New Zealand is a force to reckon with. Located southeast of Australia, the country consists of two islands, the North and South, that were shaped into present formation by various volcanic and glacial activities in the distant past. Its rich cultures and scenic landscapes today befit the interest of nature lovers, sporty travelers, and Lord of the Rings fans alike. From majestic geothermal sites and slinky slopes to lush mountain views and cave networks, there are plenty of breathtaking scenes to enjoy here. Discover some of the best destinations on our list below!
#1. Milford Sound
Ever the picturesque relics left behind from the Ice Age, Milford Sound is considered to be one of the wonders of the world today. Upon stepping onto its icy terrains, you would immediately be slapped into awe by its scenic view of steep cliffs, glistening fjords, and mountains hiding the most beautifully cascading waterfalls. Book a sightseeing cruise to meditate on it all or, if you’re feeling more active, navigate through it on a kayaking tour. Then, experience a deeper understanding of the landscape on your visit to the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory, a knowledge center stationed more than 30-feet underground.
#2. Waiheke Island
When in Auckland, don’t forget to do a little detour to Waiheke Island, which is only 30 minutes away.The island is home to many vineyards that would produce esteemed wines. Book a spot in the Waiheke Island Wine Tours, which will have you mingling with local wine experts and tour guides while also delighting your palate with the myriad tastes of 14 types of wines. Then, take your experience up a notch with a seven-course meal at Budbrick Vineyard Restaurant, an enchanting eatery boasting beautiful views of the Hauraki Gulf.
The sportiest side of New Zealand is definitely Queenstown. Wonder what it’s like to experience skiing in Earth’s southern hemisphere? Then you should pay a visit to this city any time between June to October to find out. Some of the best skiing hubs in town include the Coronet Ski Peak Area, The Remarkable Ski Areas, and Ski Express NZ. But if you’re not exactly a fan of navigating icy slopes and would prefer upping your athleticism in the summertime, fret not. Here, there are plenty of activities to partake in all year, such as skydiving, jet boating, and river boating. If you want to take your active life to the extremes, then consider the Shotover Canyon Swing, currently the world’s highest cliff jump. Here, you can conquer your fear of heights in a number of ways — including being tied to a chair as you jump off!
The best thing about New Zealand is that it is home to a lot of nature’s mysteries. A good example to back this fact is Waitomo, a village located in the North Island. Here, one can check out the Ruakuri Cave, which is known for enveloping scenic waterfalls and limestone formations. Head west of Waitomo, and you’ll find yourself on the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, admiring the crystal clear Mangapohue Stream over which the bridge arches elegantly. Northeast of Waitomo, meanwhile, is where you will discover the Otorohanga Kiwi house, and make friends with rare kiwi birds. And perhaps the most fascinating offering of all is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, where the fascinating, plankton-like light from glow worms will leave visitors marveled for days.
Nothing quite like a visit to volcanic sites to awaken a primordial sense of awe. Here in Queenstown, you can experience such with a visit to Rotorua, located on the edges of Lake Rotorua in North Island. Established on top of a vast volcanic plate, the city is surprising one of New Zealand’s most urban destinations, and is best known for its geothermal tourism. Visit Wai-O-Tapu, an active reserve sitting south of the Okataina Volcanic Centre, where you can bask in the beauty of its erupting geysers, colourful pools, craters, and hot springs. Another good geothermal site is Whakarewarewa; here you can elation by watching a network of geysers exploding in active domino effect.
One cannot travel to New Zealand and not visit Hobbiton, whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not. You’d be surprised to discover that the ethereal settings documented in the film saga are just as they are. Here, indulge in the green pastures around The Shire (the home to Frodo Baggins and Bilbo before him), relax with some beer at The Green Dragon Inn, or gasp in awe at the breathtaking sight of Middle Earth. Then, end your LOTR journey with a dreamy evening banquet tour at dusk.
Last but definitely not least in our list is Hokitika Gorge, a stretch of land located in Kokatahi, South Island. Distinguished by its vibrant blue, the site is a cacophony of glaciers, plankton and freshwater ecosystems. Made for travelers who love trekking and hiking, Hokitika Gorge features several walking trails that would unveil many unique wildlife species as you tread along. You can even go for a wild swim in the surrounding ocean if you’re feeling brave; just take note of its strong current!