With its beautiful landscapes and distinctive cities, New Zealand is a place that begs to be explored like a local, and not a tourist. There are many ways to experience the country from this perspective. Being able to cover both islands in about twenty-six hours means that visitors can spend more time immersed in places and activities specific to New Zealand. The following seven New Zealand things to do will allow you to discover the country like a local. These New Zealand activities should help travelers uncover glimpses of this island nation that only residents get to see.
1. Attend an All-Blacks Game
Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, and it’s not hyperbole to say the All-Blacks are the pride of New Zealand. The team has smashed several records since making their international debut in 1903, and won the world cup three times in the eight competitions held since the first 1987 tournament. Since there’s no singular stadium the All-Blacks play in during a home match, travelers can catch the team playing in Auckland, Wellington, and Nelson on the South Island during the course of a season. It should be noted that teams like the Crusaders, Highlanders, and Hurricanes also play at an extremely high level, so catch one of their matches if unable to witness an All-Blacks game in person.
2. Participate in a Haka
The All-Blacks actually perform one of these at the start of every game, which has given this Maori dance ritual exposure to a global audience. The haka is central to the culture of the indigenous people of New Zealand, a war cry that expresses their power, passion, and strength. The Maori people are very much a part of the current fabric of New Zealand culture and society, and the people frequently perform this ancient rite at social gatherings. Additionally, non-Maori persons are allowed to participate, and the best place to do it as on a marae, or native meeting grounds. Visitors must be formally welcomed to such a place, indicative of the high respect and pride with which the Maori view their customs.
3. Eat New Zealand fare
Truly experiencing New Zealand means eating like a New Zealander, and that means enjoying a Whittaker chocolate bar and an ice-cold L&P, preferably at the same time). Both of these are sweets you’ll only find in New Zealand. For more traditional New Zealand grub, visit a pie or fish and chip shop, or try a Sunday roast with lamb, paired with a wine from Marlborough’s flagship vineyards.
4. Enjoy the Great Outdoors
People from all over the world visit New Zealand to experience the country’s pristine scenery. The forests, beaches, and mountains of this island nation are unlike anywhere else in the world – there’s a reason blockbuster movies continue to utilize the landscape as the backdrop for fantastical worlds like Narnia and Pandora. Even the mildest of outdoors enthusiasts are encouraged to participate in an outdoor activity that allows for a full immersion in the landscapes of New Zealand. Take advantage of the system of tramping huts that allows hikers to spend the night on a mountain or in a forest. Go boating through the breathtaking fjords of Milford Sound. The beauty of New Zealand nature is such that witnessing it up close is a visceral experience.
5. Take a Road Trip
Motorized transport is the best way to see New Zealand like a local. This allows visitors to see off-the-beaten-path destinations, like Wanaka or Rotorua, which might fall by the wayside without access to a car or bus. The Intercity bus system is used by locals and visitors alike and enables passengers to travel from the North to the South Island. Cities like Auckland and Wellington have their own particular appeal, but for a road trip that truly feels like an adventure, a drive will at least take visitors through remarkable island greenery particular to New Zealand.
6. Take the Ferry
New Zealanders frequently travel between the North and the South Island by ferry, making this a true Kiwi experience that locals can’t miss. Both the Bluebridge and the Interislander ferries provide an array of amenities to help passengers enjoy the three-and-a-half hour trip, including movies, free Wi-Fi, and refreshments. Best of all, the journey through the Cook Strait provides amazing views of the Marlborough Sounds, an expanse of islands that are premier destinations for nature and marine lovers.
7. Go Kiwi-Spotting
When not referring to a New Zealander, a Kiwi is the name for the flightless bird of New Zealand that makes its home in the scrubs, grasslands, and mountains of New Zealand. Kiwis were once considered endangered due to predation, but numbers have improved in light of recent efforts to protect the species. There are now numerous Kiwi sanctuaries throughout the country, and the bird’s status as an icon of New Zealand and rarity in the wild has spawned several Kiwi-spotting tours and events that occur throughout the year.