New Zealand: What to See, What to Skip

Hike Stewart Island, Skip the City

Stewart is the third largest of the islands that make up New Zealand, after the far more popular and well-known North and South Islands. But this is a must for outdoor enthusiasts, especially hikers, and a striking alternative to any big city stay. The native Maori people call this island "Rakiura," and the three-day trek along the Rakiura Track will open up a world of wild, unspoiled beauty; you can reserve huts for overnight pit stops along the way through the Department of Conservation. Only 400 people live on Stewart, most of them in Halfmoon Bay, which makes a memorable overnight visit, too. Stewart Island is less than 20 miles off the southern shores of South Island and it's accessible by ferry.

Spot the Kiwi, Skip the Binoculars Ulva Island is a birdwatcher's paradise, with birds often visible so close, you won't care that you left your binoculars behind. Nestled off Stewart Island on what's known as Paterson Inlet, and reachable by water taxi, Ulva is home to dozens of rare birds that live a sanctuary-like, predator-free existence. Among them is the flightless Kiwi, which is synonymous with New Zealand, and watching it in its natural habitat is a real treat. When you take any of the three main paths that allow you to explore this island, you'll witness a marvelous array of rare flora, too.

Visit a National Park, Skip the Beach

The shores of New Zealand – the country features more than 9,000 miles of coastline – are stunning. But make sure you head inland, where national parks cover close to 20,000 square miles and serve to protect New Zealand's gorgeous landscapes. North Island is home to a few, including Tongariro, which is home to several active volcanoes, and Whanganui, with wild forests and river routes worth rafting. On South Island, you'll find Abel Tasman, known to many adventurers for its golden beaches and rugged cliffs. Several of these national parks are home to what are known as New Zealand's Great Walks – there are nine of them throughout the country – which offer 3-, 4- or 5-day walks complete with endlessly stunning views.

Bike New Zealand, Skip the Hike

Yes, this is a hiker's Shangri-la. But not all of us can walk for days. So consider the fact New Zealand is especially cycle-friendly. It's easy to map lengthy bike treks, thanks to well-maintained roads, as is finding a shop that'll rent you the two-wheeler that's just right for you. If you like company, keep in mind there are several tour operators that lead multi-day bike tours and take care of everything from gear to hotel stays. Biking can be a great (safer?) way to enjoy New Zealand's burgeoning wine country, too.

Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo. New Zealand is one of Travelzoo's Top 5 WOW Deal Destinations for 2013. For airfare and vacation package bargains to New Zealand (and other hot spots in the South Pacific and Asia), also check out http://www.travelzoo.com/vacations/asia.

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