Guest writer Ena Hutchinson from MoaTrek shares her top 10 tips on how to get the most out of your travels by getting off the beaten track in New Zealand. A baby boomer herself, Ena has been designing and curating tours for baby boomers for over 30 years that are beyond the typical tourist trail.
When you get off the beaten track you really get to see and experience the heart of the land, the culture and its people. Today everyone is seeking unique experiences and connections that make these travel moments unforgettable.
Below are Ena’s Top 10 Tips for Getting Off the Beaten Track in New Zealand:
1. Get off the tourist trail
Search out those special places such as the natural hot pools around Rotorua. Pretty much only the locals knew about the hot pools at Lake Rotoiti when I was a kid. Called Manupirua, they’re right on the lakefront and you can only get there by water. They’ve still got that “away from it all” feeling today. You can relax in the hot pools then zip down the slide into the lake to cool off.
2. Get to know the locals
No matter how great a place is, it’s the people that really make it special. So for me, genuinely connecting with the locals is the best part of travelling. Kiwis love chatting with visitors and these chance conversations will give you a feel for our way of life. There’s an extra dimension to driving through the countryside when you can meet the people that actually live there and get an idea of what goes on beyond the farm gate. You’ll find country homes and farms offer home hosted accommodation and others provide a farm tour and lunch.
3. Go with a local company
You can’t beat having Kiwis show you around their neck of the woods. Discovering all the hidden secrets and interesting stories that only a local character can impart. It’s the best way to connect with the people, learn about our Maori culture and history and get to know the place. Whenever I travel, I always go local.
4. Consider a small group tour
When I’m on holiday, I want to feel like I’m on holiday. And that means I don’t want to feel too restricted, I want to be free! You want to forget all about the routines of the daily grind. The beauty of small group tours is the freedom to stop when you want and briefly detour from the itinerary when something sparks your interest. It’s like being organised and flexible at the same time. Perfect! And with small groups, you really get to know your driver and your fellow travellers will feel like old friends in no time.
5: Customise your tour
There’s nothing like doing something you love in a totally new environment. Love wine? Well, tailor your tour to visit some of the best wine regions the world has to offer. Love a good hike? Then customise your tour to go on a few extra trails. Love hiking and wine? No problem – do both! Isn’t doing what you love what life’s all about? Wine and walks, sounds good to me – just maybe not in that order.
6. See more on foot
Breathing in the air and going for a good old-fashioned walk is the best way to take in a place and really feel it. I try to be aware of all my senses and clear my mind as I walk. That might all sound a bit airy-fairy, but it might just be that acutely observed native bird that hopped about while you were taking a head-clearing walk that sticks with you for years to come.
7. Try the local produce
You don’t go halfway around the world to eat the same food you eat at home. And New Zealand is home to a wide range of unique culinary opportunities.
A must-do experience while travelling the Haast Highway on the West Coast is to try what we New Zealanders refer to as “West Coast White Gold”. This is whitebait, “inanga” in Maori, caught fresh in a net that morning and cooked up in front of you as delicious fritters. It really is a kiwi delicacy!
8. Choose small places to stay
It’s a good trick to choose places to stay where there’s only limited accommodation. That way you can enjoy the peace and quiet plus the beauty. If you’re visiting the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks on the West Coast consider staying nearby. Punakaiki is tiny and you’ll almost have the place to yourselves in the evening.
9. Take your time – New Zealand isn’t as small as it looks
On the map, we’re just a couple of small islands at the bottom of the South Pacific but we’re bigger than you think. Our scenery changes at almost every corner so you’ll always be stopping for photos and our roads are hilly and winding. You really need three weeks here to enjoy the North Island as well as the South and take the time to discover the Maori culture of Rotorua and Northland.
10. And finally – travel light
Travel light as you probably won’t wear about half of what you bring. Plus, Kiwis are pretty casual dressers so you won’t need your Sunday best over here. However, you may need to dress in layers at times as temperatures can change at the drop of a hat. We’re known for our four seasons in one day! The good news is that your accommodation will have laundry facilities and an iron. You’ll probably have to put time into deciding what to pack rather than hurling everything in at the last moment but believe me it’s worth it. I recently did six weeks in Europe with just a carry-on!
Interested in getting off the beaten track in New Zealand on a small group tour?
About MoaTrek: MoaTrek is a kiwi-owned tour company offering small, intimate group tours to some of the most stunning locations in New Zealand. They strive to create an experience that feels just like you are exploring the Land of the Long White Cloud at a laid-back pace with your very best friends.
Learn more about the full range of bespoke New Zealand Group Tours at MoaTrek
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by MoaTrek. We are always selective about our sponsors, seeking out travel experiences that will appeal to discerning, over-50 travelers.