If you’ve ever considered visiting New Zealand, well-known as the backdrop for Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth, you’ve probably imagined the majestic beauty of the Southern Alps, the deserted beaches of the 15,000 km of coastline and getting back to nature on a trek through the native bush. There’s no doubt that New Zealand’s major draw is its natural beauty and unbeatable landscapes – during daylight hours. So we’ve pulled together some unique after-dark activities that should keep you entertained after the sun goes down and the views disappear into darkness.
1. Search the bush for a native kiwi
This iconic native of New Zealand is notoriously elusive. You’re more likely to hear the shrill shriek of a kiwi than see one. According to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, there are around 68,000 kiwis left in the wild. As the flightless birds are nocturnal, a night-time walk in the bush is your best chance of laying eyes on one of the world’s weirdest species. There are a number of kiwi spotting tours across New Zealand that will take visitors out during the night. The website Kiwis for Kiwi provides details (link below). Sightings of wild birds are, of course, never guaranteed – so you better hope it’s your lucky night.
2. Take in the capital’s stunning panoramas by night
The capital of New Zealand, Wellington, is without a doubt one of the prettiest in the world. Surrounding by hills with a luscious green belt around the CBD (central business district), Wellington offers a cityscape with a difference. By night the lights of the capital reflected off the harbour are one of New Zealand’s best urban sights and it is best witnessed from one of the city’s surrounding peaks. Mount Victoria is the best-known and easiest to reach viewpoint, being accessible by car or foot. Alternatively, make your way up to the Brooklyn wind turbine for a bigger (and probably quieter) panorama. For a more intrepid experience, take the 20-minute hike up to the highest point in Wellington, Khandallah’s Mount Kaukau, to watch the sun set and the city light up.
3. Luxe out with a degustation meal at a winery
For a slice of luxury during your visit to New Zealand book a delicious dining experience at a restaurant in one of the country’s famous wineries. New Zealand has a big emphasis on local produce such as seafood, lamb and natively grown fruits such as feijoas or tamarillos. In Martinborough, try Tirohana Estate’s elegant dining room. Hawke’s Bay’s Elephant Hill and Craggy Range restaurants are recommended. Try the ‘trust the chef’ dining option with matched wines at the Amisfield wine complex in Central Otago. The best thing about dining at a vineyard is, of course, the amazing wine available, which will be perfectly matched to the meal. It’s a perfect way to spend an evening in New Zealand.
4. Find a cave and go glowworm spotting.
If you want to get all romantic during a New Zealand night, turning off your torch in a cave full of glowworms is definitely the way to do it. I just won’t explain how the worms glow, otherwise that will ruin the moment for everyone. The Waitomo region on the North Island is a great place for glowworm spotting – and while you’re here sign up for a must-do caving adventure. Glowworms can be seen in most caves around the region. You can pay around 77 NZD (~50 USD) to view the caves in the official Waitomo ‘glowworm cave’, or just find any old cave that’s known to house the critters for a free and equally enjoyable experience. Te Anau caves near Milford Sound provides one of the best glowworm experiences on the South Island.
5. Jump into darkness with a night Bungy
The AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown offers one of New Zealand’s ultimate adrenaline-filled experiences – a night jump. Located 400 m above the town at the top of the gondola, you get a great view from above before leaping into oblivion. Let’s face it, most backpackers in New Zealand have taken on a Bungy – so go one better and do it at night for ultimate bragging rights.
6. Soak in a natural hot spring by moonlight
Thanks to its location on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, New Zealand is a literal hotbed of geothermal activity. As well as hiking over active volcanoes and visiting geothermal parks featuring geysers, craters and more, there are plenty of natural hot springs located across the country for you to relax in under the stars – and the best part is, they don’t cost a penny. Most of New Zealand’s geothermal activity is concentrated in the North Island; my pick of the springs is Otumuheke Stream which joins the Waikato River just outside of Taupo. Kerosene Creek near Rotorua is also a great spot for some geothermal relaxation. Be sure to remove all jewellery as the chemicals in the water can cause damage and for health reasons keep your head above water at all times.
Make your New Zealand nights something to remember
Whether you’re throwing yourself off a ledge, savouring fine food and wine, tiptoeing through the bush with a torch in hand or photographing bright city lights, there’s plenty in New Zealand to keep you busy after the sun goes down. This notoriously outdoorsy country doesn’t change after dark, so be prepared to stay outside and make some uniquely Kiwi memories by moonlight.
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