My New Zealand Wishlist
Updated: Jun 30
If you've been following my blog for the last few weeks, you'll know that I have been counting down my top ten favourite experiences from the magnificent country that is New Zealand! In the third instalment of my NZ series, I'm bringing you the top ten items which are still on my wishlist; I left for my trip with a lengthy to-do list, and returned with one that was even longer!
Of course, there's WAY more than ten things I'd still like to do in NZ, but we would be here all week if I talked about them all. Some honourable mentions which didn't quite make it to the list include the Te Paki sand dunes, the city of Wellington, the Blue Pools walk, Lake Alta, and the Pinnacles!
As I obviously haven't visited any of these sites myself, I have enlisted the help of some truly amazing instagrammers to provide illustrations on my behalf. Please do click through to their profiles and show them some love - I'm sure their photography will persuade you to do so, anyway! For their kind contributions to this article, I extend a huge thank you to @tom.ella.moments, @cecilekf, @madventurestravel, @staceymadden, @dashleyworldtour, @oliviagracebougen, @emmmnics, @huizhen2012, @sanda.jakub, @ronantjw, and @winstontan_photography.
In no particular order, here are my top ten NZ wishlist items!
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Tongariro in the sunshine
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing was one of the best things I did while I was in New Zealand, and a big reason why I chose to travel with Topdeck. For the most part I enjoyed this hike, and I found it incredibly rewarding, but we had the most dreadful visibility, and really want to give it another go just to experience the iconic views that everyone expects to see. @tom.ella.moments have captured exactly what I want to see as I reach the first peak!
A scenic flight over the area has also crossed my mind (mostly while I was still feeling the pain of the hike!) which I still think would be cool, but the hike is such a bucket list item!
Technically, I have visited Rotorua, but it was a rather fleeting visit, so I'd love to spend a good few days exploring this area of North Island! We did stop off at one lava pool while driving through, but we were there for mere minutes, and then whisked off to a Marae where we spent the night. The Marae experience was a truly amazing and eye-opening experience, but there's so much more in Rotorua I know I haven't seen. There are also a few places in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions I still need to see!
My bucket-list-within-a-bucket-list includes:
- Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland (as illustrated by @cecilekf) and Te Puia - must sees!
- Waitomo caves (I have already visited Waitomo, but there are a couple of other caves associated with Waitomo that I'd also like to see)
- Whakarewarewa Redwoods and the treewalk (how gorgeous is this shot of the redwoods by @madventurestravel??)
- Hobbiton (I'm not a LotR fan, and I won't even pretend I've seen the films, but this is such an iconic stop in NZ!)
Roy's Peak hike
The Roy's Peak hike is definitely one of the most famous hikes you can do in New Zealand, and the view from the track's peak is certainly one of the most photogenic! How sick is this shot by @staceymadden?
I didn't realise until quite recently just how much of an undertaking the Roy's Peak track is - the whole hike covers 16km, 8km up and 8km down. I have limited hiking experience, and have only taken on two renowned hikes: the Tongariro Crossing, and Stromboli volcano in Sicily. Roy's Peak is around 3km shorter than Tongariro, but the first half is all uphill, whereas Tongariro varies in incline (which I appreciated!).
This would definitely be something I'd have to set aside a day for, although I've fallen in love with the idea of hiking to see the sunrise from the peak! I'm not quite sure how functional my legs would be at 3am, though!
Bay of Islands
As I only spent a few days in Auckland during my trip, I had to decide between a day trip to Coromandel and a day trip to the Bay of Islands; based on loads of recommendations (and the fact it was closer), I opted to see Coromandel, which I don't regret at all! The Bay of Islands is still on my radar, though!
Cape Reinga and Paihia are the two most important places I'd still like to visit. I saw some of the country's rainforest while I was in Coromandel, of course, but I feel like I've spent comparatively little time in the sub-tropical north of the country than it's alpine south! @dashleyworldtour took a helicopter flight over these gorgeous islands - definitely something I am considering myself!
