You haven’t been to New Zealand if you haven’t experienced these

New Zealand should be on your travel bucket list this year. Source: Shutterstock.

NEW Zealand’s tourism board positions the country as being 100 percent pure and that can’t be any truer.

Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, the remote but stunning, geologically dynamic country boasts diverse natural beauty dotted with lush pasture land, jagged mountains, beautiful lakes teeming with trout and salmon, raging rivers, pristine beaches, and jagged mountains.

On top of vibrant cultural and culinary experiences, New Zealand also offers an outdoor adventure galore and locals ready to greet visitors with wide open arms and warm smiles. It’s no wonder why the land of the long white cloud is one of the world’s most rewarding travel destinations.

There’s almost never a bad time to visit New Zealand, but here are an additional 15 reasons why you should come visit in 2019.

Go ahead and make your New Zealand travel dreams come true:

On track

New Zealanders love their tramping (walking or hiking to the rest of us). So there’s understandable excitement about the new Paparoa Track, set to open in September 2019 on the South Island’s rugged West Coast.

It’s the first Great Walk – a collection of premium tramping tracks throughout the country – to come into being in 25 years and opens up the mostly inaccessible Paparoa Range, an area of astounding natural beauty.

There’s a heart-rending back-story to the 55-kilometer track: it commemorates the 29 men who, in 2010, were killed in an accident at the Pike River Mine, set deep within the range.

A town reborn

The charming coastal town of Kaikoura was devastated by the 2016 earthquake that bears its name: virtually cut off from the rest of the country when roads subsided to the north and south.

Now, the whale-watching capital of New Zealand has reopened for business.

The spectacular coastal road from Marlborough is now ready to drive and the Coastal Pacific rail journey – considered one of the country’s most scenic – has just reopened on Dec 1, 2018.

And a new hotel, the Sudima Kaikoura, is due to open on The Esplanade later in the year.

Stay green

Hoteliers in New Zealand are putting the planet before profit by embracing the sustainability trend.

The newly opened Camp Glenorchy near Queenstown is built to a world-first sustainability code and features energy-efficient building designs, smart lighting systems, composting toilets and a solar garden.

The owners hope that the camp, with its range of cabins, bunkhouses and campervan/RV sites, will inspire guests to embrace sustainable ideas in their own homes.

Nearby, the self-described community hotel Sherwood, set on 1.2ha overlooking Lake Wakatipu, features a pared-back design including original Kelvinator fridges and enamel crockery.

In the Coromandel region on the North Island, luxury eco-retreat Manawa Ridge is built entirely from recycled timbers and energy-efficient materials.

Star treatment

In recent years, the country has begun to embrace the Māori New Year, known as Matariki. This distinctly New Zealand event is celebrated in May or June when the Pleiades star cluster – known to Māori as Matariki – appears on the north-eastern horizon: in 2019, Matariki begins on June 10.

Join in one of the myriad celebrations held around the country – everything from art exhibitions to small-town festivals, parades, and workshops.

And be sure to visit the Star Compass (Ātea a Rangi) in Waitangi Regional Park, Hawke’s Bay, to learn about how early Māori used the stars to navigate.

Rapt in rugby

The Rugby World Cup only comes around every four years and what better place to prepare for the next contest in 2019 than in the spiritual home of rugby?

As well as the world-beating All Blacks, New Zealand has no fewer than three other World Cup-winning rugby teams – the female national team, Black Ferns, and the Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams.

Experience the country’s football culture by attending a Super Rugby game, where New Zealand regional sides square off against teams from South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Argentina.

In tandem

It’s something of a world first: a specially manufactured side-by-side tandem bicycle – either pedal or electric – fitted with guide wheels that will have you scooting along a disused section of the railway on the east coast of the North Island.

On Rail Bike Adventures’ new two-day tour, ride 100km of railway track between Gisborne and Wairoa, with an overnight stay in pretty Mahia, taking in breathtaking views of the ocean and coastline along the way (there’s also a one-day option from Gisborne to Mahia).

The new adventure hits the rails in late 2018.

Flying kai

When visitors think of indigenous New Zealand cuisine, they probably think of a hāngi – where food is cooked underground in a stone fire pit.

But there’s a revolution underway in New Zealand that means it’s possible to sample authentic and reinvented indigenous flavors everywhere from top restaurants to food trucks to kai (food) festivals.

Visit Pacifica in Napier to try chef Jeremy Rameka’s five-course seafood menu which might include kina (sea urchin) and paua (abalone) or visit one of Monique Fiso’s Hiakai pop-up events dedicated to Māori cooking techniques and ingredients.

