10 reasons we’re excited about NZ!

1. Glowworm Caves 

The sparkling show put on by the glowworms at Te Anau Glowworm Caves will blow you away.  To reach the caves you will travel through a mysterious underground world of twisting limestone passages, rushing water, whirlpools and thundering underground waterfalls.  The caves were found in 1948 by Lawson Burrows after three years searching using clues from old Maori legends. The caves are very young, about 12,000 years old, and are still being carved by the rushing water.  The caves lie in the Murchison Mountains, across Lake Te Anau from the village of Te Anau 2.5 hours from Queenstown. 

2. Otago Central Rail Trail

For 150 scenic kilometres, the Otago Central Rail Trail crosses sub-alpine countryside between Clyde and Middlemarch. The rails, sleepers and loose bedding gravel from the abandoned railway have been removed, leaving a wide and well-formed path.  Free from concerns about passing road traffic, trail users can focus fully on the big-sky rolling landscapes that subtly change at every turn. Another benefit of this trail is that railways use bridges and tunnels to avoid steep inclines. To reflect the current purpose of the trail, all the bridges have been re-decked and handrails have been added.  As each section of the original railway was constructed, small towns were built to house the workers. The settlements grew as some families stayed on to work the land or sell their metal, wood and stone working skills to local farmers. Highly talented stonemasons from the railway gangs constructed many attractive, sturdy buildings that proudly remain today. After a day on the trail, these towns offer comfortable accommodation and the chance to plan your next day over a relaxing drink and a hearty meal.

3. Hamner Springs – Natural Hot Springs

Set in a breathtaking natural landscape, surrounded by forests and mountains, the award-winning Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa offers visitors a wide range of experiences, from soothing indulgence to exciting family fun.  The Thermal Pools & Spa has a range of pools – twelve open-air thermal pools, three sulphur pools and six private indoor thermal pools, as well as a sauna/steam room.  Our new freshwater, heated swimming pool has “resort style” walk-in beach access and a “Lazy River”. Our popular family activity area of water slides, water toys and picnic area has been enhanced with the addition of the AquaPlay Area and the impressive SuperBowl.  And with a bounteous supply of the thermally heated spring water, the pools range in temperature from 28-42° Celsius – perfect for soothing away aches and pains or for just unwinding. 

4. Glaciers 

New Zealand’s Glacier Country, on the South Island’s West Coast, is at the heart of the broader UNESCO World Heritage Area, Te Wahipounamu.  From the mountains to the sea, you won’t want to miss any of it. Active adventure, relaxation or family fun all against the backdrop of spectacular scenery, Glacier Country offers something for everyone.  There is a wealth of things to do in Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, Okarito and the surrounding area, and this is only the beginning…there is so much to explore in the pristine wetlands, beaches, grasslands, lakes, mountains and forests of Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

5. Penguins

New Zealand has three species of penguin. You cannot help but be charmed by these amazing birds that have a character all of their own.  On the land penguins have an ungainly waddle, marching upright like self-important little people. But in the water they take on a new grace, diving and swooping with acrobatic agility.  Of New Zealand’s species, the korora, or little blue penguin, is the world’s smallest penguin. You’ll find these little birds, usually when they come ashore at night, in the Marlborough SoundsAkaroa HarbourOamaru and Stewart Island.  The rare hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, is distinguished by its vivid yellow eye band. You’ll find them on the Otago Peninsula, just south of Dunedin and round the Catlinsregion. Dunedin is where you can find one of the best wildlife tours giving you an incredible close up view of the penguins, sea lions and fur seals in their natural habitat.  And last, but not least, there’s the Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki). One of the world’s rarest, this beautiful bird lives in the South Island and is found in rainforested areas of Haast, Lake Moeraki, Stewart Island and Fiordland.

6. Stargazing

Dark, clear skies; unique celestial features and otherworldly landscapes make stargazing in New Zealand a breathtakingly magical experience.  Here, the heavens appear closer to earth. See constellations and shooting stars in glittering dark skies; much of the country has no light pollution and is home to some of the most accessible observatories in the world.  Home to the darkest skies in the world – Recently, 4,300 square kilometres of New Zealand’s South Island was recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest reserve of this type worldwide. Covering much of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region, the Dark Sky Reserve has been labelled as ‘one of the best stargazing sites on earth’. 

7. Food & Wine

New Zealand is a food and wine lover’s paradise. Vineyards stretch throughout every region, chefs put playful local twists on fine cuisine and festivals serve up taste sensations with a side of local music.  Most wineries are open for tasting, and many have fine restaurants onsite. There are plenty of bicycle and chauffeur-driven wine tours so get ready to sample!  New Zealand food goes way beyond fish and chips and barbeques – our chefs have developed a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine. Expect to indulge in plenty of seafood (like greenlipped mussels, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters and fresh fish), award winning cheeses and of course our famous lamb. You should also expect a laid-back, friendly atmosphere wherever you eat; Kiwis love to keep things casual. 

8. Fiordland National Park

Carved by glaciers over 100,000 years the landscape is one where waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into deep black fiords; where ancient rainforest untouched by man clings to mountains and where shimmering lakes and granite peaks look as they did a thousand years ago.  Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site and includes Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Milford Sound, Rudyard Kipling described as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

9. Christchurch

Christchurch is New Zealand’s second-largest city and the gateway to the South Island.  Bordered by hills and the Pacific Ocean, it is situated on the edge of the Canterbury Plains that stretch to the Southern Alps.  There is nowhere else in the world where, within two hours of an international airport, where you can ski at a world-class alpine resort, play golf, bungy jump, raft, mountain bike, hot-air balloon, wind surf, whale watch and visit internationally-acclaimed wineries and gardens.  There is also a funky new vibe to the city centre as it continues to rebuild after the recent earthquake.

10. Cycling

South Island NZ has some of the most breath taking scenery anywhere in the world, couple this with quiet roads, friendly locals and hundreds of kilometres of traffic free trails – the South Island really couldn’t be a better place to get back in the saddle.  We haven’t even ridden 50km since our tour of Europe, and we are itching to get back on the road, and feel the wind in our hair once again.

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