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Quirky and off the beaten path: Unique travel spots in New Zealand

Stephen Clarke

Thu Oct 22 2015


NEW Zealand is a consistently popular location for international students to visit during semester break, and for good reason too. When you’re not marvelling over the natural wonders it has to offer, check out some of these quirky sights compiled by Stephen Clarke. 


Ah, New Zealand. Our lovely cousin from across the ditch certainly has a lot to offer (most notably an absence of deadly snakes and spiders hovering somewhere around the top of the list).

It’s no secret that New Zealand (or Middle-earth if you’d rather) contains a trove of world-class scenery packed into two small islands. Soaring snow capped mountains, cascading glaciers, geothermal lakes, tangled rainforests that bring to mind scenes from Jurassic Park and all sorts of other-worldly attractions have put New Zealand on the map as a top tourist destination.

With a population of less than five million – shared with its 70 million sheep – New Zealand isn’t exactly crowded. However, with tourism numbers topping three million this year, it’s always good to check out the lesser-known sights so your entire trip isn’t spent bumbling along behind a crowd of other tourists.

With that in mind, here’s a compiled list detailing some of New Zealand’s quirkier places to visit in between the stunning natural features that dot the landscape.

Te Paki Sand Dunes

“New Zealand has sand dunes?”

People are always surprised by this fact, but these sand dunes actually occupy about 1,100 kilometres of the New Zealand coastline!

Located at the very northern tip of the North Island, the Te Paki Sand Dunes offer visitors an exhilarating opportunity to try out sand boarding. These epic sand dunes rise 140 metres above the ocean below and you can hire boards from local companies to zoom down these beautiful, wind-sculpted giants.

Investing in a Go-Pro before a New Zealand trip is probably a good idea too!

The world’s steepest street

Continuing the theme of vertical New Zealand attractions, Dunedin’s Baldwin St lays claim to the prestigious honour of being the world’s steepest street.

Like many parts of New Zealand, the street plans were designed by planners in London who modeled the design off of Edinburgh’s New Town. Of course, this didn’t work out quite as well, as Dunedin didn’t exactly lie on topographic flats like the planners perhaps envisioned.

New Zealanders know how to make the best of a steep street though.

Every year locals gather for the top Dunedin sporting event of the year — the Jaffa race. The Jaffa, a small, round orange candy, has been a crucial element of Australian and New Zealand lolly bags since the 1930s, and every year since 2002 up to 30,000 of these are rolled down the world’s steepest street.

So if you happen to be in New Zealand in July, don’t forget to place a bet on one – every single one of them is numbered and the proceeds go to charity.

Big Things

Photo: Robin Capper via Flickr

Like a drawing come to life, the Horizons sculpture is one of the many attractions of New Zealand. Photo: Robin Capper via Flickr

If you’ve ventured outside of Melbourne, you probably know by now that Australia has a strange fascination with building large objects and plonking them outside of towns. It’s almost impossible to go on a road trip without coming across a giant prawn or a big banana. There’s even a big potato in Tasmania that has surely given more than a few children recurring, potato-themed nightmares. 

Turns out, New Zealand has also caught the ‘big things’ craze. The most eye-boggling one is Horizons, a sculpture created by Neil Dawson that looks almost like someone has taken a giant pen and drawn a cartoon into the sky.

This crazy sculpture can be found out at Kumeu, just outside of Auckland on the North Island. If that doesn’t satisfy your craving for big things, there’s also a giant donut, a giant kiwifruit, a big sheep shearer and a big sand fly, which rivals our big potato for nightmare fuel.

Electrum – the world’s largest tesla coil

A tesla coil. Image: Marco Grunewald via Wikimedia

An example of a tesla coil… now imagine that as a four story building! | Image: Marco Grunewald via Wikimedia

The very definition of ‘mad science’, the tesla coil is undoubtedly one of the more spectacular looking displays of raw electrical power. New Zealand’s tesla coil is the world’s largest, standing as tall as a four story building and capable of producing three million volts in 15 metre arcs!

Electrum is located on the same farm as the Horizons sculpture, commissioned by art patron Alan Gibbs and created by the artist and sculptor Eric Orr and electrical engineer Greg Leyh.

The Gibbs Farm actually has a whole assortment of beautiful and strange sculptures embedded in the picturesque farming landscape outside Auckland and bordering Kaipara Harbour, the second largest harbour in the southern hemisphere. Visitors need to book ahead, so don’t forget to fill in a booking form.