We asked expat Russell Ward about his best experiences in New Zealand and what to look forward to if you lucky enough to be moving there.
After moving from Canada to Australia, I was never quite able to shake the feeling of losing something along the way. While Sydney gave me sun-kissed beaches and sparkling blue harbours, I lamented the lack of epic mountain ranges, alpine trails and craggy coastlines.
New Zealand was a surprise discovery not long after settling in the southern hemisphere. Almost as if discovering a miniature version of Canada that would fit in my back pocket.
New Zealand became my compact, manageable travel destination with a majestic natural beauty not unlike Canada that made it a place I would keep on returning to.
Dominated by windswept mountains, ancient forests and cool cities, both North and South Islands offer an adventure playground for the courageous or relaxation and downtime for those looking for a slightly slower pace. There are countless towns, parks and regions worthy of mention so the following best places to visit in New Zealand are meant as a mere taster to whet your growing appetite.
The North Island is home to Auckland, a key location to visit in New Zealand. With a national population of only four million ‘Kiwis’, there is a good chance that many of them live in New Zealand’s largest city, making it a diverse, cosmopolitan and lively place. First impressions give you a sense of Sydney’s ‘wow’ factor combined with the charm of a smaller English city, but the ‘City of Sails’ is not to be underestimated and is worth a decent amount of your visiting time.
Two hours from Auckland is the city of Rotorua with its unique geothermal areas containing steaming craters and bubbling mud pools, plus a deep connection to the prevalent Maori culture. Away from the volcanic terraces and hot springs are lakes for swimming and fishing, and native bush walks for trekking, offering a brief respite from the effervescent activity nearby.
The Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island’s east coast is a lush, green peninsula and a favourite among the Auckland weekenders. Blessed with a warm climate and pristine beaches, the abundance of ferns in the region gives it a distinctly sub-tropical look and feel.
To the south is New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, and arguably the country’s most intriguing city. With its national museums and world-class events plus bars, cafes and restaurants dotted around the harbour, there is always something going on and something new to see or do.
Milford Sound is the jewel in the crown of the South Island and one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist destinations. Located in the southwest, it is a stunning fjord set within the temperate Fiordland National Park. Labelled by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World, it has raging waterfalls, steep cliffs and mossy basins, not to mention a wide variety of wildlife awaiting any new arrival.
For the brave of heart, Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure centre, boasting the world’s first bungee jump and a stepping off point for many of the country’s finest ski resorts, including Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Cardrona. The town is also host to white-water rafting, skydiving and the odd bar or two.
The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers offer an incredible experience for those wanting to hike a glacier and experience their descent from high in the Alps to less than a few hundred metres above sea level. If you have the budget, helicopter tours are available but most prefer to take a guided walk along one of the planet’s last remaining frontiers.
The South Island’s Abel Tasman National Park is an absolute beauty and situated almost entirely on the coast where hiking trails cross beaches and mountains, hills and then more beaches. It is also rumoured to be one of New Zealand’s sunniest spots and the popular Abel Tasman Walk is a perfect way to cross the entire park in under five days.
Russell is a British expat living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where he writes about his search for a life less ordinary at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com, one of Australia’s leading expat and travel blogs. He also writes for businesses and brands at www.theinternationalwriter.com and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @russellvjward.