth.
An enchanting mix of natural beauty, epic film locations from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, beautiful resorts, exceptional cuisine, and adventure sports like jet boating, and the world’s first Bungy jump, Queenstown will surely steal your heart. Some of the must do activities in Queenstown are the Skyline Gondola, the Shotover jet speed boat ride, and a day tour to Milford Sound.
The Skyline Gondola takes you up to the top of Bob’s peak for breathtaking views of the Queenstown area, and provides access to the Skyline Luge, and the Stratosfare restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner.
The Shotover Jet, one of the world’s most exhilarating jet boat rides, enables visitors to experience the beauty of the Kimiākau (Shotover River) Canyons, and learn about the Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous Māori people of the Queenstown area, while traveling at over 90 kilometers per hour over water as shallow as 10 centimeters.
The jewel in the crown however is Milford Sound, New Zealand’s most famous travel destination, and a place that Rudyard Kipling once called “the eighth Wonder of the World.” The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, a fjord, 15 kilometers inland from the Tasman Sea, is itself breathtaking.
The fjord itself is surrounded by steep rock faces that rise over 1,200 meters (3,900 feet). Some of the most imposing peaks include The Elephant, a peak that resembles an Elephant’s head and rises 1,517 meters (4,977 feet) and The Lion, which resembles a crouching lion and rises 1,302 meters (4,272 feet). There are also two permanent waterfalls, and multiple temporary waterfalls, especially when it rains.
The combination of Milford Sound’s peaks, waterfalls, local wildlife including crested penguins, bottlenose dolphins and various species of birds, and activities like boat cruises, sea kayaking, diving or flightseeing, make this day trip a truly unforgettable experience.