Your browser (Internet Explorer {{browserVersion}}) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all the features of this and other websites.
Update my browser

Only in New Zealand

Unique to New Zealand, explore experiences that make this incredibly diverse island country a one-of-a-kind destination, by Elspeth Callender.

Close up of a yellow eyed penguin

The Land of the Long White Cloud is unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s the only place you can experience the rich and living Maori culture of Aotearoa, and see endemic wildlife such as the reptilian three-eyed tuatara, the croakless Hamilton’s frog and the striking yellow-eyed penguin in their natural habitat. But that’s just the beginning of the story – here’s a must-do list of New Zealand’s unique experiences.  

The Heat is On
Hangi is a Maori word meaning earth oven and this style of feast is customarily prepared for an important event or special occasion. Meat and vegetables are arranged in a pit of hot rocks and the food is steamed underground for hours. During an evening at Te Puia in Rotorua you can taste this slow-cooked food, join a traditional dance and hear local stories.

food pumpkin carrots for hangi meal in new zealand

Te Puia is located in the geothermal Te Whakarewarewa Valley where you can also visit a Maori village and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser, Pohutu, which erupts up to twice an hour and reaches heights of 30 metres.

Luminescent glow worms in the Waitomo cave, New Zealand

Shine Your Light
The Maori word for glow-worms, titiwai, literally means lights reflected in water. There are few places in the world where you can see these luminescent larvae and only in New Zealand can you float in a boat through a cave naturally lit by thousands of Arachnocampa luminosa in their natural habitat. Two of the country’s best glow-worm gazing spots are the 30-million-year-old limestone Waitomo Caves and at Te Anau, where the karst is relatively young (about 12,000 years) and a roaring subterranean river continues to carve out the rock.

But there’s also a place in Te Anau where the water is calm and there is darkness and silence and a dinghy awaits to take you under a sky of glow-worms and their individual strings of silk thread hanging to trap prey.

The Sound of Silence
There is nowhere quite like the misnamed fiord of Milford Sound, now protected by its national park, marine reserve and World Heritage status. Some say it was shaped by the well-aimed axe of legendary Maori god Tu Te Rakiwhanoa while others believe it was glacially formed. The 16-kilometre-long inlet of the Tasman Sea is up to 400 metres deep with cliff faces rising more than 1,200 metres above the waterline. On a daytime cruise of this beautiful brackish waterway, you're almost certain to see seals and dolphins.

View across the water towards the mountains surrounding Milford Sound, New Zealand
kauri tree waipoua forest north island, new zealand

If a Tree Falls
New Zealand’s pioneering history is heavy with the memory of felled giant trees, some of which lived for over a thousand years and were brought down in a day. The Kauri Museum in Matakohe focuses mainly on the kauri gum industry. Kauris are some of the largest trees in the world and New Zealand’s largest native tree – the biggest still living is 4.4 metres in diameter and believed to be approximately 2,000 years old.

On display in the museum’s many galleries are examples of historic milling equipment, gigantic logs, mannequin scenes of the past, kauri timber furniture and creative applications of the tree’s translucent yellow gum. Kauri products are also for sale. 

These are just some of the things you'll experience only in New Zealand, where plenty more unique discoveries are waiting to be enjoyed on our 15 Day New Zealand Getaway.