New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with a stunning and diverse natural beauty: snow-capped mountains, rolling pasture lands, steep fjords, mirror lakes, raging rivers, sandy beaches, emerald valleys and very active volcanic zones. If this wouldn’t be enough for you to book your ticket, know that New Zealanders or Kiwi’s as they call themselves are probably some of the friendliest and down-to-earth people you will ever know, plus the Maori Culture is something you definitely want to get to know!
Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes.
In winter, skiers flock here from all over the world for superb skiing and snowboarding at Cardrona and Treble Cone, cross-country skiing at Snow Farm and heli-skiing high in the Harris Mountains. But Wanaka, New Zealand, is much more than a winter destination. Year round activities include fishing, hiking, canyoning, climbing and skydiving. Visit the nearby towns of Queenstown, Cromwell and Alexandra, go shopping, or simply sit in a café and watch the world pass by.
Situated on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island lies the seaside town of Kaikoura. The town overlooks majestic mountains which are snow capped for many months of the year. Besides the beautiful landscape, the real attraction lies in the waters off the coast where an anabundant rich habitat for marine mammals and seabirds exists. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where whales can be seen all year round. In addition, you can see dolphins, seals, as well as enjoy swimming, fishing, and diving (including shark diving). In short, Kaikoura offers a large number of both land and water based activities like no other. It also has good restaurants that serve up fresh produce such as crayfish.
Accessible from New Zealand’s biggest city, (Auckland), Rotorua is famous for its volcanic activity. The area is one of the world’s great geothermal areas. Geothermal reserves such as Waimangu, Waiotapu, and Whakarewarewa are found here. These reserves are situated in beautiful natural surroundings and have spectacular examples of geysers, boiling pools, hot springs, boiling mud, volcanic terraces, fumeroles, and craters. Rotorua is also famous for its plentiful lakes which are great for swimming and fishing. The surrounding area contains plenty of native bush ideal for trekking. Mt Tarawera a nearby volcano offers spectacular scenery including superb views inside the rim of the volcano. Rotorua is also the best area in the country to experience and learn about Maori Culture.
Nestled between a sparkling harbour and rolling green hills, New Zealand’s capital city is renowned for its arts, heritage, culture and native beauty.
Relax at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden-sand inner-city beach and delve into the many museums, art galleries and theatre shows that make up the city’s pulsing cultural scene. If you’re into the outdoors, Wellington has action-packed adventure activities like mountain biking and sea-water kayaking, as well as beautiful walks around the harbor and surrounding hills. Ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city and enjoy an ice cream at the top. On the waterfront itself you’ll find Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, New Zealand’s national museum. Te Papa, as it’s colloquially known, means ‘our place’ and is one of the best interactive museums in the world.
It’s the gateway to the South, since you can take the ferry to the South Island and the ferry is worth the trip with spectacular views from the waterside!
Franz Josef Glacier
This glacier, located within Westland National Park in the southwest, is one of the world’s most accessible. Visitors can walk right up to the foot of the massive glacier or take a helicopter ride over the dazzling Ice Age remnant. Together with Fox Glacier it is one of South Westland’s major drawcards for tourists.
At the Cape the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, in a spectacular swirl of currents. At the northernmost tip of the cape is a gnarled pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old, and according to Maori oral history, the spirits of deceased Maori leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.
Reaching the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga is a popular travellers goal, but what takes most by surprise is the journey itself is as exciting as the destination.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman may be New Zealand’s smallest national park, but the attractions are huge. Located in one of New Zealand’s sunniest spots, it almost seems planned that the area also has the best beaches in the country. The beaches have a range of coloured sand from gold to white that look out onto the clear waters of the Tasman Sea. Beyond the beaches, the park is covered in lush temperate rain forest and manuka, a type of tea tree. The popular Abel Tasman Walk is a great way to see this park, it takes 3-5 days to complete. Sea Taxis are also available and can drop you off at any number of beaches within the park. This gives you the complete freedom to do a full or partial trek, or alternatively you can be whisked away from the entrance of the park to a beach of your choice. Kayaking here is popular and gives you access to all the beaches, including those that the walk misses out on.
This park is part of the South Westland World Heritage area and is New Zealand’s largest national park and one of the largest in the world. The scenery in Fiordland is nothing short of stunning, with deep fiords, steep mountains, raging waterfalls, and lush rain forests.
Fiordland is home to Milford Sound described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and Doubtful Sound which many say is even more spectacular. The area also has some of the world’s great walks including the world famous Milford Track, which was billed as the finest walk in the world in the early twentieth century by the London Spectator. That said, there are a number of walks here that rival the Milford, including the Routeburn and Kepler. In addition to the walks, there isSutherland Falls one of thousands of waterfalls in the park, and one of the highest in the world. You can also dive in the fiords and see deep sea plants growing near the surface and the chance of seeing dolphins, seals, and rare bird life is high. If you are still not convinced about visiting, then there is also Mitre Peak a mountain that rises to the staggering height of 1 mile straight out of the ocean.
Fiordland is however one of the wettest places on Earth and when it rains, thousands of waterfalls put on quite a show, (imagine countless raging waterfalls side by side thundering into the salt water of the sea). On a fine day however, the landscape is so other worldy that you would think that you were in the movie Lord of the Rings, which is no exaggeration given that much of the movie was filmed here.
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and main transport hub. The region is home to some 1.5 million people and and is also the largest Polynesian city in the world. Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping, and you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland, New Zealand, our largest and most diverse city.
More than just a city, Auckland is a whole region full of things to see and do. Best of all, with so many experiences close by it’s easy to hop from one adventure to the next.
I’m a bit partial to this one since Mt. Taranaki was my everyday view when I lived in New Zealand. If you ever have wondered where you can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon, here’s your answer. Taranaki (the region) offers it all where the snow-topped mountain and coastline are just a 30 minute drive apart.
Mount Taranaki is New Zealand’s most perfectly formed volcano. It is around 120,000 years old and last erupted in 1775 and Often described as ‘New Zealand’s most climbed mountain’, Mt Taranaki provides non-mountaineers with an achievable summit challenge. I can second that as a non-mountaineer I was able to climb it and survive without injuries (besides really sore muscles!)
So there you have it, my top 10 of New Zealand sights that I wouldn’t want anyone to miss when they travel to the Kiwi land down-under!