Spending the night on Mount Cook
The journey to Mount Cook National Park was, in my opinion, the best excursion I did in New Zealand. A close friend and I hiked up to the Mueller’s Hut and spent the night there. The climb itself is short, but the landscape is breath-taking. You can see the valley on one side and a huge glacier on the other. Mount Cook (the highest point in the country) is on the opposite side.
At an altitude of 1800 meters, Mueller’s Hut provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the ice cliffs, glaciers, high-rising mountain peaks, and streams of water. We saw the sunset and sunrise with a blanket of clouds underneath. The view of the sun rays illuminating the mountain peaks and clouds is something which I still remember.
Hiking the Tongariro Crossing Track on the North Island
New Zealand is the land of mountain hikes. Of all of them I have hiked, I found the Tongariro Crossing to be the best one. 8-10 hours of the hike through an active volcanic zone offers some of the most spectacular landscapes of the country. Hot springs, solidified lava, steaming vents, and lakes formed from craters were all within my reach. One of the mountains that I saw was Mount Ruapehu which made Mordor in The Lord of the Rings.
Hitchhiking across the Southern Island
The cliché, “Journey is more important than the destination” perfectly fits for a road trip in New Zealand. The roads are almost always surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, and varieties of flora and fauna. They give you a thousand reasons to stop. Hitchhiking is very safe in New Zealand; so you would some several hitchhikers during your journey. I crossed the whole southern island in 3 weeks by hitchhiking. Along the journey, I met some really interesting people and spent a considerable time with the Maori people. I experienced some interesting anecdotes which would be in my memories forever.
Visiting Northland and driving on the Ninety Mile Beach
I visited Northland with some of my friends. Northland is a subtropical region in the northern end of the North Island. It has some interesting corners like Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga, where the Pacific and Indian oceans meet.
Although what I liked most was driving on the Ninety Mile Beach. Despite being named 90 Mile Beach, it is actually 55 miles long beach. We rented a 4×4 and had the opportunity to drive down the beach. This was something that we didn’t plan for our trip. So driving along the waves and huge sand dunes came as a pleasant surprise!
Trekking and kayaking at the Abel Tasman National Park
I visited the Abel Tasman National Park as a part of a multi-day excursion in the west coast of the South Island. I booked the tour well in advance, so I had the opportunity to sleep in prepared cabins. The trail in the National Park goes through sandy beaches, forested hills, and granite cliffs. The geographical diversity of the park makes this trek incredibly beautiful.
Another interesting option is to rent a kayak and to walk a part of the way paddling. My kayaking experience was included in the trekking tour. Since it was the first kayaking experience for many of us, we were given elementary kayaking lessons. After that, we set off along the beach for an amazing experience. The water was turquoise and so clear that you could see the sea floor!
Bungee jumping in Queenstown
New Zealand offers a lot of opportunities for bungee jumping. But the best one that I experienced was the one in Queenstown. With a height of 134 meters, it is one of the highest in the world. The backdrop of the Kawarau River and the steep cliffs lining it added to the thrill of free fall! It was amazing to see the bird’s eye view of the turquoise river, surrounding green hills, and the city itself.
Mountain biking in Rotorua
Rotorua is a small town known for its pristine nature, Maori culture, and geothermal hot spots. In Rotorua, I rented a mountain bike and went to a nearby park of unpronounceable Maori name, the Whakarewarewa Forest. It is famous for its mountain bike trails. After climbing for hours to the peak of the mountain it came the time to enjoy an intense descent. And it was brutal! The roads are well prepared for bikes, although they are quite narrow and steep.
Rotorua is well known for its volcanic activity. We spent the first day of my stay in Rotorua in mountain biking. On the second day, we went on to explore huge geysers, some of them which exploded several times a day. There were pools of boiling mud and craters drawing smoke. Later in the day, we also bathed in a river with hot springs.
Going in search of the wild flora and fauna
New Zealand has been geographically isolated from the world for 80 million years. As a result, it has one of the most authentic faunas and floras in the world. 82% of the country’s plants and trees are endemic, unique to New Zealand. So the numerous species of plants, trees and animals have always fascinated me. Some of the most sought after animals by backpackers are penguins, sea lions, and seals. Kiwis are too hard to find!
Taking a boat ride to visit the Milford Sound Fjord
Situated in the Fiordland National Park, the Milford Sound is a World Heritage Site. It penetrates 15 km inland and is surrounded by 1200 meters high cliffs with a multitude of waterfalls. Along with the natural beauty, we could also spot seals, dolphins, penguins and sea lions resting on the rocks. Our experience was marred by rain and the wind. Still, the beauty of the place kept us excited throughout the ride.