Are you looking for something different to do in New Zealand you won’t find on Trip Advisor or in a travel guide? Something unique, something unusual that’s truly ‘off the beaten track.’
Here are 10 great ideas that will leave you with a lasting and memorable connection to this beautiful land. You might love these ideas so much that you’ll need at least a two week itinerary to enjoy them all!
Off the Beaten Track – authentic, rural New Zealand experiences
If you are looking to experience New Zealand the way New Zealanders experience it, have a look at this great web site ‘Off the Beaten Track.’ So much of New Zealand’s land is privately owned and these people want you to see their land and stay on it. ‘Off the Beaten Track’ is a website that matches landowners with tourists bringing them together, so you the holidaymaker can get a taste of authentic, rural New Zealand. Whether you are looking for a farm stay so you can understand New Zealand’s agricultural economy, or you want a remote cabin or camp site, look no further.
- Glamping at Lake Tarawera
Lake Tarawera is one of New Zealand’s largest lakes and was home to small tribal Maori villages before it erupted in 1886. Today, many people have holiday houses where they enjoy the lake, boating and trout fishing.
Passionate locals, husband-and-wife team David and Karen Walmsley started Totally Tarawera and have opened two glamping sites with a concession on the Department of Conversation land along the Tarawera Trail. The multi-room camp sites provide an excellent standard of accommodation as well as gourmet food packages. There are beautiful walks to be experienced as well as enjoying the natural hot water spring that oozes from the sand. At one end of the beach the thermal water has been diverted to create two natural pools on the lake shore.
- Lake Rotoiti Hot Pools - only reached by boat
On the secluded shores of Lake Rotoiti, near Rotorua there is a totally unique New Zealand experience. Mother nature has created soothing warm water to bath in, the natural Manupirua Hot Springs. These hot pools are so out of the way they can only be reached by boat. After heating up in the pools, cool down by jumping into the lake for a quick dip.
- Te Wepu Intrepid Pods - experience the remoteness of Bank Peninsula
Another remote part of paradise is the French Farm Valley, located near Akaroa on Banks Peninsula. With 30 hectares of private bush and farmland, owners Kate and Richie Bocock have built three self-contained pod retreats, each with a private hot tub. They are hidden high in the hillside with sweeping views of the harbour.
They provide all the amenities needed for a luxurious night or two in the wilderness including food. Treats, nibbles, wine and all ingredients to make a fine meal are there including Kate’s signature cob loaf, bursting with a rich, cream-cheese.
- Chairlift to the highest Café in New Zealand – Knoll Ridge Café
The highest cafe in New Zealand, Knoll Ridge Café is 2020 metres above sea level. This architectural marvel, with ceiling to floor glass can be found on the Whakapapa Ski Field in the middle of the North Island. The ski field is located on Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand’s largest active volcano in the Tongariro National Park.
Unless you are up for a very rigorous walk, enjoy the scenic chair lift ride and take in the spectacular alpine environment in both summer and winter.
- A true New Zealand delicacy - West Coast white bait
‘West Coast White Gold’ as we call them are a small seasonal fish caught in nets on the West Coast of New Zealand between the months of December through February. They are commonly called whitebait or “inanga” in Maori.
You can’t leave the South Island without trying this New Zealand delicacy. Stalls selling whitebait fritters can be found on the Haast Highway on the West Coast. Caught fresh in the morning and cooked in front of you for lunch, they will be one of the best fritters you ever eat.
However, if you are not on the West Coast look out for them as they served in many of our fine restaurants.
- Gibbs Farm – an impressive sculpture park on the Kaipara Harbour
Gibbs Farm is an open-air sculpture park located in Kaipara Harbour, about 50 kilometres north of Auckland. It has New Zealand’s largest collection of over-sized outdoor sculptures.
It’s a farm with a difference. The animals are exotic, the terrain is rolling and manicured with gigantic sculptures dominating the surreal, isolated landscape.
Owner Alan Gibbs, a successful New Zealand businessman and his wife Jenny have collected art for several decades. In 1991, they bought the 400 hectare farm on the Kaipara Harbour. Many of the 25 sculptures were commissioned as site -specific works from artists around the world including several New Zealanders.
- Visit Poronui and catch a trophy deer or trout
If you are looking for the ultimate luxury wilderness retreat where you can enjoy great hospitality and gourmet New Zealand cuisine head to Poronui. It’s nestled in the Taharua Valley near Taupo in the centre of the North Island. There are 6,500 hectares of private wilderness to explore by foot, horse or mountain bike. However, if you have a hunting, fishing bent there are trophy trout to be caught as well as deer, wild boar and feral goat to be hunted.
- Snorkelling or diving in the Poor Knights marine reserve
Off the coast of Tutukaka, north of Auckland are the Poor Knights Islands, a spectacular marine reserve Jacques Cousteau rated as one of the top ten dives spots in the world.
Beneath the waves are caves, arches, tunnels and sheer cliffs providing a great variety of habitats to explore. The islands are renowned for their excellent diving and snorkelling. Converging warm water currents, a micro -climate and thousands of years of separation from the mainland have resulted in a unique biodiversity. A day trip to this magnificent under water playground can be easy organised with operators in Tutukaka.
- Nile River Punakaiki Glow worm cave
Without a doubt, the Nile River Punakaiki Glow Worm Caves is one of the most amazing natural experiences you'll find anywhere in the world. In the most stunning natural environment completely untouched by development you can walk, cave and raft into the Nile River cave system to view the millions of resident glowworms.
There are 'wet' and 'dry' options available. The 'wet' adventurers are kitted out with a wetsuit, lifejacket and a raft and the dry people remain in their hiking boots and outdoor clothing. The ‘wet’ adventurers use rafts to float on their backs through the large and impressive glow-worm cavern, an incredibly peaceful, surreal experience.