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10 summer driving hazards to avoid

Summer driving has its own set of challenges whether you’re on home ground or not. High temperatures, increased stress levels, and extra demands on your car are all par for the course, so make sure you read our advice to stay safe on the road.

Wet or lost key fobs

It’s easy to lose your car keys in the sand, or ruin your remote control with water by accidentally taking the fob for a swim.

Keep your keys safe and dry and check your handbook – on most cars, there’s an alternative way to open the doors that you can use if the remote stopped working.

If you do need a replacement car key or key fob, call AA Keycare on 0818 646 004. Our specialist service means you’ll have access to a nationwide network of locksmiths.

Punctures

If your tyres are already damaged or they’re at the wrong pressure, the higher temperatures of summer will increase the risk of a blowout.

Make sure you check tyres regularly – for condition and pressures – and increase pressures to suit extra loads, as advised in your handbook.

Check caravan tyres too, and replace those that show any signs of cracking in the sidewall or tread grooves.

Overheating

When driving in hot climates, high temperatures can aggravate cooling system problems too. It’s important to check the coolant and cooling system regularly to avoid overheating.

Glare

Dazzle from the sun causes lots of accidents but you can reduce the effect by keeping your windscreen nice and clean, and by replacing worn or damaged windscreen wipers.

It pays to keep a clean pair of sunglasses in your car year-round but avoid lenses that darken in strong sunlight.

Driving tired

If you feel tired, stop and take a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink two cups of strong coffee.

It’s best to avoid getting tired in the first place if you can. These tips can help:

  • Include a 20-minute break in journeys of more than 3 hours
  • On longer trips, take a break every couple of hours
  • You’re better off taking several short (at least 20 minutes) stops than one long one
  • Don’t drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before driving
  • Don’t stop for a nap on the hard shoulder, and make sure you check parking restrictions before putting your head down at a motorway service area as you could get a ticket for overstaying your welcome.

Hayfever

If your hayfever is particularly bad, it’s best to get someone else to drive if you can. Also:

  • Make sure any medication you’re taking doesn’t cause drowsiness
  • Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
  • Clean mats and carpets regularly to get rid of dust
  • Keep tissues close to hand
  • Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight

Loose chippings

Roads repaired with tar and loose chippings are a common sight in the summer but they can cause cracked headlamps and windscreens, and damage paintwork if you’re not careful. Stick to any temporary speed limit that’s been put in place and keep your distance from the car in front.

Fire

If you’re a smoker, don’t just throw your cigarette out of the window when you’ve finished it. Verges and embankments can become bone-dry and a smouldering cigarette may be enough to ignite roadside grass.

Tractors

The driver of that slow-moving tractor in front of you may have a soundproofed cab or could be wearing ear protectors, so may not be able to hear approaching cars.

Be aware that tractors only have to have brake or indicator lights if driving at night, so they may stop or turn suddenly and without warning in daylight hours.

When you’re driving in the countryside:

  • Keep plenty of distance behind a tractor
  • Remember that a tractor may be longer than it appears – there could be a loader on the front
  • Before overtaking, make sure you have plenty of room to get past

Avoid a breakdown this summer

  • Slow down if you come across a spillage – if you hit a bale of straw at speed you will damage your car
  • Don’t park in a gateway or passing place – they are farmers’ field access points
  • Drive extra carefully after rain, which can turn dry mud into a skid pan
  • And don’t forget that if you do experience a breakdown AA Rescue fixes 8 out of 10 vehicles on the spot. Meanwhile, if you’re planning to drive across Europe this summer, remember that with AA European Breakdown Cover local garages across our European road network will be on standby should you experience any bumps on the road.

Looking for ways to keep your driving costs down ahead of the summer? With AA Car Insurance you can receive an automatic €100 discount on any policy purchased online.

Categories
Featured New Zealand

Following the Lions tour to New Zealand: the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Main image by Melanwell, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

The British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand is underway, with the three test matches against the All Blacks scheduled for Auckland and Wellington at the end of June and beginning of July.

