New Zealand is easily one of my favourite places on the entire earth! This tiny country off the east coast of Australia holds so many amazing wonders that you would be hard pressed not to find something you love. The people are very friendly and helpful, the food is surprisingly delicious and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking everywhere you turn. Here are just a few reasons why I think you should visit New Zealand as soon as you possibly can!
1. Wellington – In addition to being New Zealand’s capitol city, Wellington is also the southernmost capitol city in the world. As if that weren’t enough, Wellington is also considered to be the culinary and cultural capital of New Zealand. It is the country’s third most populous urban area and is said to have more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York. Wellington is also fuelled by some of the strongest coffee you’ll ever find! Take the cable car up to the gorgeous botanical gardens and walk back down through the beautiful blooms, visit Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum or indulge in some of the cities fine cuisine.
2. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes – Punakaiki is a small community on the West Coast of the New Zealand’s South Island. Part of the Paparoa National Park, the Pancake Rocks are the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast. The rocks and blowholes are easily accessed by the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk right in the center of Punakaiki. The walk is easy and mostly flat, with a few stone stairs along the way. While the walk can probably be completed in about 20 minutes, I recommend allowing at least 30-45 minutes to do the whole track, as you’ll want to stop several times to watch the blowholes perform their magic.
3. Glenorchy – Often referred to as the gateway to Paradise, Glenorchy is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipua on New Zealand’s South Island, approximately 45 minutes from Queenstown. This idyllic little village is only home to about 350 residents, but serves as the gateway to some of New Zealand’s best hiking trails and Middle‑earth experiences. That’s right, set against a background of native beech forest and towering mountain ranges, Glenorchy’s spectacular landscapes have been used in many scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the Narnia movies. There are no remnants from the movies, though, as New Zealand made Peter Jackson promise to return the land to the exact state it was in before filming started.
4. Queenstown – Sitting on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu with the dramatic Southern Alps as it’s backdrop, Queenstown is one of the most stunning cities in all of New Zealand. It’s said that Queenstown was named by gold prospectors who were captivated by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers and pronounced it a town “fit for a Queen.” I’d surely agree! Queenstown is also known as the adventure capital of the world. You can bungee jump off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, jet-boat on the Shotover River or ski on the slopes of The Remarkables. If you’re not that adventurous you can still ride the gondola up to Bob’s Peak for stunning views over the city or take a tour of the local wine regions for more spectacular scenery.
5. Fox Glacier – Located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Fox Glacier is a 13 kilometer/8.1 mile long temperate maritime glacier, named in 1872 after a visit by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir William Fox. Fox Glacier offers the amazing experience to set foot on a glacier, either by helicopter, taking a guided glacial hike or a combination of both. Unfortunately, the weather was not suitable during my visit so I didn’t get the chance to experience either. However, I did get a sighting of the glacier at the end of a very cool hike through what felt like a different planet. I still haven’t actually set foot on a glacier, though, so that’s still on my bucket list for my next visit!
6. Rotorua – Located on New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is renowned for two things – geothermal activity and Maori culture. Don’t be alarmed by the smell of rotten eggs in the air. That’s caused by the sulfur from the hot springs and has earned the city the nickname “Sulphur City.” Eventually, you’ll get used to it. Don’t miss taking a soak in the hot springs at the Polynesian Spa. Plan to visit Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Valley, where you will see bubbling mud pools and a living Maori village. And finally, make sure you take part in a traditional Maori Hangi feast, which is very similar to a Hawaiian luau. The food is steamed for hours in an underground stove, fueled by coals and the areas natural hot springs, and dinner is followed by a traditional cultural performance.
7. Truman Track – Located just 3km/1.8 miles north of the Punakaiki Visitor Center, the Truman Track was one of my favourite experiences in all of New Zealand. This easily accessible, 30 minute round trip hike offers the best of New Zealand all packed into one short walk. Starting in native forest, the easy track then makes its way through tall flax bushes. Keep your eyes peeled for native birds, such as the ground-dwelling weka. The track officially ends at a lookout point where you can view the Tasman Sea and gorgeous Truman Beach, but if you’re daring, you can actually continue further and visit Truman Beach via the small staircase near the end of the track for spectacular views like the one in the photo below. Just be careful, and watch out for strong, sudden waves at high tide!
8. Marlborough Wine Region – Located at the top of the South Island, the region around Marlborough consistently ranks as one of the sunniest and driest regions in all of New Zealand, making it the countries largest wine growing region. In fact, 75% of New Zealand’s total wine production comes from Marlborough, the majority of which is the country’s world-renowned sauvignon blanc. The Marlborough sauvignon blanc happens to be my favorite wine in the world, so there was no way I was missing the chance to explore this amazing region. The region is scattered with over 30 wineries and is as beautiful as it is delicious. Sign up for a wine tour by car or bike, or create your own itinerary!
9. Tasman Abel National Park – Located on the North end of New Zealand’s South Island, Tasman Abel National Park is New Zealand’s smallest National Park. What it lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in beauty! Whether you want to sit and relax on a golden sand beach, take a hike through the lush green forest or kayak on the turquoise blue waters, this National Park will deliver. Take a ferry from neighboring Kaiteriteri Beach to access any of the parks stunning beaches as a starting point for your Abel Tasman adventure. And don’t forget your sunscreen, your camera and snacks!
Did you know? Unlike Australia, New Zealand does not have any dangerous or poisonous animals (with the one tiny exception of the Katipo Spider).
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