By Experience Oz

Things you can do in New Zealand but not Australia

New Zealand and Australia may be similar in terms of their people, but they both offer some different experiences; here are 7 you can do in NZ but not back in Oz!

7. Dig your own Spa bath

Adam Bryce via Tourism New Zealand

Gaining access to your very own heated spa doesn't have to cost a few thousand dollars and a high electricity bill in the Land of the Long White Cloud; if you're looking for some warm-water relaxation in New Zealand, simply make the trip to the coromandel region's aptly-named Hot Water Beach, and take advantage of NZ's geothermal leanings for a dose of bathing accompanied by some great scenery.

Powered by underground hot springs that filter their way up through the sand, all one needs to do is grab a shovel (available for hire nearby - how convenient!), put in a bit of elbow grease, then enjoy the contrast of sitting in warm water just a few metres from the rolling ocean.

It's a perfect way to warm the chilly bones during the cooler months, or steam up during the hot season, with the best time to visit Hot Water Beach within two hours either side of low tide. Of course, New Zealand's geothermal offerings can be found in a wide array of other parts of the country as well - particularly rotorua, taupo and various others - in which you can see far more dramatic effects of the bubbling countryside at its best.

6. Ride a Human-Powered Monorail

Agroventures Rotorua

Is New Zealand... living in the future? You'd be forgiven for thinking so, as this ultra-futuristic (and entirely environmentally-friendly) form of transport that was once publicly endorsed by Google is quite unlike any other in the world, let alone just Australia. Based at the Agroventures complex in Rotorua, aspiring passengers enter their own aerodynamic "pod" suspended several metres off the ground, then use the power of their own body to be propelled around the track.

'Shweeb', which comes from the German word 'to hang', is the name of this unique and unusual device that allows visitors to race their friends and family around a track that lies amidst some characteristically scenic Rotorua farmland, and - depending your efforts - allows the potential to reach speeds of up to 45km/h

There's even a prize of $1,000 up for grabs should you happen to break the current world record around the track, so those with deep lungs and defined calf muscles just may find themselves a fair bit richer afterwards. Regardless of whether or not the Shweeb becomes the "next big thing" in public transportation, it's another true "NZ Original" experience that you'll be able to tell your (slightly confused?) friends all about.

5. Go Jet Boating on a River

When it comes to combining water with a couple of high-speed, turbo-injected motors, New Zealand is hard to beat. Another home-grown New Zealand experience, jet boating was originally conceived by NZ farmer William Hamilton back in the 1950's as a means to navigate his way through shallow rivers; little did Bill know he would be responsible for inventing one of the most popular adventure experiences in the world.

Thanks to Bill's foresight, daring visitors to New Zealand can now participate in a number of river-based jet boating experiences throughout the country, as opposed to heading out on the open ocean as is done on the opposite side of "the ditch". There are multiple quality jet boating adventures to choose from throughout NZ, each with their own distinct scenery, surroundings, and - of course - waterway.

Perhaps one of the most famous is Queenstown's Shotover Jet, with its proximity to the famed resort town making it an obvious choice for the many visitors to the area. Cutting its way through sheer canyon walls and reaching speeds of up to 80km/h, it's become one of Queenstown's signature musts. Up on the North Island, meanwhile, the Taupo region's Huka Falls make for one of the most dramatic locations for a jet boat, as the falls' massively gushing display of force can pump out over 220,000 litres of water per minute (that's a LOT of water).

Add in the potential for jet boat rides on the Dart, Kawarau and Waikato Rivers, and a veritable smorgasbord of watery fun awaits.

4. Try a Hangi meal

Feeling peckish? If you're wanting to try one of the most traditional New Zealand cuisines, there's no microwave needed here. The Hangi is the traditional Maori way of cooking food and produces a surprisingly tantalising mixture of scents and flavours - as well as the ability to cook a large quantity of food in a single go.

A Hangi involves stacking a range of raw ingredients - traditionally the likes of chicken, fish and root vegetables, but nowadays expanded to include lamb, potato, pumpkin and various stuffings - in baskets and placing them on stones in a dug out section of the ground. The rocks are heated for steaming, then it's all covered and cooked over the course of several hours - before being dug out, uncovered, and ready for all to enjoy.

Those looking for a chance to try this unique dining experience in its purest form are advised to direct their eyes to the North Island, as it's more renowned for sticking to tradition due to a stronger Maori influence than its Southern brother. The Likes of Mitai and Tamaki Maori Villages, as well as the Te Puia geothermal attraction, in the Rotorua region, are perhaps the most accessible locations for sampling a Hangi, while the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands also offer combined Hangi-and-culture experiences.

