Must-dos in New Zealand for the adventure seekers
Whether you're a thrill seeker or a nature-lover, New Zealand has something for you
Given a choice between a shopping trip overseas and an adventure-filled vacation, I would pick the latter in a heartbeat.
New Zealand, with its unbeatable scenery, has become one of my favourite destinations after my first time there in March, when I got weepy multiple times watching English singer Adele live in concert at Mount Smart Stadium.
There is no lack of thrilling activities to try, from skydiving to white-water rafting.
If you're lucky, you can even witness the Southern Lights and cross it off your bucket list.
On top of that, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is home to one of the darkest skies in the world, so stargazing there is an experience that you are not likely to forget.
Here are some things you should not miss in New Zealand.
Hobbiton Movie Set tour
Cost:$79 (adult), $39 (youth)
This is heaven on Middle-earth for fans of the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit film series.
Our two-hour tour took us from The Shire's Rest - the ticketing centre, souvenir store and cafe - to the sprawling green pasture you'd recognise as Hobbiton from the movies.
There are 44 hobbit holes, including the green-doored Bag End, home to Bilbo Baggins.
There are plenty of photo opportunities, even one in a hobbit hole open to visitors, and the assigned guide was ready to dish out fun facts and movie trivia.
Evennon-fans, will be able to feel the magic here.
Cost:Between $290 and $420 for skydiving only. Photo and video packages start from $180
I'm afraid of heights, so I think I must have been out of my mind when I thought leaping out of a plane from 12,000 feet (3,660m_ - and convincing a friend to come along - was a fantastic idea.
I'm not sure how I kept it together as I entered the plane with the tandem instructor I was paired with and other nervous thrill seekers.
My heart was pounding so hard I could hardly breathe.
My mind went into overdrive:
What if the parachute didn't open?
What if I wasn't securely fastened to the instructor?
What if I puked mid-air and was hit in the face by my own vomit?
The are no words to describe I felt when I saw the plane door open. Before I knew it, we were falling at terrifying speed and I was struggling to breathe.
It felt like an eternity before the parachute was activated and I calmed down enough to marvel at the breathtaking view.
I managed to keep my breakfast down during the fall.
I did, however, throw up four times after.
Pro tip: Skip breakfast.
Soak in a tub at Onsen Hot Pools
Cost: $150 (daytime pool) and $170 (evening pool) for a group of four
After all that action, a dip in a hot tub sounds like a dream.
Better yet, one perched on a cliff and boasting awesome views in the day and at night.
Book day slots to admire the alpine scenery and the Shotover River canyon below, or night slots if soaking against the backdrop of a dark starry sky is more your thing.
For an additional $12, you get to soak in style with champagne - and ice cream, crisps or chocolate - in hand.
Milford Sound cruise
Milford Sound is a fjord which is a four-hour drive away from Queenstown.
A two-hour cruise takes you around the fjord and gives you plenty of time to admire the waterfalls and surrounding cliffs.
We experienced heavy rain on the day of the cruise but if anything, it made the experience all that more magical.
AORAKI MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
Cost: Admission is free
Located in the Canterbury region and about an hour's drive from Tekapo town, the park offers plenty of scenic hiking routes that reward you with captivating views of the mountain, river and glacier lake.
We picked the popular Hooker Valley Track, a four-hour hike on mostly flat terrain.
Once again, I conveniently forgot about my fear of heights and crossed not one, but three swing bridges that stretched across rivers and served as great vantage points.
The trail ends at a glacier river, a perfect pit stop to catch your breath and soak in the beauty.