This relatively small and isolated country is home to a treasure trove of surprises, many of which you can’t find anywhere else on earth. Whether you’re planning to swing by The Land of the Long White Cloud on your own or on one of the New Zealand guided tours, be sure to get these on your itinerary because you’ll never find them back home.

  1. Spot a kiwi bird. This cute little bird is the national symbol of New Zealand, but unfortunately, they are critically endangered, though there are some tireless efforts going on to help save the flightless land-dwelling creature. If you have time, drop into one of the reserves to check out the breeding programs or spend some time volunteering with the conservation initiatives.
  2. Learn about Maori culture. The customs and traditions of the Maori people on New Zealand go back more than a thousand years when they arrived on dugout canoes from their ancestral homeland. There have been efforts in recent years to stop the language from dying out. There are few things as powerful and intense as watching the haka war dance and chant.
  3. Look up at the stars in the world’s largest dark-sky preserve. Dark-sky preserves are relatively new and set up in zones that offer extraordinary stargazing opportunities. Expect them to have little to no light pollution and staggeringly good views of the Milky Way. Okay, so they do have DSPs in other countries, but New Zealand’s Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is the largest on earth.
  4. Fishing from a jet board. One company offering New Zealand guided tours has some up with the ingenious idea of combining the thrill of a jet boat with the peacefulness of fishing. Get the adrenaline spiking as you fire along the Waiau River at a staggering speed before killing the engine and kicking back while trying to reel in a trout. What could be better?
  5. Land your helicopter in a volcanic crater. There are few things as immense as the sight of a volcano before you land on it. If this is something you want to experience, you’re going to have to get yourself over to New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, because it’s the only place it can be done. After you’ve touched down, you can hike along the crater and admire the geothermal activity.
  6. Drive converted golf carts along the railroad tracks. Only in New Zealand could they think of something so quirky. Here, they’ve taken a decommissioned railroad and attached converted golf carts to the tracks giving travellers the chance to explore the NZ landscape of rolling hills and pretty towns at their own pace.
  7. Tubing through caves lined with glowworms. While tubing through cavernous underground waterways can be done elsewhere in the world, in New Zealand the network of caves are covered in tiny glowing worms that come together to resemble the night sky. Switch off your head torch, sit back and let then show commence.
  8. Pretend you’re a hobbit. So you can pretend you’re a hobbit from Lord of the Rings anywhere in the world, but there’s nowhere else you can do it with the backdrop of The Shire used as the real set in the movies. Just be sure to swing by The Green Dragon Inn at the end for a pint or two of the amber nectar in suitably small surroundings.
  9. See a whole colossal squid. If you’re in Wellington, you’re not going to want to miss the sighting of the only whole colossal squid in the world. Displayed at the Te Papa Museum, you can fully appreciate its enormity and try and work out how many people you could feed if you made it into calamari.
  10. Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins. Talking about the sea, swimming with dolphins sits pretty high up in most people’s bucket list. If you join one of the New Zealand guided tours in Akaroa, you can frolic around with the world’s smallest dolphins. That is, if you can still get in the sea now knowing that colossal squids exist.
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