What’s better than doing the whole tourist thing? Travelling like you know the place. Here’s our pick of the top quirky destinations and travel hacks to have you exploring New Zealand like you’ve been there a thousand times — even if it’s your first time.
There are the usual suspects when it comes to travel destinations (anywhere you can ski or snowboard or bungee jump or skydive), and then there are these quirky spots you really should be adding to your itinerary.
Hey so you know how New Zealand has hills and mountains? The town planners for Dunedin, from their town planning room in London, didn’t. The resulting Guinness World Record Holding Baldwin Street takes full advantage of its status, having locals run up it for charity events and roll Jaffas down it for fun.
To get the true local experience, either sit on the footpath and cheer people on the way up, or jump on a drift bike and make yourself a viral YouTube video.
Mawardi Bahar / Shutterstock.com
For most of us now, New Zealand is a place that existed only before it was Middle Earth. Now the whole country is pretty much a realisation of Tolkien’s universe, just with a few less Orcs. So it will come as no surprise you can visit “The Shire” in the form of Hobbiton, which is one of the sets from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film adaptations.
The tourist way is to catch the shuttle bus, but to see it like a local grab your GPS and go for a road trip.
3. Castle Hill
Castle Hill / Shutterstock.com
The Dalai Lama named this ruined castle shaped quarry the “Spiritual Centre of the Universe”. Locals use the area for climbing and “bouldering” which isn’t as violent as it sounds. In true tradition of New Zealand being basically a giant fantasy film set, Castle Hill is also the location for battle scenes from Narnia.
Do as the locals do, and climb the rocks. There’s plenty of livestock keep you company, since the whole place is on a sheep station.
Okay, so this isn’t indicative of all of New Zealand’s public toilets. They are definitely something special. Designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this project was his swan song before passing away in 2000. Recycled tiles and bottles adorn the walls, while a tree grows through the centre of the building. There’s even grass on the roof. It’s a rare insight into what daily life for Keith Richards must be like — and well worth a stop on your way to The Shire or Narnia.
5. Devil’s Bath
There are some stunning hot springs in New Zealand. This one is a little different. Because it is filled with sulphur and looks like the result of an accident involving Springfield’s nuclear power plant and resulting in a three eyed fish called Blinky.
Do as the locals do and don’t swim in it. It smells pretty bad.
You know where to go, now here’s how to not stand out as a wide eyed tourist.
1. Know Your Rugby Players
Follow these steps, and you’ll be able to bluff your way through any footy conversations.
1. Learn these names: Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Sonny Bill.
2. Drop them into conversation.
3. Relax with a pint of Speights.
2. Track Down Free WiFi
The best places to get online and share your top pics from your trip? McDonalds, and public libraries.
3. Hide Your Glee At The Exchange Rate
You’ll get a pretty sweet deal for your Aussie dollars across the pond these days. Don’t rub it in.
4. Learn The Lingo
Those aren’t your thongs, they are your jandals. You’re grabbing a beer from the chilly bin, not an esky. And this whole country is pretty mint. Got it? Sweet as.
5. Travel With A Toilet
Seriously. If you’re road tripping around New Zealand in a campervan with a toilet on board, you can park for free on most public land. They call it “Freedom Camping”, and it’s a great idea to avoid those super-touristy toilet stops every few hours.