New Zealand is known for its natural beauty and extreme adventures. Most people visit to take part in any number of adrenaline heavy activities. But what if that’s not you? What if you’re more of a city person and you don’t want to go bungee jumping or repel off a mountain? New Zealand still has a lot to offer from laid back cities to non-extreme nature activities.
New Zealand’s biggest city is most people’s point of entry. While most people skip out of here as quickly as possible to get into nature, take a few days to enjoy city life! Visit the Auckland Sky Tower for amazing views of the city and the nearby islands. For just NZ$28 you can go to the Main Observation level at 186 meters, the Sky Deck at 220 meters, and the Sky Lounge cafe and bar at 182 meters.
Auckland is known as the city of sails, and it would be a shame to skip the nautical side of the city. Depending on how much time you have and what you want to see, there are a variety of boat tours that will take you around the harbor for views of the city and the volcanic islands. Or if boats aren’t your thing, relax at the beach.
Just a few hours south of Auckland, Rotorua is the place to be for thermal activity. Take a trip to Wai-O-Tapu to see Lady Knox geyser and the wildly colored pools of water. The different colors are caused by the thermal activity and interactions with the different minerals found in the soil.
The other big draw in Rotorua is Rainbow Springs. Aside from their nature park, they do a lot of work to save kiwis from extinction. These birds are in grave danger of completely disappearing due to the introduction of certain mammals that have been killing off the kiwis ever since Europeans settled in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s capital isn’t know for having great weather. Due to its location on the southern tip of the north island, it’s often windy and rainy, but don’t let that scare you away. Wellington’s Te Papa Museum, located near Queen’s Wharf, is free and has displays on New Zealand’s geological evolution, native wildlife, the Maori people, and the country’s history. I’m usually not a fan of museums, but I really enjoyed this one.
Just a short walk from Queen’s Wharf and you’ll find yourself in the center of Wellington. Here you can take a free tour of the beehive parliament building. Or visit the Botanical Gardens (free entry) to enjoy a little nature and a great view of Wellington from above. If you don’t want to walk up the hill to get there, take the cable car to the Botanical Gardens for NZ$4 one way or NZ$7 return. Don’t forget to enjoy Wellington’s cafe culture. Start with a stroll down the pedestrian area of Cuba Street for a wide variety of restaurants and bars.
Dunedin is a college town at the southern end of the south island. It’s also where you will find the worlds steepest street. Take a walk up Baldwin Street for a great work-out. For a prettier view, check out Tunnel Beach where time and the ocean have left spectacular rock formations. It’s a steep walk back up when you’re done, but worth it. To get there take the Corstrophine bus from the Octagon and tell the bus driver you’re going to Tunnel Beach.
If you’re looking for a less strenuous activity, hop on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin’s train station. The scenic train takes you through the Taieri Gorge River and includes several photo stops. Other popular activities in Dunedin include the Cadbury World tours (NZ$20 per adult for the full tour) and a visit to Speight’s Brewery (NZ$25 per adult for the tour).
Normally this is the place to go for all your extreme activities, but even if that’s not your thing, it’s still a gorgeous town. Check out Lake Wakatipu for swimming and boating activities. Take the cable car up Bob’s Peak for views of the town and the surrounding landscapes. Or even take a scenic flight for an amazing aerial view of Queenstown and the surrounding areas. Queenstown is also a great base for a Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound trip. There are several day cruises to each one, and even a few overnight cruises.
New Zealand has a lot to offer even for those of you who don’t want to participate in extreme activities. Don’t skip this beautiful country just because you don’t want to jump off a bridge or out of a plane. You can still have a great trip while enjoying the calmer side of New Zealand.
Ali is an American expat living in Germany. She is a freelance writer and travel addict who visited all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. Get travel tips and read her travel and expat stories on Ali’s Adventures. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.