After nine weeks in New Zealand, we found much to love. Here are just 26 of them.
1. The many, well-marked picnic tables
2. Hikes and walks of varying length and difficulty are everywhere and easy to find.
3. Watching a bird of prey pick up a dead possum in the middle of the road while you’re driving 100 kph toward it becomes a routine occurrence after two weeks.
4. Campsites: free, cheap, and on up the scale to near-luxury; some of them with unparalleled views
6. The many useful signs.
7. Libraries with free wifi, especially those that leave it running outside library hours (thank you, Akaroa!)
8. Driving through a flock of sheep or herd of cows is commonplace
9. Information centers, called iSites, are easy to find in every major city and town, each with an excellent selection of maps, flyers, pamphlets, brochures, and friendly people there to help.
10. Supermarkets – even small ones – have incredible bulk food sections with a wide variety of nuts, trail mixes, candies, dried fruit, grains, legumes, and the list goes on…
11. Over the course of two days driving, you can see sheep, cows, horses, turkeys, goats, pigs, alpaca, penguins, fur seals, and more sheep.
12. The beautiful blue of glacial lakes on the South Island.
13. Espresso-based coffee is sold in every coffee shop, café, and other purveyor of coffee, none of that drip stuff we’re used to in the States.
14. Sunscreen is a way of life for the sensible Kiwis so pale skin, even in the middle of summer, looks perfectly healthy.
15. The best cheese made outside of Europe is made here.
16. Jaw-dropping views are everywhere you look, often with handy places to pull over and gape, or have a picnic.
17. Hostels (a/k/a Backpackers), Holiday Parks, B&Bs, and motels are plentiful and easy to find which makes for ample accommodation options if camping isn’t in the cards.
18. Wine and beer are available at supermarkets – and most of it is damn good.
19.People are helpful, friendly, and curious which makes for great conversations.
20. Food is food. Even the processed ones have only ingredients that just about anyone can pronounce.
21. Bizarre phenomena related to the land’s topography seem to be everywhere. Two examples: Hot Water Beach where, at low tide, you can dig your feet into sand so hot it scalds you and wait for the waves to rush up and cool your legs, and the Spa at Huka Falls where a hot waterfall flows into the cold Waikato River so you can sit on a rock feeling as though you’re in a hot bathtub while your feet are stretched out in the cool river.
22. Absurd numbers of sheep = delicious lamb
23. The many species of bird that walk across the road even though they’re capable of flying.
24. It’s never hard to find happy hour specials.
25. Dressing up is almost never necessary and on the South Island, hiking boots are de rigeur.
26. New Zealand makes some of the best beef jerky Jen’s ever eaten. The meat is somewhat tender, flavorful and never fatty. We referred to them as Jen’s meat snacks and they were a vital source of protein for her when camping.
Admittedly, there are a few things we didn’t like about New Zealand: the internet access is terrible; everything is expensive; South Island sandflies are evil; public transportation in the cities is decades behind other industrialized nations but still costs an arm and a leg; no tipping in restaurants and bars often means mediocre service; tap water on the South Island is usually safe to drink but tastes like chlorine and will leave a plastic water bottle in need of serious disinfecting.
For those of you who have been to New Zealand, did we miss anything to love (or not love)? Any favorites?