Best of New Zealand 36

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In honor of “Blog for New Zealand,” which is an effort to get the word out via dozens of travel blogs that New Zealand is open for business after the latest massive earthquake in the Christchurch area, I thought I’d do a post highlighting some of the many great reasons people should put New Zealand on their wish list of destinations.

I have written more about New Zealand than any other single location in my 300+ posts and for good reason. The people are perhaps the friendliest in the world and New Zealand packs more things to do in a smaller area than anywhere else I have ever been.

The Wellington Sevens – I love this event and I will be back there, if only to experience this weekend more fully (this time, I want to get tickets and actually go to the games). The Wellington Sevens is an international rugby tournament — seven being the number of players on each country’s team. The action is incredibly fast and furious and the entire game takes a total of 15 minutes and there are about 35 games packed into each day of the event.

wellington sevens rugby tournament costumes

a couple long-time buddies going to a game

But the action of the game isn’t the only reason for my love of this particular weekend. The fans are insane. Everyone dresses in costume. Quite elaborate costumes. Think Bourbon Street on Halloween. Plus, add the Kiwi version of drinking, which is only rivaled by the Aussies (yes, the Brits can drink a lot, but frankly, the Kiwis and Aussies do it with the same volume, happinesses, and a none of the belligerence).

I did two posts on the whole experience.  “Seen at the Wellington Sevens“and Heard at the Wellington Sevens.” Now that I think about it, I also posted a video of a full band (of fans) playing outside.

Hitchhiking in New Zealand – Another topic that I have written about multiple times, but certainly one worth emphasizing over and over again. The Kiwis might be the friendliest and nicest people on the planet. When I arrived and was discussing my travel thoughts for the two islands, numerous Kiwis asked me if I was going to hitchhike at all. Frankly, I’d never even considered the option, but on their universal recommendation I did. And then I did it again, and again, and again.

This was my first hitchhiking effort in New Zealand, where I got invited to meet my driver’s fiancees’ parents at a BBQ party…. and he hadn’t ever met them in person yet. Here was another hitchhiking effort on the South Island and yet another down there, where a local gave me a ride and some great insights on Queenstown. One thing I wish I had done, but didn’t, was renting a campervan and hitting some camping spots in New Zealand.

Doubtful Sound Waterfall from kayak

luckily it had rained earlier in the day

Milford and Doubtful Sounds – As if the people aren’t enough reason to go visit New Zealand, the scenery is so spectacular that you’d want to go even if the islands were uninhabited. Milford Sound is rightly world famous as one of the most scenic fjords in the world, but for my money, I prefer its neighbor, Doubtful Sound.

Milford Sound has more stunning vistas, but it also has the predominance of tourists, since it is far more accessible. I ended up doing a two-day kayak trip in Doubtful Sound and, aside from the sandflies, feel in love with the peaceful and relaxing experience of it all. Do both if you are in the neighborhood, but I’d suggest a boat tour on Milford with the tourist crowd and then two days in kayaks on Doubtful Sound to round off the whole experience.

And if anyone is there during the Great Naked Homer Tunnel Race (yep, an annual event), you might just see me running in it. Its on my long list of reasons to head back to these islands.

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers – On the west side of the South Island are two of the most interesting glaciers in the world in that they descend from the Southern Alps right down to almost sea level, and peter out in lush, warm, temperate rainforest at that level. Though retreating quickly due to global warming, they are still a awe-inspiring sight and quite easy to access. I ended up going to see Franz Josef Glacier and got some great photos in addition to good exercise (I walked the 3-4 kilometers from town and back).

Things to do on my next trip back there: skydive over the glacier — one of the world’s best dives, which I couldn’t do on account of weather — and take a guided tour up and on the actual glacier.

