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New Zealand is no doubt one of the top countries on Earth when it comes to far-out extreme thrill-seeking, but what about those who just wanna take it easy when saying kia ora to our neighbours across the pond? There are plenty of ways to go about soaking in New Zealand’s astounding natural wonders while keeping the adrenaline in check.
#1 Pop on your jandals and hit The Coromandel
When you think of New Zealand’s natural splendour, chances are you’re conjuring images of snow-capped peaks rather than rolling waves across pristine beaches. While the majority of shorelines don’t possess the same sun-drenched surf reputation as Australia, there are more than a few choice selections for hitting the sand close to Auckland. The most prominent Kiwi coastal destination, which is still fairly low-key in terms of famous beaches, is the Coromandel. Around a three-hour drive from Auckland, the peninsula is rich with natural splendour, as is most of the country, offering breathtaking scenery as soon as you arrive. It’s a fairly lengthy walk downhill to reach the sand, but it’s richly rewarding. Even in hot weather, the beaches never really feel overcrowded, and more often than not, you’ll have a fair amount of sandy real estate all to yourself.
While the beaches alone are a worthy enough draw, the Coromandel features a few more aces in the hole, one of which is a hole in a rock. The majesty of Cathedral Cove is hard to capture in pictures, inspiring awe as you enter its shade. Another natural wonder is the Hot Water Beach, which does what it says on the tin. Check up beforehand to see when low tide will hit, and two hours either side of that you can see hot water start to seep through the sand on shore. Bunker down, dig yourself a custom made spa for you and your mates and chill out hard.
There are plenty more beachside options while kicking it on the North Island. If you’ve got the time, look into renting a bach (pronounced batch, it’s what Kiwis call a beach house). Black sand beaches are another unique experience, one of the best is Anawhata, a short drive west of Auckland. It’s invariably quiet, and the scale of it is stunning.
#2 Treat your nostrils to Rotorua
The first thing you’ll notice while entering Rotorua and its surrounds is the pungent aroma of sulphur bubbling up from beneath the surface. It’s initially rank, almost unbearably so for those sensitive in the ol’ nose-holes, but give it a few minutes and you’ll barely notice it. It’s that sulphur which fuels the many hot springs near the township. There are plenty of options for soaking the bod, but most require paid entry.
The best spot, however, is free, and a bit of a secret. So much of a secret, locals call it The Secret Spot. Located around 30 minutes south of Rotorua, the pool is fairly easy to miss. Turn onto Waiotapu Loop Road when heading for Rotorua to Taupo, then head a few minutes ‘til you get to a bridge. Park to the side of the road near the bridge, and then make your way under it. The spot is a magical confluence of a rather cold stream heading down off the mountain and a natural hot spring, the pool underneath the bridge being one of the most phenomenal chill-out zones you can find anywhere.
Slide into the water. Too hot? Slide closer to the mouth of the icy-cool river. Too cold? Edge toward the scalding hot natural spring. Thanks to its relative secrecy, it’s always fairly quiet, with only a few locals and maybe a handful of tourists there at any one time.
#3 Get spicy
New Zealand’s major cities don’t really possess a set food identity, but in terms of food trends, they get it right more often than most. Auckland and Wellington have a varied array of cafes and restaurants that come and go, but both cities seem to nail Mexican tucker better than most due to local concoctions. Once you go Kiwi with your hot sauce, it’s hard to go back. Seriously. You’ll have to hold yourself back from drinking straight from the bottle at times, as the range of locally brewed chilli sauces are plentiful and delicious. Head to Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli in Wellington for a selection of the good stuff and prepare to renounce the Srichara god once and for all as you plan to smuggle as much Kaitaia Fire back home as possible.
Kiwis also make a fine coffee, with Wellington being the home of the flat white and all (according to some).
#4 Go tramping (no jandals allowed)
Pretty much every part of New Zealand is nearby some primo tramping spots. Tramping is bushwalking, Kiwi style. Get yourself some sturdy tramping boots and spend a day exploring the rich, fern-laden conservation areas New Zealand has to offer. The Stunning Bridal Veil Falls are just a two and a half hour drive south of Auckland and The Milford Track on the South Island is the most famous track in New Zealand for a reason – it’s absolutely spectacular. Just be wary of sand flies. They can be a right bastard.
No matter where you tramp, ensure you’re well prepared for all weather as the rain can come outta nowhere drop a drench bomb, and carry lotsa water and food. Common sense, really.
#5 Get around some choice tunes
It’s not all Dave Dobbyn or The Exponents when it comes to Kiwi music (though Dave Dobbyn and The Exponents are undeniably awesome). There’s a rich underground music scene throughout New Zealand’s cities, bursting with incredible young musicians largely undiscovered even in their homeland. Check out any music venue in Auckland, Wellington or Christcurch and you’re bound to discover some fully sick tunes, with young artists exploring a wide range of genres. For a super chill and little bit different place to see a gig, check out the Leigh Sawmill around an hour out of Auckland, and sample some of the venue’s in-house brewery while you’re at it. Chur!
Is it time to kick back, relax & unwind in New Zealand? Let Contiki immerse you in the wonderful & tranquil experiences with 8 unique trips through the best of this country. Sometimes taking it slow really is the only way to go. Find out more here.
Lachlan Kanoniuk is a cro-magnon man (caveman) who had been trapped in ice, underground, for many centuries until the summer of 1992, when two highschool teenagers – Dave (Sean Astin) and Stoney (Pauly Shore) –discovered him under Dave's unfinished pool. After thawing out Lachlan, the two boys decided to clean him, dress him, provide him with a Twitter account, and bring him to school to gain popularity.