New Zealand is my second home and it’s been my home-base since 2007. I experienced (and still experiencing!) so many adventures and learned (still learning too!) a lot of things in this country. It is where I learned how to drive (and eventually got a full drivers license! yay! :)), experienced some of the best adventures of my life, where I matured into a confident and brave person that I found myself today and most especially, it is where I met my Pepper
Kiwiland is the eye-candy of countries as there is always something new and beautiful to see and experience in every turn, in every corner! So many that even my almost 10 years here isn’t enough. I’ve read guide books, articles, magazines and blog posts on what are the must-sees, must-dos and must-experience and came up to a list.
** Special Note: I am in no way claiming that this is ‘THE ULTIMATE BUCKETLIST’, it is “MY ULTIMATE BUCKETLIST”. These are all based on books I’ve read about New Zealand, shows I’ve watched, stories from friends and blog posts I’ve read. If you reckon there’s more that I should add, please feel free to comment and tell me! I want to experience the best of New Zealand! Thanks!
So here yah go! My Ultimate New Zealand Bucketlist!!
So far, I’m at 34 out of 51! 😉
- Sky Dive at least once! – There are lots of sky diving spots both in the north and south island. You have a lot of options and views to choose from. I sky dived for my 30th birthday in Queenstown, flying over Lake Wakatipu and had one of the most incredible experiences of my life! It was the best way to spend my 30th birthday! Here’s the link to my sky dive video.
- Bungy Jump at least once! I love adrenalin pumping activities! New Zealand is also full of bungy jumping sites too! My first jump was at the Auckland Harbour Bridge on my first Christmas Holiday here in Kiwiland. I was very scared to jump and actually jumped the wrong way. I literally jumped, not dived! But all good! I wasn’t hurt and I had an amazing adrenalin rush!
- Swim with wild dolphins. – In my opinion, the 2 best spots are Kaikoura and Akaroa. Pepper gifted me with this experience for my 32nd Birthday and we both swam with wild dolphins in Kaikoura. Take note that these are “wild dolphins” and no one should touch them as they might feel threatened or they might acquire virus/bacteria from people which will might make them sick. While swimming, make some noises to attract them to go near and swim around you. They can be very friendly and playful!
- Walk (or Bike) the Queen Charlotte Track and explore the Marlborough Sounds – One of the most beautiful walks/tracks in New Zealand is the Queen Charlotte Track. It’s a 70km track between Queen Charlotte Sounds and Keneperu Sounds within the Marlborough Sounds! 😉 It can be done in 4-5 days, depending on how many stops you make. There are a few resorts and camp sites to stop by, eat and rest. You can walk (or run) or bike the track. The track extends from Ship Cove to Anakiwa where you can then take a water taxi to go back to Picton. The first stretch from Ship Cove to Punga Cove is relatively easy and one of my best buddies, Becky, and I did it over Easter (2016). We took our time, stopping by Furneaux Lodge at Endeavor Inlet and the quirky and fun resort of Punga Cove. We only walked around a third of the whole track due to time constraints. We only have the Easter long weekend off work! We’ll be back to finish the whole track!!
- Walk, Swim or Bike the Abel Tasman National Park Track – Another magnificent track that gives you views that are to die for! Seriously, some of the best beaches, coves and bays in New Zealand can be found here! And the water is warmer than at Marlborough Sounds! If you’re lucky you can even see blue penguins. There are 2 ways to walk the track, one form the Marahau end and the other from the Golden Bay end. Both are fantastic!
- Milford Sound Cruise – A cruise that I’d personally highly recommend! It’s a bit of a drive from Queenstown but totally worth it – wild mountain views, streams, lakes (do stop by Lake Te Anau!) and so much more! Then you get to the dock to jump aboard the boat for the cruise and be amazed once again by the stunning waterfalls, wildlife and mountain views. It’s all so raw, wild and untouched.