Dolphin Cruise, Bay of Islands – One of the parts of the country that doesn’t get enough love in the press or from tourists is Northland, the spit of land on the North Island that juts up north of Auckland. Home to some of the best scuba diving in the world at the Poor Knights Islands and also the rugged 90 Mile Beach, I ended up spending some time around the Bay of Islands, which I couldn’t more highly recommend.

I ended up doing a dolphin cruise in the Bay of Islands (check out the last photo in that post), where I wanted to swim with the dolphins, but the pods that we ran into had infants in them, so we weren’t allowed to. As a side note, I was quite impressed with the professionalism of the guides and complete respect for what was good for the animals in not letting us get down in the water with them, but it is yet another reason I need to get back there soon. Northland is an area that you could spend a couple weeks in by itself, but I only had a few days.

I could go on and on about this fantastic place. Napier, a city completely destroyed by earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in Art Deco style. The many and varied wine regions all over both islands. The famous All Blacks New Zealand Rugby team. The snow skiing in the Wakaka region (which also boasts one of my favorite little art house movie theaters in the world). The multi-day hiking on the nicest and best maintained hiking trails in the world. World class surfing. Whale watching in Kaikoura. The world’s first and most famous bungee jump. Black water cave rafting. The Maori cultural experience. Great train rides. Volcanic hot spas.

And did I mention the nicest and friendliest people in the world?

Back a few decades ago before I started any international travel, I was clerking during law school at the law firm in Little Rock Arkansas that Bill Clinton used to work at. One of the partners had a world map on the wall of his office with dozens and dozens of push-pins stuck in it. They were all the countries in the world that he and his wife had traveled to so far. There must have been 80 of them.

I asked him what the best countries in the world he’d been to. He said, “Well, New Zealand is number one. There are a dozen others that I love and can talk about forever, but number one is the easiest choice of the lot for me.” He went on and on about how good the food was in NZ as well.

After hitting about 55 so far in my travels, I can’t say that opinion was mistaken in anyway whatsoever.

I didn’t fly there, but there are plenty of good flights to New Zealand when and if you are ready to head down there. Seriously…. it is a must-see country that should be on everyone’s list of places to go to.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

36 thoughts on “Best of New Zealand

  • Wandering Trader's Travels

    First of all, it’s really great that you’re blogging for New Zealand. The recent earthquake that struck them must be deterring travelers to go there and it’s wonderful how you’re doing your part in turning that around 🙂

    Your picture of the fjord is stunning by the way. And really… the costumes that the locals wear for the Wellingtons Seven is enough of an attraction. LOL. Very creative of them 😀

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      the Sevens was such a wild weekend — I need to make it back, if only for more of that

  • Amanda

    Great post, Michael! The Wellington Sevens is definitely on my bucket list!

    You definitely highlighted a lot of great things to do in NZ here.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      as you know, one of my favorite countries. I don’t know if I can get up to you level of love for it, but I am trying.

  • Katherine

    This is such a well written piece – broad, yet specific. Thoroughly enjoyed it and totally inspired by it.

  • Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_

    It’s so true! They are amazingly friendly. I worked in a small bar in the country where everyone knew each other well and they welcomed me with open arms. Not to mention how breathtakingly beautiful it is everywhere you look!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      you worked in a bar??!! Hmmmm, this is more shocking insight into your personality 😉

  • John in France

    Touched by your great article Michael. I never knew about the Naked Homer Tunnel run – luckily!! Look forward to seeing you back here – 4 million people to look after you!!!

  • Lauren

    Great post! I will be hitting up New Zealand on my future RTW trip, and it’s one of the places I’m most excited about. There’s so many activities I want to do!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      would be hard to leave that place, but meet plenty of awesome Kiwi travelers on the road also

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      didn’t get to do any music, though could have seen AC/DC and just lamed out. Damn it.

