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Bucket List on a Budget

New Zealand is crammed full to bursting with experiences and opportunities of the bucket-list kind. Once-in-a-lifetime and one-of-a-kind adventure activities are so thick on the ground that some people come here for that reason alone. But don't just think that you need big bucks to be able to do some of these. While yes, skydiving won't come cheap, there are loads of free or nearly free things you can do in New Zealand which will put a smile on your face.

That said, getting to tick off a bucket-list item also can mean dishing out a whole heap of money - not something typically associated with the average budget backpacker. However, should you fall into the budget traveller category don't despair. This is the land of dreams and the highly unusual which means bucket-list type experiences are available for all – rich or poor. Here are a few low cost possibilities, most of which won't cost you a single cent.

Giant Dune Sand-Boarding

Te Paki Dunes, Ninety Mile Beach, Far North, North Island

There's no easy way to get to the top of these 143 metre high dunes (think 50 storey building if that figure won't mentally compute). You will without doubt work up a sweat as you trudge your way -seemingly vertically at time. However, any effort required is soon forgotten once you launch yourself over the edge and hurtle back towards sea level for a spot of dune surfing which will leave you with sand in all kinds of places for days to come.

The crazy do it from standing while the majority of us sledge it on our tummies.

Wild Swimming and Skinny Dipping in the Great Outdoors

North and South Island

Enchanting emerald fairy pools, cascading waterfalls, isolated pristine lakeside beaches and picturesque mountain streams. It might sound like we are describing scenes from a Lord of the Rings film set but these are all actual venues where you can strip down to your birthday suit and have a magical wild swimming experience. Places such as these are sprinkled liberally ALL over both islands. Of course the no-clothes clause is completely optional but if skinny dipping is your thing there are plenty of places where seeing another soul is highly unlikely - so go right ahead.

Personal Hot Water Spa at the Beach 

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel, North Island

Forget the luxury spa experience of the high-end bucket-list brigade and do it just as nature intended instead. Make your way to the oh-so-beautiful Hot Water Beach two hours either side of high tide, dig a hole (minimum effort required) and then lay back and enjoy your very own steaming spa.

It might seem like magic but this experience is actually possible thanks to the geothermically heated underground river here.

Rere Rock Slide, Gisborne District

North Island

Set your compass 50 km inland from Gisborne and go in search of another adrenalin pumping thrill – totally for free. A smooth rock bed, over which a wafer-thin but perpetual trickle of water runs, slopes steeply down into a pretty-as-it-comes lagoon. All of which is surrounded by the sound of native birds amid native bush.

Each person has their favourite vehicle of choice – body board, inner tube, air mattress or simply cardboard. All have the same aim however – to launch themselves in a variety of ways from the top to slide full pelt downwards. The ending, for the skilled, is a lagoon aquaplane; for the less graceful, an almighty splash.

Aim for an early morning visit if you want to get this adventure playground all to yourself.

Spend a Penny in the World's Most Beautiful Public Loos

Hundertwasser Toilets – Kawakawa, North Island

Toilets on a bucket-list? Surely not! Well, actually yes but these aren't just any old public bathrooms. Opened in the 1990s and designed by Austrian architect Frederick Hundertwasser, these toilets are arguably the most photographed in the world and visitors - including TV film crews - flock here regardless of whether they need to spend a penny or not.

Written descriptions fall well short of what your eyes will be treated to but expect coloured glass sections which project all kinds of vivid dancing light pools, ornate pillars and an overall effect nothing short of a work of art with a wow-factor firmly embedded.

Hike Through a Land of Volcanoes

Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island

Lord of the Rings fans will know this area better as Mordor but whether or not that name has any significance for you this one way 12 mile day hike offers immersion into a dramatic volcanic landscape which appears somewhat other-worldly. Totally hidden until you reach a certain point is an emerald lake – an incredibly beautiful splash of vivid colour in this otherwise monochrome landscape.

Swim or Surf With Wild Dolphins

Porpoise Bay, the Catlins, South Island

There are numerous outfits in New Zealand which will take you out on a boat for a wild dolphin swim but these are not always possible for the traveller on a shoestring budget. Luckily, the waters all around this country are teeming with marine mammals and chance spottings of both whales and dolphins are relatively common.

However, to increase your chances significantly for a dolphin encounter of the up-close-and-personal kind make your way to the far south of the South Island. Here, in Porpoise Bay live the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin species – the tiny black and white Hector's dolphin. Head out for a swim or sign up for a surf lesson and it is possible you will ride your first wave accompanied by a dolphin or two.

And should the frigid waters prove too much take yourself back to dry land and simply watch the enchanting spectacle of these dolphins teaching their rugby-sized babies to surf right up to the shore line.

Hunt Down a Southern Lights Display

Anywhere far south, South Island

By no means a common occurrence and typically only active at certain times of the year, it is still possible to tick off the almighty bucket-list entry of 'See the Southern Lights' while you are in New Zealand. Check the Aurora Australis forecast should you find yourself way south and you might just get lucky.

... And if you can't think of anything else

Forget your wallet, treat yourself!

New Zealand presents a multitude of ways to throw yourself off things, propel yourself at great velocity, catapult and project yourself in a variety of ways or otherwise simply scare yourself silly. It has bungee jumps and skydives by the score along with such things as zorbing (rolling down a hill inside a transparent ball), white-water rafting, jet-boating, caving, blackwater rafting, abseiling, coasteering and so much more.

So common is this type of experience the competition is fierce and consequently the prices are comparatively low. So go on.....treat yourself. You have to tick at least one of these off your bucket-list, don't you?

Find out more...

Dolphin Swimming in Akaroa -
Dolphin Swimming in Akaroa - Further details on where you can get up close and personal with the dolphins
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