There are all kinds of ways to travel around New Zealand. You can explore the different car rental options and drive yourself around (it’s a relatively small country, like the UK). There are companies that drive small numbers of travellers around. There are notice boards on and offline where travellers sell second, third, or even seventh hand vans they have bought specifically to drive around the island. Or you can take a tour. There are a number of tours available but there are two major companies that run bus tours. These are the Kiwi Experience and the Magic Bus. The Kiwi Experience is aimed at young gap-year travellers. On board, you will find many eighteen year olds who have just finished school and students on holiday. The Magic Bus, on the other hand caters for those who are taking a break from the world of work or had some time off. They tend to be around thirty but it really is a mix of ages. The Magic Bus is perhaps the best option if you’re travelling alone, as it gives you the opportunity to meet a range of different people.
There are several routes Magic Bus tours take. You can do the North Island on its own or the South Island on its own or combine the two.
If you are only doing one island, a lot of people chose the south. That isn’t to say the North doesn’t have a lot to offer. The North Island has the thermal parks: large areas of volcanic activity which manifest as pools of bubbling mud and lakes which are green, yellow or blue with striking red-orange colours beneath the surface and steam rising above them. There are geysers – mounds of earth from which large jets of water shoot out sporadically. Much of it feels like the Land Before Time or Jurassic Park. There is also a rather pervasive odour all over the areas main town, Rotorua. This is due to the sulphur beneath the ground’s surface that creates an egg-like smell.
The North Island also has Lake Taupo, which is important to the Maori people as well as being New Zealand’s largest lake. There are all kinds of adventure sports activities you can take part in here.
But the South Island is where most of the adventure sports fans find their fun. Taking the Magic Bus here is great because you pass through New Zealand’s adventure and party capital, Queenstown. Queenstown, as well as being part of the set of Lord of the Rings (along with a lot of other places in New Zealand) is famous for its sky diving, bungee jumping, rock climbing and rapid riding fun. And for the less daring, has some fun dry slope tobogganing opportunities too. At night the bars fill with locals and travellers and it’s a great opportunity to add to the friends you’ve already made on the bus. The South Island is also famous for its impressive Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers, which even the novice can climb. It is also the gateway to the beautiful Milford Sound.
Sophie Collard (@QunoSpotter) writes about fascinating places to visit and people she’s met while on her travels. She’s travelled in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia and loves the sense of distance and changing landscapes.