Alternative Things to Do in New Zealand
Travelling the world can be one of the best decisions you could make in your life and there are so many amazing destinations to consider visiting, including New Zealand.
New Zealand is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean and is a popular country to visit with budget backpackers, working holidays, round the world trips and also just adventure travellers.
There are hundreds of attractions throughout the country including exploring the capital Auckland, bungee jumping in Queenstown, going skiing or snowboarding, exploring nature beauty spots like the Abel Tasman National Park or Milford Sound, climbing the Franz Josef Glacier or seeing hotspings in Rotorua.
But what are your some of the more local things to do in New Zealand away from the tourist crowds or entertainment options for evenings and those other times when you have some spare moments to fill?
View our guide to the alternative entertainment options for travellers staying in New Zealand.
1. Movies, Cinemas and Filming Locations
Movie streaming has become as popular in New Zealand as it is in other parts of the world. Yet, the love of movies here can be seen in the fact that there are also numerous cinemas that show the latest big releases. National chains like Event Cinemas have various venues dotted across the country, while Rialto Cinemas is an example of a smaller group, with locations in Dunedin and Newmarket.
This can be a good option if the rich history of film-making in New Zealand is one of the main reasons you have for coming here. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are the most famous films made here in recent years, and their sets are among the most popular tourist attractions, so watching a movie before or after visiting Hobbiton can be a chance to immerse yourself more fully in the magic of these stories.
As for visiting the setting of the most celebrated national productions, if you’ve ever seen the beautiful Whale Ride then, you might like to visit Whangara in the North Island, where it was filmed. Based on the book of the same name by Witi Ihimaera, it features Keisha Castle-Hughes as a girl who wants to become chief of her tribe, despite this going against the tradition of the chief always being male.
If you’re planning on visiting the Waitakere Range National Park near Auckland, the 2016 movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople is well worth watching. A cult classic in NZ, it stars Sam Neil with Julian Dennison and has some great comedy moments as well as being visually stunning. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video just now, giving you a taste of this area if you plan on going surfing, hiking or carrying out any other outdoor activities here.
2. Casino Games and Pokies
There are several casinos dotted across New Zealand where you can play a variety of gambling games in a comfortable setting. In terms of slot machines, known as pokies here, they can be found in a variety of places like bars and hotels too. Lotteries are other types of gambling also available here, while the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) offers sports betting in New Zealand.
Playing online casino games is another possibility, with Rizk, LeoVegas and BetVictor among the casino sites that operate in NZ. These sites offer promotions such as free spins and bonus funds for new customers making their first deposit after registering as new users. The selection of games includes themed pokies as well as table games, with live dealer versions featuring human dealers live-streamed onto the screen.
Bingo is also popular in New Zealand - both online and offline - and Rusell Crowe famously worked as a bingo caller in Rotorua before becoming famous, but was apparently removed from that role for being rude to players. It's commonly called housie here but is basically the same game that we call bingo in other parts of the world.
The different ways of betting online can be carried out at any time, so it’s the sort of activity that you can do whenever you have some free time and are looking for something to do.
3. Theatre Shows
Live theatre is present in many parts of New Zealand, with Auckland being the city where you can most easily find something to watch in places like the SkyCity Theatre, Q Theatre and the PumpHouse Theatre. The latest upcoming shows in the country’s biggest city include global hits such as Hamilton and Kinky Boots.
Away from Auckland, theatres are sparser but it’s still possible to catch a show. The construction of the Waikato Regional Theatre in Hamilton reveals the importance that the authorities place on theatre there, with an urban regeneration project that’s designed to become the heart of the city’s cultural district while helping to reconnect the city with the Waikato River that runs through it.
Among the most interesting local theatre productions, we can see The Way Of The Raukura - A Parihaka Musical, which is currently running at the Bryce Mason Centre in Takapuna Beach close to Auckland. It tells the powerful story of how Parihaka was once the largest Māori settlement on the planet and shows us how the locals carried out non-violent resistance to European settlers.
You could also learn more about this country by watching a show such as Witi's Whine by Nancy Brunning. Based on Witi Ihimaera’s evocative writing and with a strong focus on Māori traditions and culture, this show is currently being performed at the ASB Waterfront Theatre in Auckland
While The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit - The Concert isn’t based on New Zealand's culture, the fact that the movies were filmed here means that the Opera House in Wellington feels like a natural setting for the live show. If you’re looking for some evening entertainment in this city, it’s the sort of show that might appeal to you.
4. Live Sports
When you think of New Zealand, what images come to mind? We almost guarantee you think of Rugby and the All Blacks.
Going to watch a live All Blacks game can be a really special experience with the crowds, atmosphere and the chance to see one of the best sports teams on the planet.
You can see Rugby Union or League games, with some of the biggest teams including The Blues, The Chiefs, The Crusaders, The Hurricanes and The Highlanders.
You can also watch other sports including football, popular local teams to watch include Team Wellington FC, Auckland City Football Club, Wellington Phoenix FC, Waitakere United and Eastern Suburbs AFC.
New Zealand is a destination that offers travellers more than just sight-seeing opportunities. There’s certainly no need to fear the idea of spending a boring day/evening here even if you down time.