Everything’s close in New Zealand, from dramatic natural landscapes to vibrant cities

Slow Travel in New Zealand

By —— Bio and Archives--May 2, 2016

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To really get to know New Zealand, you have to do less and take in more… New Zealand is the indisputable thrill-seeking capital of the world. And if you want a rush, there’s no place better on the planet. But if you want to get off the bus, smell the native flowers and eat kai (food) fresh from the river or bush, you will be the richer for it.

Spring, summer and autumn (between October and April) are the best times to undertake the listed activities. Some activities are closed during the colder months.


Slow travel in New Zealand starts four hours south of Auckland in a deep and tranquil pool where the sun shines a spotlight on the surrounding bush. Fly-fishing may be the ultimate slow sport and there is no better place for mindfulness than standing in the Tongariro River, stalking a thumping great trout. Equally, there is no better way to get to know Kiwis than sitting in a bar with a cold beer and talking tackle with local anglers. The historic town of Turangi is the trout-fishing capital of the world. Across the road from the river is Lake Taupo, where fat rainbow trout are in abundance.

Lake Taupo

On the South Island, Lochy River, near Queenstown, offers fishers a different kind of adrenaline hit. There are only two ways into the river – by helicopter or boat across Lake Wakatipu. Notoriously skittish wild brown trout and rainbow trout shelter behind rocks in the clear waters that run through the folds of the Eyre Mountains. A local guide is essential.


The antidote to fast living is slow food. And travellers who sign up for the Kai Waho Experience – translated as “outdoor cuisine” – will see first-hand the bounties of the bush and stream – slowly steamed, seared and served beneath a star-crusted sky. Tom Loughlin, of the Tuwharetoa iwi (tribe), takes visitors on authentic cultural experiences focusing on food, culture and tikanga (customs) of the sub-alpine wilderness. Food includes a picnic in the woods and a banquet cooked on volcanic rocks. This is truly in the backblocks of New Zealand. Access is by helicopter or four-wheel drive across rugged tracks.

Kai Waho


Equally secluded is Blue Duck Station, a remote eco-resort surrounded by the ancient forests of the Whanganui National Park in the Central Plateau’s Ruapehu District. Run by passionate local farmer, conservationist and historian, Dan Steele and his wife, Sandy, the Station is half working farm, half conservation park, with a well-appointed lodge that sleeps up to eight, and they also offer backpacker accommodation. Guests can immerse themselves in the everyday life of the farm with a bush safari that includes a gentle kayak down to where the blue ducks roost. There are also hiking trails out to sights such as the Kaiwhakauka waterfall and you can kayak down the meandering river with a jet-boat pick up for the return journey.
Blue Duck Station

The Ultimate Slow Train

New Zealanders have a strong entrepreneurial streak, so it’s not surprising to discover that some bright spark took a disused railway line and a bunch of golf carts and built a thriving business. Forgotten World Adventures is the ultimate slow train, running from Okahukura in the Central Plateau, to Whangamomona, a place that should have fallen off the map, but hasn’t. The town (population: 40), which declared itself a republic 25 years ago, can be accessed by road, but it’s much more fun to take the golf cart. The carts have been adapted to run on rails and are self-driven. There are sheep, alpacas and wild berries along the way and you can stop at any time during the eight-hour journey. At the end of the 83-kilometre line is the Whangamomona Hotel, which claims to be the most remote pub in New Zealand.

River Dories

The Whanganui River is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful waterways. Rich in history, it was heavily trafficked in pre-European times and offers an off-road glimpse of sites where early Maori settled. Most river travellers paddle their own canoes, but those less fit can now enjoy a more languid trip with extra legroom. River dories are wooden boats with an upswept bow and stern and a flat bottom, similar to old Portuguese fishing boats. Trips last from three to five days, starting from Taumarunui, Ohinepani or Whakahoro and finishing at Pipiriki.

Whanganui River


The best way to see a country slowly, of course, is on Shanks’ Pony a.k.a. your own two legs. New Zealand is a walking person’s happy place. There are long walks, short walks, steep walks and deep walks.

The Great Walks of the South Island are legendary, but some are strictly for the fit. Hollyford Track, in the heart of the Fiordland National Park, is slightly less strenuous, but just as grand as its more famous sisters – Heaphy, Milford and Routeburn. The scenery is native beech forest, full of ferny undergrowth, where there are streams to ford and birds to spot – with spectacular waterfalls. The hardy carry their own gear and stay at Department of Conservation huts. For those who want the wonder of the walk, plus wine at the end of the day, local tribe Ngai Tahu run glamping tours, with gorgeous lodges.

Hollyford Track Lower Hollyford Valley

While bush walks are beautiful, so are walks across New Zealand hill-country farms, staying in shearers’ sheds or farmworkers’ cottages. The country is crisscrossed with farmland walks that cover tussock, coastal cliffs and sheep and cattle stations. They are a great way to explore privately-owned parts of the country and to taste home-cooked scones, lamb on the barbecue and local wines. Tora Coastal Walk in the southern Wairarapa is an award-winning, three-day walk across ridge tops and beaches.

Tora Coastal Walk

Everything’s close in New Zealand, from dramatic natural landscapes to vibrant cities. You set the pace – from outdoor adventures, to cultural connections, or pure relaxation. And it’s safe, friendly and easy to get around.

Air New Zealand has direct non-stop flights from Vancouver to Auckland and offers flights from many other North American cities. Amazing new experiences are just one flight away.

For more information on New Zealand or to create your unique adventure, please visit: www.NewZealand.com and check out the “Wishlist” handy vacation planner.

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For more information on New Zealand, please visit: NewZealand.com. The site offers interactive planning tools, special travel deals, operator listings and information on New Zealand.

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