New Zealand: Activities

Hole-in-the-Rock sea arch as seen on a jet boat tour in the Bay of Islands

New Zealand is full of activities beyond the tramping (hiking) the numerous tracks (trails) throughout the country. These activities let you experience the country in different and exciting ways. Other tours and excursions may have nothing to do with appreciating nature and instead put you on a thrilling adrenaline rush. Below is a list of the activities that we've participated in. It is by no means a complete list.

  • Excitor or Mack Attack - if you're short on time, this 90-minute boat ride whisks you away from Paihia Harbor over to the Hole-in-the-Rock sea arch near Cape Brett. The tour can sometimes drive the boat right through the big sea arch as well as go inside a cave called Cathedral Cave.
  • Te Whakarewarewa - this is a thermal park and Maori Culture Center. Inside, you'll find Maori arts, crafts, and cultural demonstrations and displays. There is also a kiwi darkhouse to see the bowling-ball-shaped endangered flightless birds. But the stars of the park are the thermal features from the Pohutu and Prince of Whales Geysers to numerous thermal springs and mud pools and thermal vents.
  • Wai-o-Tapu - this is another of the major thermal parks. However, this park features the Lady Knox Geyser, which is induced to go off with the aid of a ranger every morning at precisely 10:15am. Other features here include green sulphur pools, the giant and colorful Champagne Spring, and various other pools, vents, and even a thermal runoff "waterfall" called Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Hell's Gate and Wai Ora Spa - yet another thermal park, this one features boiling mud pools, thermal springs, and even a thermal waterfall Kakahi Falls. When you're not checking out the sites amongst the strutting peacocks, you could go into their spa area for a relaxing bathe or massage.
  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves - this very popular cave tour leads you through an intriguing subterranean environment before descending even deeper into an underground stream, where you ride a boat in the dark amongst glowworms lighting up the area like stars in the night sky.
  • Franz Josef Glacier Heli-hike - the Franz Josef Glacier is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world and it is the only one that terminates in a temperate rainforest ecosystem. The heli-hike gives you the ability to get high up on the glacier (where it's whiter with a hint of blue and not as dirty as the base) with the chance to see strange ice formations and maybe even a small ice cave. Surrounding the glacier are several waterfalls. There's also another glacier with similar available excursions called Fox Glacier further south of here.
  • Doubtful Sound Cruise - this all-day tour (there is also an overnight option) takes you across Lake Manapouri, through Wilmot Pass (where there are a few waterfalls and a great view of Spey Valley and Deep Cove), before spending three hours on the silent Doubtful Sound. It's in this sound where dolphins do backflips, waterfalls (including Browne Falls tumble down the mountainsides, and penguins waddle.
  • Milford Track Guided Walk - this is called the "finest walk in the world" by some because it gives you a taste of the alpine environment, a two scenic valleys, several waterfalls (including the mighty Sutherland Falls), and it terminates in the beautiful Milford Sound. Although it can be done independently (huts book out several months in advance), you can also do it as a guided tour where you'll get to shower and even have hot meals and drinks to maximize your comfort level on this 3-night/4-day tramp of 53km.
  • Milford Sound Cruise - perhaps the most popular fjord cruise, just about everyone who visits the gorgeous Milford Sound does this cruise. Lasting three hours, it goes out into the fjord surrounded by Mitre Peak, waterfalls (e.g. Stirling Falls and Bowen Falls), and even has dolphins, penguins, and fur seals.

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