If you've been mulling over the trip of a lifetime to the South Pacific, then make sure New Zealand is on your list of places to visit! I can not guarantee that you'll see any hobbits or find "middle earth" but I can guarantee that you'll have an awesome time.
I first visited the two island paradise, that's about the size of Japan or England, in March 2008 and fell in love with the scenery and the laid back outdoorsy lifestyle. I've called New Zealand home since September 2009.
So what's to do in New Zealand? Although this article can not fully capture all the fun things you can do in New Zealand, I've highlighted a few activities that you can try when you visit.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation has a very useful website featuring hiking trails located all regions of the North and South Islands. They truly exceeded expectations by providing trail maps, return time estimates, and give you a fair indication of the intensity of each walk and the most suitable attire for where you're heading. The scenery and landscape you'll experience is pretty much what picture postcards are made of.
New Zealand features a mild temperate climate. It is packed with braided river systems, open plains (for example, the Canterbury Plains in the South Island), lakes, gorges and cliffs, huge mountain systems and long stretches of beaches. Because New Zealand has such variations in topography over a relatively small area (103,000 square miles), it makes it possible to have a warm morning at the beach and then head off to the ski fields afterwards if you feel like it (all in the very same day).
There's no shortage of jet boating, bungee jumping, ATV riding, rock climbing, sky diving or paragliding activities. Some visitors even venture to go glacier hiking, kayaking or blackwater rafting. I've personally tried bungee jumps, dirt bike riding and jet boating and despite the experience variations slowly between operators it's all a blast!
If you're the type of person who's seeking a more meditative or relaxing holiday, hop onto an organized bus tour or head out to the hot pools. Want to do a solo thing, then rent a car or camper van and see the country on your own time. The hot pools are my favorite way to kick back and warm my bones. The Hanmer hot pools are worth note and even though they're not only hot pools in the country they're my favorite.
Since I live in Christchurch on the South Island, it would be awful of me not to mention the beautiful drive from Christchurch City through Bank Peninsula and over to the scenic and peaceful seaside development of Akaroa. Akaroa is one of two places I know of in the South Island where you can go on an ocean tour to swim with dolphins.
The other spot is called Kaikoura (also on the South Island) and is about a two and a half hour drive north of Christchurch. If you do not feel like driving to Kaikoura you can hop on the TranzCoastal train and be there in less than three hours (including minor stops). If you'd rather see whales the Kaikoura whale watch runs its operation from the same train station you get off.
As I said, I've barely begun to hit the nail on the head as far as what New Zealand has to offer, but hopefully you get some ideas about what you can do when you visit. If you do not know where to start but definitely want to visit get your travel agent in gear. Have fun !!