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What better place to try something different? New Zealand is a unique land. According to Maori legend (pūrākau), the Lord of the Forest created our world—the world of light—when he pushed his mother and his father apart. They were stifling him. This same adventurous and rebellious spirit of freedom is imbued in New Zealand as a whole.
If you’re looking for some truly exciting and different things to do in New Zealand, look no further. But be prepared. These activities will take you to diverse sites, and they’ll plunge you into new things.
1. Abseil Waitomo Caves
Abseiling is rappelling—it’s a swift drop with a rope down a rock face. At Waitomo Caves on the North Island, you abseil 100m (300 feet) deep into a huge cavern. No experience is required, but you have to be over fifteen years old, and it helps to be in decent shape. You’ll need a wetsuit, or they provide you with one. When you get to the bottom you find yourself in a stream, through which you trek with the guides, surrounded by glowworms, flowstone, fossil oysters, and whalebones. This is truly a Lost World experience worth every minute. Just know the ladder at the end is no small ascent.
2. See the sites less traveled New Zealand is diverse.
There’s room for adventure and room for contemplation. For a unique take on New Zealand, Stewart Island, Doubtful Sound, and Coromandel Peninsula all offer chances to tap into less-frequented areas. The nature at each of these stops gives you a good taste of what the country is famous for—its incredible scenery and wildlife. 85% of Stewart Island consists of Rakiura National Park. The island has only around 400 residents. You have to take a one hour ferry ride to get there, but once you do, you’re in a secluded world perfect for exotic bird watching and rugged hikes on 300km worth of trails.
Doubtful Sound is a fjord, and its name doesn’t tend to attract a ton of visitors. But a trip here by sea reveals the endangered, spiny black coral trees just below the surface of the water, and jutting, rocky peaks above. Doubtful Sound is so quiet, it’s nearly a religious experience. At Coromandel Peninsula, the weather is nice pretty much year-round. You can check out the Hot Water Beach. Geothermal activity heats the sand, and at low tide you can dig in to create your own little hot spring. To the Ngati Hei, the native people living along Mercury Bay’s coastline, Hot Water Beach is a place of cultural significance that commands great respect.
3. Hunt for treasure at Dunedin
Apparently, Dunedin (located at the head of the Otago Harbor, on the southeast coast of the South Island) is quite the spot for treasure hunting. Two hunters tell tales of bounty found near Dunedin. One report in 2015 showcases a nest of gold, the other a cache of old silver coins. A great deal of the adventure in treasure hunting is getting to know the land in a way few do. It’s all about the details. Graeme from Dunedin didn’t just find his gold near the city; he found it “under an overhang where the creek had eroded the bank.” And while you’re staying in Dunedin, foraging for valuable finds, you can enjoy the area’s other treasures. Go horseback riding on the Otago Central Rail Trail, birdwatching in search of the rare Haast Kiwi, fishing for trout and salmon, golfing in paradise, or surfing at gorgeous St. Clair Beach.
4. Get into the swing of things in Queenstown
Here’s one for the adrenaline junky in you. The Nevis Swing is the world’s biggest bungee swing. You’re 160m above the Nevis River, propelled by 120m of bungee rope at an average rate of 120kph. You freefall for 70m and complete a 300m arc. Awesome! Do it in whatever position you like—upside down for an adrenaline rush that leaves you buzzing for days. Wear a GoPro for some memorable footage. It’s activities like this that put New Zealand on Hipmunk’s list of destinations for adrenaline junkies.
5. Tour Hobbiton at Matamata
This is the only place in the world where you can check out Bag End and the Shire. Peter Jackson’s award-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy was famously filmed in New Zealand, and Alexander Farm hosts a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. It’s picturesque, quaint, and it’s especially fun for fans of the films. At the Green Dragon Inn, you’ll enjoy a complimentary pint of ale, cider, or ginger beer, all brewed on the farm from home-grown ingredients. If you’re not so interested in Hobbiton, you can do a farm-stay that includes three-course dinner, beer and wine, bed and breakfast.