If you’re into the great outdoors like we are, New Zealand will already be on your radar. With its turquoise lakes, lofty mountains, secret coves, ancient glaciers and geothermal mysteries New Zealand is the perfect place to get away from it all and explore some of the most spectacular natural sights in the world.
Here are some of the places on our New Zealand wish list:
Milford Sound – Fiordland National Park
Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular sights in New Zealand. Formed through glaciation and nestled away in the dramatic Fiordland National Park in the South East of the country, the scenery here is second to none and reminds us a little of Norway. The best way to experience Milford Sound is by cruising along the water, marvelling at the imposing cliffs and thunderous waterfalls. It’s the sort of place that makes you feel quite small and insignificant, and that’s a good thing. Nature is impressive, and no more so than here. It’s a great place for wildlife spotting too, and you may be lucky enough to see the seals, dolphins and even penguins that enjoy these waters. Yet Milford Sound isn’t just about the water. It’s also a paradise for hikers who come from all over the world to walk the Milford Track, one of the most famous trails in New Zealand.
Abel Tasman National Park
For kayakers and hikers the place to go is Abel Tasman National Park. Found in the North West of the South Island, Abel Tasman is simply stunning with its gorgeous blue water, warm sandy beaches and lush coastline. Whilst boating around the coves you may be joined by inquisitive seals and dolphins, a world-class nature encounter in a world-class landscape. There are several glorious hiking trails along the coast too, some of them multi-day, and the views are most certainly worth the effort!
Tongariro National Park
The environment here is one of extremes. Diverse ecosystems from peaceful lakes, mesmerising waterfalls and wild forests make it one of the most unusual national parks in New Zealand. Many people come here to conquer the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is a strenuous 19 km hike through other-worldly landscapes. Volcanoes here are still active, and the barren moon-like terrain is like something out of a space movie. It’s the sort of place where you feel really alive, and to complete the trail is an achievement you’ll never forget.
Lake Tekapo Lupins
Although beautiful in its own right, Lake Tekapo in the Mackenzie region of the country is known throughout the world for its colourful lupins which come into bloom during Spring and Summer (the best time to see them is between November and January). Although lupins are considered to be a pest species because they take over the land once enjoyed by native plants, they’re an understandably popular sight for anyone visiting the area as fields of colour dominate the shoreline of the lake.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
Hidden away in the heart of the Westland National Park on the West coast of the South Island, Franz Josef Glacier is the place to go for adventures! The glacier is one of the most easily accessible in the world, and intrepid explorers can even hike right up to the ice, walk along the valley and take a guided tour to learn more about this ever-changing landscape. There are even some intriguing glacier hot pools to soak in after a hike! For the even more intrepid, helicopter tours to nearby Fox Glacier are the ultimate for adrenaline seekers. The heli hikes allow visitors to walk up on the glacier itself, and fly low over deep crevasses for a birds eye view.
I can’t of course write about New Zealand without mentioning Hobbiton, the famous set of The Shire from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit where Bilbo and Frodo lived. If you’re a fan of the films (and we most certainly are), a trip to Middle Earth mustn’t be missed. Visitors can walk around the set, and even head inside the Green Dragon for a pint of beer and a pie.
Away from the peaks, lakes and glaciers, New Zealand also does coastline pretty well too! One of the best known beaches is Cathedral Cove, a marine reserve found down on the Coromandel Peninsula. Getting to the beach is a bit of an adventure as you can’t drive to it. The nearest parking is a half hour walk along a track, and hikers are rewarded with a perfect stretch of sandy beach at the end of the trail. It’s the ideal place for a refreshing swim after a sweaty walk, and a picnic lunch whilst admiring the rock formations and caves for which this area is well known.
Rotorua is a geothermal land of hot springs, mud pools and geysers, with numerous different sights to explore around the city. One of the most popular places to visit in the area is Wai-O-Tapu where the hot springs and lakes are particularly colourful, and geysers erupt with incredible force. The presence of steam and smell of sulphur is constant, making this one of the most unusual, and rewarding natural sights to explore in New Zealand.