New Zealand: is there anything it can’t do? Of all the nations on Earth, it’s up there with the most “wow” – from the snowy peaks of Queenstown, to its stunning cities, and an exhilarating foray through Middle Earth.[related_articles]62369,62167,59434[/related_articles]
Here, we explore New Zealand‘s 12 most spectacular, wow-inducing moments.
Against the spectacular Southern Alps on South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has long been luring gob-smacked outsiders to New Zealand with its incredible beauty. Though small, there’s never been anything boring about Queenstown, and as a Global Adventure Capital, it remains New Zealand’s most sought after hotspot for adrenaline activities. Nowhere is Queentown’s wow-factor more remarkable than the vantage you get as you barrel down the slopes of Coronet Peak and the nearby snow-capped Remarkables.
Bubbling mud pools. Geothermal springs. A cherished hotbed of Maori culture. Yes folks, as well as a name that rolls off the tongue, Rotorua is a place of stunning natural scenery.[related_articles]58130,38104[/related_articles]
Sitting in the crux of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the natural hot springs here make for a deeply relaxing scenario, and with its array of verdant forest land and showpiece eruptions like the Pohutu Geyser, there’s more than a few rolls worth of unforgettable film to be taken here.
#3 Waitakere beaches
The Waitakere Ranges are renowned for its lush, native rainforests and endless walking trails. But its the coastline that warrants a special mention. With black sand and ragingly powerful surf, the West Coast Beaches are a sight for salty eyes. Head to Cornwallis for a day out with the family, Karekare for waterfalls and picnics, Piha Beach for the best surf, and Anawhata and Te Henga – for tranquillity and sand dunes, respectively.
With a dazzling waterfront promenade and harbour, vibrant culture and a headline-hogging food and coffee scene, Wellington’s reputation far outweighs its cosy land mass. Situated on the North Island’s southernmost point, this little city punches well above its weight, not only as one of the coolest capitals, but one of the prettiest and most sought after in the world.
#5 The Milford Track
With people describing it as “New Zealand’s greatest trek” and “the world’s finest walk” the wow-factor endures at Milford Sound. Located in the Fjordland National Park along the South Island’s southwest coast, the landscape of lakes, valleys and glacial-carved fjords that you encounter along the Milford Track are straight out of a Hollywood epic. The incredible panoramas of MacKinnon Pass, Sutherland Falls, and the azure green waters of Clinton River make for a paralysingly wow-worthy escapade.
#6 Tongariro National Park
In a word: Mordor. In many more words: ancient, spectacular, otherworldly, and of course, a very drawn-out ‘wow’. With its volcanic, Martian-like landscape, the North Island’s Tongariro National Park was always going to be the perfect spot to film Sauron’s sinister domain in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.[related_articles]15370,21042[/related_articles]
While a climb to the volcanic peaks will awaken your inner hobbit (or orc), a trek through Tongariro’s famous 19km Alpine Crossing is the perfect way to experience Mordor’s hauntingly beautiful expanse.
Traditionally tourists might have bypassed Auckland for the countless natural wonders surrounding it at every turn. However, there’s countless reasons why it’s begun to rate so highly amongst the world’s most liveable city rankings: a cosmopolitan experience replete with revitalised waterfronts, cutting edge dining, modern entertainment precincts, to say nothing of its stunning cityscape at twilight.
#8 The Coromandel
The Coromandel is loaded with natural splendour: magical rainforests, verdant pastures, devastatingly gorgeous white-sand beaches. Forming the eastern peninsula adjacent the North Island’s Hauraki Gulf, the Coromandel is conveniently close to the capital while retaining its feeling of remote isolation. From the dramatic Karangahake Gorge to the natural geothermal spas of Hot Water Beach, the Coromandel is an absolute New Zealand bucket-list must.
#9 Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman is everything you could want in a national park: dramatic forested hills, a coastal paradise with spectacular stretches of sandy beach, resident colonies of fur seals, dolphins and blue seals. Yet at a manageable 55 hectares, it’s also one of New Zealand’s smallest reserves of this kind, which makes kayaking its crisp waters and hiking through its dazzling forests all the more accessible.
Christchurch: a vibrant hub in the throes of transformation. With its uniquely English heritage, the city retains its historical flair as it boldly embraces a cosmopolitan future: pop-up stores, contemporary culture, and a burgeoning food, beverage and entertainment scene. As the gateway to New Zealand’s stunning south, it remains one of the most sought after hubs in the nation. It may have suffered in earthquakes in recent years, but the enterprising locals have more than made up for the damage with their innovative reinvention of the city.
Situated on the pretty Waikato River in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, Hamilton might not get the wrap that some of the other draw-card cities do, but we think it ought to. A young, energetic, and aesthetically beautiful hub, Hamilton’s Italian Renaissance, Japanese and Maori-inspired gardens, its blossoming creative communities, and its rich, welcoming spirit marks it out as one of New Zealand’s finest, and most wow-worthy.
#12 Cape Reigna
Where the currents of the Tasman and Pacific Oceans collide. While not quite the northernmost point of the North Island, Cape Reigna is arguably the region’s most important sacred Maori grounds. Its Maori name Te Rerenga Wairua translates to “leaping-off place of spirits” – here, it’s said that the dead traverse through to the underworld via the gnarled, 800-year pohutukawa tree at the cape’s edge. Mythic, magic, and breaktakingly awesome.
All wowed out? Didn’t think so. Who could possibly get enough of this calibre of awesomeness? New Zealand truly remains one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.[media_embed]https://youtu.be/uOtG3NbiHxc[/media_embed] [qantas_widget code=AKL]Check out Qantas flights to Auckland.[/qantas_widget]
(Lead image: Jackson Kuo / Flickr)
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.