New Zealand: Three essential experiences for your bucket list

New Zealand Bucket List: 3 Must-Do’s

Visit a geothermal area

Head to Te Puia in the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley at Rotorua, where you can sit on naturally heated benches to watch the explosive power of Pohutu Geyser.  Pressure builds up in an underground chamber until it erupts as a thirty-metre high column of water and steam.  Don’t worry if you’ve just missed it; the geyser is one of the most reliable on the planet and puts on a show up to twenty times a day.

New Zealand Bucket List: Rotorua Pohutu
Rotorua Pohutu

If Pohutu has given you a taste for geothermal activity, then a short drive away between Rotorua and Taupo, you’ll find Orakei Korako.  A boat will ferry you across the river to the Hidden Valley, where if you’re lucky you’ll enjoy these atmospheric silica terraces with a colour palette of mustard, white and grey under a blue sky – perfect for photography.

New Zealand Bucket List: Encrusted terraces Orakei Korako
Encrusted terraces Orakei Korako

Fly over a glacier

Visiting the twin glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip to South Island.  To fully appreciate the glaciers and their mountainous surroundings, take a scenic flight in a helicopter.  Choose a flight which lands on the snow at the top to absorb the incredible views.

New Zealand Bucket List: Helicopter lands on soft snow
Helicopter lands on soft snow

If you want to get a sense of scale at ground level, there are pleasant scenic hikes almost to the snout of Franz Josef – since 2012, it hasn’t been safe enough to walk right onto the glacier from the valley, but you can get close enough to get a good look.  However, there are still opportunities with a guide to hike on the glaciers themselves.  A short heli-hop will take you to the Pinnacles area of the glacier where you can wander through a maze of ice.  If you’re adventurous, you can even learn to ice-climb.

New Zealand Bucket List: View of Franz Josef glacier from end of trail
View of Franz Josef glacier from end of trail

Take a boat tour through a fiord

The stunning fiord Milford Sound is not only the best known and most accessible in New Zealand, but arguably the most beautiful.  Boat tours head out of the harbour to cruise the 16km to the sea, squeezing between the steep cliffs, past tumbling waterfalls and rocky outcrops where seals sun themselves.

The pinnacle of the tour, both literally and metaphorically, is Mitre Peak, rising 1692 metres above sea level and named for its resemblance to a bishop’s mitre.  This is the wettest inhabited place in the country, so be prepared for rain, but on a clear day you’ll have the option to fly back to Queenstown instead of driving – a chance to witness the spectacle of the Southern Alps from above.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

Other posts by the Author

One Response

  1. 9 Reasons to Choose New Zealand as a Destination | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] Zealand might be a tiny country, but it’s one of the best destinations for recreational trips. Located southeast of Australia at what is, for many, the far end of the world, you may wonder what […]


Leave a Reply