- Jetski at Paihia, Bay of Islands – Paihia is filled with watersports, great restaurants and vibrant atmosphere. It’s where you’d like to go if you want to have a great time away from the city yet still be within walking distance to great restaurants and bars. You can go kayaking, sailing, jetskiing, diving, swimming, etc etc… Like I said, a lot of water activities! You are also 5 minutes away from the Waitangi Grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. So there yah go, a bit of culture, a bit of fun, a bit of everything! 😉
- Jet Boat – Another activity that is sure to give you some great adrenaline rush! I’ve done it twice, at Akaroa in 2008 and Waimakariri Gorge in 2014. Pepper experienced twice as well – Waimakariri Gorge in 2014 and Queenstown just last month for his mate’s stag’s do! There are lots of places to do this and you are guaranteed great river and canyon views! Pepper reckons the best is the one in Queenstown! 😉
- The Golden Bay and its beaches – Perhaps the best beaches in the South Island! The sand varies from gray to golden sand and the views from wild to tropical. You can spend a week, even more and not get tired of the views. My absolute favourites are Ligar Bay, Wainui Bay and Wharariki Beach.
- Moeraki Boulders – One of the most unusual things I’ve seen, the moeraki boulders and large spherical boulders lying on the stretch of Koekohe Beach. They somehow remind me of the cartoon “Dragon Ball Z”. 😉 If you are on your way to Dunedin, this is a great stop.
- The Coromandel & its beautiful beaches – Some of my favorite beaches are in this peninsula. Talk about Hot Water Beach where you dig up your own natural hot spring along the beach, Hahei Beach with it’s crystal clear waters, awesome waves of Surf’s Beach, family-friendly Cooks Beach and of course, Cathedral Cove! A week or more is a must!
- Auckland Sky Tower and Auckland City – Want to get a good view of downtown Auckland and beyond? Go up the Auckland Sky Tower. Perhaps the most culturally diversed region of New Zealand, Auckland is the biggest city in the country. Lots of good places to eat and shop! My favorite, the Elliott Stables, especially the Torchon French Creperie.
- The Capital, Wellington City – My favorite City in New Zealand! With great restaurants, museums, hotels, people and atmosphere, there’s nothing to keep you away from the Kiwi Capital. Well, I do have to remind you of the somehow a bit shaky landing when flying into Wellington – yes, it’s a very windy city! I love how diverse Wellington is and it can be well noticed with the amazing restaurants that offer delicious foods. Do take a walk at Cuba Street and if you’re lucky, there might be a salsa session! A bit of boogie, yeah?! To get a good understanding of New Zealand’s history, stop by the impressive Te Papa and also, do ride the quirky cable car up the Botanical Gardens. Lots oh great walks and stunning harbour views too!
- Dunedin – Another favourite! I love the architecture, the vibe (school holidays or not), the Otago Peninsula, the Chocolate Factory and the steepest street in the world, Baldwin Street! Be sure to drive the Otago Peninsula and enjoy the views! There’s also an organized trip to see the yellow-eyed penguins (love love love).
- The Catlins – Another amazing scenic drive filled with beautiful cliff and sea views, waterfall stops and friendly wildlife encounters! The view at the Nugget Point is very impressive!
- The South Island Lakes – Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Lake Rotoiti, Lake Te Anau, Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Lake Wakatipu – New Zealand is full of beautiful lakes and I am a big fan! I have a post on my favourites! Check it out here!
- Wine and Food Festival – The are lots of wineries in New Zealand, both North and South Island and alongside these are the different festivals that pairs wine with food and Kiwi music to dance to! I lived in Blenheim, Marlborough Region for 4 years, surrounded by endless rows of vineyards and came to have the habit of attending the annual Wine and Food Festival. I’m not really a wine fanatic (I hardly drink) but I’ve tried a few wines. The atmosphere is great in such events and everyone brings their A-game with the food pairings!
Here is the complete list of the food and wine festivals in New Zealand, for your reference!