Sealy Tarns track
The list of hikes you can do in NZ is endless, but the Sealy Tarns track is one that I've been eyeing up lately. Located in Mount Cook National Park, the Department of Conservation describes it as an easy walking track, although it also states the track is "steep and stepped", with a "height gain of 600m", so maybe not that easy??
I figure if I can finish the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, I can probably get through this hike! The track is also nicknamed the "stairway to heaven", and provides amazing views over Hooker Valley and the peaks around the area - I'll take any excuse to see Mount Cook if I'm honest! This shot by @oliviagracebougen has certainly enticed me to do this hike!
The clay cliffs in Omarama are among the many sights I still need to visit in the South Island - my favourite island (at least for now!). I came across these via some sick photos on instagram (including this one by @emmmnics), which is where I discover all kinds of places, and they just look other-worldly! Although accessible to the public (with suggested donations and a $5 vehicle admission fee), the cliffs lie on private land, and I'm super jealous of whoever "owns" these incredible structures!
Wellington originally took this spot on my wishlist, as, even though we did make a stop in NZ's delightful capital, we were there for mere hours (the majority of which I was either drunk, asleep, or hungover), so I really want to pay it a proper visit.
As I didn't have enough time to visit the very south of the country, I didn't get the chance to stop in Dunedin at all, but it's a city I think I could fall in love with. Baldwin Street is on my hypothetical agenda, along with all the magical wildlife experiences you can have near the city, and my heart rate genuinely speeds up when I think about Dunedin's trains and its railway station! Have you seen it?? It's beautiful! NZ is not known for its commuter rail, but the rail lines it does have are incredible! Thanks to @huizhen2012 for letting me share her shot of the gorgeous station building!
Hooker Valley track
Another hike I always see popping up that looks BEAUTIFUL is the Hooker Valley track in Mount Cook National Park (is this my favourite NP in the world??). It's known for being a relatively easy half-day hike (11km/7 miles), and can be done in around three hours, so it sounds perfect for me! I've also read that the Hooker Valley track is the most scenic hike in the country, so it ticks all the necessary boxes so far! I honestly want to cry looking at the photos from the track because it's so stunning! As I'm writing this I'm genuinely considering the logistics of a "quick" trip to the South Island" If this shot by @sanda.jakub doesn't make you want to fly straight there, I don't know what will!
You may have come across the heli-hike already if you've looked into things to do in the Fox Glacier area, and I'm *sort of* annoyed with myself that I didn't take up the opportunity to give this a go when I had the chance. I say "sort of" because, instead, I flew in a helicopter over both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, saw the peak of Mount Cook, and landed in the snow, so I didn't exactly have a bad day...
The heli-hike flies you up to either Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, where you then have around three hours on the glacier itself, hiking through crevasses and ice tunnels - the glaciers are forever changing, so the hikes are never the same, but they might look something like this shot from @ronantjw! The heli-hike was the most popular option taken up by my tour group in Fox Glacier, and I only heard good things from those who went! While it's not exactly cheap, the heli-hike is the least expensive way to get up close and personal with the glacier!
That Wanaka Tree
My next item is a New Zealand icon, certainly in the instagram world - it's That Wanaka Tree!
I realise this is literally just a tree in a lake, but there's something so beautiful and mystifying about it that I just love. I'd be more than happy to rock up to the shores of Lake Wanaka at dusk and watch as the evening glow falls over the tree. This shot by @winstontan_photography has got to be one of the most beautiful I've ever seen of this sight.
Thanks for checking out my New Zealand wishlist - are you going to add any of these sights to your list?
Please do check out all the wonderful photographers who contributed to this article - I am so so grateful for their help!
I have a few other articles about my experiences in New Zealand - check them out here!
As always, please like / comment / share / subscribe, and give me a follow on insta @ontourwithjen!