In visiting any foreign location, it can be difficult to narrow down the long list of things you want to do and formulate an itinerary. And when you have a short amount of time in that destination, the challenge becomes even greater. With just 4 days in the country of New Zealand, you may be feeling downright overwhelmed by your number of options. Here you can choose from heritage attractions, museums, winery tours, air activities such as paragliding and sky diving, water activities such as jet boating and fishing, and nature activities on land such as rappelling, caving, and horseback riding? Phew! With such a list, how does what narrow it down? It can be a challenge, but one thing that I can assure you of is that no matter what you choose, you will love the amazing scenery, wildlife, and culture of the country of New Zealand. Here are my top 4 recommendations for how to enjoy your time there:

(1) Go whale watching. Kaikoura, which is located on the east coast of the South Island, is the main location for whale watching in New Zealand. It is one of the only places in the entire world where you have quite a good chance of spotting a sperm whale. These amazing and huge creatures live mostly in open waters and are hardly ever seen in coastal areas. Plus, here’s a fun fact: each sperm whale has a big brain that weighs about 20 pounds! The resident sperm whales at Kaikoura may be spotted all year round. You may see a killer whale if you visit between December and March, or a humpback whale in June and July. Several dolphin species may also be seen in the area daily.

(2) Immerse yourself in the Maori culture. New Zealand’s unique culture has grown from a fusion of many different ethnic groups: Scottish, Central European, English, Asian, and Polynesian are just a handful of the cultures that have shaped New Zealand. One of the most fascinating aspects of visiting New Zealand is exploring the traditions, including song, art, dance, and food, of the Maori people. The Maori are New Zealand’s indigenous peoples, who today make up about 14% of the country’s population. It is believed that the Maori migrated from Polynesia in canoes around the 9th century to 13th century AD. Today you can attend a Hangi, a traditional feast that is cooked in the earth, check out an impressive collection of Maori artifacts at the Auckland Museum, or watch a traditional dance performance at Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.

(3) Become a spelunker. New Zealand has some of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems in the world, and you don’t have to be an experienced caver to explore them. Depending on your level of skill and sense of adventure, you can do anything from simply walk through a beautiful grotto, to drift through on a raft, to daringly dangle from a rope on a major subterranean exploration. The South Island is the most popular area for caving at all skill levels. You can also take a glimpse into the deepest sinkhole in the southern hemisphere- is goes over 500 feet straight down!

(5) Complete one of the nine great walks. New Zealand is an amazing place to strap on your hiking shoes and your back pack, and explore the region on foot- so much so that it has become famous for what is known as the Nine Great Walks. These walking trails cover everything from ridgelines to coastlines; from native bush to glaciers. You may spot many different native animals, such as kiwis and seals. The first great walk is Rakiura Track, and is located on Stewart Island, a small island that has barely changed for thousands of years. Moving north to the South Island, here you will find Kepler Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track, and Heaphy Track. On the North Island, you will find the Abel Tasman Coast Track, Whanganui Journey, Tongariro Northern Circuit, and Lake Waikaremoana Track. Each trail in its entirely takes an average of 3-5 days. So, if you would like, you could spend your entire trip venturing through the vast New Zealand wilderness on one of these amazing walks. Or, you can learn more about how you can venture just a portion of a trail for one day of your visit. For more information, about the none great walks, visit the New Zealand travel website here.

Tagged: Stuart