Whether or not the Lions roar on the pitch, it’s set to be a trip of a lifetime for those fans fortunate enough to be heading down under to follow the team. If you are one of them, read on for our practical guide to visiting the country![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WHEN YOU ARRIVE” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22139″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

Most international flights arrive at Auckland Airport, around 20km outside Auckland in the far north of the country. From there, you can catch domestic flights to towns and cities all over New Zealand.

To get into the city centre from the airport, catch the SkyBus which operates two different routes. Whichever one you’re on, it should take between 40 and 60 minutes depending on traffic conditions. You can buy tickets from kiosks at the bus stops outside the terminal, from the driver (cash only) or online. Naked Bus and Intercity also operate bus services between the airport and city centre.

You can connect to the Auckland rail network (see the Public Transport section below) by taking the 380 Airporter Bus to Papatoetoe station on the Southern Line and Eastern Line. Plan your journey here.

Taxi ranks are located outside the arrivals area (door 8) at the international terminal and outside door 4 at the domestic terminal. A taxi journey into the city could cost anywhere between NZ$38 – NZ$75. The airport’s website has more information on the specific companies and their pricing. Find it here.

Car hire is available on the ground floor of international arrivals. For more on hiring a car and driving in New Zealand, check out the Renting A Car section below.

The first stop of your Lions tour is unlikely to be Wellington or Christchurch unless you are travelling via Australia. However, their airports’ websites provide information on onward travel. Find it here for Wellington and here for Christchurch.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GETTING AROUND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22140″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Renting a car” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

If you’ve travelled all the way to New Zealand, the chances are that you’ll want to get out of the cities and explore the country’s stunning and varied countryside – at least for a day or two. And while the country does have a reasonable public transport system (read on for more on that), nothing beats the freedom of hiring a car and hitting the road.

Car hire is available from our preferred car hire partners, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo. AA members save year-round on car hire and get a free additional driver – click here to learn more. You can also find Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz or Thrifty at airports and in city centres.

Most companies in New Zealand require you to be over 21 to hire a car. It’s worth noting that if your driving licence is not in English, you will need to carry an accurate translation. See NZ Transport Agency for more information.

One handy thing about New Zealand’s roads is that they drive on the left, so you’ll feel immediately at home in your rental car and on the road. There are some things to bear in mind, though:

  • New Zealand is a much larger country than Ireland, which means it can be easy to underestimate distances by just looking at a map.
  • The roads in rural areas are often narrow and winding, so you should always leave more time than you expect to need. Use AA Routeplanner for accurate journey planning.
  • A tired driver is a dangerous driver, particularly on unfamiliar roads, so don’t be overly ambitious when planning your journeys and take regular breaks.
  • Changeable weather is always likely in New Zealand, so make sure you check the forecast before setting off on any journey. Of course, it’s currently winter which means that snow is a real possibility if you’re on the South Island. Check out the Weather section below and read our winter driving tips.
  • Beware of rail crossings – only half of the 1500 crossings in New Zealand have automatic alarms. Flashing red lights means a train is approaching, so stop and only proceed once the lights have stopped flashing. Other crossings have a ‘Railway Crossing’ sign and give way (equivalent to our yield) or stop signs only. If you see this, stop, look both ways and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Public transport” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]You can get around New Zealand by bus and, less commonly, train and ferry. Bus is the cheapest and most readily available way to travel between cities, with the two main providers being Intercity and Naked Bus.

Rail travel is much less common, but there are three main lines operated by KiwiRail: Auckland to Wellington on North Island (Northern Explorer), Picton to Christchurch (Coastal Pacific), and Christchurch to the West Coast (the famously scenic TranzAlpine), both on South Island. However, they don’t intersect and services are infrequent.

Ferry is a fun way to travel between North and South Island (try InterIslander and Bluebridge) and a convenient way to reach some of the many islands off the coast.

