100 Percent Pure New Zealand
In one clear-cut phrase, this is exactly how New Zealand Tourism describes their country in their latest campaign slogan which quickly summarizes everything there is to know about this unspoilt place. Experiencing it first-hand, I can tell you that it is what it says – 100% no sugar coating.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much when I decided to come to New Zealand. All I had from the travel agency was a picture of a lamb and a daffodil. I was actually very curious about what it has to offer in terms of activities and places of interest. But I knew this trip would be different.
The Road trip
From Christchurch airport, we drove three hours to the farmhouse where are staying. Despite the jet-lag, my first New Zealand car trip kept me awake all the way. It was like reading my favourite story book for the first time! The lush green pastures, the flock of sheep grazing on rolling hills, the rivers making its way to the sea, the snow-capped mountains, the cool scent of pine trees all came to life in front of me. And in those three hours, I knew exactly what to do for the rest of my stay... to extend the rest of my stay.
...That road trip was four years ago.
Nowadays, with budget airlines, travel promotions and simpler visa procedures, it is way faster and cheaper to come to New Zealand. Let me make it even easier in three simple steps:
STEP 1: Choose your best season
Each season offers a unique travel and scenic experience. The perfect timing depends on one’s idea of a holiday and I guarantee that there’s absolutely something for everyone to enjoy any time of the year – from tranquil journeys to extreme adventures! Here’s what to do and expect to see according to season:
Spring (September – November) You’ll enjoy the energy of colours and witness nature in its full bloom – perfect time to see the flower shows, botanical gardens, and the annual Blossom Festival. It is also the ‘lambing season’ so you can expect to see newborn lambs frolicking in the green fields. It is also the time when melting snow makes its way to the river, making water levels exciting for water rafting.
Daffodils sprouting everywhere is the first sign of Spring.
Summer (December – February)
Camping, fishing, hiking, biking, cruising, adventure and water sports – possibilities are just endless! As this is also the harvest season for most fruit farms, it is the best time to visit the vineyards, orchards, and berry farms and get the chance to experience picking your own fruit!
In the Summer, pick and enjoy your strawberries straight from the ground.
Autumn (March – May)
The changing colour of autumn leaves is a scenic delight in itself. The cooler temperature and smaller crowds make this season a great time to travel. Road trips, cruise tours, kayaking and horse-back riding in autumn can truly be a breathtaking experience.
The magical colors of autumn make this season the best choice for outdoor activities. At this time of the year, vineyards make a romantic backdrop for weddings.
Winter (June- August)
Boots, gloves, jackets, goggles, snow chains – get all these sorted and you’re in for a winter holiday! Snow resorts and ski fields offer a great range of activities and tutorials for all levels. For a relaxed and calmer option, book yourself to the TranzAlpine Railway Tour and see the spectacular Southern Alps.
Stunning snow-capped mountains seem to glow brighter at dusk in downtown Queenstown.
STEP 2: Choose your accommodation
Your New Zealand accommodation plays a big part in your overall holiday experience. Again, it totally depends on how you want it to be. Pick, or mix and match, from these popular options:
Backpackers and Hostels
Backpacking is a very safe thing to do in New Zealand and it is the most inexpensive way to explore the country. There is a wealth of backpacker hostels all over and they all provide tour packages suitable for budget travellers.
Camping Grounds and Holidays Parks
Experience the Kiwi holiday tradition of living in the great outdoors! Holiday parks (also known as campsites or camping grounds) let you enjoy outdoor living with all the amenities of home. This is the perfect option for families with young children as it often offers child-friendly facilities. You may either choose to stay in cabins or just simply park your campervan for a minimal fee.
This road sign means Visitor Information Centre or commonly known as I-SITE (Information Site). There's one I-SITE in each town offering essential tourist info such as attractions, road safety, weather, and a display of local products.
Even in the most remote locations like the Stewart Island in the southernmost part of New Zealand, there's a Visitor Centre to welcome and attend to every guest.
Bed and Breakfast
B&B for short, is a literally a ‘home away from home’ experience. These are mansion-type homes providing not only cosy and comfortable sleep but a sumptuous Kiwi breakfast as well – perfect for travelling couples. Privately hosted by retired locals, staying in a B&B is a great way to be acquainted with everyday New Zealand life.
Motels and Motor Lodge
Located everywhere, Motels and Motor Lodges cater to most travellers as it offers a wide range of accommodation options – from basic studio-types to luxury 3-bedroom apartments. All units have a small kitchen facility giving travellers the choice to self-cater, which most hotels won’t allow.
Since New Zealand’s biggest industry is farming, it’s not a bad idea at all to get a true taste of Kiwi farm life. Get your gumboots ready and prepare to get your hands dirty as you are having a genuine experience of what it’s like to live in a farm and participate in its daily activities. Enjoy home-cooked meals, wake up to the sound, sights and smell of farm animals, and simply relax in the countryside. Most Farmstays offer guided tours by farmers themselves so you may find yourself exploring the captivating rural setting by 4-wheel drive or even horseback.
My sister trying to 'blend in' with the cows during one of her farmstays.
Important advisory: This experience can be life-changing!
Enjoy the convenience and comforts of staying in the centre of town and close proximity to the airport, bus stations and tourist attractions. Generally, hotel guests also enjoy special rates and activity packages from tour operators. Millennium Hotels and Resorts is one of the largest hotel chains in the country operating three brands namely Millennium, Copthorne and Kingsgate Hotels.
Food is always prepared simple and fresh.
The Parliament building, known as the Beehive, is in the country's capital city of Wellington.
1. Book a Lord of the Ring Tours or The Hobbit Movie Set and location tours.
2. Plan a Great Kiwi Road Trip.
3. See the geysers and steaming mud pools in Rotorua.
4. Sign up for a Wildlife tour to watch whales, dolphins, penguins, albatross, sea lions and other animals in their natural environment.
5. Visit Queenstown, dubbed as the Adventure Capital of the World, famous for bungee-jumping and other extreme adventures.
6. Take a Farm tour. Your trip will never be complete without visiting a fully operational NZ farm.
STEP 3: Choose your flight
Another exciting thing about writing this is article is telling you about the budget flying option! Visit JETSTAR website and check the low fare options. TIP: If you have to transit in Australia, check carefully if you need to apply for a transit visa.
This geographical wonder known as The Elephant Rocks is a familiar scene in the film The Chronicles of Narnia.
The envigorating view of the countryside.
I knew very little about New Zealand when I came here four years ago. Coming towards the end of my journey, I probably still haven’t discovered it all. But I am happy to leave with a wonderful memory of raising a lamb and growing daffodils in my own backyard. That is my 100% New Zealand experience.
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