Holidays Travel

Travel with Rory King: From bungee jumps to The Lord of the Rings, New Zealand is a unique destination where Irish travellers are made to feel at home

It's a long way from Ireland to New Zealand but it's well worth the journey, says Rory King

Roy's Peak, Wanaka where the view looks out over the Diamond Lake conservation area of Mount Aspiring National Park
Roy's Peak, Wanaka where the view looks out over the Diamond Lake conservation area of Mount Aspiring National Park Roy's Peak, Wanaka where the view looks out over the Diamond Lake conservation area of Mount Aspiring National Park

There's a undeniable connection between between Ireland and New Zealand and it's fairly obvious why so many of us travel – sometimes to emigrate – there each year.

New Zealand hospitality is incredibly similar to our own céad mile fáilte and that combined with its natural beauty, diverse culture, outdoor adventure and arguably somewhat better weather than our own makes it the ideal destination to visit when you're looking to go further afield but still have a taste of home with its large ex-pat community.

Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand and Kiwis take it very seriously...
Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand and Kiwis take it very seriously... Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand and Kiwis take it very seriously...

Having lived in New Zealand for a year, I had the advantage of time to explore both islands and all the country has to offer. I was also lucky enough to recently travel back there for a short visit to try and soak up more that the county has to offer.

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I was able to jam-pack my two weeks with a mixture of catching up with old friends, making new ones, learning all about the North Island through the Kiwi Experience and a roadtrip along the coast.

There is an abundance of spectacular views everywhere you go in New Zealand
There is an abundance of spectacular views everywhere you go in New Zealand There is an abundance of spectacular views everywhere you go in New Zealand

New Zealand truly has something for everyone whether you're an adrenaline junkie, a culture vulture, or looking for somewhere to unwind and relax in nature. There is an impressive variety of different activities to get your heart racing, which makes even more sense when you discover that New Zealand is the home of bungee jumping, with some spectacular landscapes and locations from which to take a jump. If that's not for you, you can always try white water rafting through the Shotover River, hike the Milford Track and ski and snowboard in the winter months.

Who lives in a house like this...?
Who lives in a house like this...? Who lives in a house like this...?

While many people have an idea about the Maori culture in New Zealand through watching the All Blacks perform their famous haka before every rugby match, there's numerous opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture and history of the Maori people through the various museums, cultural sites and festivals.

The culture itself is deeply rooted in nature and the land and it's an incredible experience to take part in a Maori guided nature walk, especially given how beautiful the landscape in New Zealand is. You will definitely come away with a new appreciate for nature and knowledge on Maori culture and traditions.

Exploring Maori culture is an essential part of any visit to New Zealand
Exploring Maori culture is an essential part of any visit to New Zealand Exploring Maori culture is an essential part of any visit to New Zealand

Anyone with an interest in The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit will easily be able to identify the numerous spots around New Zealand that film director Peter Jackson used when making his films of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic books.

You can get lost in Hobbiton Village on the North Island and take a guided tour around the reconstructed set or recreate Frodo and Sam's journey to destroy The One Ring by hiking The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand and Kiwis take it very seriously...
Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand and Kiwis take it very seriously... Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand and Kiwis take it very seriously...

But this is just a handful of reasons to get New Zealand on your travel bucket list. There's so much more that makes New Zealand an ideal travel destination with something for absolutely every type of traveller.

I know from personal experience that visiting once just makes you want to go back and explore even more and experience everything it has to offer.

The peaks of the Darran Mountains reflecting in Lake Marian at Fiordland national park in New Zealand's South Island
The peaks of the Darran Mountains reflecting in Lake Marian at Fiordland national park in New Zealand's South Island The peaks of the Darran Mountains reflecting in Lake Marian at Fiordland national park in New Zealand's South Island