Stonehenge Aotearoa is a full-scale adaptation of Stonehenge – and a stargazer’s paradise. Photo / Stonehenge Aotearoa.
While previously redundant tourist destinations are becoming more attractive and accessible to the average Kiwi with international borders closed, that doesn’t mean we won’t be competing for space in the busy summer months. Everyone has the same agenda, which means it’s also time to consider alternatives. Of course, there are some experiences – like traversing the volcanic landscape of Tongariro Crossing, or having a cool drink at Hobbiton’s Green Dragon Inn – that just can’t be duplicated.
But others can. If you do a little research, you’ll find that many of New Zealand’s popular attractions have lesser-known partners and are often cheaper. Here are six close siblings of some must-do activities in the country.
Dig your private spa in the sand
An hour south of Raglan, Kawhia is a quiet seaside village with a harbor full of peas, oysters and mussels. It’s also where you’ll find one of the lesser known hot spring beaches. (Yes, there is more than one.)
The drill is exactly the same as in the Coromandel. At low tide, drive to the end of Ocean Beach Rd, where you’ll find a black, soulless beach above. You have to bring your own shovel. Watch for signs of steam rising from the sand and start digging. Once you reach the hot springs of Te Puia Springs, soak in the knowledge that somewhere across the island, lots of people are screaming for the same thing.
Try one of the world’s best burgers
Oh, Fergburger. Even if you’ve never seen the queues for this Queenstown institution, you’ve probably read blog posts or articles all about the burgers: how juicy the meat is, how tender the bread is and how amazing it is. it’s open for almost 21 hours a day.
What they don’t get romantic about, however, is how long you have to wait in line. If you are too hungry to wait in line, all you need to do is head over to the Devil Burger. Offering a similar product, at the same price, that is what the locals are for.
Find kiwi in the wild
Thanks to its remote location and difficult sea crossings to get there, Rakiura (Stewart Island) remains relatively flawless compared to other popular tourist destinations. However, it is still struggling under the load of attractive visitors; pre-pandemic, about 44,000 people were visited per year. That’s about 111 tourists for each resident.
The island’s main attraction is the rare opportunity to see kiwis in the wild. It’s home to around 13,000 of New Zealand’s 68,000 kiwi, and the subspecies that live here can sometimes even be seen during the day for insects by the beach.
The catch? If seeing kiwi is your only goal, travel long distances without the guarantee you’ll see it.
Alternatively, there are a number of fenced predator-free shelters on the North Island and South Island that offer nighttime kiwi tours, including Wellington’s Zealandia and Waikato’s Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. But the two hour tour presents a very limited window of time for viewing elusive birds, which is why it is so worthwhile to spend a night on Kāpiti Island.
This predator-free island is home to around 1,400 tiny looking kiwis, presenting one of the most reliable opportunities to spot them. Starting at $ 395 per adult ($ 230 per child), Kāpiti Island Nature Tours kiwi-sightseeing packages include transportation, accommodation in a glamping tent or cabin, and guided night tours.
Hike one of New Zealand’s iconic walks
When Lonely Planet released its Ultimate Travel List earlier this month, 13 Kiwi destinations qualified, with Fiordland National Park topping the 29th position.Most visitors opt to take a boat tour through Milford Sound, but that area came first. undeniably the Milford Track. One of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, dubbed “the world’s best walk,” takes hikers through valleys carved by glaciers, past ancient rainforests and cascading waterfalls.
However, its reputation means it’s expensive (the hut costs $ 70 per person per night alone) and very difficult to book. Earlier this year, spots on track for the 2020-2021 season were almost sold out within 10 minutes of opening the booking system.
However, even though there are only 10 “Great Streets” in New Zealand, there are dozens of “great roads.”
The closest connection to the Milford Track is the Gillespie Pass Circuit, a 58 km loop best suited for experienced hikers with river crossing skills. Located near Mount Aspiring National Park, it also takes four days, reaches an altitude of 1,600 meters, and has serviced lodges along the way. And on publication, reservations are still available for the hut (only $ 20) during the holiday period.
Experience the magic of collecting glowworms
Waitomo is not the only place where large numbers of glowworms gather. For a cheap and fun version of the same, you can head to the DOC-run Waipū Caves in Northland, which are completely free to access.
If you don’t want to stray far from Waitomo and be in it for glowworms (not caves) sign up for the Lake District Adventures night kayaking tour ($ 109). On a four hour sunset excursion, you will paddle along the shores of Lake Karapiro. As dark falls, you’ll drift silently on the Pokaiwhenua Stream, your path only lighted by glow worms. The effect is very subtle, and with fewer people, your oar hitting the water is the only sound you’ll hear.
Stargazing in the Dark Sky Nature Reserve
Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is an area known for its low levels of light pollution and many nights with bright stars. Currently, it may be the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere – but it won’t last long. Wairarapa is currently preparing to become the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve, a designation which is expected to come later this year.
This is where you can experience some of the most unique and personalized astronomy tours in the country. For example, Becky Bateman of the local Under the Stars will bring her telescope straight to your accommodation. Then there’s Stonehenge Aotearoa, a full-scale adaptation of Stonehenge. If you show up on Friday or Saturday at 8:30 p.m., you’ll have the opportunity to look through the telescope and learn how the structure works. General admission is $ 15.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, visit newzealand.com