New Zealand is certainly one of the most unique holiday destinations in the world. With its lunar landscapes, it is a wonderland of thrilling experiences and exciting possibilities. The land of lofty mountains and stunning landscapes has a number of hidden treasures that do not feature on the regular tourist beat. New Zealand seems to have it all; magnificent waterfalls, spectacular fjords, steaming hot water springs and untamed outdoors. Even then New Zealand can surprise you with the aces hidden up its sleeve. These offbeat destinations are fascinating places to visit for a unique experience that can seldom be had elsewhere in New Zealand, or indeed the world.
Let us take a look at these offbeat places to visit in New Zealand that will thrill you and leave you awe-struck in equal measure.
Time stands still when you enter the Waitomo Caves. It is a magical place of psychedelic wonder that looks like an alien world. It’s a labyrinthine complex of underground cave systems that has been carved out by mother nature in the limestone bedrock. The stalactites and stalagmites are festooned with glow worms giving the caves their otherworldly appearance. There are a number of activities you can enjoy here. A guided walking tour will get you up close to the walls. Blackwater rafting offers a fascinating perspective, and if you’re feeling adventurous you should zipline through a gallery of glowworms.
The forbidding Mount Doom from the Middle Earth is actually one of the most stunning places to visit in New Zealand. With a melodramatic combination of looming mountains, hot springs, baked plateaus and turquoise lakes Tongariro National Park makes for a stunning day trek. Imagine walking through this stark landscape surrounded by a deep blue sky! It is a land which seems far removed from the earth but is in fact a tranquil sanctuary from trappings of modern life. The turquoise and blue lakes framed against the dusty landscape are a shutterbug’s delight.
Even in a country filled with an abundance of natural wonders Wai-O-Tapu stands out from the rest with its surreal natural beauty. It is a hotbed of geothermal activity which makes for some riveting attractions such as the Lady Knox Geyser, Devil’s Bath and Champagne Pool. The brilliant pinks and the dazzling greens stunningly contrast the blues and the green of the surrounding landscape. The steaming ground and the bubbling muddles are a dramatic accompaniment to your hike through the region. Do not miss this one as there are very few places like these, if any.
One of the major tourist attractions near Dunedin, the Blackhead Beach is a popular summer destination. During the summer it is full of swimmers, divers and surfers looking to catch ‘that one wave’. But for the rest of the year, it is a great place to lounge about and soak up some sun. The Blackhead Beach is also known for its fishing. If you do not want to venture into the water, there are scores of rock pools to explore which hold a fascinating selection of local marine life.
This is New Zealand’s smallest National Park. But Abel Tasman National Park proves that great things come in small packages. It is the perfect place to take a load off and enjoy a relaxed vacation. The landscape is a mix of marble and granite formations surrounded by large swathes of native forest. Spend your days walking along the pristine beaches or explore the ocean on your diving and kayaking expeditions. Spend your nights at luxurious lodges or sleep under the stars to enjoy the ultimate light show of nature.
Sitting on the eastern coast of New Zealand, only a couple of hours from Christchurch, Kaikoura is the most underrated tourist destination. After all this is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. You’ll be treated to a cross-species spectacles that includes sperm whales, orcas, humpback whales and even dolphins. The beauty of Kaikoura continues outside of the ocean as the Kaikoura Ranges form a spectacular backdrop for its long pebble beach. Take a lavender farm tour and spend the night in a rustic cottage surrounded by breathtaking fields.
Hawke’s Bay is the wine cask of New Zealand and is known for its acclaimed wines the world over. It is also home to New Zealand’s oldest functioning winery. A guided wine tour, which includes tastings and al fresco meals, is a highly recommended activity in Hawke’s Bay. Hire a mountain bike and take in the sights as you move from one winery to the next. Scour the farmer’s market for the freshest produce and buy some souvenirs to take back home. You can catch the annual Hawke’s Bay Food and Wine Classic festival.
Surrounded by the misty alpine peaks, Lake Quill sits at the centre of a tranquil retreat. A helicopter ride is the best way to reach Lake Quill. Pack a lunch basket and make a picnic of it. Get jaw-dropping views of the majestic Sutherland Falls as it cascades over great heights. Once you land you can also explore the countryside at one of the most beautiful fjords in Fiordland. Take a cruise to get a closer look at the lake and enjoy the lofty views of the surrounding mountains.
One of the most spectacular glaciers of New Zealand would seem like an oddly familiar place for movie buffs. That’s because it was featured as one of the magical Middle Earth locations in The Hobbit. As the glacier forges ahead, it feeds numerous waterfalls along the way. Hike through this untamed wilderness as you follow Bilbo’s trail and drink in the sights. Another recommended activity is a heli-picnic where you can enjoy a scrumptious meal after gorging on equally scrumptious sights.
Karamea’s isolation is a part of its inherent appeal. Sandwiched between the Tasman Sea and forested hills, Karamea offers an escape into nature. It is the gateway to Kahurangi National Park which preserves a slice of the Kiwi wilderness. The region is home to stunning limestone arches that have formed over millions of years. The Oparara Arch is one such marvel that spans the Oparara River. The Heapy Trekking Track will lead you through a variety of landscapes ranging from the rugged coastline to alpine tussock fields. Truly a spectacle of nature.
Curio Bay is home to a fascinating geological phenomenon, a petrified forest. A forest once stood here, millions of years ago, which was lost to the ravages of time only to emerge as a preserved artefact. The ancient tree trunks and stumps are revealed when the tide goes low making for a dramatic landscape. Keep a lookout for yellow-eyed Penguins and pods of Hector Dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world.
One of the most picturesque spots in all of New Zealand, Cathedral Cove is awe-inspiring at first sight. Sculpted by the elements over millennia, the humongous arched cavern has a grand aura. It opens up to a beautiful beach which is a perfectly hidden spot for swimming and relaxing. The area around Cathedral Cove is full of trekking trails that are busy throughout the year. Visit the Cathedral Cave to appreciate its grandeur and ancient mystic in person.
The Republic of Whangamomona is the highlight of the famous Forgotten World Highway. Just 45 minutes east of Stratford is a quiet little town which has declared itself as a republic. This frontier town of old is now a burgeoning tourist attraction where visitors throng in to enjoy its quirky frontier history. You would need a Whangamomona passport to be able to enter the town, which are easily available at the iconic Whangamomona Hotel. If you’re lucky you can catch its biennial Republic Day celebrations.
‘The City by the Sea’ is a vibrant city that houses a thriving arts community. With its picturesque sights and splendid natural beauty, the city itself is an inspiration for artists. The town’s Quayside is the arts hub where artists and patrons come together to celebrate art. Head up the Mount Parihaka to gaze upon the remains of the largest Maori Pa (fortified village) in New Zealand. Have fun at the Whangarei Falls which are known as the most photogenic waterfall in New Zealand.
Destroyed by Mount Tarawera’s eruption in 1889, Te Wairoa Village was buried under debris. It was settled in 1848 by Christian missionaries as a model village. Only the prayer house survived the eruption which was dismantled and transported to England to be displayed at Clandon Park. The village site was finally purchased and excavated by a family almost 60 years after the eruption. You can now explore the excavated village and visit the museum which chronicles the history of the unfortunate village.
You’ll surely enjoy these offbeat destinations in New Zealand for their quirks and astounding beauty. Book your holidays online from the comfort of your home. Or simply drop into your nearest Thomas Cook branch for a tailor-made New Zealand holiday package.