NEW ZEALAND. Also known as Aotearoa. Also known as that place that looks like Middle Earth.
Nobody needs convincing that New Zealand is one of the most geographically unique places in the world — the fact that it’s been isolated out in the southwestern Pacific for more than 80 million years should be evidence enough that what you’ll find in New Zealand, you’re not likely to find elsewhere.
And just to prove it: Here are 10 experiences to have in New Zealand that you can’t have anywhere
outside the Land of the Long White Cloud.
1. Ski an Olympic-sized half pipe…in August.
Just northeast of the “adrenaline capital” of Queenstown, the world’s greatest skiers and snowboarders find the only place on Earth to hone their skills in an Olympic-caliber environment during the peak of Northern Hemisphere summer: Cardrona Alpine Resort. This feature pretty much turns the mountain into an impromptu summer camp, as it has the only competition-size half pipe in the world that’s still operational in August.
2. Stand in awe of the waterfalls of Milford Sound.
And the Devil’s Punchbowl. And Lake Taupo. And hundreds of other iconic pieces of naturally made magnificence that are simultaneously alien and spectacular to those of us not lucky enough to call the islands home (okay, and probably to locals too).
3. Witness the kiwi bird in the wild.
The flightless, slightly sinister / slightly adorable bird is the country’s national icon, and is found nowhere else on Earth. The native Maori used to hunt them for food and use their feathers for ceremonial cloaks (kahu kiwi), but not anymore, as they consider themselves to be the birds’ guardians. And while you’ll be constantly reminded of the kiwi’s importance in New Zealand, taking a trip to Stewart Island or one of their other remaining habitats to witness them emerging at night is like staking out a snow leopard, minus all the deadly predatorial implications. (You can also find them in “kiwi houses” around the islands).
4. Live like you’re in Middle Earth.
Probably the most obvious item on this list—Peter Jackson’s trilogy is definitely at least partially responsible for the recent uptick in tourism to the country—but nonetheless impressive and a testament to the country’s astonishing natural scenery. Perhaps the most recognizable is Hobbiton, which can be found in Matamata, a 12,000-person town on the North Island.
5. Seek out some seriously unique thrills.
Like, say, zooming on the tallest tree-to-tree flying fox in the world. Or base jumping from the 600ft+ Sky Tower (seen above). In terms of the average country’s adrenaline level, we’d estimate New Zealand’s definitely in the top 3. And given the country’s adventurous pedigree (Sir Edmund Hilary and the inventor of the bungee jump were both Kiwis), it’s hardly surprising.
6. Mountains in the morning, beach in the afternoon.
No part of New Zealand is more than 128km from an ocean—which means you can drastically change your climate (and altitude) in the span of a couple hours. Not to mention grab some unbelievable shots of snowcapped peaks looming over some not-quite-tropical-yet-still-incredibly-blue waters.
7. Eat at Fergburger.
No, really. Eat at Fergburger. It’s like the In-n-Out Burger of New Zealand, except it’s not a chain, the burgers are twice the size, and it closes at 5am. They’ve got more than 30 different types of burgers—lamb, cod, falafel, and venison burgers included. It used to operate out of a random garage, but now you can find it on Shotover Street in Queenstown.
8. See plants you can’t find anywhere else.
About 82% of New Zealand’s plants are endemic—meaning they’re found nowhere outside New Zealand. One of these happens to be the silver fern (seen above)—the country’s national plant (and the logo for the national rugby team, if you couldn’t tell).
9. Watch the world’s most celebrated rugby team.
The New Zealand All Blacks. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Maybe you’ve seen them doing the haka—that ceremonial Maori war dance aimed to intimidate the hell out of the opposition. Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, and they’ve won the Tri-Cup—basically the international Super Bowl of rugby (outside of the Rugby World Cup)—12 times out of the 18 times it’s been held. Pretty sure that makes them the alpha dog of the rugby pack.
10. Get outnumbered by sheep.
3 million people. 60 million sheep. What that means: At any given moment, you’re outnumbered at a 20-to-1 ovine-to-human ratio. What that also means: In pretty much any given town, you can find some seriously delicious lamb chops.