- JUMP OFF OF SOMETHING
New Zealand is known as the Adrenaline Capital of the World so you simply cannot go to this amazing country and not do something heart pounding. For us, it was bungee jumping off of the Kawarau Bridge right outside Queenstown.
Bungee jumping was founded in New Zealand by AJ Hacket, so there is no better place to give it a go, I really had no interest in doing it before we flew to NZ, but when when you spend time in a place where literally every person you talk to has jumped – you get FOMO.
Your main options in the South Island are:
- Kawarau Brdige Bungy: ~30 minutes outside Queenstown, 43 meter jump with river touch,and cheapest option ($200 NZ ~ $138 USD) – this is the one we did, The scenery was awesome and the river touch was unique. If we had more time we probably would have done the highest bungee, but it was too far away. PS-expect to get water up your nose!
- The Ledge Bungy: center of Queenstown so very convenient, 47 meter jump, freestyle jump options, $205 NZ (~$141 USD). This one is great for convenience, but it is not the most exciting place to jump in my opinion
- The Nevis Bungy: ~2 hours outside of Queenstown, 134 meter jump (highest by far), priciest option ($275 NZ ~ $189 USD), you have to take a special bus to get to the jump spot. If we ever get back to NZ – I will FOR SURE do this one!
2. FLY OVER SOMETHING
Some places in NZ are so remote and difficult to drive to that scenic flights make for the best (or only) option. You will see both helicopters and prop planes flying all over NZ and even though they are pricey, I definitely recommend splurging on one. We took a helicopter into Fox Glacier and went for a hike – a heli-hike! The helicopter ride was short, but amazing! If you plan a scenic flight be sure to be flexible, because they said they have to reschedule nearly 60% of their flights, especially near the glaciers. We were rescheduled twice before we finally took flight.
If we had unlimited excursion funds, we would have also opted to take a scenic flight to Milford Sound (instead of a bus) and a flight to Mt. Cook.
3. HIKE A GLACIER
Since we went to Iceland I am now obsessed with glaciers, so we absolutely had to hike one in New Zealand too! There are lots of glaciers in NZ, but the only two I know anything about are Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. They both are only accessible by helicopter, but if you don’t want to shell out hundreds you can still hike close enough to the base of the glaciers to get a good picture and see their beauty.
We hiked to the mouth of the Franz Josef and we took a helicopter ride to hike on Fox Glacier. The glacier was amazing and even though it was not a difficult hike, it’s still 100% worth it. Fox is full of crevasses and ice caves to explore!
Ever hear of flyboarding? Check out my terrible quality video to the left to see my first time flyboarding skills! We booked with Flyboard Queenstown and it was an awesome experience. Josh and I are still arguing over who was better, but I am convinced it was me!
5. TAKE A BOAT RIDE
Couple of good options here – our boat ride was a cruise ship through the Milford Sound and it was incredible. You’re in a fjord surrounded by waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. We saw seals and dolphins too! We took a bus from Queenstown to Milford Sound, but it is not a short ride. You’ll stop at a few pretty places on the way, but if you are able to take a scenic flight over Milford Sound I highly recommend!
If you want a more exciting boat option, sign up to ride in a Jet Boat. Jet boats are fast and agile and you’ll be doing 360s and sharp turns all the way down the Kawarau River. We didn’t jet boat because Josh wanted to go fishing. (I suppose fishing is another boating option, but let’s be honest – fishing is not exciting).
6. HELP SAVE THE KIWIS
Have you ever seen a kiwi chick? I really didn’t know what they looked like before we went to NZ, but they’re adorable! New Zealanders are known as kiwis (and even though that technically is because of a shoe polish story, it originates from these indigenous birds). Kiwis are endangered because of introduced predators so many are put into sanctuaries until they are old enough to fend for themselves. One of these places is in Franz Josef – you can see adults and babies! Proceeds go to preservation, so go buy yourself a stuffed animal kiwi!
7. HAVE A BURGER
If you Google “best restaurants in ___” before you go to a new city, then you will definitely hear about Fergburger in Queenstown. CNN Travel wrote an article saying Fergburger is the best burger in New Zealand, and possibly the world. We find that usually places like this do not live up to the hype, but even Josh (always a skeptic) agreed that it was an amazing burger and fries.
Some people shy away from the place because there is always a HUGE line outside with at least a 45 minute wait to get to the register. PRO TIP: do not wait in line! Call and place your order over the phone. You can continue walking around town and just go to the pick up line in 15 minutes!
Speaking of food – for dessert you have to get cookies at The Cookie Muncher!
8. TAKE A LUGE RIDE
In Queenstown you can take a gondola ride to one of the highest peaks in the city. At the top you can have lunch or drinks, sign up to parasail down the hill, jump from the Ledge Bungy, or take a luge ride! I would have loved to parasail down the never ending slope, but I can only risk my life so many times per week.
The luge is fun, especially if you’re traveling with your family, or if you need some competition with your husband. There are two tracks down, a scenic one and a more exciting one. The rides are definitely over priced as most tourist things are, but we bought a package with the gondola ride up/down and 5 luge rides on Viator before we left and it seemed to be slightly cheaper than the price at Skyline Queenstown.
9. TAKE A DRIVE
Usually we don’t rent cars on vacation, but I 100% recommend it in New Zealand. We rented from JUCY Rentals, a self-proclaimed 2nd tier rental company (aka they don’t stress about minor scratches) and it was super cheap. So many things in NZ are spread out that a car really seemed like the best way to cover the most terrain.
If you are in the south island you will certainly drive on Highway 6 as it is pretty much the only highway. It’s definitely the most scenic drive I have ever experienced, but also somewhat brutal. If you get easily motion sick bring Dramamine as it is an extremely windy road, especially near the glaciers.
The drive from Franz Josef to Queenstown was long but gorgeous. There are plenty of places to stop along the way – lots of wineries, hikes, waterfalls. Just don’t forget to drive on the left side of the road!
10. TAKE A HIKE
I love love love hiking, Josh not so much but he does whatever. NZ is an amazing place to hike – there is no shortage of trails and you’re guaranteed an amazing view.
In Wanaka we hiked Roy’s Peak. It. Was. Hard. I read blog posts before hand talking about how brutal it was and yeah, no joke. Take lots and lots of water. Once you get to the top you’ll be happy you just sweat your butt off – the view is incredible (see left). If you really want to see something special, get to the top for the sunrise.
We also hiked Queenstown Hill, which is not nearly as hard, but also has an incredible view. The top features the famous ‘Basket of Dreams’ statue you may have seen before.
Bottom line – New Zealand is incredible in so many different ways. I cannot recommend it enough. There aren’t that many countries that you could go to a warm beach and ski in the same day!
Life is short, buy the plane ticket.
S & J