There is a lot to look forward to if you are heading for the remote and astonishingly beautiful territory of New Zealand. Most tourists come to experience a wildlife adventure, exploring the vast wild landscapes of this country and there is no better way to do that than embarking on some New Zealand road trips. But besides the long scenic routes and lively exotic cities, Jewish travelers can explore the history of their ancestors, who have started settling here since the 18th century. We gathered some useful advice for a beautiful journey to New Zealand with Jewish cultural highlights:
1. A Brief History of Kiwi Jews
New Zealand is a culturally diverse country and the home about 10 000 Jews, gathered in a few insular communities. However, these communities are strong and active and gave many skilled people to the public life of the country. Jews settled here since the 18th century and had an important role in the economic development of these territories by doing trade with Australia and The Great Britain.
2. Fun for a One Week Plan
If you have just a week to spend in New Zealand, opt for Auckland and the Bay of Islands. The weather is pleasant all year round and you can enjoy the vibe of the City of Sails and admire the countless yachts which rest in its harbor at sunset. At the Orthodox Auckland Hebrew Congregation, you will find two synagogues, a Holocaust memorial, and a Jewish Deli. Among other landmarks, don’t miss the Old Synagogue on Princess Street and stop by to admire the historic Symonds Street Jewish Cemetery. Further on, visit the beaches of Omapere, the vineyards of Waiheke Island and the bohemian Matakana Coast.
3. An Extended Stay in the North
If you planned over two weeks in the North Island, head from Auckland to Wellington, taking the thermal route. Stop by and let the view sweep you off your feet at Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park and the wine lands of Martinborough. In the capital, you can learn about the stories of the survivors of Nazi persecution who came to New Zealand at the Holocaust Centre or check the available exhibitions and events at the Jewish Community Center. Check out the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial and pay your respects at the Bolton Street Memorial Park.
4. The Southern Itinerary
Beware of the weather if you don’t like snow, the South Island of New Zealand is covered in it in July and August. In this part of the country, you’ll enjoy smaller and quieter towns with a Jewish history, like Dunedin and Christchurch. You can visit the southernmost synagogue in the world in Dunedin, designed by the famous John Goldwater, but also the site of the Old Synagogue in Moray Place or Olveston, the mansion of a prominent Jewish businessman where you will see European and oriental artifacts. Drive to the rugged beaches of Otago Peninsula and admire the penguins or go to the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head, the only natural habitat for this majestic bird.
5. Enjoy the Diversity
Take some time to explore the various cultural influences of New Zealand. In the North, you will have many opportunities to meet the Maori culture, whether you choose to stop at one of the villages around Rotorua or experience a Marae stay at Waiheke Island. Also, the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum has an amazing architecture and impressing collections.
New Zealand offers the opportunity of visiting themed museums and synagogues and connecting with the local Jewish communities, while you will also have the chance to enjoy the rich and diversified wildlife and to immerse in the laid-back atmosphere of the harbor cities.