Home of the hobbits, birthplace of wellies and land of the long white cloud, New Zealand is a unique and kind of obscure country that us backpackers can’t help but love. The amazing landscapes, epic adventures and laid-back locals make this an undeniably cool place to go on your travels
Here are some weird and wonderful attractions in New Zealand on your gap year.
1. Get a snap with the L&P bottle
Lemon & Paeroa, or L&P, is the nation’s favourite soft drink. Kiwis love to chug, swig and slurp the drink so much that they built a giant bottle of the stuff. Seven metres high, you won’t miss it if you’re in the town of Paeroa, just 90 minutes outside Auckland.
2. Search for The Simpsons
In New Zealand’s Springfield you won’t find Marge or Homer but you will see a classic Simpsons donut. Seems like when you like something in New Zealand you make a giant version of it, and why not? So when The Simpsons Movie came out in 2007 that’s exactly what this Springfield did.
3. Get wet in Wellington
Wellington’s Cuba Mall is home to a structure made of buckets all filled with water. The water spills down to the fountain but along the way it splashes passers-by and has become a bit of an attraction. Come the weekend, you know it’s party time when bubbles are added to the fountain and fill the mall.
Fun fact, Elijah Wood once peed in this fountain. Dirty Frodo Baggins.
4. See the big kiwi
You can’t go all the way to New Zealand and not try a kiwi. Not the bird, the fruit. Te Puke is the kiwi capital and while you can taste the delightful green stuff here, you can also take your picture beside the town’s giant kiwi. Told you they liked making big versions of things.
5. Go crazy for gumboots
Gumboots are wellies, for anyone who didn’t know. While in the UK we might only dig them out for festival season, in New Zealand they’re a wardrobe staple. The town of Taihape celebrates their love for the rubber footwear by hosting a gumboot festival at Easter, where you can toss the boot and, again, get a picture with a giant one.
6. Visit the Steampunk Museum
Steampunk is a term that describes Victorian get-up meets sci-fi – think of any photos of Burning Man you’ve ever seen. Yeah, that’s it. The theme incorporates art and fashion and is supposed to depict things we think Victorians might have invented for the future.
Oamaru, on the South Island, has become the steampunk capital, and you can visit the town’s museum dedicated to this ‘retro-futuristic’ idea.
7. Bras off in Cardrona
This is an optional activity if you’re passing through the Cardrona Valley, but taking off your bra and attaching it to the fence has been a popular thing to do here since the ‘90s.
If you don’t fancy feeling that free, you can simply admire the hundreds already hanging from the fence and ponder the stories of the girls who left them behind.
8. Visit the Pacific Rim of Fire
It certainly sounds like a Lord of the Rings location, but instead it’s home to the Rotorua hot springs. These geothermal baths are said to have healing powers, are beautiful to see and some are even free.
But they also stink of rotten eggs, just so you know.
9. See the shells in Paua House
Fred and Myrtle took their hobby very seriously. For 40 years the couple collected paua shells from the local beach. Instead of putting them in a jar or making a nice necklace they opted to cover the entire interior of their house in them. When the couple died, their living space was recreated with all the shells in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.
10. Venture to Middle Earth
Now this actually is a Lord of the Rings location. In Matamata on the North Island, you can take a tour of Hobbiton and see where the trilogy was filmed. The best day to go is September 22, otherwise known as International Hobbit Day.
It’s here that you can get your photo taken coming out of the little doors and walk down the little paths, as many a hobbit has done before you.
11. Get tasting at Hokitika Wild Food Fest
Open up the mind and stick out your tongue at this March-time festival, where it’s all about trying weird wild foods. A vegetarian’s nightmare, Hokitika serves up seagull eggs, crocodile meat and duck heads. Ooo, yum yum!
12. See some art
Like an optical illusion, the Horizon sculpture is a confusing one. From a distance it looks like a cartoon-drawn piece of paper blowing in the wind but as you approach the Kaipara hilltop you see it’s actually a steel sculpture. Tricky on the eyes, this is a cool thing to photograph!
13. Walk the steepest street
According to the Guinness Book of Records, Baldwin Street in Dunedin is the steepest street ever. In the ten minutes it takes to climb you can test out your thigh power, and your vertigo limits, as you see how residents manage life on the incline.
14. Go see the glow-worms
The Waitomo Caves are located in the North Island and are cool enough in themselves. What gives them that weird and wonderful edge is that you can leave the torch at home and navigate your way through the underground cave system by the light of the glow-worms. I went on an adventure tour through these and despite one girl crying because she was so scared, it was great fun!