What musn't I miss in New Zealand?
May 28, 2009 3:32 AM   Subscribe

I've been studying abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand since early January. The semester is wrapping up quickly and I have a pretty undemanding finals schedule, leaving me with June to do more or less whatever I want minus two exams for which I have to be in Christchurch. What should I make sure I see in New Zealand before jetting back to the States in July?

In the beginning of the year I was doing geological field work on both islands and managed to see the Port Hills, Castle Hill, the West Coast from Greymouth to Karamea (although very focused on just the geology), Hanmer Springs, Taupo, Mt. Ruapehu (climbed it!) and the Tongariro Crossing, Rotorua and the surrounding area, Lake Tarawera, and parts of the Bay of Plenty.

I've been to Lyttleton and Arthur's Pass multiple times, although there's still more in the Pass I could hike I'm sure. I've experienced the Wild Foods festival of Hokitika.

During my three week mid-semester break, I roadtripped and hiked near Mt. Cook, Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, Invercargill by way of the coast, Stewart Island, Milford Sound, Queenstown, the Marlborough Sounds, and Nelson Lakes.

I missed climbing on the glaciers due to weather and our 12-hour drive from Queenstown to Nelson, but I did manage to eat a very small hunk of Fox Glacier. I'm also clearly missing out on large swaths of the North Island.

I'm itching to get out of Christchurch again. What must I absolutely see before leaving NZ? Additionally, what's in Christchurch that I must see when I'm stuck here?
posted by thebabelfish to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You covered most of the things I would have said. Franz Josef was alright, but not really must-see (especially if you've seen another glacier). I asked this of a kiwi friend before I went, and all her recommendations were food based - so try a lolly cake and those chocolate covered pineapple things. She also recommended the movie theatre in Wanaka, but I never got around to checking it out.

Late Tekapo was a nice, stop for an hour or so place if it's on your way to anywhere. If you spend the night, the YHA has an awesome view of the lake.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:01 AM on May 28, 2009

Yeah, you've done lots. although you rushed through a lot of stuff in your three week trip. I'd go back to Nelson/Marlborough, maybe? Although I don't know what the weather is doing there at the moment. Either that or head up to the Bay of Islands.
posted by gaspode at 7:29 AM on May 28, 2009

Best answer: Sounds like you've got the place pretty well covered, unless you have time to make it up north.

Have you been skiing or snowboarding yet? It's already snowing on the ski fields, but the season starts officially on June 26. There'll be a big festival in Queenstown if you're into that sort of thing.

Also, have you visited any of NZ's backcountry hotsprings? You can do the Copland Track in two days, and there are hotsprings midway in the river at Welcome Flat. There's nothing like a hot soak after walking 17km.

If you're passing through Dunedin again, Tunnel Beach is pretty spectacular. It has rock outcrops with natural arches, but also a little bay that can only reach through an old man-made tunnel in the cliff. The path crosses farmland so it's closed during lambing season - check with the visitors' centre before you go. There's plenty of good backcountry hiking in the hills beyond the city, too - the definitive guide is a little book called From Sea to Silver Peaks. [You obviously have plenty of experience, but as a note to others: don't set foot in the NZ backcountry unless you know enough about bushcraft and navigation to not get killed].

Oh, and take a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway. I hear it's a great journey - beautiful scenery, improbable viaducts, that kind of thing.
posted by embrangled at 7:44 AM on May 28, 2009

Best answer: Don't forget this has come up before.

Maybe you could do with some second tier North Island travel?
- long weekend in Wellington
- detour east Gisborne, Napier, Tauranga
- detour west: Wanganui, New Plymouth
- go up the Coromandel peninsula, do the Driving Creek Railroad, fossick for carnelian, book a fishing charter in the Gulf, see the Waiau Water Works, eat smoked mussels until sick
- head up to the far extreme of the North Island for a bit; go to the Bay of Islands, go check out some massive kauri trees, head up to Cape Reinga, admire the Tasman Sea merging with the Pacific and imagine the dead souls jumping off en route to Hawaiki.

Other thought: don't do tourist shit. It's cold and wet and everything apart from the snow is kind of sucky. Deliberately mooch around and practise a little flanerie and see where that gets you. Hanging out it in another country is never wasted if you're interested in small things.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:39 PM on May 28, 2009

The Christchurch Museum is worth a visit - (it's the natural history type, not the art type, and the US museums I've been too seem to lack something in comparison to the NZ ones, however I haven't been to the Smithsonian yet and look forward to eating my words!)

The Rail Trail of Otago is well worth doing - it's a railway line through all kinds of amazing scenery that has been converted into a bicycle tour trail. You can hire excellent bikes there, and there are towns will good accommodation along the way. 3 days is a very leisurely pace, but it's 150km so doing it in 1 day isn't going to be fun. And because it was a railway, the steepest grade is a mere 1:50, and instead of the bike trail being at the mercy of the landscape - going the hard way over or around the hill/ridge/gully/river etc, the landscape yields to you instead - you go through - tunnels, bridges, viaducts, cut-aways, etc. The easiest and prettiest mountain biking you'll ever do.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:34 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

South Westland is awesome, even in winter.

Do a road trip south via the McKenzie country & Lindis pass [check for snow on the Lindis before leaving], then through the Haast and up the west coast. Your choice then to return vla Arthurs or Lewis pass, or go up to Nelson via the Buller Gorge.

You can do it in as little as three days, and it's one of my favourite road-trips, but of course you have plenty of opportunity to take longer and explore anong the way.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:33 PM on May 28, 2009

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