Just to be clear from the outset, I have never been to New Zealand, even though it has long been a travel dream. There’s just something about the combination of shockingly gorgeous landscapes and a wide range of exciting experiences that has always captivated me.
That’s why when I first heard of the remarkable efforts by the organizers of the brilliantly conceived #Blog4NZ Project, I knew I had to find a way to participate.
Blog4NZ is a grass-roots effort on the part of the international travel blogging community to promote all that is good about travel in New Zealand. It is a worldwide blogging event that is running from the 21st to 23nd of March — the one-month anniversary of the quake.
Following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch on February 22 this year, New Zealand has been in shock. Tourism makes up approximately 10% of New Zealand’s GDP and it is essential for the world to know that New Zealand is open for business. The goal of the Blog4NZ event is to show people that New Zealand is a great travel destination.
So in an effort to help support this most noble effort, here are the top five things I want to do on my first trip to New Zealand.
Punting on the Avon, Christchurch – My one and only punting adventure, for that’s really the best way to describe my feeble attempt, was in Cambridge, England. I was alone, it was raining and it was a total disaster. That’s why I need a place where I can punt, but not do any work. The lazy Avon meanders through the city center of Christchurch, and punting is an iconic activity – necessary for any visitor to try at least once. Unlike my tumultuous experience in Cambridge, here you can sit back, relax and allow the punter (punt driver?) take you down river gondola style as you soak in the bucolic surroundings
Cape Kidnappers Golf and Spa – We first saw the gorgeous grounds of the Cape Kidnappers resort on Hawke’s Bay while watching the Kiwi Challenge golf tournament on television. The course sits on soaring cliffs allowing the golfer spectacular views of the Pacific on every hole. Even if you’re not a golfer, there are plenty of other activities from their luxurious spa to experiencing the rich wildlife found in Hawke’s Bay on foot, ATV or even four wheel drive truck. Their commitment to wildlife preservation isn’t just lip service, Cape Kidnappers is also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. This designation demonstrates the resort’s fusion of outdoor activities, while preserving and even enhancing animal habitats. I can’t imagine a more perfect spot to spend a few days.
Wine Trail - New Zealand has become of the most prolific producers of high quality wine in the world. Although wineries can be found in many areas, Marlborough is the king of New Zealand’s wine regions. My personal favorite is a clean, crisp Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc. For a beautiful drive and a sampling of some of the best wines in Marlborough, rent a car and spend a few days meandering around the winding vineyards of the Wairau and Awatere Valleys, soaking in the aromas and enjoying a few nips of some of the best wines in the world.
Embarrassment of Riches – New Zealand suffers from a severe overabundance of natural beauty. Many of us here in the U.S. first became acquainted with the width and breadth of the many ecosystems found in New Zealand thanks to Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Even if you aren’t a fan of the movies, there’s no doubt you too fell in love with the scenery as much as I did. It’s impossible to choose just one area to highlight, but of particular note is Aoraki (Mt.Cook) in South Canterbury. Aoraki is the highest mountain in New Zealand and the surrounding National Park offers countless activity opportunities from glacier sea-kayaking to horseback riding.
There be Whales - There are few things I enjoy more than being on the water, but seeking out wildlife is one of them. Combine these two and I am in travel heaven. Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island is Kaikoura, the home of whale watching in New Zealand. As if this weren’t enough, Kaikoura is also one of the few places in the world where you can easily see sperm whales. Truly an incredible animal watching experience.
While I’m still dreaming of my first trip to New Zealand, I promise it won’t be long until I make that trip a reality. Discover for yourself what makes New Zealand a spectacular travel destination and plan your own Kiwi adventure.