- Beer Festival – There are a few beer festivals around New Zealand too! Another tradition that I came to have while living in Blenheim was attending the Blues, Brews and BBQs (my former boss is a member of the club that organizes this event). People dress up and enjoy the different local brews and dance to the music of live bands!
- Christchurch Gondola and Tramway Restaurant – After the devastating earthquake in 2011, I’m happy to say that the grid city is recovering slowly but surely. A lot of improvements, new buildings, business and new-found strength of the its people. I’ve lived here since 2012 and been involved with re-build (from residential to commercial re-build and new-build). If you are here in Christchurch for a day or 2, I have 2 recommendations for you! To get a good look at within the city and see how much has recovered and which still needs to be recovered alongside eating good food, try the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant. Great food, great service and a really great way to have a look around the city. Another is the Christchurch Gondola that takes you up Mt Cavendish to enjoy 360 degree views from the beaches of Sumner, around through Banks Peninsula.
- Akaroa – Less than couple of hours drive from Christchurch and you experience kind of a different world; streets are named in French, almost every house is a heritage home and you are just a swim away from Hector’s Dolphins. It’s a great day trip from Christchurch! If you’re planning to stay the weekend or even better, a long weekend, check out the different beautiful holiday homes that are all great for value! Checkout some of them here.
- Zorb, Luge, Sky Swing and Amazing Rotorua – Once you get past the smell of suphur (kind of rotten egg smell), all the fun and games can begin! Haha. With impressive geothermal parks, mud and mineral pools and fun activities, the smell can definitely be easily forgotten!
- Snowboarding or Skiing (Winter Sports) – New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere making it’s winter season from June to August. This gives winter sports enthusiasts more time to enjoy skiing and snowboarding, well, once you’ve enjoyed your winter vacation up the Northern Hemisphere. My favourite ski fields are those in Mt Ruapehu, Mt. Cook and Coronet Peak and The Remarkables in Queenstown.
- New Zealand Hot Springs – Maruia Springs, Hanmer Springs, Lake Tekapo Springs, Franz Josef Glacier Hot Springs and Onsen Hot Pools – As much as I love swimming in the ocean or sea, I also love relaxing in the warm/hot waters of NZ’s natural hot springs and pools. I do have a specific post on my favorite Hot Pools and Springs in the South Island. Check it out!
- Nelson and Tahunanui Beach – An hour or so drive from Blenheim and you’re in Nelson. A colorful town with great cafes, restaurants, wineries and shoreline (yeah, Tahunanui beach!!) Include a gorgeous sunset anytime of the year and a sort of hippy vibe. While living in Blenheim, a trip or 2 to Nelson every month to go shopping or attend a salsa party was kind of a thing for me and my friends! Also, a great scenic drive on your way to Abel Tasman National Park! You can also step into the geographical center of New Zealand there!
- Watch a live Rugby Game! (I watched the All Blacks LIVE at the Rugby World Cup 2011!! – I’ve never heard of the sport ‘RUGBY’ until I moved to New Zealand and the first game I watched on TV, someone was bleeding and the referee had to ask him to get patched up. I readily thought that it’s a brutal sport. Then came the World Cup in 2007. Everyone in my work followed this, including my boss who even flew to France with his wife to follow the journey of the All Blacks who was a favourite at that time. I found myself getting updates even though I don’t really understand what’s going on in the game. Unfortunately, they weren’t successful that time. Then came 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. I watched the fantastic opening ceremony, the first game between New Zealand and Tonga and all the following games until the All Blacks finally won! I realized then that the brutal game that I didn’t like is now my favourite sport to follow. I even booked tickets and watched the All Blacks beat different teams with my friends and even dressed up! I also followed and watched all the All Blacks games on TV on 2015 rugby World Cup. New Zealand live and breathe the sport and RUGBY is synonymous to being Kiwi. It’s a must to at least watch one Rugby game if your are in New Zealand.
