A Country Full of Unexpected Treasures
by Ruth Atherley
As a vacation destination, New Zealand is known for its breathtaking landscapes and incredible outdoor activities – such as kayaking with wild dolphins in Nelson, sailing on an America’s Cup yacht in Auckland and scuba diving in the Poor Knights Islands. And you can’t forget the exceptional wine experiences available – from staying at vineyards to the Classic Wine Trail that runs through both the North Island and South Island. (Thankfully, Kiwis share their wine with the world and we can enjoy it at home too.) However, New Zealand is also full of unexpected treasures known only to locals (or very lucky visitors who happen upon them by accident). We’ve lifted the lid on some of these amazing places and things to do. Shh… keep them to yourself.
The Sound of Silence in Doubtful Sound
While Milford Sound is definitely majestic, the South Island’s Doubtful Sound is actually three times longer and ten times larger – and equally awe-inspiring. You can only access it via boat and then by bus over the Wilmot Pass, which makes it less populated and makes it feel more magical. Real Journeys offers an overnight trip into Doubtful Sound on the Fiordland Navigator. When the captain turns off the engines in the middle of the trip, and everyone on board stands still and quiet, the sound of silence is incredible. In this busy, wired, noise-filled world in which we live, the peacefulness of Doubtful Sound is something special.
Ohau Winter Waterfall Walk and Seal Pups
About 27 kilometres north of Kaikoura on the South Island, the Ohau Stream provides a rare chance to check out a waterfall pool, teaming with fur seal pups. During New Zealand’s fall and winter months, the mama seals leave their babies at the stream while they head to the ocean to fish. The walk itself, beside the stream, is a beautiful hike on any day of the year, but when the seal pups are frolicking in the water, it’s quite an experience. And if you are in the area and are hungry, there are seafood trucks parked along the side of the road, selling crayfish (we would call them lobster) and other delish dishes that you can eat while you watch the waves of the Pacific Ocean. One that locals know and love is Nin’s Bin, which is about a 20-minute drive north of Kaikorua on Route 1.
The HUHU Café in Waitomo
This little café, near the Waitomo Caves on New Zealand’s North Island, always gets rave reviews for its food and views. With a range of fresh ingredient entrees that include lamb, beef and pork, as well as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options, the HUHU Café has something tasty for everyone. Don’t forget to wash the meal down with their excellent New Zealand wines, delicious microbrews, spectacular coffee or decadent hot chocolate, where even the spoon it’s served with is dipped in chocolate.
Nga Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail
Cyclists are always thrilled when they first hear about the 23 Great Rides on The New Zealand Cycle Trail, a nationwide cycling network. (It really is nationwide – from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.) From the subtropical fern forests, along historic military and old coach roads, to breathtaking lake and mountain vistas, past beautiful beaches, and through rainforests and lush wetlands, no matter what your ability level, it appeals to every cyclist – from the novice to the dedicated rider.
Fishbone Bar & Grill in Queenstown
While Fishbone might not be an insider’s secret for long (foodie bloggers are listing it as the place to go for fresh fish and seafood in Queenstown), it is a spectacular experience. The restaurant uses fruit and vegetables grown on their own Fishbone Farm and all of the seafood is sourced from local fishermen. Ask anyone who has been there about the food and they get a hungry look in their eyes and a smile on their lips.