Contributed article by Mr R, of Wellington New Zealand
When in Manila, you might dream of one day exploring New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. This little guide will ensure that if you do get to visit the land of Hobbits and Orcs, you’re sure to have a blast. Whether you’re into nature, culture, extreme sports, or café life, New Zealand has something to offer everyone.
New Zealand Wind Farm near Wellington
Let’s start with Auckland, or the City of Sails, and the largest city with about 1.3 million residents. A third of the population live in and around Auckland, and it has a temperate climate. If you want to have some fun, try leaping off a building and head to the Casino at Sky City where you can throw yourself off the Sky Tower. It’s a face first leap from 190 metres to the target below, and your friends can watch as you try to outpace your lunch on the way down.
New Zealand Sky Tower
For something a bit more sedate, try Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World, a large aquarium established by a New Zealand diver and all round good guy of the same name. The ride out to the site is in a free bus that is shaped like a giant shark, and it leaves from Sky City 7 days a week. Whilst the large aquarium is full of sharks and rays, the highlight are the penguins in the Antarctic Encounter. New Zealand has a long association with the Antarctic and has a permanent operational tem there, sited at Scott Base.
Now if it is volcanoes and hot springs that you want, head out of Auckland. Despite the entire city being built on a whole pile of volcanoes, they are considered dormant. Heading north takes you to some amazing scenery in the Bay of Islands, but going south takes you to adventure. Head to Rotorua to experience geothermal activities up close, take a trip through Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park, which smells terrible due to all the sulphur, but is quite amazing. Roturua has some of the best mountain biking tracks in New Zealand, and is home to the Cateye Moonride, a 24 hour endurance race like no other.
Heading south from Roturua leads you to peaceful Lake Taupo, a lake formed in the crater of a super-volcano. There are points around the shoreline where boiling water feeds into the lake as a casual reminder that you’re standing on top of a dormant (but not extinct) volcano. The lake is magical, and many of the local attractions are based around what is New Zealand’s largest lake. But enough of the easy stuff, lets head up a mountain.
New Zealand’s Lake Taupo in the distance
Just 40 minutes from Taupo is one of the greatest walks in the country, the Tongariro Crossing. It is classed as a moderate walk, but it is not for the feint hearted. You’ll need walking boots, and cold weather gear, and it is certainly challenging. You’ll head pretty much straight up a mountain and over the top, and the views are spectacular. It is a full day walk, and it’s best to arrange transport as the end point is a long way from the start; there are always tourists at the end confused when they can’t find their car as this isn’t a loop and their wheels are back over the mountain.
New Zealand: The Tongariro Crossing
The road from Taupo to Wellington, the Capital City, is long but is easily done in a day, stopping at Waiouru, where there is a small but perfectly formed National Army Museum. New Zealand has a proud history of military service, and the museum offers a look into the lives of those who have fought for the country and a memorial to those that have fallen in battle.
Wellington is one of the most amazing small cities in the world. It is set overlooking a spectacular harbour, and whilst it is the capital city and seat of Government, its population is only around 400,000 people. It is the cultural capital, and home to Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum. Entry to the main museum is free but there are often special exhibitions that require a fee. It is a must for every tourist, and there is a wealth of information about New Zealand and its history.
The City of Wellington and surrounding suburbs in New Zealand
Wellington is also home to the Weta Workshop, the company that produced all the costumes and sets for the Peter Jackson epic movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and who are currently working full-time on the Hobbit. You can visit the Weta Cave, and see some of the designs, and there are a number of companies offering tours of the movie locations from the various films. However, if you want to really experience the sights of Wellington, there are many walks around the hills surrounding the city but you’ll need to pick your day carefully as Wellington is known as the windy city, and a light breeze to the locals can be a small gale.
A Weta Orc from Lord of the Rings filmed in New Zealand
To head south from Wellington requires either a flight or a ferry ride as it is the southernmost part of the North Island. The ferry takes a few hours, is a comfortable trip on the InterIslander Ferry, and it drops you in the little port of Picton which is a short drive to the main wine district of Marlborough. This is home to the infamous Cloudy Bay, and there are too many vineyards to name. Take a tour and do them all, and stop off in Blenheim before heading off further south.
Tourists either head directly south towards Christchurch, or west to Nelson for the beaches and scenery of the West Coast. My personal preference is the latter, as Nelson is a very serene small city, and offers travellers the most sunshine hours of any town in New Zealand. The drive down the West Coast takes you towards Franz Josef Glacier, a must see for environmentalists, but more importantly Queenstown, the heart of the adventure tourism industry. If you want bungy jumps, jet boating, white-water rafting or canoeing, this is the place. Be sure to plan plenty of time here, and save some money ‘cause it ain’t cheap.
Friends from New Zealand wearing the WhenInManila.com shirts
Wind Farm at Makara
Most travellers head over to Dunedin after Queenstown, a historic university town, rather than going any further south. There is some amazing scenery down towards Invercargill, but not a huge amount else for those looking for adventure. If you time your trip, you could attend a game of rugby at the new stadium in Dunedin, before heading back up the East Coast towards Christchurch.
Christchurch is still rebuilding extensively after the devastating earthquakes of 2011. The airport is an International Terminal and is very modern. Accommodation is a premium as the rebuilding work is still a long way from complete, and many of the cities attractions were lost. The city needs tourists to help with the recovery, and a trip there is very welcomed by the local tourist industry.
It is a fitting end to a tour to fly out of Christchurch, and to leave our shores with memories that New Zealand is a relatively young country but with a rich culture and respect for Mother Nature. Our clean green image is our national pride, and we hope that our visitors leave with a sense of wonder at our scenery and a small part of our spirit of adventure.
Friends from New Zealand wearing the WhenInManila.com shirts.
At “The Beehive” New Zealand’s Parliament Building
When In Manila, or should I say, When In New Zealand, be sure to check out these great attractions! Below are some links to the favorite places I’ve mentioned in this article! Hope you all enjoy!
The SkyJump: http://www.skyjump.co.nz/
Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World: http://kellytarltons.co.nz/
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park: http://www.waiotapu.co.nz/
The Tongariro Crossing: http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/
Contributed article by Mr R, of Wellington New Zealand
When In New Zealand: Must See Attractions from the Land of the Long White Cloud