- Franz Josef, Fox, Tasman Glacier Walk and Adventure – One adventure that I’ll never, ever forget is our ice climb trip at Franz Josef Glacier. It was great start, walking and climbing and exploring the glaciers. There’s also a Maori Legend about the Franz Josef Glacier. Check it out here.
- Go Sailing – Auckland is the City of Sails. But let’s take it, anywhere in New Zealand is great for sailing! Bay of Islands, Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman, the list goes on. I enjoyed time sailing and sunbathing while exploring the beaches of Abel Tasman National Park last year! I still consider it one of the best trips, EVER!
- Go Kayaking. Go Canoeing. – Kayaking is another must do! (especially at Abel Tasman!) Canoeing is another! So much water activities is this country for you to enjoy!
- Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – Located in the west coast of NZ, these ‘pancake-like’ layers of limestones and blowholes are part of the Paparoa National park. It can be explored through various walkways (some of which are wheelchair accessible!)
- Omaka Classic Fighters Air Show – A fabulous show, alternating every 2 years between Blenheim and Wanaka. I was lucky to watch their exhibition for the first time in 2009! Impressive vintage fighter planes doing loops and all. For details, check out their website here.
- Ferry from South to North Island – Cook Straight – A great way to see a part of the Marlborough Sounds and travel from the South Island to the North Island (or the other way around). A great option if you’re trying to avoid flying into windy Wellington (a tad scary at times, lol). I’ve taken the ferry at different times and honestly, the views are ever changing and beautiful!
- Castle Hill (Chronicles of Narnia) – A childhood favourite and a delight to visit it’s film location! No movie studious needed when you are in New Zealand. Nature provides!
- Glamping in NZ – The Yurt at The Coromandel – Glamping (glamourous camping, haha!) is starting to become a trend in New Zealand. Still camping but with a little bit more comfort! There are lots of accommodation options in NZ, from hostels to hotels, campervans and yes, GLAMPING! We got to experience this in The Coromandel when we stayed at a pretty Yurt! Yes, a Mongolian tent! Actually planning to glamp again this year!
- Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Film Locations Tour – Of all the series’ film locations, I’ve only been to one – The Pelorus Sounds which was the set for the scene when the hobbits had to hide in barrels! I remember this so well as the company I worked for before had to organize the closure of the road leading to Pelorus Sounds. We’re planning to visit the other locations for both films, most especially Hobbiton at Matamata and the rest of Middle Earth!
- Everything Queenstown with my Pepper. – I’ve been to Queenstown 5 times already but none of those was with Pepper. Queenstown is a beautiful place, full of adrenalin pumping activities, delicious food and yes, romance and romantic places. I want my next trip to Queenstown to be with my handsome Pepper. We want to have dinner at the Skyline Restaurant, spend a few days and relax at the best health retreat in the world – Aro Ha Wellness, go on a helicopter ride to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak and so much more. I am so so excited!!
- Gisborne and its beaches – One of the remaining 2 NZ regions that I’ve never been too and is looking forward to visit.
- Climb a mountain. (Mt. Taranaki)
- Kerikeri and The Magic Cottage
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Waiheke Island
- Glow Worms at Waitomo Cave
- Mt. Cook – Hike and Stargaze
- Tree-top Adventure, Hokitika Gorge and the Trans Alpine Train Ride
- Stargazing at St. John Observatory in Tekapo
- Huka Falls
- Maori Immersion and Hangi in Rotorua
- Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand
- 90 Mile Beach (Sandboarding)
- Chill in Raglan
- Watch the Southern Lights – Aurora Australis
- Travel to every NZ Region – There are 16 Regions of New Zealand in Total…
Regions Visited/Traveled To/Lived In: Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington, Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland.
Regions still to set foot in/travel to/visit: Gisborne and Taranaki.
So there yah go… my ‘bucketlist’ so far! There’s always somethings new to add but I reckon this is the list I will try to complete for now! If you have more suggestions, please feel free to tell me! (The list might go on and on). But one can’t and won’t really have enough of this beautiful country!
Ciao for now! Lots of hugs!