The ideal place for me is the one which it is most natural to live as a foreigner – Italo Cavino
I lived in New Zealand for 14 months and I would move back permanently tomorrow if only they’d have me (damn visas)!
Here are my 10 things to love about the land of the long white cloud…
There’s a lot of them. Whether you like hiking them (c’mon, seriously?), being awe stricken by the view from the top or admiring them from afar; there’s plenty to go around. Weirdly, even the big hills are called Mount something here. Regardless of that, they’re all pretty epic and as a lot of them overlook an ocean, lake or city the views are spectacular from the top. I didn’t climb Mount Doom (the thought of a 8 hour hike was too much for me) but I’d recommend Mount Iron if you’re in Wanaka, Queenstown Hill and Rangitoto in Auckland.
Literally the best chocolate. If you’re a Brit, skip the Cadbury’s when in New Zealand (it’s pretty naff) and head straight for Whittaker’s. There are flavours to suit everyone’s taste- L&P, Dark Orange, Milk Strawberry, Hokey Pokey, Rum & Raisin, Berry & Biscuit etc. (personally my fave is the Peanut Butter OMG). They also have an Artisian range if you fancy something fancy (I think the flavours can change so if you find one you like, bulk buy!)-Marlborough Sea Salt & Caramel, Nelson Pear & Manuka Honey, Kaitaia Fire Chili Spice are just a few.
Some people don’t like beaches and quite frankly, I don’t understand those people. The beach reminds me of being a child; free from all worries apart from when to go in the sea, sit on the beach or find a rock pool. You can eat as many ice creams as you want when you’re at the beach- why would you not love it? I lived 30 seconds away from Misson Bay beach in Auckland and although it’s not the best, it was convenient for weekends lounging. Muriwai and Piha, an hours drive to the north of Auckland,are much better. Piha has a crazy rip that resulted in me being exposed to the entire beach (listen to the lifeguards when they say to move folks). The sand at both of these is black too so be prepared to do your best desert lizard impression when you need to make that icecream run! Coromandel has some of the best beaches in the country so this would be my recommendation for the beach lovers.
I, myself, am not an adrenaline junkie. I really want to be. I want to be brave enough to jump out of a plane with a man on my back or be tethered at my ankles to a rope and shoved off of a ledge; it’s just that it ain’t ever gonna happen. I might try ziplining if I can get over my fear of being too fat and the cord breaking. I went on the Luge in Queenstown… I’ve gone white water rafting. That is my limit though. Regardless of me being a wuss, New Zealand is the place to be for any adrenaline junkie, extreme or winter sports lovers. Ziplining, white water rafting (take a look at Rafting New Zealand in Taupo, it was amazing!), bungee jumping, paragliding, skiing, snowboarding, dirt track racing (?), skydiving; New Zealand has it all.
My generation in the U.K. tend to like alcohol. Planning for a night out starts well in advance with a trip to the hairdressers, getting your nails done, purchasing new outfits… It ends with two bruised knees from tripping over nothing, sick in your hair and a pizza/kebab/other disgusting fast food stuck to your face the morning after. We drink to get drunk. In Queenstown, party capital, I drank to get drunk. However, most Kiwis I knew were a lot more grown up about it. Some may have prepped to the same levels as us Brits but they managed to stay a lot more classy about it. There just isn’t the clubbing culture in New Zealand, with the focus on bars that start serving mid-afternoon and are closed by 11. I enjoyed it. I was over coming in at the crack of dawn and having the hangover from hell the next day (read, three days). Not a fan of no alcohol being served on Easter Sunday though; after hiking a mountain, sometimes all you want is a nice cold cider!
The Other Travellers
I’m doing the whole travelling thing backwards; going to Australia after New Zealand when a lot of people travel Oz first. As a result, I think a lot of people get a lot of the partying out of the way before heading over to NZ. The other travellers I met were pretty awesome. A lot of them were in their mid to late 20’s, calm, considerate, interesting, full of tales of misadventures and excited about what was coming next. I’ve worked with people from all over the world from all walks of life and those there on a working visa support the economy through so many different jobs. All they want is to explore the natural beauty and enjoy life. I’ll always cherish the memories I made with my fellow travel buddies!
Old Mout (rhymes with fruit)
OK so I know that this is now being sold in the U.K. and that the U.K. version is made in the EU but this little beauty was established in 1947 in New Zealand. I first drank Old Mout in NZ so it’s making the list. In the U.K we only get four flavours but on top in the land of the beautiful cider they have 8 (as far as I can remember). Plus, it’s made in Nelson which is the name of the street I grew up on so I feel like we were always meant to find each other. My personal NZ favourite is Boysenberry, perfect for the summer!
In England, a Kiwi is a small green fruit covered in a brown fuzzy skin. In NZ, a Kiwi could be a person from NZ, a small brown flightless bird, or the aforementioned fruit. So you have a Kiwi, a kiwi bird or a kiwi fruit. Fun fact time! Did you know kiwis grow on vines? Did you know that Italy actually produces more kiwi fruits that NZ? Did you know that the more common Fuzzy Kiwifruit is nowhere near as delicious as the Golden Kiwifruit? I picked these fruit for 6 weeks and it was the hardest manual labour I’ve ever done, period. The free fruit more than made up for it though!
Lord of the Rings
One for all of the LOTR fans. The film trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand. As a result, thousands of fans flock to take in the film locations, climb ‘Mount Doom’ (real name, Mount Ngauruhoe), take part in Weta workshops and visit Hobbiton. They even have a giant Gollum head in the Wellington airport, such is their love for the trilogy. There are various tours around ‘Middle Earth’ so it’s a must for any die-hard fans.
I love Kiwis (the people, we’ve moved past the fruit). I honestly think they’re great. They are some of the most chilled out people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They are sarcastic and self-deprecating (much like us Brits). They’re also, some of the kindest.
When I passed out on my bus into the city, three people stayed with me as I came round and one lovely old lady carried all my stuff (it was heavy) up Queens Street to Auckland Uni and made sure I was OK.
One time, I went on an interview miles out of the city and ran out of money on my travel card, then couldn’t top it up because the machine didn’t work, so decided to walk back in the blistering heat (it would have taken at least 2 hours); I asked a lady for directions and she gave me $20 (it was all she had apparently) and told me to get the train. When we were fruit picking, our lovely supervisor/illegal landlord (we found out after) decided that she’d fire and evict us on the same day, as she had people replacing us for more rent. We were stuck in a tiny town with no transport, no money, no job and no place to live. The most amazing man who supervised all the supervisors took us in to his home for free whilst he found us another supervisor to work for and a new place to live. I’ll forever love him and be grateful for this, as we’d have been heading home rather than Asia otherwise.
If you don’t head to New Zealand for the stunning scenery, delicious chocolate, crisp cider, to get your adrenaline kick, to fulfill your LOTR dreams, pick golden kiwis straight from the vine or to stay classy whilst drinking with amazing travellers- go for the people. New Zealanders rock.
Don’t forget to let me know what your favourite things about the Land of the Long White Cloud are in the comments below!