3. Swim with the World's Cutest Dolphins

Sure, you may be able to swim with dolphins back home in Australia, but doing so alongside the world's cutest and rarest species of dolphins is a whole new adventure. Often said to be a truly life-changing experience, New Zealand's answer to an epic dolphin swim alongside these highly inquisitive cuties can be done in the waters of Akaroa Harbour, which lies around 1.5 hours' drive from Christchurch.

The bay's sheltered waters serve as an ideal refuge for the Hector's Dolphins that can be found here in great numbers. with visitors able to join local operator Black Cat Cruises for what's widely regarded as one of New Zealand's premier wildlife encounters. Participants don wetsuits for both warmth and floatation, as well as a snorkel and goggles, and can enter the waters alongside these playful creatures.

It's an entirely uncontrolled environment - which means it's entirely up to the dolphins themselves as to how social they feel like being on any given day - and is all conducted with an eye towards eco-friendliness and respect for the dolphins' whims. Passenger numbers are also intentionally limited, which both helps the dolphins and makes for a more intimate and personal overall experience.

Add in the impressive volcanic scenery and surrounds of Akaroa itself, and you've got a wonderful backdrop for a highly memorable encounter.

2. Jump off a Viewing Tower

New Zealand's most iconic building isn't just pretty to look at (and out from); it also serves as a hub for one of the most extreme thrills the country has to offer for those with the intestinal fortitude to do so. If you've ever seen a postcard of Auckland, you've no doubt noticed the impressive Sky Tower that dominates the city's skyline; clocking in at 328 metres high, it's NZ's tallest man-made structure and provides outstanding 360° views that extend around 80km in every direction.

The view is all well and good, however, it's the ability to not only climb the tower - but take the plunge directly off its side that has the potential to truly get the juices flowing. The Auckland SkyJump isn't quite as high as the building itself, yet a robust 192m above sea level and directly over the city's skyline is more than enough to get even the most steely of stomachs churning. It's only appropriate that New Zealand takes its bungy-influenced culture and attaches it to the side of an enormous building, after all.

Participants don a special yellow-and-blue SkyJump suit and - after a heavy dose of safety checks - are harnessed and secured to a cord before the countdown begins, and soon enough the rush of freefall as the street rushes toward you kicks in. Reaching speeds of 85km/h, it's all over in a few seconds as you're safely lowered to the platform below. Bucket List items in New Zealand don't get much more "bucket-listy" than this.

1. See a Kiwi bird

New Zealand, much like Australia, has its own array of unique fauna and wildlife that can't be encountered anywhere else - and if the Koala takes Oz's title of "most iconic cute animal", then NZ's is almost assuredly the Kiwi bird. Round, flightless and undeniably cuddly-looking, these long-beaked avian creatures have long been a symbol of New Zealand as a whole, and the main reason for their citizen's widely-known nickname.

There are a number of features about the various species of Kiwi that make it stand out, from its body shape to its thin, hair-like feathers, to its unusually long whiskers and nostrils at the end of its beak. They're also unfortunately currently endangered, and as a result seeing them in the wild can only be done if you're lucky in a few select locations throughout New Zealand. Those who feel they must see a Kiwi in its natural habitat can join a number of dedicated spotting tours at the likes of Northland, Kapiti Island and Stewart Island, although their nocturnal nature makes things even more of a challenge.

Fortunately for travellers, there are a number of attractions set up to offer glimpses of the famed birds in a controlled enclosure; many of the country's prominent zoos and wildlife parks such as Auckland Zoo (Auckland), Orana Wildlife Park (Christchurch), Kiwi Birdlife Park (Queenstown), Puhaka Mt. Bruce National Wildlife Centre (Wairarapa), West Coast Wildlife Centre (West Coast) and Wellington Zoo (Wellington) all have Kiwis in captivity.

Striking perhaps the best balance between the two environments, however, is Wellington's Zealandia - a massive wildlife habitat that offers night tours to see kiwis roaming about. It's well worth it, as few creatures will have you saying "Aww..." as quickly as NZ's little bundle of feathery goodness.

Looking for all the top things to do in New Zealand including tours, activities, attractions and more? View our range of experiences at Experience Oz + NZ.

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We acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Custodians of Country and their connections and continuous care for the skies, lands and waterways throughout Australia.