Top 15 things we liked in New Zealand

Posted on Apr 26, 2015

Top 15 things we liked in New Zealand

We have just arrived in Hawaii and New Zealand already start to feel as a distant memory. But we had such a great time there, so we decided to write a short summary and list our top 15 highlights for you. Maybe it will inspire other families. New Zealand is a great country to travel with young kids, especially if you like nature and outdoors. It is not a low budget country though, but for us it was well worth the money. We visited both the South Island and the North Island, we traveled for 5 weeks in a camper van and we stayed in a house for a couple of weeks on both islands. In 85 days we drove probably about 6500 km’s, starting in Christchurg and finishing in Auckland and criss-crossing the country in between. We did four boat rides, hiked numerous short and longer tracks and visited about 40 different playgrounds.

So what are our highlights? Below our joint top 15 in order of how we visited them as they are all equally good and it is im possible to make a ranking.

1)    The seal colony near Oahu waterfall in Kaikoura. It was our first viewing of seals and also proved to be the best one. Lots of young puppies and a great viewing platform just above the colony with easy access from the road. If you are lucky you can also see the puppies swimming at the waterfall.

2)   Christchurg. The devasting impact of the 2011 & 2012 earthquakes that is still visible today made a big impact on us and shows the power of the earth. It was good to see the creative and artsy energy that makes the city centre alive again.

3)   The Blue Penguins at Oamaru. Some people will say it is a tourist trap and indeed it is well organised and set-up a bit as a show, but it is for a good reason that it is so popular as it is amazing to watch hundreds of Blue Penguins coming ashore just after sunset.

4)  Mouraki boulders. Half-way between Oamaru and Dunedin we stopped to have a look at Mouraki boulders. We did not expected much of it, but to our surprise it was an amazing sight to see these large black boulders siting on the beach. Well worth the stop and the nice walk on the beach.

5)   Purakaunui falls in the Caitlins. We loved driving through the Caitlins and obviously we visited the most photographed falls of New Zealand. The waterfalls are beautiful and within easy walking distance from a car park.

6)   Boat cruise on Milford Sound. Both the three hour drive to the fjord and the boat cruise in the fjord was fantastic. Magnificent views of mountains and water falls. Large, wild, quiet and spectacular nature.

7)   West coast scenery of the South Island. Basically the whole stretch from Wanaka to Haast and up north to Westport is beautiful, driving through mountains, tropical rain forests and beaches. At almost every corner we wanted to stop to take pictures. For us possibly the best drive there is in New Zealand.

8)   Pancake rocks at Punaki. A bizarre formation of layered rocks, where at high tide you can see water spray blowing into the air.

9)   Golden Bay. Maybe not the most spectacular area of New Zealand, but we had lots of fun there playing on the almost empty beach, collecting shells and driving-up to Wharariki beach. A very relaxed area.

10)   Te Papa museum in Wellington. A must do. A great museum, free entrance and lots of interactive displays that keeps both the kids and adults entertained for hours.

11)    Orakei Korako (‘Hidden Valley’). One of the thermal volcanic areas around Rotorua. We visited three thermal parks, but found this to be the best one, for us. Orakei Korako is a bit further away and hence less busy than the other volcanic areas around Rotorua and the special thing here is that the valley has been virtually untouched by humans, so it shows geysers, hot springs, mud pools & amazing silica terraces in a beautiful setting.

12)   Waitomo caves. We had seen glowworms before and we expected this to be a bit of tourist trap, but we were wrong. Gently floating with a boat through the caves and looking up to thousands of glowworms in the ceiling is magical and we were glad we decided to visit it.

13)    Dolphin watching in Bay of Islands. Sailing with a pod of about 30 dolphins – do we need to say more?

14)   Hiking the Torangiro crossing. 19.4 km of spectacular volcanic geography, from an active crater to the steaming vents and beautiful coloured lakes. It was cold and at times not easy to climb, but well worth the effort.

15)   Our housesit in Turangi. We had a good time just living in a normal house routine. We already miss the dogs Meg and Mac, the cats Boris and Itti and the chickens.

And in the special kids category a new runner-up, we really enjoyed the amount and quality of playgrounds in New Zealand. Every small village seems to have one or more excellent playgrounds, that are fun, safe and well maintained.