Discover Outdoor New Zealand with Andrew Hempstead

1. Gadling and other top travel websites have ranked New Zealand as one of the best destinations for outdoor lovers. What makes it such a superior vacation locale for those that enjoy the outdoors?

A wide range of outdoor recreation all within easy range of a one- or two-week driving holiday. Hiking (known locally as “tramping”) tops the list, but there’s also everything from skiing to surfing. Adding to the charm, locals take full advantage of the outdoors, and in almost every town and village, you find helpful locals to guide you to the best activities.

2. Are there any outdoor activities that are unique to New Zealand?

Bungee jumping was started by a New Zealander and is the most popular adrenaline sport. The hub of bungee jumping is Queenstown.

3. There seem to be a lot of opportunities for adrenaline junkies and novice adventurers. Describe a few.

Waitomo Caves are best known for their glow worms, but the area also has a number of underground adventures that include swimming along sunken rivers and rappelling into deep grottos.

At Rotorua, hop inside a huge clear plastic ball and let yourself be rolled down a grassy slope—and then tell the folks back home you’ve been “zorbing.”

Queenstown bills itself as the “adventure capital of the world,” and with good reason. The resort town is filled with dozens of different adventure opportunities. Most famous of these is bungee jumping.

Jet boats were invented by a New Zealander. Trips are offered throughout the country, but the main concentration is Queenstown and the Shotover River.

While adrenaline junkies are well catered for, there are also a number of great opportunities for children to have fun with activities that are unique to the country, such as nighttime kiwi spotting tours (North Island) and fishing for prawns (Taupo).

4. Besides tent camping or backpacking, what are some unusual outdoor accommodations options?

New Zealand is renowned for its upscale lodging, so if your budget allows, book at least one night at a wilderness lodge. More affordable, but also unique, are the overnight boat trips on Milford Sound.

5. What are the top five outdoor activities in New Zealand? Where can you experience them?

There are so many, but here are my top five:

• Scuba diving in the Bay of Islands
• Viewing the geysers at Rotorua
• Whale watching at Kaikoura
• Hiking in Queenstown
• Wildlife viewing in the Catlins

6. For the first time visitor to New Zealand who prefers an outdoor vacation to an urban experience, what island do you recommend visiting?

The two islands are very different. For example, someone from Florida may want to experience the mountains and glaciers of the South Island, whereas those from Canada should focus their time on the beaches of the North Island.

7. December and January are summer months in New Zealand and peak travel season. What are your tips for planning a last-minute trip?

Throughout these two months, campgrounds and most beachfront motels are full, with locals making their holiday bookings well in advance. Try traveling inland, or book hostels, which are not as seasonal.

8. Describe your best outdoor experience while traveling in New Zealand.

Surfing at Raglan. It’s a world-class break, with waves for intermediate and advanced surfers, and an adjacent town that caters fully to the surfing crowd.

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