For an entire country about 1/3rd the size of California state, New Zealand has a numerous must-visit sites for tourists. Gifted with a stunning topography, several of its attractions are a result of nature’s marvels, which are countless in number. Spend two months in the country and you’d still struggle to lay eyes on its every appeal. Seeing that most of us have jobs to go to, a one-time vacation to this magical land of snow-capped mountains and hot-water-springs, and much more won’t cover all wonderful sites. To make your vacation worth your time and money, here is a list of 10 spots in New Zealand you just cannot afford to miss! After all, one must capitalise on the effort a 12-14-hour plane journey demands!
Oh, what a relief it is to cool your eyes looking at cyan waters! We begin in Bay of Islands, a beautifully strung chain of 144 islands. Think of any activity you can do in, around, or on water, and the Bay of Islands deems it possible. Paihia, a 3.5-hour drive from the metropolis of Auckland is a recommended base to begin your Bay of Islands adventures. As a convenient town center, it allows the convenience to plan your excursions to the outer Islands. Similarly, Russell, Opua, Kerikeri are also charming towns in the area. The exquisite Hole in the Rock formation warrants a visit as do numerous sequestered coves on the Islands. Zip yourself in some water-resistant clothing – possibly a life jacket too – hire a boat, kayak and/or a tour guide and set sail for the experience of a lifetime.
Further down, the culinary paradise of Waiheke awaits your arrival. Best known for its umpteen wineries, juiced and fermented with intention from locally sources grapes, tourists find themselves in perpetual bliss here. Waiheke’s pleasures are infinite: art galleries that inspire, wineries that are deliciously intoxicating, beaches that rejuvenate, and restaurants that promise the finest, freshest seafood. A 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke is an offbeat blend of laid-back bohemian vibes and lavish, extravagant living. With experiences that fulfils the traveller-spirit for every kind of visitor, the alluring Waiheke’s is a must-visit in our list.
A buzzing nucleus for business, science, technology, art, and culture, Auckland inspires yet exhausts its residents. Thankfully, a plethora of vibrant escapades surround the city. Further is Coromondel, a popular holiday destination. At its heart lies mountainous terrain blanketed in rainforest, while the periphery boasts 400km of white sand beaches, truly, a sight out of a film! Ecotourism efforts capitalize on these surroundings, enabling you to walk, hike, bike, dive, snorkel, kayak, sky dive, and more. Enjoy the 7-hour Coromandel Coastal walk and explore the Whenuaruka Wildlife Sanctuary, hike the Pinnacle ranges then rejuvenate in your DIY spa at the Hot Water Beach – where underground springs can unearth healing hot pools; thermal waters await you at the Lost Spring Geothermal Spa and the Owharoa Falls welcome fatigued hikers; snorkel in the Orua Sea Cave or Kayak the famous Cathedral Cove – where a grand cathedral-shaped cove parts two beaches. And finally board the famous Driving Creek Railway ride to enjoy distant views of the Hauraki Gulf and Islands.
A whole lot of adventure calls for rest and relaxation. Rotorua, a member of the Pacific ring of fire is renowned for its natural spas created by geothermal activity. Water from the geysers, mud pools and thermal springs hiss and bubble, playfully, as they revive you with mineral-rich content, healing every ounce of soreness in your muscles! The Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland containing the famous Champagne Pool and Lady Knox pool and the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley are prominent attractions in the city.
A luminescent world down under, entering the Waitomo caves feels as though you have been teleported to another planet filled with these little creatures. An unforgettable experience, a natural glow in the dark room, the Waitomo caves host abundant species of glowworms – international and local. Exotic, right? These magical creatures create their personal wonderland, painting the ceiling in hues of blue and green. Use this opportunity to educate yourself about the history and science behind these caves and their inhabitants or hop on water raft for a thrilling adventure!
Moving on to the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is a hiker’s, a true hiker’s, paradise! Stretches of virtuous coast lines dominate the park. A collection of golden coves and tranquil blue waters make up this area. The blue hue that illuminates the water that is a result of the phosphorescent plankton quietly residing under the surface and making it glow. The Park is home to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand’s famous Great Walks. The entire stretch takes about 3-5 days to complete, with plenty opportunities to refresh in cove waters. For those inclined towards a less exhausting mission, tailor your hike to your personal convenience and opt for kayak and boat rides instead – an equally satisfying way to experience the park. The lucky few may even be able to spot some dolphins giving them company!
New Zealand is probably the only place where you can actually hike a glacier. Located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, the Franz and Fox glaciers invite the brave-hearted ones through ice caves, frozen landscapes, past glacial rivers and inside hot pools. Before you let your imagination and worries run wild, know that the glacier receives abundant sunlight, so the temperature is only a few degrees colder than its surroundings. Explore the area by foot, or soar above in a helicopter tour, opting for a different, yet breathtaking aerial view of such miraculous topography!
Tales of the extraordinary Fiordland National Park stretch far and wide. It is as though the gods personally sketched, carved and filled the region with nothing but perfection. Miles and Miles of water to cruise through, forested mountains and gigantic waterfalls encompass the area. The park consists of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, and Dusky Sound, with the Milford Sound being touted as the eighth wonder of the world. Enter a literal portrait of the heavens the second you step onto cruise excursions that traverse you through the region. Sun rays pierce past majestic mountains, shedding utter radiance upon the Sounds. Most cruises navigate up close to cascading waterfalls – and as the periphery of the gushing water drenches you wet, the ferocity of Mother Nature becomes apparent.
Probably already on your to-visit list, a trip to New Zealand is incomplete without a visit to the adventure and burger capital of the country!
The town center is filled with tourism shops, restaurants, clothing stores and everything else that makes up for a buzzing location. A perpetual, endless line of hungry adventurists queue around the legendary Fergburger restaurant – labelled by some as the best burger joint in the world! Away from its nucleus are mountains to hike, cable cars to board, Lake Wakatipu to admire, kayaks to ride, jet boats to ride, forests to zip line through, cliffs to bungee jump off from, mountain biking trails to explore, and utter serenity to intake, even amidst swarms of tourists clicking away at every picturesque view in sight.
Yearning to cling to Queenstown’s splendor, yet craving time away from a mob of curious tourists? Head to Wanaka. A rather understated paradise, Wanaka is the South Island’s gemstone. A holiday home for many, Wanaka is yet another ideal destination for hiking and especially, skiing! The iconic willow tree, gracefully standing firm at Lake Wanaka symbolises the city’s essence –elegant yet resilient. As the sun draws its curtains for the day, a blanket of warmth envelops the sky, highlighting the dark, lone tree in all its majesty. Much like the tree, hop on a kayak or boat and float along Lake Wanaka. The joys of staying surrounded by spectacular views are indeed intenisied in Wanaka. Alternatively, if the thought of being on a quiet journey with nature makes you yawn, there are opportunities such as, to go mountaineering, sky diving, rock climbing, and canyoneering, which will never disappoint you. Strap on your gear and allow the heavenly surroundings to propel you!