Within the cities, Wellington is surprisingly better served than Auckland, but both have their own bus, rail and ferry networks – Metlink for Wellington and AT for Auckland. Christchurch is also served by buses and ferries – Metro.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Domestic flights” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

Flying is a popular and convenient way to get around the country. There are 25 airports that have regular scheduled domestic flights (16 on North Island, 9 on South Island), and no flight is longer than two hours – the Auckland to Wellington services takes just one. There’s more information on flying around New Zealand here.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WEATHER” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22141″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

The Kiwi winter generally runs from June to October, though around Auckland, cold days are actually quite rare. It’s a different story on South Island, where alpine regions often experience significant frosts and heavy snowfall and skiing is possible – especially in the Canterbury, central Otago and Southland regions. Your itinerary will have a large bearing on the weather you encounter, but definitely bring some wet weather clothes at the very least as rainfall is high all year round.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”AUCKLAND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22142″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

If you’re heading to New Zealand, chances are you will be spending a fair bit of time in its largest city, Auckland. Located on North Island, its 50,000 capacity Eden Park stadium is the home of the All Blacks and will host the first and third tests on 24th June and 8th July.

Fortunately, there is plenty to see and do in the so-called City Of Sails when you’re not cheering on the Lions. It’s extremely beautiful, squeezed in between two stunning natural harbours and blessed with a balmy, sub-tropical climate which means it never gets too chilly – even in winter. It’s also vibrant and cosmopolitan, with a population of more than a million people and a strong Maori and Polynesian character.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”TOP THREE THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Sky Tower” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

Standing 328m tall, the Sky Tower dominates Auckland’s skyline and is the perfect vantage point from which to take in some amazing 360 degree views. At the base of the tower, there are restaurants, a casino and a theatre. There are more restaurants near the top, as well as a viewing platform. And if you’re a real adrenaline junkie you can even walk around the edge or throw yourself off – harnesses provided!

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Auckland is every inch a maritime city, with Waitemata Harbour to the north and Manukau Harbour to the south. So whether you fancy taking in the city skyline from the water or exploring some of the many small islands, there are boat trips and cruises to suit all budgets. Auckland’s tourism site has a range of options.

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Take a 40-minute ferry east of the city and you’ll arrive at Waiheke Island – a dream for wine lovers. The beautifully green island has a number of wineries and vineyards that offer guided tours and food along with the obligatory wine-tasting. There’s more to it than just vino though – a mixture of farmland, beaches, forest and seaside villages; outdoor activities such as horse riding, ziplining and clay pigeon shooting; and a thriving arts scene mean you may want to spend longer than a day there.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”WELLINGTON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22143″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Image used under CC0 licence.

Located at the south-western tip of North Island, New Zealand’s capital is known as Windy Wellington, but don’t let that put you off – it was recently named the world’s most liveable city. That should make for a pleasant stay if you happen to be in town to watch the Lions take on Super Rugby side Hurricanes on 27th June or the All Blacks in the Second Test on July 1st.

Wellington is the second largest city in the country, but with a population of around 400,000 it’s less than one-third the size of Auckland, which makes it compact and practical for a short stay. It’s a picturesque place, surrounded by a large natural harbour on one side and hills on the other three, and as it’s known as the country’s gastronomic and cultural capital, there’s plenty to do.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”TOP THREE THINGS TO DO IN WELLINGTON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Food and drink” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]With more cafés and restaurants per capita than New York City, it’s no surprise that Wellington is New Zealand’s culinary capital. Fans of Asian flavours will be impressed by what’s on offer – Indian and Malaysian cuisine is especially popular here – while you will have no trouble finding good quality seafood, thanks to the city’s seaside location. In fact, good old fish and chips is incredibly popular in Wellington – perfect if you are on a budget and fancy something familiar. The city also has a buzzing café scene, with a wide variety of cool coffee shops offering quality coffee, snacks, brunches and light meals. Vegetarians and vegans are very well catered for too.

