A magical land of natural wonders and unique marvels, New Zealand holds a special place in the hearts and minds of not only its residents but also the inquisitive travellers who flock to its tranquil shores to experience everything that the country has to offer. Well known for its stunning scenery, pristine wilderness, and native wildlife, Aotearoa is an extraordinary place… like none other on earth.
New Zealand is a country of untold beauty with an almost greedy abundance of natural sights that will take your breath away. There are mountain climbs that will elevate your view to more than 12,000 feet and scuba dives that will take you through an underwater paradise of rare black coral. Split between North and South Islands, it’s a country of multiple cultures, languages, religions and personalities – and some of the most breath-taking experiences on Earth.
Renowned for its natural beauty, green pastures, misty rainforests and pristine golden beaches, The Coromandel is blessed with hundreds of natural hideaways. Within two hours either side of low tide visitors flock to the usually deserted Hot Water Beach to find hot water bubbling through the golden sand. Rated as one of the world’s most impressive beaches, digging your own natural spa is a bucket-list experience.
Off the beach, the Pinnacles walk is rated as one of New Zealand’s most popular overnight hikes. It can also be walked in one day (allow eight hours), but it’s staying at the 80-bed DOC hut that adds the opportunity to capture the sunset and sunrise.
2. Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands offers the visitor so many things to do with lots of activities, short walks, tours and attractions to choose from. It’s one of New Zealand’s great holiday destinations; stunningly beautiful and historically significant and enjoyed by domestic and international visitors alike.
Relax with a massage, body or beauty treatment, enjoy locally caught seafood at one of the many cafes or restaurants, or go catch your own; take a scenic flight over the Bay of Islands, cruise to the Hole in the Rock, view dolphins, try parasailing to 1,200 feet, go sailing through the 144 islands or experience an overnight cruise in the Bay. Take the time to explore the region’s historical past of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and experience a Maori cultural show… the Bay of Islands offers so many things to do to suit all visitors – provided you like life on the water.
Rotorua is an adventure playground with some of the most exquisite lakes in the world. Relax in a lake-edge thermal hot pool or explore the open water at length discovering glow-worm caves and freshwater springs by kayak, paddleboard or luxury catamaran.
The 18 sparkling lakes and three major rivers around Rotorua are treasured natural assets and taonga to the Te Arawa people. The region is a fisherman’s dream with trophy trout to be had year-round on the lakes, rivers and streams. For fast-paced adventures, try white water sledging or rafting the Grade 5 Kaituna River with the world’s highest commercially raftable waterfall.
4. Lake Taupo
Taupō was created nearly two thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption so big it darkened the skies in Europe and China. The Craters of the Moon have plenty of evidence of the lake’s fiery birth in its geysers, steaming craters and boiling mud pools. At some of Taupō’s beaches, swimmers and paddlers can enjoy warm, geothermal water currents but just north of Taupō you’ll find New Zealand’s most visited attraction, the magnificent Huka Falls, where more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second.
Taupō is a great lake for waterskiing, sailing and kayaking, which is necessary to see the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, only visible from the water. Back on dry land, the forests surrounding the lake offer hiking and mountain biking to suit all levels of experience.
5. Queens Town
Set on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, against the dramatic Southern Alps, Queenstown is a hub for adrenaline junkies, with bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge and jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers. In winter, there’s skiing on the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, and in summer it’s the perfect base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns.
This resort town is set on the southern end of its namesake lake, with views of snow-capped mountains. It’s the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park, a wilderness of glaciers, beech forests and alpine lakes. You can climb the highest waterfall cable climb in the world at WildWire Wanaka or, if you want to head downslope a little more gracefully, Treble Cone and Cardrona ski resorts are near the park and offer fantastic pistes in the season.
7. Milford sound
A fiord in the southwest of South Island, known for the towering Mitre Peak. Here, steep cliffs rise out of deep blue water and fur seals sunbathe on rocks. Take a boat cruise up to the Bowen Falls – which are 160 metres high – or the Stirling Falls, which cascade into the fiord like a giant shower. Some boats have underwater viewing observatories, and all provide panoramic photo opportunities. Look out for penguins and dolphins, as well as the occasional whale making its way into the fiords.
From the air, Fiordland’s spectacular mountains and waterfalls are breathtaking – a scenic flight over places like Milford Sound is unforgettable. Enjoy a glacier landing at Mt Tutoko or a picnic amidst mountain peaks by the alpine lake of Lake Quill. Get up close to the 580-metre-high Sutherland Falls, and enjoy a birds-eye view of the Milford and Doubtful Sounds from the air.
There’s plenty more to New Zealand of course; the country’s dramatic scenery and Maori culture can’t be explored all in one go and the places mentioned here are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s a good reason the country’s become famous for its dramatic, starring turn in many a Hollywood film and a more than good reason everyone from adrenaline junkies to nature lovers to indulgent epicureans finds themselves drawn to New Zealand.
To see it for yourself however, you’ll likely need a guide to help make sure you have the best experience possible. We’d therefore recommend Aroha Tours; if there’s something about New Zealand they don’t know, it’s not worth knowing about.
Find out more atarohatours.co.nz