This week we’re taking you back down under with your southern navigator, AJ, as he leads you through a top 10 of his local hobbit-home, New Zealand. This is part one of a three part series for our favourite kiwi. Absolutely essential reading if you’re ever planning a trip to a living postcard!
A new week, another excuse to head off out of town and enjoy a relaxing weekend. Aotearoa, or New Zealand, is full of natural wonder, beautiful geography and some truly unique towns, and I’ve been to most of them. If you’re ever in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and have no idea where to start, here are my top 10 towns/cities of New Zealand.
Do note: this is only covering the places that I’ve been to (I apologize, Tauranga and Dunedin!).
10) Auckland, Auckland
Included for the sheer number of times I have visited the most populated city in the country. Call it bland, call it boring, call it safe, but I can’t help but return to the City of Sails. The Sky Tower acts as a bearing point so you can never truly get lost there, and you also get your daily intake of exercise by simply walking up (“hiking” is a better term) Queen Street.
Main Attraction: Venture to the Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the southern hemisphere. Located in the heart of Auckland’s CBD, the Sky Tower features viewing platforms, a revolving restaurant, a casino, a hotel and – most importantly for adrenaline junkies – the Sky Jump. If you don’t want to do the 192m jump I’d highly recommend the restaurant, if you don’t mind having your meal interrupted by the screams of the jumpers on the floor above.
My Recommendation: Get a $15 ticket and catch a small ferry to the seaside suburb of Devonport. This quaint town looks untouched for several generations and maintains a unique feel to it. Also features a magnificent chocolate ship and some awe-inspiring views.
9) Takaka, Golden Bay
If you love hippies, this is the place for you. Takaka is a throwback to the 60s, seemingly cut off from the rest of the country, with everyone walking around in bright, flowery outfits. In fact, when we were in Takaka we saw a fellow dressed as a wizard and were absolutely certain that he was the mayor of the town. The surroundings are almost as colorful as the people who inhabit it!
Main Attraction: Te Waikoropupu Springs, or the “Pupu Springs” for short. A hilariously named but absolutely beautiful area with Maori heritage and gorgeously crystal clear waters.
My Recommendation: Check out the local caves! You can visit the daunting drop at Harwood’s Hole, hike up toward the Rawhitu Caves or, for a chance to see a fossilized Moa (New Zealand’s extinct giant bird), venture down the Ngarua Caves (bookings essential during winter). Don’t want to pay? Drive 27 minutes towards the nearby town of Collingwood, where you can explore the Anaroa Caves.
8) New Plymouth, Taranaki
Right at the foot of Mount Taranaki lies the region’s capital, New Plymouth. Voted the second most beautiful region in the world according to Lonely Planet, the capital prides itself on being incredibly cycle friendly. Home to some of the bloodiest wars in New Zealand’s history, quiet New Plymouth is well worth a visit.
Main Attraction: Every year, from December to February, the city hosts a Festival of Lights. Trees and gardens in particular light up with a myriad of colours, with one of the best places to go being Pukekura Park.
My Recommendation: This city is known for its cycling, beating Hastings as the most bike friendly city in the country. Why not grab some wheels and go for a ride down the Coastal Walkway? Start near Port Taranaki and carry on through until you reach Bell Point. You might just see some of New Zealand’s most iconic structures. On this ride you can spot the kinetic structure Wind Wand and the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, a unique structure which gorgeously frames the famous Mt. Taranaki.
7) Picton, Marlborough
Serving as the main link between the two islands, Picton normally acts as the first place most people see of the South Island. And what a place to start. A gateway to the picturesque Marlborough Sounds, this town is famed for its calm water and prime fishing spots.
Main Attraction: Australia is famous for being filled with British convicts, but what of the ships that carried them? Sadly, most of them are perished, but one remains. The Edwin Fox has an illustrious past. It was used as a warship, cargo ship, immigration ship and – as previously mentioned – a convict ship. She even served as transport for Florence Nightingale! The Edwin Fox’s final voyage was one marred by storms, impalement, women overboard and some chaos caused by some drunken ruckus. She eventually made landfall in Picton in 1897, where she has remained ever since, now serving as a maritime museum.
My Recommendation: After getting off your ferry, you’re going to be hungry. This is where the Seabreeze Cafe & Bar comes in. Grab a snack and some drinks at the affordable sea-themed venue, relax and enjoy your meal overlooking the amazing bay.
6) Christchurch, Canterbury
The biggest city in the South Island has had its fair share of troubles lately, it must be said. In 2011, a magnitude 6.3 aftershock levelled parts of the city. However, six years on the city is starting to get back on its feet. Home to the world famous Crusaders, whose ranks often make up the All Blacks, the city frequently hosts rugby matches (and concerts, too!). If you’re a builder you can even make a quick dollar here too, because construction work is constant.
Main Attraction: Once a religious hub, the Christchurch Cathedral suffered substantial damage in the earthquake. It remains where it stood seven years ago, although it’s now fenced up and serves a monument to Kiwi resilience. It’s also a reminder of just how powerful mother nature can be.
My Recommendation: New Brighton is the seaside suburb along the Pegasus Bay, which used to be its own coastal village before being swallowed up by the city nearby. Much like the Brighton of the UK, New Brighton has an iconic pier on a gorgeous beach. Come here for the surf, the sun and the shopping mall!
Wow! If that’s the bottom half I can’t wait to see what the top is like! Make sure to come back next Thursday, when AJ will invite you to entries 5-2! Will your town make the list?
Have you visited any of these places in New Zealand (or even Brighton??) and if you have would you recommend them? Leave your travel stories down below!