  • Jim

    Well, fancy that, a naked Homer Tunnel run. One way to get real friendly after all.
    Love this article Michael.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      well, although I’d like to do it… not sure I want to get THAT friendly in there 😉

  • Federico

    Kiwis are super friendly people indeed, but perhaps strangely the only confrontation I had with someone during my 1 year rtw trip was there. IMHO Taiwanese are the friendliest people in the world by miles.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      suppose you can have a confrontation anywhere, but yea, that does surprise me a bit.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      in a small area… perhaps the most diversity in the world on that score there

  • Margo

    New Zealand is definitely on my bucket list. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about not just the sights and scenery this past week, but about the country’s wonderful people.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      It is a place I could move to tomorrow. Well, if I had a nice source of income that is.

  • Sophie

    Agree that Northland – and maybe even the whole North Island – doesn’t get enough attention by travellers. Yet, it’s as stunning in its own way as the south.

  • Randy

    If those gents in the second picture represent the sporting class, well you can count me in! I’ve got a speed racer costume that I’ve been saving for just the right moment.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      The Sevens is reason enough to go to New Zealand on its own. Such a great event.

  • Anna Luiza

    Hey, Love this post!
    This is actually one of my favorite countries (so much so that I went back after the quake).
    I love this initiative! NZ is amazing and even though Chch is only starting to recover there are still a lot to see around the rest of the South Island!


    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Thanks, Anna! Appreciate you finding the blog and I agree, NZ is one of the ones right up at the top of my favorites list.

  • Rubinshtein

    Some unpleasant facts you must know about tourists in the “Kiwi Land” 8.2011
    New Zealand is a beautiful country and a pleasant place to visit until something get wrong, and then you may discover the strong solidarity among the Kiwis on the expense of the foreigner, the tourist.
    Before our visit to New Zealand, me and my wife and acquaintance of us had done car reservations by email, one car on my name and another car on the other couple name.
    When we received the car, Apex, the car rental company, so they claim, had done a mistake and put my name also on the other car rental agreement. They say that immediately after the other couple had signed that wrong agreement they discovered the mistake and corrected the other couple agreement but forgot to sign them. I did not heard about this mistake at the time, but In the Kiwi Land this mistake done by Apex became officially my problem.
    As we returned home I received a traffic violation report on a car I did not rented and I suspected it to be the other couple car.
    I thought it was an honest mistake but after a long and unpleasant correspondence with Apex, with the NZ Police, with the NZ Ministry of Justice and with a lot of other NZ institutes I found out that it had been done intentionally in order to solve Apex problem, obviously on my expense.
    All there replies were that it is my responsibility either to pay the report or give them the details of the other car driver.
    Why? – The outrageous official reply: Because Apex claims that due to their mistakes they don’t know the other couple address and driver license No and since both car reservations were done in one email and both cars had been delivered on the same day, I am responsible for both cars. I believe this is against the New Zealand law and they would not dare to do this to a Kiwi.
    Fortunately in my case, in part of our trip, the other couple accompanied us so I had searched all my 4000 pictures and found one picture of the other couple car. After enlarging it I had identified their car registration number and found that it was the offensive car. Then I had searched the phone book and found the address of the other couple.
    It is frightening to think what may have happen if I did not had a way to locate the other couple and there was a car accident or a serious incident.
    We had visited both western countries and third world countries and had never received such outrageous attitude.
    We will never come back to New Zealand – We prefer countries which respect their tourists.

  • Socorro Herman

    I don’t know if I can get up to you level of love for it, but I am trying. And really… the costumes that the locals wear for the Wellingtons Seven is enough of an attraction. Fortunately in my case, in part of our trip, the other couple accompanied us so I had searched all my 4000 pictures and found one picture of the other couple car. This is actually one of my favorite countries (so much so that I went back after the quake).

  • Ina Harvey

    suppose you can have a confrontation anywhere, but yea, that does surprise me a bit. Damn it. I will be hitting up New Zealand on my future RTW trip, and it’s one of the places I’m most excited about. First of all, it’s really great that you’re blogging for New Zealand.

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