Admittedly, it would be misleading to describe journeys around New Zealand as ‘great’ in a way that suggests enormous distances or endurance travel. Because, essentially, New Zealand is small. However, if ‘great’ is reframed in a way that evokes unforgettable, astounding or remarkable travel adventures, then it falls completely on the mark.
Aotearoa certainly punches above its weight in the scenic and picturesque department, jam packed as it is with miles of coastline, native forests, waterfalls, glaciers and spectacular mountain ranges. New Zealand offers travellers around our islands glimpses back to a forested, prehistoric bird land, along with indigenous wildlife experiences such as spotting kiwi, kea, penguins, dolphins and tuatara in their native habitats.
For some, one of the most enjoyable journeys to take in New Zealand involves sailing across Cook Strait; the slice of sea that separates New Zealand’s North and South islands. The Interislander ferry service accommodates passengers, freight and vehicles and makes the crossing between Wellington and Picton daily, depending on weather conditions. In 2002, an alternative ferry service began with Blue Bridge offering drive on and walk on options for daily crossings. The sea voyage generally takes just over three hours, covers 92 kilometres and is considered an iconic tourist experience. Certainly, the portion of the journey that cruises through the blue green waters of the Marlborough Sounds is particularly scenic and an experience not easily forgotten. Dolphins often surf bow waves of these large vessels to the further delight of passengers.
If you prefer trains over boats, it’s entirely possible to journey by rail from Auckland to Wellington, cross the Cook Strait and connect with another train that skirts the edge of the South Island’s east coast from Picton to Christchurch. The North Island line is one of New Zealand’s oldest, and the Northern Explorer train service takes passengers on a smooth scenic tour of New Zealand passing through farmland, native forests, a volcanic plateau, river gorges and past rocky seascapes.
The South Island’s equivalent of the Northern Explorer is called the Coastal Pacific and is another breath-taking rail journey. The Explorer is named after the coastline it follows, keeping the Southern Alps mountain range on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. At the midpoint of this journey is the town of Kaikoura, one of New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism destinations. Tourists often disembark here to go on whale watching trips, albatross encounter tours or to visit seal colonies. Arguably, the best seafood in the country can be found in Kaikoura, with some of the best deals found in cute roadside caravans that dot the highway leading into the town.
In November 2016 Kaikoura experienced a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that severely impacted the township, the road and rail networks. Over 110km of new coastline was pushed up, killing species as parts of coast previously underwater rose to up to six metres. Damage to the rail line between Blenheim and Kaikoura from this earthquake was extensive and the Coastal Pacific passenger rail service is not expected to be back up and running until mid-2018.
While the Coastal Pacific line is under reconstruction, another South Island rail journey retains its popularity. The TranzAlpine scenic rail route takes passengers from Christchurch across the Canterbury Plains and through stunning mountain passes to the township of Greymouth on the West Coast. This is a luxurious five-hour excursion that provides a relaxing and unique perspective of the South Island and has been called one of the great train journeys of the world.
If driving on the left-hand side of the road appeals, New Zealand is a fabulous place to road-trip. You don’t need to travel far before coming across a quaint town, glorious beaches, waterfalls or stunning landscapes. Yes, you may have to negotiate the odd sheep traffic jam as farmers move their stock along back roads but even that experience can be somewhat great, especially if you have your camera close to hand.
If road-trips aren’t your thing, you may be interested a hiking journey that takes you right to the quiet heart of the country. Depending on interest and fitness levels there are a number of multi-day hiking options on offer from guided walks to more adventurous traverses. The Milford and Routeburn tracks as well as the Abel Tasman Coastal track provide hikers with a sense of achievement and life-long memories.
Whatever your preference; road, rail or foot, there is a great journey in New Zealand with your name on it. And, with medical placements available across the country, Ochre Recruitment consultants would be happy to discuss great job opportunities with you. Why don’t you give them a call today?