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.
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.
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.
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.
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.