New Zealand is, hands down, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. And it’s not just the sites, scenery and culture that tick that box – the locals are among the most hospitable on the planet. Put quite simply: if New Zealand isn’t on your bucket list, then it should be.
One of the most irresistible aspects of New Zealand is the stunning countryside. But the country is one of such diversity, that if you delve a bit deeper, you’ll find some truly weird and truly wonderful experiences awaiting your attention.
The Hundertwasser Toilets
Only in New Zealand could public toilets be recognised as international works of art. That’s because even its toilets are a thing of beauty! Yep, the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa, with its creative curves of irregular ceramic tiles, integrated small sculptures, coloured glass and a live tree as part of the architecture is considered quite the tourist attraction. It’s made from recycled materials derived from the community’s used glass bottles and bricks from a former Bank of New Zealand branch.
New Zealand’s largest, but not tallest, trees are known as Kauri trees – and Kauri forests are among the most ancient in the world, with antecedents dating back to the Jurassic period 135–160 million years ago. Head to Parry Kauri Park in Warkworth and be dwarfed by these green giants, some of which stand over 50m tall.
Sail through the ‘Hole in the Rock’
Situated north of the Bay of Islands, Motu Kokako, or ‘The Hole in the Rock’, is not only one of the most naturally beautiful sites in New Zealand, it’s also of great sacred and cultural significance to the local Maoris. It’s one of the most important islands in terms of conservation, as it retains its pristine condition, with no sign of introduced species. On a fine day, sailing through the hole in the rock is one very special experience.
Waitomo Caves and the Glow Worm Grotto
Until 1887, the Waitomo Caves were a closely kept secret of the local Maori people. Nowadays, you can raft or canoe on an underwater stream through the Waitomo Caves into the Glow Worm Grotto – where you’ll be amazed by the twinkling glow that comes from a ceiling covered in a species of glow worms endemic to New Zealand.
Tamaki Family Marae
You’ll learn more about Maori culture in just one night with the Tamaki Family Marae than you will reading all the books and brochures you can find on the subject. The Marae is New Zealand’s most awarded cultural tourist attraction – and for good reason. From the minute you step foot in the village you will be greeted by an ancient welcome ceremony, enlightened by a fascinating art, wood carvings and face tattoo display. Afterwards, you’ll partake in a traditional Maori Hangi and finish the night with an impressive closing ceremony that will leave you breathless.
New Zealand has its share of ‘most-visited’ attractions, and Huka Falls wins the nation’s ‘most-visited’ and ‘most-photographed’ categories. This massive waterfall is 11m high and churns out around 220,000 litres of water per second. To give you an idea of how much that is in ‘people-speak’ – it’s enough to fill an Olympic pool in 11 seconds. At Huka Falls, you can explore walking tracks, take spectacular photographs or just admire the natural beauty of the powerful falls and rapids.
New Zealand’s only castle is also Dunedin’s must-see visitor attraction. Set atop the slopes of the picturesque Otago Peninsula, the castle features award-winning gardens and a huge collection of original New Zealand period furniture and antiques. Visitors can hear tales of intrigue, scandal and tragedy, while being guided around the grounds and carefully restored rooms and towers.
Since the original Anglican Cathedral was severely damaged in the earthquakes of 2012, the Christchurch parish has been faced with the difficult decision (and resulting bureaucracy) to repair or rebuild. In the meantime, the community has been worshipping at the now-famous Cardboard Cathedral. The ‘Transitional Cathedral’ was designed by Japanese-born Shigeru Ban – a ‘disaster architect’ known for his use of paper as a building material.
Franz Josef Glacier
Viewing the 96m-tall Thunder Creek Waterfalls or being held in awe by the scale of Mt Hooker may be exhilarating experiences, but hardly comparable to the sheer captivation you’ll feel when confronted by the extraordinary rivers of ice that make up the Franz Josef Glacier.
West Coast Treetop Walkway
Here, you can wander along the 450m long, 25m high canopy walkway through the West Coast forest of mature rimu trees, ferns and native fauna. Climb the 47m-high viewing tower and take in the sights of the surrounding forest and Southern Alps.
Pancake Rocks and blowholes
Punakaiki on the west coast of the South Island is home to the popular Pancake Rocks – a stunning formation of eroded limestone where the sea bursts through in spectacular explosions during high tides.
If checking out one of these weird and wonderful attractions doesn’t persuade you to visit New Zealand, then maybe free return flights will. AAT Kings can show you all of this and much more, on its Best of New Zealand 18-Day Guided Holiday. For bookings and further information, please visit www.aatkings.com.