Burning bushes to invisible kayaks: NZ's weirdest tourist attractions

Perpetually burning bushes, invisible kayaks and gramophones the size of houses are some of the weirdest New Zealand attractions that have to be seen to be believed.

Overseas trips might be on hold for the time being but Kiwis are being turned on to the sheer range of activities found in their own backyard. Some of which you might not have known existed.

Perpetually burning bush, Murchison

In Murchison, Tasman at the end of a guided track through a dense beach forest you'll find something remarkable: flames springing from the forest floor.

Naturally occurring gases ignite to produce flames hot enough to cook on but not to cause a blaze.

Steve and Elizabeth Riley who have been running tours with the Natural Flame Experience since 2015, say it's the "only place in the country" they know of where this happens - possibly the only forest in the world where this happens "without burning the trees down".

They lead groups of tourists on a four-hour long trek through private land to the flames with a Billy kettle and griddle. As well as a spectacular phenomenon, tourists are treated to a cup of tea and pancakes cooked over the flames.

Tours run from $105pp - naturalflames.co.nz 0800 687 244.

Clearyak's see-through kayaks offer a window into Goat Island marine reserve. Photo: Supplied
Clearyak's see-through kayaks offer a window into Goat Island marine reserve. Photo: Supplied
Invisible Kayaks off Goat Island
The marine reserve in Goat Island is hardly an undiscovered gem. On any given day in summer the swimming spot is filled with snorkellers, who have taken the day trip north of Auckland. Beyond swimmers the waters around Leigh are full of life. As base for the Auckland University Marine Laboratory it's a great place to see Red Moki and Blue Maomao.

But there is a more refined way to gain a glimpse into the 'life aquatic'.

Clearyak run kayak tours with a difference. Made from the same material as bullet-proof glass their boats are both strong and completely see-through, providing views of the sea floor beneath.

Run of nearby Leigh the boat tour company were given the go ahead by Ng膩ti Manuhiri and the Department of Conservation in 2017 because of their unobtrusive on marine life. They are peaceful, paddle powered and a pure delight to experience.

Fares from $30 per person for half hour paddle - clearyak.co.nz 0204257925.

Anish Kapoor's Dismemberment, Site 1 at Gibbs farm. Photo: Andy M, Flickr.com
Anish Kapoor's Dismemberment, Site 1 at Gibbs farm. Photo: Andy M, Flickr.com
Surreal scenery in Makarau
The Gibbs Farm has turned from a private project to sculpture park is world famous and yet it's hard to believe that it could be a real place.

A menagerie of zebras and giraffe gambol between giant sculptures. A giant 85m gramophone designed by Anish Kapoor - the man behind the Chicago Cloudgate - joins 27 other eclectic megasculptures that have seemingly sprung from the landscape.

These impressive artworks were commissioned by Alan Gibbs, the owner of Gibbs Farm and founder of SKY TV New Zealand.

In spite of being just an hour north of Auckland, it remains relatively under the radar.

This is perhaps because viewings of the farm are by appointment only.

Once a month the farm is open to members of the public, artists and educators.

It is completely free to visit but guests must first register online for a ticket.

Visits are arranged by a ballet system which only adds further mystery to the park.

gibbsfarm.org.nz 0210 526 497.

In Tatapouri, guides offer a closer look at eagle rays and other reef dwelling creatures. Photo:...
In Tatapouri, guides offer a closer look at eagle rays and other reef dwelling creatures. Photo: Supplied
Catching rays in Gizzy
Just outside of Tairawhiti Gisborne in the shallow waters Dive Tatapouri runs New Zealand's oddest animal encounter.

At low tide in waders, visitors are invited to step onto the reef and interact with wild eagle rays. In spite of some misgivings these Short Tail stingrays and Eagle Rays are perfectly harmless. Something which is soon obvious as they swim around your ankles.

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Eagle Ray @divetatapouri

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Bringing rays, kingfish and other reef dwelling creatures come close enough to touch - the guides describe the traditional fishing methods and conservation that has been developed from this close coexistence between man and marine life.

These fish are so friendly the guides at Tatapouri have named two of them, Pancake and Waffle.

The dive centre's tours are bookable through their website from $55pp - divetatapouri.com; 06-868 5153.

Stonehenge Aotearoa is a functional replica of the 5000-year-old wonder. Photo: Supplied,...
Stonehenge Aotearoa is a functional replica of the 5000-year-old wonder. Photo: Supplied, Destination Wairarapa
Aotearoa Henge
It might be a bit late to observe the winter solstice, but you can still visit Stonehenge. . . Aotearoa. In Carteron just north of Wellington, you will find a replica of the paleolithic monument which stands in Wiltshire, in the UK.

While little is know about the 5000-year-old henge and how it was built, the New Zealand counterpart took just 2 years to build and was opened by Kiwi Nobel Laureate Alan MacDiarmid in 2005.

The fifteen year old henge is now running guided star safaris from $15, which use the stones to explore links between the maramataka M膩ori astrological calendar and star lore from around the world and across millennia.

Stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz; 06 377 1600.

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