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Unique Things To Try In New Zealand

Heading to New Zealand and looking for something a bit more extraordinary? You’re in luck. This island nation is a treasure trove of unique experiences, and this is the guide you need.

From film sets and indigenous cultural gems to distinct local flavours, New Zealand offers a diverse range of activities and culinary delights that you simply won’t find anywhere else. 

This blog post will explore what makes the Land of the Long White Cloud so captivatingly unique. Whether you’re an adventure-seeker, a photography enthusiast, or a foodie, you’re sure to find something on this list that sparks your curiosity. So, let’s get into it and explore the unparalleled experiences that await you in New Zealand. Here are the most unique things to try in New Zealand.

A kiwi bird sitting on brown leaves and twigs. Meeting a kiwi is one of many unique things to 
try in New Zealand, as they are an endangered native bird species.

Meet (two types of) Kiwi

Kiwi is both a nickname for New Zealanders and also the name of the kiwi bird. The brown fuzzy fruit you might refer to as a kiwi in other parts of the world is firmly called a kiwifruit in New Zealand. Not a kiwi. Eating a kiwi would be very much frowned upon…

The kiwi bird is flightless, nocturnal and has fairly poor eyesight. For thousands of years, this wasn’t a problem until humans arrived in New Zealand bringing predators such as stoats, cats and dogs, to which kiwi are largely defenceless.

There are now several conservation projects to protect the endangered species. Your best chance to see a kiwi is in a centre such as the Kiwi Park in Queenstown or the National Kiwi Centre in Hokitika where they allow hatchlings to safely grow until they are ready to be released into one of the predator-free islands. 

There are tours which aim to spot kiwi in the wild, but as they are nocturnal this may not always be successful. 

The human Kiwi, on the other hand, is far easier to spot! Although you can’t really generalise an entire population with a few characteristics, in my experience most Kiwis are friendly, easy-going and pragmatic.

There are many countries where European settlers have left the indigenous people as a very small minority, in New Zealand the Maori people make up a much more significant minority. In New Zealand the percentage of Maori people is around 17%, compared to around 3% of the American population being Native American. 

Maori Culture And Food

Speaking of the Maori people. this higher percentage means that aspects of Maori culture are prevalent throughout Kiwi culture. Maori words are commonly used as greetings, and the famous haka is performed by all types of New Zealanders, not just those of Maori descent. 

The New Zealand National Anthem contains both English and Maori lyrics, and significant political speeches sometimes include Maori passages.

There are several places where you can experience Maori culture, especially in Rotorua in the North Island. Tours will take you to reconstructed Maori villages, with cultural performances of the haka and traditional songs and dances.

Book your tour of Mitai Maori Village here!

You’ll then partake in a hangi, a traditional Maori feast slowly cooked in an underground oven, giving the meat and vegetables a smoky flavour and tender texture. 

There are a couple of restaurants around the country specialising in Maori cuisine, such as Karaka Cafe in Wellington and Pacifica in Napier, but these experiences in Rotorua offer cultural performances as well as food. 

Me!

Skydiving

I know, this one isn’t unique to New Zealand, but New Zealand is a fantastic place to do it. There are several places around the country where you can skydiving, including Taupo and Auckland, but I would particularly recommend one of the jump sites in Otago to make the most of the spectacular mountain and lake views as you glide down.

I jumped with NZONE in Queenstown, and it is one of the best things I have ever done. Even after big adventures like a solo road trip through 48 USA states, my skydive is one of the things I am most proud of. It is one of the more expensive activities in New Zealand, especially as I paid extra to get photos and videos so no one at home could doubt me!

Train running along a coast line with bright blue ocean to the right and white waves coming in to the beach and clifts along the left side of the train
Coastal Pacific Scenic Train

Scenic Train Ride

Although there are local trains in a few cities for commuting, the main cross-country trains in New Zealand are focused more on scenery than travel efficiency. There are three rail lines, the Northern Explorer, the Coastal Pacific and the TranzAlpine. 

The Northern Explorer scenic train runs from Auckland to Wellington and takes a full day, directly down the centre of the North Island. Coastal Pacific starts at Picton at the northern end of the South Island and runs along the coast to Christchurch. The TranzAlpine runs between the east and west coast of the South Island between Christchurch and Greymouth. 

Although they all have their good points, the TranzAlpine is the one I would recommend. New Zealand is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, and the TranzAlpine running through the Southern Alps mountain range provides the best views of the 3. 

These trains don’t run every day throughout the year and may only go once per day so you do need to book well in advance if it’s something you want to do. 

Movie Tours

Since the filming of the hugely successful Lord Of The Rings, New Zealand’s film industry has become a significant part of its economy. It’s no wonder that Peter Jackson chose to create Middle Earth in his home country with its varied landscapes and innovative special effects companies.

Filming has been completed in various parts of the country so you can join filming location tours from several towns and cities. These are also great ways to get to places that might not otherwise be accessible. Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown all have location tours, and you can even visit Hobbiton.

The Hobbiton set, in Matamata, was removed after the completion of the Lord Of The Rings, but since its reconstruction for the Hobbit trilogy, the set is now a permanent tourist attraction. For the more technical side of filmmaking, you can visit the Weta Cave near Wellington, which details some of the processes of bringing characters like Gollum to life. 

Jetboating

Jetboats were invented in New Zealand, and there is no better place to try them out. The nature of the design means that they can run in very shallow water, making them perfect for thrilling rides on all types of rivers. It’s another activity you can enjoy anywhere, but Queenstown has some particularly good ones.

The drivers know the rivers extremely well and can get you up close to the edges of the canyons that the rivers run down, with 360° turns and lots of adrenaline. These rides are a great introduction to adventure activities if a skydive or bungy jump is a step too far for you. 

