Day 100: Tiki Tours – a New Zealand Pastime

New Zealand is an incredibly laid back country – you don’t see a lot of black-tie affairs and the dress code (especially outside of the cities) is focused much more on comfort and ease than fashion. Tramping (hiking), fishing, camping, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, sunning on the beach and just about any outdoor activity are hugely popular here.

The great Kiwi Tiki Tour is very popular as well and has come to be one of my favorite activities. A Tiki Tour can be a sightseeing journey with no destination in mind or a trip where you take the scenic route to get somewhere.  In NZ, you can throw a tent and sleeping bag in your car with some basic food and head off in any direction and find an amazing place to spend some time. Kiwis love to get cars, camper vans, caravans, tents, packs, etc. and just go places – going wherever the weather and their interests take them.

In Washington state, when we wanted to go exploring we had to do a bit of prep for bears – bringing bear proof containers or using a rope to put our food and cookware up in a tree so the bears didn’t pay you a visit at night. In Texas, when we went hiking or camping we had to watch for scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, and other creepy crawlies who like hiding in your shoes or in the grass. But in New Zealand there is none of that. All you have to worry about is wind and weather and the North Island has a pretty good climate so even that isn’t such a big deal here except in some higher altitudes.

Tiki is the first man according to Maori legend. Tiki has also come to refer to an ornamental greenstone (called pounamu in Maori) worn around the neck like a necklace. I can’t find a definitive explanation of where the term Tiki Tour comes from but I assume it was named after the first man…

I participate on some of the NZ travel forums and a huge majority of the questions people ask on it are about the best way to see New Zealand – rent a car, take a tour, ride a bus, etc. And inevitably the answer from the respondents will be to rent a car (or a camper van) and do it on your own (assuming you’re comfortable driving on the left if you’re from countries that drive on the right). It’s a great way to see the country and the back roads and diversions are the best part of New Zealand.

The picture for today was taken on the beach in Gisborne on the North Island. We went on a 3 day Tiki Tour and decided to turn left instead of right and wound up in Gisborne – on the East coast. After finding a place to stay, we wandered down to the beach and stumbled on one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen — just in time to watch the surfers come in for the day with a backdrop of amazing red and gold reflecting off the sand and water.



  1. I have just noticed this – the Tiki Tour is a reference to ‎Thor Heyerdahl’s voyage across the Pacific on a raft called the Kon-Tiki (named in honour of the Incan sun god). Our tours might be more emandering and less dramatic (and the Contiki tour has much more booze) but that’s the Kiwi way!


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