How many times have you heard, “There’s nowhere like New Zealand”? Guess what: there really isn’t. New Zealand is one of the most creative and forward-thinking destinations, and currently ranked on the Global Peace Index as the second most peaceful country in the world (it was number one in 2010, but someone sneezed).
But what is it that makes New Zealand so unique? Is it the steaming thermal landscapes of the North Island? Is it the thrusting coastline? The perfect mountains? Perhaps those cool looking glaciers…
Perhaps it’s their can-do spirit, that’s spawned innumerable champions: from land speed records to mountain climbers; wood choppers to heroines of women’s rights.
Today, we’re taking a look at five of our favourite experiences in New Zealand that, as far as we know, are not available to enjoy anywhere else in the world.
Only in New Zealand…
Coming up, are our chosen five, plus a couple of last-minute bolt ons from the team. If you’ve been travelling in New Zealand, consider suggesting your own ideas in the comment thread below this post.
1. Waimarino Blob
I was in New Zealand in March, exploring some of the fascinating Northland region, and while there I stumbled upon one of the most unexpected activities I’ve come across in a while: The Blob.
No words can do The Blob justice, so watch this video and to get a feel for the full force of wacky idea … I’ll see you on the other side.
Now, I can tell you from experience that this is amazing fun! Look out for it at the Waimarino Adventure Park, in Bethlehem near Tauranga in the North Island.
2. Whakaari (White Island)
After a two hour boat journey from Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty, you’ll arrive at the world’s only active marine volcano that you can walk around.
Can you spot the world famous (in NZ) Dino? | Image courtesy of Geonet
When we say active, we mean active — you are issued gas masks to tackle the highly sulphurous, and the journey to the island is the perfect chance to spot whale and dolphin.
If your knowledge of Māori culture starts and ends with the famous Haka, made famous by the All Blacks rugby team, then you are in for a feast of cultural treats.
New Zealand — or Aotearoa if we are to use its original Māori name — is famously accepting of their multicultural population.
Today, Māori make up 14% of the population, and their culture and language sit at the heart of New Zealand life and society. You’ll see names, and hear the te reo language throughout your stay in New Zealand.
The Marae (Māori meeting ground) is a great place to begin your journey through the ancient cultures of the Māori people, and their beliefs and traditions.
The kakapo is the world’s only flightless parrot; the world’s only nocturnal parrot; the world’s heaviest parrot; and is only found in New Zealand. Here’s Stephen Fry to tell you more.
The kakapo was very nearly extinct, until the Kakapo Recovery Programme in the late 1980s, which resulted in the number of kakapo more than doubling.
This period also spawned the quite incredible “ejaculation helmet”, which was designed to tempt kakapo to mate with conservationists’ heads, while they wore a gel helmet designed to capture the sperm! Unfortunately (especially for the people that endured this) the plan was unsuccessful.
Fans of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit will have a field day at Hobbiton, located near Matamata in the upper North Island, this is the movie set for the upcoming feature film of the book (released 13 December 2012).
Learn about the incredible lengths Peter Jackson and his team went to to recreate the shires, right down to the painstaking details of the trees and fauna; and the thirty-seven hobbit holes, with their cute little flower gardens and benches.
EXTRA! Special New Zealand Experiences!
But wait! We’ve come across even more only-in-New-Zealand amazement.
First up, there’s the Hundertwasser toilets at Kawakawa. While you may find public toilets throughout the world, the chances of finding any quite this audacious are unlikely. A combination of coloured glass, mosaic tiling, copper handwork, sculptures and cobblestone flooring make up the structure, which also incorporates a tree!
The one, the only, Huntertwasser toilet block! | Image by cgullz
The legendary eats at Fergburger in Queenstown are famous throughout our travelling fraternity, and I recommend the Big Al, which brings together half a pound of prime New Zealand beef, a twain of eggs, bacon, cheese and heaps of salad weighed down by a flash of aioli. Local rival, Winnie’s Pizza also ranks high on the indigenous snag list.
Meanwhile the iconic, “World famous in New Zealand” soft drink, L&P may be found throughout Kiwi enclaves around the world, but its roots are firmly found in Paeroa (hence, Lemon & Paeroa) where you’ll find a giant shrine to the sugary goodness.
Finally, the shweeb is an oddity that is caught between a rock (global solution to traffic congestion) and a hard place (a small adventure theme park in the upper North Island known as Agroventures).
In 2010, Google invested USD $1m into the concept, believing it could be the future of urban transport, with plans to roll out a prototype soon.
And that concludes our round-up of exclusive New Zealand activities and experiences. Care to add one of your own?