If you want to up the adrenaline factor with a jetboat ride, consider joining the Skippers Canyon tour. This includes transport from Queenstown, which takes you on Skippers Road to get to the jetboat.

Skippers Road is one of those slightly scary drives – not suitable for people with a fear of heights. You can’t take rental cars on this steep, narrow road with vertical drops and no barriers, which is why the best way to take the road is on a tour with an experienced driver who knows it well. You get some great views and the jet boat ride is fantastic, but the drive is not for everyone.

The Shotover River 25-minute ride or the Dart River scenic tour and jet boat ride are better alternatives for anyone who wants an easier transport route!

Zorbing

Another New Zealand invention, the world’s first Zorb track continues to operate in New Zealand. Although you can now Zorb in a few other locations, Zorb Rotorua is the original and even supplies some of those other companies with the Zorb balls that they make onsite in their own factory.

The idea is fairly simple. You can into the inner chamber of a giant, transparent, inflatable ball, they add water, and you slide along a downhill track. The water helps you slide so it is more like an extreme water slide than a ball that you will tumble head over heels in.

You can have more than one person in the ball if you want, and the whole thing feels silly enough that you’ll be laughing the whole way down. 

If you make it to Rotorua, definitely give this a try. Just remember to book in advance and bring a change of clothes!

Black Water Rafting

The name might sound like an even scarier version of white water rafting, but it’s actually a completely different experience. Instead of paddling down rivers with varying degrees of complexity and scariness, black water rafting is more like sitting in the middle of a very large tyre, while floating down a river. 

The best place to do this in New Zealand is Waitomo, inside the famous glowworm caves. The river flow is fairly gentle, as the real purpose of this activity is to let you lie back, relax and gaze up at the cave ceilings to enjoy the constellation-like lights of the glowworms.

There’s also a version of the tour for the more adventurous which involves a bit of abseiling.

Black Water Rafting in Waitomo does involve wearing a wetsuit and jumping from a low waterfall, so if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then you can take a boat ride through the caves instead. It also wouldn’t be ideal for anyone suffering from claustrophobia.

Whether you raft or use a boat tour, I strongly recommend a stop in Waitomo to enjoy what feels like an underground galaxy. It’s another extremely popular activity so do book in advance to avoid disappointment. 

Book your Waitomo Black Water Rafting experience here!

Pineapple Lumps

Chewy pineapple-flavoured goodness covered in chocolate. 

A packet of chocolate covered pineapple flavoured chews. The packet is bright yellow and there are some individual candies in front of the packet.

Ok, hear me out because I’ll admit that they sound weird. Pineapple and chocolate isn’t a common combo, but once you try them you’ll understand. They. Are. Amazing. The pineapple flavour isn’t very strong, so even if you don’t like pineapple you should give these a try. They are perfect for snacking on during a road trip, and you can find them everywhere in New Zealand. 

Pineapple lumps are one of the items I always bring home from NZ  to share with family and friends, and they are always popular.

And in the name of providing helpful information for you, I may have just spent quite a few pounds ordering some on Amazon for photographic and ‘research’ purposes… Definitely just for your benefit…

Depending on where you are from, these could fall under the description of candy, sweets or lollies, but in New Zealand, they are a popular classic (even if they are actually produced in Australia).

Whittaker’s Chocolate

Whittaker’s (with a double t, as opposed to the British chocolate brand Whitakers) is very popular in New Zealand. It’s a real New Zealand brand, with New Zealand flavours and manufactured in Porirua, just north of New Zealand’s capital city Wellington. Since Cadbury closed their New Zealand factory and changed their recipe, Whittaker’s chocolates have become more popular than ever. 

As they don’t use palm oil, Whittaker’s doesn’t get that slightly greasy taste you get with other brands. Their Creamy Milk chocolate is excellent and also forms the basis of many of their other varieties including Coconut Block, Almond Gold and Creamy Caramel.

Make sure you try one of these when you are in New Zealand, and don’t just reach for the Cadbury option. 

Tim Tams

Tim Tams are actually from Australia but they are very popular in New Zealand so I’m including them anyway. They are made of two chocolate biscuits around a flavoured centre, all covered in chocolate. The original version is made with milk chocolate, but there are also dark chocolate, white chocolate and caramel options. 

It’s another product that I bring several packets home with me to share when I get home. The last time I was in New Zealand I returned with a second suitcase which had quite a selection of snacks, souvenirs and wine in it!

Lemon & Paeroa

Commonly called L&P, this local drink is one that you won’t easily find outside of New Zealand. Originally made from spring water in the North Island town of Paeroa, its a lemon-flavoured soft drink that isn’t quite lemonade, but also not really just lemon water.

It’s worth trying as you’ll definitely come across it in New Zealand. If you are near Paeroa itself you can also take a selfie with the 7 metre tall sculpture of an L&P bottle.

They’ve also produced some hilarious marketing campaigns, including the excellent slogan ‘World-famous in New Zealand since ages ago’!

Final Thoughts: Unique Things To Try in New Zealand

So there you have it—your go-to guide for unique experiences in New Zealand that go beyond the ordinary. From special locations and exclusive activities to indigenous cultural experiences and one-of-a-kind cuisine, New Zealand is far more than just stunning landscapes and outdoor adventures.

This country offers a broad spectrum of things to do, eat, and explore that you simply can’t experience anywhere else. Whether it’s the thrill of black water rafting in the glowworm caves of Waitomo or the unusual local snacks, each activity and dish brings its own slice of Kiwi life to the table.

Trust us, you won’t be short of stories to tell after a trip like this. Until your next adventure, safe travels!

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