As an exchange student, January and February were the perfect opportunity for me to explore the great country that is New Zealand. Since it is approximately 14 400 km away from my hometown (Montreal, Canada), I decided I had to see EVERYTHING, from Auckland to deep down the South Island. Even after 18 stops and a lot of time spent on the bus admiring the scenic roads, I still can’t say I am a New Zealand expert, as there are way too many gorgeous places to see over there. However, I still managed to see quite a lot, and I can definitely say that I am now in love with the country.
So, for those of you who might want to head to New Zealand during semester break or even this Winter, here are the places I think you will not want to miss:
The adventure capital of the world! If you ever have the chance to visit New Zealand, DO NOT miss Queenstown! In only 4 days, I skydived, went on a luge ride, hiked the Ben Lomond mountain, went on a cruise through Milford Sound and of course, ate a lot of Fergburgers (some of the best burgers in the world). Other activities include bungee jumping, canyon swinging, jetboating, mountain biking and a lot more! Even if you are not a thrill seeker, Queenstown is still very enjoyable. The town is surrounded by mountains and has a very chilled-out vibe, so it is really for everyone, whatever your age or interests.
The town might be quite small, but the lake next to it definitely is not! Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand and the second largest in Oceania with a surface of 616 square km. The lakeside town is lovely, but most travelers head over there for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the best day hike in New Zealand. It is basically a 7h loop hike that will take you around heaps of different landscapes, from mountains and volcanoes to lush forests. If you are not that much of a hiker, the Tongariro National Park has so much to offer, and a lot of very easy walks can take you around to see its gorgeous surroundings.
- The Coromandel Peninsula
I don’t think there is any beach quite like the ones I saw in that region. Unfortunately, I only stayed one day over there, but it was still absolutely worth it. My hostel was only a short walk from the very famous Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own spa pool on the beach. The water gets VERY hot during low tide due to the geothermal activity close by. If you dig in the wrong spots, you might even (slightly) burn yourself! But if you do it right, it is an absolutely unique and amazing experience.
Some people say that Wanaka is just a smaller Queenstown, but these people are wrong. Wanaka is a unique place for sure. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, the hiking possibilities over there are endless. Roy’s Peak is definitely the most popular and rewarding hike in my opinion, but there are heaps of less demanding and still worthwhile walks in the area. If you are a nature lover, you will fall in love with Wanaka in moments.
- Lake Tekapo
I am still not sure if this place was even real. The turquoise water of the lake and the mountains in the background might even make you weep a little. At night, most people head to the lovely Church of Good Sheperd where you can actually see the Milky Way in the night sky. I was fortunate enough to be there in the right time of the year for that (late summer), but even if you go in the Winter, you will see more stars then you’ve ever seen at once for sure.
So there you have it folks! Hopefully I’ve convinced you to put New Zealand on your bucket list. Just know that wherever you go in this country, whether it’s somewhere on that list or not, you will leave knowing that you have to come back again.