After dark, check out the city’s vibrant nightlife. Wellington was an early convert to the craft beer revolution and as a result there are plenty of cool little bars to explore, each serving a variety of local brews that you won’t find at home.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Lord Of The Rings” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]

When director Peter Jackson needed to find the right locations for his depiction of Middle Earth, he didn’t have to look far – the areas around his home city of Wellington fitted the bill perfectly. As a result, the city has become a mecca for fans of the Lord Of The Rings films. A number of tour companies are now well-established, offering trips to see filming locations near the city such as Kaitoke Regional Park (Rivendell) and the Hutt Valley (Great River Anduin), as well as Weta Studios.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Take a cable car to Kelburn” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]You can of course explore the hills around Wellington on foot, but there’s no easier way to do it than with the Wellington Cable Car. This funicular railway (‘cable car’ is actually a misnomer) whisks you from Lambton Quay in the city centre, past Victoria University and up to the hillside neighbourhood of Kelburn, offering magnificent views over the city and Wellington Harbour.

Once you arrive you can find out more at the Cable Car Museum, check out the astronomy museum Space Place and explore the beautiful Wellington Botanic Garden – all within walking distance of the cable car terminus.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

You can get cover up to 60 consecutive days away with AA Travel Insurance, giving you peace of mind on your Lions adventure. Click here to find out more!

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Categories
New Zealand

Adventuring In New Zealand

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Nicole Gernon on Twitter: @nicole_gernon

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If you’re planning on going further afield for your holidays this year, New Zealand is a great option. Relatively compact, you can fit both the North and South Islands into two or three weeks. AA Roadwatch’s Nicole Gernon has travelled the length and breadth of the country sampling every activity and has all the information you need to make the most of your trip.

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There are a plethora of airlines offering reasonable flights to New Zealand, usually stopping in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. It’s worth checking with a long-haul travel agent to see if they can get you a better deal with a few days in another location thrown in.

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Coach Tours

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The trouble with New Zealand is that you’ll want to see and do everything. Tours allow you to fit a lot in, take the stress out of planning and enable you to meet people – great if you’re travelling solo. The two main companies are Kiwi Experience and Stray; we went with Kiwi Experience and I would highly recommend them.

The coaches stop at lots of different points so you can explore forests and beaches that you may not necessarily visit if you were driving. The drivers will tell you what activities you can do in each place, but be warned, sometimes you can be tempted to do more activities than you’ve planned. Having said that, there is not one activity that I regret doing!

Even though I loved the coach tour, you can always drive or take the inter-city coaches:[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_accordion collapsible=”yes” style=”accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Driving”][vc_column_text]

Driving is really easy, the roads are great and signage is clear. Hiring a car or campervan is relatively simple or you should be able to pick up a cheap and reliable second-hand one.

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You can buy basic bus-passes to get you from A to B but it wouldn’t be my mode of choice as the coaches can be slow and uncomfortable.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”20478″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”Accommodation” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Accommodation can be quite expensive in New Zealand. While hostels are generally clean, they’re not that cheap and aren’t really up to the same standard as other countries – it’s rare to get a free breakfast. This is a slight downside to doing one of the bus tours – you’ll feel as if you want to stay at the pre-booked hostels because that’s what everyone’s doing. These are about $30/night.

Hotels are also fairly pricey, especially during high season or if there’s an event on, so make sure you book well in advance to get the best deals. Airbnb is a good option, especially for couples. Of course, a campervan can solve your accommodation dilemma.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”Highlights by Area” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world. Here are my top picks for each area, in the order that you’re likely to encounter them.

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Auckland: Modern, commercial city, pleasant but lacking any major attractions. Head to the waterfront for drinks and brunch.

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Go to the top for a great view of the city. You could also jump off it if you want – we decided to wait and swing across a canyon instead in Queenstown.

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Try to catch a rugby match in the home of the All Blacks or at least somewhere in the country, to see how the southern hemisphere does things.

