You can see some of the best of New Zealand without leaving carbon footprints, writes Bridget Jones
It is hard to deny the attraction of a good, old-fashioned Kiwi road trip, but all that driving can leave a bigger carbon footprint than we might like. Thankfully, being green doesn't mean staying at home. It is absolutely possible to get out into our beautiful country, without sitting behind a wheel (or at least a fossil-fuelled one).
Here are some ways to explore New Zealand while being environmentally friendly:
Horse trekking in rural Hawke's Bay
Based on a farm in Iwitea in the Wairoa District, the Out on a Lim team are expert guides and can take visitors eeling, fishing, on a walking cultural tour, or get them on horseback to explore the sights and hear the stories of this part of the country. The horse treks travel through Iwitea village and then through a private farm to the site of the Korotere Flax Mill, on to Wairau Lake and its famed eels and birdlife, Iwitea Beach, the prophetic 12 tōtara logs and an old church site, and wetlands. The farm promises the quiet horses are perfect even for beginner riders. A two-hour trek is $90pp.
Meet the locals
Trafalgar Tours has turned its attention to our own backyard and devised a collection of New Zealand guided tours with a difference. The small group tours have been handcrafted for Kiwis wanting to explore what's been on our doorstep all along, making unusual stops off the beaten track and meeting expert locals, including the chance to lunch with a farmer, join a specialist who will guide you through the Christchurch rebuild post-earthquake, or take an inside look into "scarfie" life as you explore the grounds of Otago University. Ranging in length - and breadth of places visited - the tours include some meals, accommodation and transport while you explore the secret spots. Tours start at $3915pp for 10 days.
Canoe the Whanganui River
The Whanganui River is one of the longest navigable rivers in New Zealand, and there is no better (or greener) way to explore it than by canoe. Owhango Adventures is authorised by the Department of Conservation as a licenced operator on the river, operating a cultural guided trip with local iwi, as well as stocking a range of canoe and kayak hire options. The guided tours in the Canadian-style canoes are great for large groups and first-timers but experienced water babes can hire a canoe and make their own way downstream. The guides have a number of suggested routes, ranging in length from one day to five. Guided tours start at $220 a day.
Get on your bike
Venture deep into the Waikato's Pureora Forest Park on an 87km trail featuring ancient forest, birdlife, suspension bridges and relics from the timber industry. The Timber Trail follows the path of old logging roads and tramlines, linked and smoothed out between the settlements of Pureora and Ōngarue, making for a remote two-day, one-way ride. Timber Trail Shuttles and Bike Hire has traditional bikes (and e-bikes) for hire from $70 per day and can transport you to the start of the trail.
Walk and … eat
Walking, talking and eating sounds like a pretty great way to spend a day. Nature and Nosh is connecting hiking and food lovers to the trails, people and tasty delights of the Coromandel and Waikato. They have mapped three gourmet, fully inclusive tramping escapes incorporating their local guides' favourite day hikes, secret spots and fabulous foodies to be held over three weekends in October and November. The escapes are fully inclusive, with accommodation ranging from waterfront homes to mountainside guesthouses and the gastronomic experiences include exclusive tastings, fermenting masterclasses, and gin distillation lessons, before walking it all off again to the next spot. The three-day tours start at $1280pp.
Whisper to the birds
Catch a glimpse of New Zealand's rare birdlife and don't disturb anything getting there in Whisper to the Birds carbon-zero electric vehicle powered by renewable energy. The guided drive from Dunedin to the award-winning Orokonui Ecosanctuary and Visitor Centre above Blueskin Bay, is eco-friendly, and the sanctuary itself is a 300ha self-sustaining ecosystem and conservation project aimed at protecting our native wildlife. The route to and from Dunedin takes you via the Otago Harbour bays to historic Port Chalmers, and then up over back roads among the volcanic peaks, with stunning panoramic views of Otago Peninsula and Dunedin along the way. Tours cost $99pp.
Harness the power of the wind to transport you around New Zealand's beautiful coastline. Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures offer a handful of scheduled and charter tour options aboard their five sailing catamarans, giving you a prime seat to experience Abel Tasman National Park, Tasman Bay or Nelson Harbour. Whether you want to jump on for a scheduled trip that includes sail and walk options, or charter a yacht for a multi-day adventure, the (wind) power is yours. Schedule sails start at $85 per person.
Waiheke by foot
Believe it or not, Waiheke Island is more than a collection of wineries and beaches accessed by overcrowded buses in the middle of summer. The Te Ara Hura Walk Waiheke network is a collection of tracks around and through the island - once lockdown is over, it's the perfect way to discover its true beauty. Explore the coastline, walk through native bush and get up close to historic sites on a range of walks for all abilities. You can build a route on the various tracks (100km in total) around overnight stays, vineyard visits or beach hops and take it at your own pace.
Road trips are at the heart of New Zealand travel, but they can be hell on the carbon footprint. These days, electric vehicles are slowly revolutionising the prospect of getting in the car and driving without too much concern about fossil fuels, so electric campervans are a welcome sight on Kiwi roads. Jucy has the Jucy EV camper for hire, a two-berth van with a travel range of up to 180km. For $60 a day (five day minimum), it has everything you'd expect, including a cassette toilet, fridge and induction cooking facilities, all while reducing our environmental impact. There are hundreds of charging points throughout New Zealand, making it easy to see as much of the country as you fancy. Other campervan rental companies, including Britz, also offer electric vans for hire.
Bay of Islands by kayak
Use a bit of paddle power getting to know what lies offshore Paihia and Waitangi with a kayak tour of the Bay of Islands. Perfect for those new to sea kayaking, Coastal Kayakers Bay of Islands offers a number of tours around the coast, including guided trips past uninhabited islands surrounded by crystal clear waters - a wonderful chance to experience the marine world that lies beneath. You can even float up to the Haruru Waterfall, a unique horseshoe-shaped cascade, and see this stunning part of New Zealand from a different angle. Tours start at $75.
White cliffs of Taranaki
The Whitecliffs Walkway traces around Taranaki's stunning coastline, leading visitors on a wonderful tour of the area's sheer cliffs and bluffs. Taking between five and eight hours, the walk crosses farmland to Mt Davidson, through the Whitecliffs Conservation Area, and over the Waipingau Stream. On foot, you can see the dramatic white cliffs (Paraninihi) and the Three Sisters rock formations. Depending on the tides, you can return to your starting point by following the stream to the coast and walking home along the beach for a completely different view, one you would not get from the driver's seat.
D'Urville Island with the locals
Lying between Nelson and Picton in the Marlborough Sounds, D'Urville Island is one of New Zealand's last outposts. A 15-minute ferry ride from French Pass, and with a population of just 50, it is a remote environment few have the luck of experiencing. On a limited, five-day tour however, visitors see more than just the sights, getting the chance to talk to locals about their experiences and history on the island, whether that be farming, fishing or conservation work. The trips are run by Driftwood Eco Tours, which supports the community's environmental causes financially for each tour. Driftwood also has a planting project with local authorities, planting a tree for every visitor on a tour, and mentors high school students in sustainability. The company also runs similar tours to the Chatham Islands, highland stations and other remote locations. The D'Urville Island tour starts at $2950 for five days.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew