New Zealand is one of those countries that no matter how much time you spend there, you wish you had more. If you’re planning to visit for a few weeks or months, here’s the absolute Top 10 gems that you don’t want to miss – everything else you manage to fit in as well is a bonus. Good on you. The long-haul flight (from just about anywhere) is worth it, I swear.
THE TIP OF NZ: CAPE REINGA
Let’s start at the top here – literally. This is the northernmost point of New Zealand, where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific Ocean by crashing dramatically into each other. In Maori legend, the Cape is called Te Rerenga Wairua. It’s believed that this is where the spirits of the dead leap off and enter the underworld; it’s an incredibly spiritual place that is highly respected and if you visit here, be sure to be gentle. Not too far down the coast is 90 Mile Beach (west) where you can drive your vehicle on the sand and slide down the sand-dunes, and of course the beautiful Bay of Islands (east) where the dolphins and orca play.
THE CITY OF SAILS: AUCKLAND CITY
Auckland is a big hub of the country, housing more than a quarter of the population. Its diversity and creativity make it a place with something new happening around every corner. The view from the Sky Tower stretches out over the harbour bridge and the nearby islands which can be visited by ferry. Rangitoto Island is one of the only active volcanoes you can climb, and Waiheke Island is full of wineries. Scheduling a decent amount of time in Auckland is a must on your road trip.
HOT WATER BEACH: COROMANDEL
The Coromandel sits south-east of Auckland and boasts beautiful white sandy beaches and views out over the Pacific. Hot Water Beach is a popular destination as people flock here, dig large bath-size holes in the sand and watch them naturally fill themselves with hot water from the thermal springs beneath. While this is pleasant anytime of the year, in summer it can be very hot, and the cool waves of the sea provide relief. If you’re touring in the off-season, be sure to stop here for a warm-up.
EXTINCT VOLCANO: MOUNT MAUNGANUI
‘The Mount’, as it’s locally called, is an extinct volcano cone on a peninsula by the entrance to Tauranga harbour. It looks like a great big green mound, and it’s a bit of an effort to walk to the top. The reward is the stunning view over both the water, the beach, and the city below, and it’s especially wow-ing at sunrise or sunset. It’s a great place to set up a picnic and feast your eyes; after the 45-minute walk up you will have earned both!
HUKA FALLS: TAUPO
Every second, over 220,000 litres of water are spurted out 8 meters and drop down into the pool below. This thunderous churning creates beautiful air bubbles beneath the surface; hence the name 'Huka' which means foam in Maori language. The blue of the water is crazy and the force of it will have you staring into the deep. It’s completely mesmerising just how powerful and loud the water is. There are multiple viewing platforms and it’s easily accessible, being about 30 seconds walk from the carpark.
TE PAPA MUSEUM: WELLINGTON
Standing proud on the Wellington waterfront, the National Museum of New Zealand offers mind-blowing exhibitions and a whole lot of local history and education at your fingertips. The interactive displays attract crowds from all over – local residents taking their kids at the weekend, travellers interested in the country’s heritage, and kiwis from out of town as they check in to see what’s happening in the capital. It’s ideal to spend a whole day exploring this empire of a museum and regardless of your interests, your attention will be captured immediately!
PORT HILLS: CHRISTCHURCH
The beautiful city of Christchurch is still healing after it’s shocking quake in 2011, but it’s becoming a popular, hip place to live again and has some of the best weather in the country. The rolling Port Hills hug the city to the South and here you can walk, cycle, paraglide, or take your mountain bike for a spin. A gondola connects the top of the peaks to the valley below, but a drive up and a climb on foot to the top is more rewarding. You can gaze out at the whole city and beyond and soak up some great, reliable sunshine. Nothing beats it on a bluebird day.
ADVENTURE CAPITAL: QUEENSTOWN
One of the most popular New Zealand destinations, and with good reason; It’s an adventure capital. In the winter you can ski and snowboard up the mountains, and in the summer, they are used for mountain biking, gliding and trail running. Here you can finally live your dream of skydiving, parasailing, luging, speed boating, and fine dining at the observation deck. A walk up the Queenstown Hill will you have you hungry for the famous Ferg Burger joint, and the Shotover Jet will have you screaming for more. Queenstown is an absolute stunner.
ROY’S PEAK: WANAKA
Wanaka is the quieter, more chilled sibling of Queenstown, about a 45-minute drive away. Roy’s Peak is a desired 6-hour-round-trip hike that brings people from all over to marvel at the scenery. Do yourself a favour and lace up your shoes for this daytrip; it’s well worth getting out of the car for. It’s a classic shot from one of the peaks at the top and people even have wedding photos taken up here.
OTAGO PENINSULA: DUNEDIN
Laying protectively around the largest student city in the country is Otago Peninsula, a home to many species like albatross, sea lions, and penguins. The beaches this far South are often underrated because the water is colder than the north, but it’s pretty magical that you might not be the biggest creature on the beach…! Be sure to not disturb the local wildlife as you cruise around the intimate bays and coves at the bottom of the world.
By: Kirsty Gordge identityk.com
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