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Free New Zealand

I don’t mean free New Zealand from the chains of colonial oppression. We are a member of the Commonwealth, and that’s okay. I do mean that so many of the awesome things to experience in New Zealand are free.

From a young age I decided to see my own country before I left to go on an O.E. (overseas experience). So I traveled New Zealand numerous times, and in doing so I discovered that some of the best sights and occurrences were free to enjoy.

The following is just a sampling of what I enjoyed for free in the land of the long white cloud:

1. Maruia Falls. Ten minutes north of Springs Junction in north central South Island.
The falls can’t be seen from the road, but follow the Maruia River for a while and the falls are signposted. The falls themselves are quite spectacular, but what is amazing is their story. Prior to 1929 there were no falls. The Inangahua Earthquake in 1929 caused a huge landslide and uplift of the earth, creating the Maruia Falls virtually overnight. When you see them you’ll appreciate the enormity of that.

2. Hot Water Beach. About 10 miles south of Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula, East Coast North Island.
You arrive at a car park in the middle of nowhere; you remove a spade from the trunk of your car and proceed up the beach for 100 meters or so. Then depending on how hot you want your soak to be (hotter is further from the ocean and cooler is closer to the ocean) you dig a hole and it fills up with hot water.

3. Tarawera Falls. Easiest route is SH30 from Rotorua to Kawerau and then get permission and directions from the Visitors Information Center or the Forestry Headquarters Building at the entrance to the forest.

Named after Mount Tarawera, a huge volcano whose eruption in June of 1886 buried the Pink and White Terraces (one of the seven wonders of the world). This large, beautifully clear river comes from the lake and empties into the Bay of Plenty. I’ve caught some awesome trout from the Tarawera. An extraordinary thing occurs where the river disappears into a hole in the ground and re-emerges cascading from the middle of a gigantic rock face cliff.

4. Arrowtown pipeline. Near Queenstown, Arrowtown is a great place to visit winter or summer. I recommend it thoroughly. While there seek out the old gold mining pipe that ran the water for sluicing during the 1860s. From anywhere you can climb aboard and walk back into the hills. It can get a bit hair-raising as the pipe elevates above rivers and canyons, but it is a walk through history that conjures up the gold rush days of more than a century ago.

These are just a few of the thousands of free things you can experience on your New Zealand getaway. Soon you too can say, been there, done that.

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