Top 10 Most Kiwi Things To Do When Visiting NZ

New Zealand is a dreamland for tourists. From snow-capped mountains to white sand beaches; small picturesque towns, to sophisticated bustling cities, there’s something for everyone. But to get a true feel for what it is to be a kiwi, you need to walk a mile in our jandals (otherwise known as thongs or flip flops!) and enjoy what we enjoy. Here’s the top 10 most kiwi experiences to add to your NZ road trip bucket list!

New Zealand is a dreamland for tourists. From snow-capped mountains to white sand beaches; small picturesque towns, to sophisticated bustling cities, there’s something for everyone. But to get a true feel for what it is to be a kiwi, you need to walk a mile in our jandals (otherwise known as thongs or flip flops!) and enjoy what we enjoy. Here’s the top 10 most kiwi experiences to add to your NZ road trip bucket list!

1. Take a photo at the giant L&P bottle in Paeroa. 

Paeroa

Photo by itravelNZ

L&P (standing for Lemon and Paeroa) is an iconic kiwi soft drink only found in NZ. The iconic giant L&P bottle is one of the most photographed structures in NZ, and it’s a kiwi rite of passage to stop off at this 7-metre-high photostop located in the town of Paeroa and get a snapshot! This photo stop has been in action since 1968, and is a handy rest stop for those en route from Auckland to Tauranga, Rotorua, or the Coromandel Peninsula.

2. Visit Tane Mahuta

Tane Mahuta

Photo by itravalNZ

Kauri trees are among the largest trees found in the world, and natives of New Zealand. Tane Mahuta is New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. With a trunk girth of 13.77 metres and a height of 51.2 metres, it is thought to be somewhere between 1250 and 2500 years old. Tane Mahuta means Lord of the Forest in the Maori language. Located in the Waipoua Kauri Forest in the North of the North Island, Tane can be visited by following a short 5 minute, well signposted track. The drive through this forest is a stunning one, with plenty of places to enjoy and stay in the region, including the stunning Kai Iwi Lakes, Trounson Kauri Park, The Kauri Museum and Dargaville Museum, and gorgeous Bayly’s Beach on the West Coast.

3. Sand surf the Te Paki Sand Dunes.

New Zealand: Te Paki Sand Dunes near Cape Reinga

Photo by Eli Duke

At the very Northern tip of the North Island lies Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. This alone is well worth the long drive north. But another experience not to be missed is surfing the giant sand dunes at Te Paki, 17 kms from Cape Reinga, at the northern end of 90-mile beach. Bring your own boogie board, or hire one from local tour company Ahikaa Adventures (who can also advise you on which dunes are the best for your level of adventure!)

4. Make friends with the sheep in Rotorua.

Lambs, Hobbiton Tour, Matamata

Photo by Jamie Valle

The Agrodome is 10 minutes outside of Rotorua, in the very heart of NZ’s farming community. Here you can see the famous Farm Show, where you will witness the animal stars of the Agrodome; join a Farm Tour of a real working farm; get some cute pictures with cuddly baby animals at the nursery; and visit the Woollen Mill and Shearing Museum to learn all about the rich history of sheep farming in NZ: as much a part of our diverse cultural history as the haka and jandals!

5. Bungy jump off the Kawerau Bridge

Kawarau Bridge - Bungee jumping

Photo by mat79

NZ is the birthplace of the modern bungy! AJ Hackett and friends started up the first commercial bungy jumping venture from the Kawerau Bridge in 1988, and from there it has become a worldwide adrenaline-seekers bucket list item! The Kawerau Bungy Centre is where it all started, and even if you’re not brave enough to take the plunge yourself, it’s well worth a visit to watch other people take the leap of faith! Only 20 minutes from Queenstown, you can stop here for a drink and a bite to eat, and marvel at the brave souls throwing themselves headfirst of the bridges. Queenstown is also home to NZ’s highest bungy jump, the Nevis Bungy, 134 metres above the Nevis River.

6. Meet a Kiwi!

2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 375

Photo by Allie Caulfield

New Zealand’s most famous icon, the kiwi bird, is pretty difficult to spot in the wild. With five different species that range from vulnerable to critically endangered, the quirky kiwi is a fascinating and eccentric bird about the size of a chicken. Shy and nocturnal, your best bet to try and spot a wild one is to sign up with a guide or tour that knows how and where to spot them. If you are short on time and determined to come face to face with this unique, flightless bird, you’ll need to visit a zoo or wildlife park, and there are plenty around the country so you’ll be able to easily add one onto your travel itinerary.

Here’s a list of the best places to see kiwi in NZ: https://www.kiwisforkiwi.org/about-kiwi/where-to-see-kiwi/

7. Try a hongi and a hangi.

EDC hangi 2010

Photo by Sarah Stewart

No trip to NZ is complete without experiencing some of the Maori cultural experiences on offer. A hongi is a traditional Maori greeting involving the pressing together of people’s noses and foreheads upon meeting. It has similar meaning to a formal handshake in other cultures, and signifies the sharing of the breath of life.

A hangi is a traditional Maori cooking method, where food is slowly cooked underground using heated rocks and steam. Usually the items cooked are pork, lamb, potato, pumpkin, kumara (sweet potato) and chicken.

The best places to check out Maori history and find cultural experiences include Rotorua, Bay of Islands and Wellington in the North Island, Kaikoura, Christchurch and Queenstown in the South Island.

8. Dig your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

Photo by The World Upon My Shoulders

Grab yourself a shovel, throw it in the campervan, and head off to Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula to dig yourself a warm bath! Make sure you time your visit to be two hours either side of low tide where, in the right spot, you can dig down into the sand until the hot water bubbles up to fill it from the natural hot springs found here. Lie back and look out across the Pacific Ocean while you soak in this incredible place! Only five minutes from another “must-visit” location, Cathedral Cove, there’s no excuse to miss out on this free but exquisite kiwi experience!

9. Make like a Hobbit

Hobbiton

Photo by Tom Hall

A relatively new “Kiwi” experience, but one that will stand the test of time! Since The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed throughout NZ in 2001, there have been hordes of tourists visiting our fine country to try and find the spectacular locations used in the movies. The most famous is the Hobbiton Movie Set. Located on a farm 10 Southwest of Matamata, it’s conveniently located so you can stop off for a day visit on your way through the Waikato region. Book ahead and visit Bagshot Row, the Party Tree and Bilbo Baggins’ Bag End home, or enjoy a second breakfast at the Green Dragon.

10. Fish and chips on the beach

Modern Fish and Chips

Photo by LearningLark

A delicacy that can be found and enjoyed pretty much everywhere in coastal NZ; this is the most kiwi thing I can think of. Fish and chips, lovingly packaged in newspaper, is a true New Zealand delicacy, and tastes better with the salty sea air flicking through your hair as you lie back on the grass looking out across the ocean. Don’t forget the tomato sauce for that extra bit of kiwi authenticity, and if you want a real gourmet experience, grab two bits of buttered white bread and enjoy a “chip butty” (a chip sandwich with tomato sauce).

By Carly Day

Carly.D