9 reasons New Zealand should be on your bucket list
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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel deals and destination content because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until the late spring or early summer — and even then be mindful of cancellation policies.
Isolation keeping us grounded has given us all time to think about what travel we will take when it’s safe to do so again. Bucket list trips are a popular topic right now, as travelers hunker down at home during the coronavirus pandemic and plan these trips.
New Zealand may not be as well known as its much larger neighbor Australia, but even if you have been to Australia many times before, NZ, the “Land of the Long White Cloud” is completely different. If you’re interested in spectacular scenery especially, it punches well above its weight. It’s as diverse as several continents rolled into one — sweeping mountains, enormous glaciers, relaxing hot springs, sandy beaches and rugged coastlines. Here’s why you should and see for yourself.
1. There are plenty of ways to get there
Yes, New Zealand is a long way from the U.S. It’s literally the other side of the world, and even farther than Australia. Interestingly, it’s a similar distance if you travel east or west. While you’re going to spend a full day on an aircraft regardless of the routing, there are loads of different carriers that fly one stop from to Auckland (AKL), and some to secondary cities like Christchurch (CHC) and Wellington (WLG).
To break up the journey, you could stop over somewhere along the way, sleep in a proper bed and experience a new culture/country. Think Dubai (DXB) with Emirates, Bangkok (BKK) with Thai Airways, or Seoul (ICN) with Korean. There’s plenty of competition, which is great for travelers — there’s often great cash fares as well as plenty of points redemption opportunities.
2. Breathtaking scenery
This is the absolute best thing about visiting New Zealand, in my opinion. It’s not a huge country geographically but prepare for your jaw to drop when you see just how incredible and diverse the scenery is.
“I think every person dreams of finding an enchanted place with beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastlines, clear lakes and amazing wildlife, but most people give up on it because they’ve never been to New Zealand,” President Bill Clinton once said.
There is virtually no other country on earth with scenery as diverse as New Zealand, and you won’t have to spend weeks driving across a massive country to see it either.
New Zealand is made up of two islands — the North Island and the South Island. If you only have time for one island, then I’d recommend the South over the North, as I think the scenery is slightly better.
3. Lord of the Rings
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you may be aware that the trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand. The landscape around the Waikato town of Matamata was the setting for Middle Earth and a permanent tourist attraction remains that you can visit. The capital city of Wellington is home to Mount Victoria, which was the setting for Hobbiton Woods.
Given you have time, why not watch or rewatch the entire trilogy on the flight to New Zealand?
4. The adventure capital of the world
My favorite place in New Zealand is the town of Queenstown. It’s famous for many reasons — it’s absolutely beautiful (especially the first glimpse of the town nestled next to the lake as you drive in from the north) and in winter, it’s a perfect base to hit the ski fields nearby.
But perhaps the best reason is because Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world. There are loads of hair-raising, adrenaline-busting activities you can try your hand at — from bungee jumping, which was first operated commercially in New Zealand, to ski diving, to jet boating and white water rafting.
Try these out on an empty stomach just in case the thrills become a bit much, which will save room to celebrate afterwards with a legendary Ferg Burger, arguably the most famous dish in Queenstown.
5. Excellent wine
New Zealand is a great climate for growing wine. If you’ve ever had a good glass of sauvignon blanc there’s a good chance it came from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. If you enjoy a crisp, dry white like this, then head to the north tip of the South Island where loads of Marlborough wineries welcome you for tasting and gourmet food. Sauvignon Blanc makes up 75% of New Zealand’s almost 79 million gallons of produced wine each year.
If you prefer red wine, my favorite style, pinot noir, is famous in the Canterbury region of New Zealand — and yes, that’s where the rugby clothing company started more than 100 years ago.
6. Great skiing
New Zealand might not be the first place you think of to ski, but it has some fantastic ski fields in the South Island, which can rival the Northern Hemisphere skiing hotspots. The skiing in New Zealand will usually be much better than in Australia, where you can also ski.
While you can’t sleep on the mountains themselves, each ski field has plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes to keep you going all day and then Queenstown has excellent nightlife if you want to party into the night.
7. Most everyone speaks English
You probably already know this, but you won’t need any foreign language skills at all — English is the de facto official language of New Zealand. You can expect locals to be laid back, friendly and helpful — don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re lost.
8. Amazing fjords
Forget Norway. As part of the spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer, you can cruise through incredible fjords. The granddaddy of fjords in New Zealand is Milford Sound, consistently rated as one of the world’s best tourist destinations, and even proclaimed as the “eighth wonder of the world” by Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling.
Milford Sound is possible as a (very long) day trip from Queenstown though it’s a much easier experience if you overnight nearby before and after.
9. It’s the gateway to the Pacific Islands
If you’ve come all the way to New Zealand, think about spending a little more time to explore the region. Some of the most spectacular tropical islands in the world are located in the South Pacific, and Auckland is the perfect place to explore them from. There’s the Cook Islands, a popular tropical island destination for Kiwis given its proximity to the country. There’s stunning French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and plenty more.
New Zealand packs an amazing amount to offer into a country around the same size as the United Kingdom, land mass-wise. The long flights will soon be forgotten as you experience truly breath-taking natural scenery, plenty to do and see, friendly, safe locals and fantastic gourmet food and drinks (especially that white wine!).
Featured photo by The Lindis Hotel in New Zealand
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