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Bay of Islands:  Northernmost point of the country, beautiful scenery with hundreds of islands. We did our skydive here which was breathtaking – you get a fantastic view of the islands and the beaches. We also did a cruise around the islands and swam with dolphins – one of the best experiences of my life. If you don’t make it to Bay of Islands, don’t worry, there are lots of other place where you can skydive – including Lake Taupo and Franz Josef – while Kaikoura is a good spot for swimming with dolphins.

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Hot Water Beach: Where else can you make your own hot pool? Dig a hole, it fills up with water from underground streams and you have your own personal hot tub! Nearby, check out Cathedral Cove, home to impressive rock formations and the location for Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” video.

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Rotorua hot springs and geysers: The town park is covered in smelly geysers of all shapes, sizes and strengths.

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Learn about Maori culture and see kiwi birds and other wildlife. They’ll cook some eggs for you on a geyser and Pohutu – the equivalent of Old Faithful – erupts like clockwork.

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Hobbiton: The home of Bilbo and Frodo is not just for Lord of the Rings fans. It’s quite expensive though – as soon as the Kiwis put LOTR in front of anything, it’s fair game for them to charge you an arm and a leg for it – and they will literally put LOTR in front of anything!

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Waitomo Glow Worm Caves: One of the best places in the world to see glow worms. There are so many options, but I recommend the Black Water Rafting version – the Black Labyrinth – because you go tubing in a rubber ring down a “waterfall” into a cave and float along looking at the glow worms emitting their lights; it’s spectacular and really different.

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Lake Taupo and Tongariro Pass: The setting for Mordor and Mount Doom and home to the emerald lakes. It’s a fairly gruelling trek though, especially in the winter when we did it – our photos of the emerald lakes are just a load of mist! Give yourself plenty of time and bring loads of food. It’s a great sense of achievement.

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Wellington: The capital is the coolest and windiest city in the country; make sure you check out the enormous Te Papa Museum of New Zealand.

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Fascinating nature reserve where they’re trying to emulate New Zealand’s habitat before foreign species were introduced.

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Another must for LOTR fans, it’s where they create the CGI for the films.

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Abel Tasman National Park: We sea kayaked up to a secluded beach and saw loads of seals on the way, if you’re lucky some may come up to you. Stay overnight in a basic cabin with no electricity and minimal facilities – you’ll feel like you’re on a real adventure! The next day, trek back through the national park’s stunning beaches, mangroves and rainforest.

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Franz Josef Glacier: Take a helicopter up to the Glacier and go on a guided trek through crevasses and caves for an hour. Afterwards you can soothe those aching muscles in the town’s hot springs.

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Queenstown: Everyone falls in love with Queenstown because it’s so picturesque and it’s where you can really get your adrenaline pumping!

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We did a canyon swing in the Shotover Canyon which allows you to choose from hundreds of different ways to throw yourself off a ledge and swing across the canyon, or you can invent a new way. Some say it’s better than a bungee jump.

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If you do want to do a bungee jump, there are lots of opportunities, but the Nevis on the way into Queenstown seems like the best spot. You can do lots of different lengths, including one that dips you into the water!

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Come within inches of the canyon walls on a high-speed craft.

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The Remarkables overlook Queenstown and really live up to their name. Skiing here is quite good and surprisingly cheap.

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Queenstown is also the best place to party in New Zealand. Start in Pig and Whistle, then move on to Searle Lane, Bar UP, and probably our favourite – Cowboys, where beers are served in giant pitchers, you can do a bucking Broncho, games and challenges – touristy but great fun!

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Queenstown is home to the world famous Fergburger – no one does a burger like the Kiwis.

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  • Make sure you sort out travel insurance that covers you for all the activities you’ll want to do.
  • Some beer can be expensive but if you stick to the local brew like Waikato it’ll be cheaper, or get pitchers if you’re in a bar.
  • Bring a decent camera/Go Pro. Some activity companies don’t want you using your own but others don’t mind.
  • WIFI in New Zealand is notoriously awful, be prepared to have limited access or to pay for it everywhere.
  • Don’t be fooled by the lack of heat, bring bug spray because the sandflies are a nightmare!

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