At the Kawhia Kai Festival, held every February at the remote harbourside settlement in the Waikato, you can try dishes like kaanga wai (fermented corn) and koki (shark liver pâté).

Art and nature

There are two more good reasons to visit the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

The first is a new gallery, Toi Art, which opened in 2018 with an exhibition by contemporary sculptor Michael Parekowhai. The mammoth new space – about the size of 15 tennis courts – has been billed as “the new home for New Zealand art” by Te Papa chairman Evan Williams.

Second is an NZD11 million (US$7.4 million) nature zone, Taiao, due to open in early 2019. It will bring together all of the museum’s nature- and environment-themed collections and exhibitions in one dazzling new space.

Expect rare treats like the mummified foot of an extinct moa, beaked whale skulls and the chance to pit your intelligence against a kea parrot.

Full swing

The New Zealand Open golf tournament celebrates its 100th anniversary in early 2019, hosted at two golf courses near Queenstown – Millbrook Resort and The Hills.

Professional golfers will compete for the prestigious title while a minimum of 140 amateurs and professionals will also play alongside one another in a unique Pro-Am format.

Set on 200 hectares, the 27-hole Millbrook course was designed by master golfer Sir Bob Charles and is ringed by snowy mountains, while the privately-owned Hills course is set in a glacial valley and features Sir Michael Hill’s contemporary sculpture collection.

Helm games

Auckland will host about 400 of the world’s best sailors in late 2019 as part of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships.

The ideal build-up to America’s Cup, which Emirates Team New Zealand will defend on the Hauraki Gulf (Tīkapa Moana) in 2021, the event is likely to be used by many countries as a selection regatta for the 2020 Olympics.

You can get behind the helm of an authentic America’s Cup sailing yacht on Waitemata Harbour for a two-hour sail or a three-hour match race.

Quite a ride

He’s the man who brought bungy jumping to the world and now the company that bears his name is taking the A.J. Hackett brand of adrenaline-pumping action up a notch with the new Nevis Catapult.

Set 150 meters above the Kawarau River in the Nevis Valley outside of Queenstown, it’s the world’s biggest catapult thrill, reaching speeds of 100kmh in 1.5 seconds, all with 3Gs of force.

Want more?

Then consider Wild Wire’s Lord of the Rungs waterfall climb – 450m to the top of the Twin Falls outside of Wanaka – or, in Rotorua, OGO’s new Mega Track, the longest (and fastest and steepest) giant-inflatable-ball-rolling stretch in the world.

Under your skin

The Māori tattoo, tā moko, is more than skin deep – it represents connection, whether to your family, the land, your history, or any aspect of your life. If that resonates, you might consider a visit to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute’s Tā Moko Studio in Rotorua in the center of North Island.

The process starts with a conversation (korero) with one of the tā moko artists, who will then create a tattoo that reflects your life.

It’s an exercise in trust because you won’t get to see a design beforehand: it’s about “getting what you’re meant to receive”, according to the studio tattooists. And you will need time: a calf tattoo takes about three hours; a forearm, three to six hours.

Bookings are essential, at least 72 hours in advance.

Rocket land – besides, it’s written in the stars

The first astronauts to land on the Moon in 1969 may have been American, but 50 years later New Zealand has its own thriving space industry.

New Zealand scientist and engineer Peter Beck’s Rocket Lab owns the world’s only private orbital launch range on the tip of the Mahia Peninsula on the sparsely populated East Coast.

Rocket Lab plans to revolutionize the ability of satellite companies to reach orbit by launching smaller, less expensive rockets more frequently.

It all makes sense of course, when you consider that New Zealand has some of the best night skies in the world and the biggest dark sky reserve on the planet – the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

Celebrating first meetings

The son of a Scottish day laborer, James Cook learned how to sail while working in the North Sea coal trade – a skill he put to good use when he embarked on a voyage in The Endeavour that resulted in the first official charting of New Zealand in October 1769.

Two hundred and fifty years later, visitors can relive his journey – including his historic first meetings with the native Māori people.

To mark the occasion, there will be various events taking place at the main landing sites in late 2019 with a flotilla that will celebrate the voyaging traditions of Polynesian and European people.

Boutique brews

With access to some of the world’s finest hops, New Zealand’s craft beer brewers are getting an international reputation for their brews.

From Northland’s award-winning small-batch brewery McLeod’s to the Catlins Brewery that started in a garage in Kaka Point in South Island, you’re never far from a decent drop.