I can staunchly say that I am lucky to be living in my adopted country. Although isolated, it is generally peaceful and absolutely beautiful.
If New Zealand is in your travel bucket list, be prepared for the bombardment of stunning places to see. To get to these destinations, opt for a road trip. I suggest that you sweep North Island to South Island. However, let me show you a glimpse of South Island and see places which you must include in your travel itineraries. Be warned though, that there are so much more than what I can tip-off but if you stray to these parts of the country, you can unequivocally say that you taste the Kiwi experience! I can assure you, it’s going to be a road trip of a life time.
So come on and look what I got in my backyard!
#1 Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman in Nelson is NZ’s smallest National Park but it offers everyone a coastal wonderland. The coastal track is an easy walk which can stretch from 2-8 hours where you can come upon golden sand beaches and dense forests while luxuriating in its vast scenic perspectives. You can also go sea kayaking when the weather is good and the water is calm.
Kaikoura is a tiny town located on the east coast of South Island. Oftentimes, visitors to NZ overlook to drop by to this place but there are many interesting things that you can see or do here. Kaikoura is most famous for whale watching or swimming with the dolphins. On the eastern end of the town is a large colony of fur seals which can be easily viewed especially at low tide. More so, Kaikoura is a great place to eat crayfish and other seafood which are served fresh on a plate. How good is that!
#3 Lake Tekapo
Tekapo has an especially dramatic picturesque of the lake and the Southern Alps. This is unquestionably a must see when you travel in NZ. The Church of the Good Shepherd is a tiny church by the shore of the lake which is probably one of the most photographed churches in NZ and the world. Due to the absence of light pollution, Tekapo is one of the best places in NZ for stargazing. If you can still dig into your pocket, board on a plane or a helicopter for an air safari for aerial navigation of the NZ’s highest summits.
#4 Mount Cook/ Aoraki National Park
The alpines, the lakes, the summits, the glaciers and the grand panorama of Mount Cook National Park will surely blow your mind. This is a place for adventurers at heart. This is also the part of NZ that offers travelers the most captivating and photogenic scenes in the country. Even gentle strolls will take you to spots that can completely mesmerize you. There are a few tracks that allow tourists to go around the mountain. The Hooker Valley Track is possibly the most famous which leads to the core of the Southern Alps. Your visit to NZ will be incomplete without catching a glimpse of Mount Cook.
# 5 Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes
The famous Pancake Rocks in the west coast is a spectacular limestone formation that looks like giant pancakes sculpted by nature over millions of years. Depending on your pace and the number of photos you want to capture, the whole track can be walked in 20 to 40 minutes. As you wend your way to the Pancake Rocks track, chances are that you can be sprayed by the seawater as it bursts out of the blowholes. The odd to see a blowhole is higher during high tide so it pays to check the tide timetable when you plan to drop round to see this striking natural wonder.
#6 Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef is a little town in the west coast which is less than three hours drive from Punakaiki. If you are hankering for a look of the glacier in just a spitting distance, take the Franz Josef Glacier Walk where the track ascends steadily to magnificent glacier views. The Sentinel Rock Track which is only a 20 minute walk from the car park presents the most remarkable sight of the glacial mass and the Waiho River. However, if your adventurous appetite craves for more than sightseeing, there are several tour guide options that can take you higher in the ice field to experience NZ’s world-class icescape.
#7 Moeraki Boulder
Moeraki Boulders are strangely massive and globular stones scattered along Koekohe Beach in Otago’s coastline. The boulders were thought to have been formed 60 million years ago. They are one of the world’s most interesting and largest concretions. It is easy to locate this spectacular spot as Koekohe Beach is just along State Highway 1 between Moeraki and Hampden.
# 8 Queenstown
When searching for ‘where to go in NZ’, Queenstown would probably be on top of the list most of the time. Why would it not be? Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world. People all over the globe seek to experience myriads of adrenaline-infused quests in this tiny town from sky diving, bungy jumping, ziplining, canyon swinging, jetboating, skiing, hiking, whitewater rafting and more.
It is rife with attractions as well. Lake Wakatipu alone can satiate your eyes. It is the longest lake in NZ. If you have a considerable amount of time in your hand, you may take the Tiki Trail up to Bob’s Peak to spot the sweeping view of Queenstown. If hiking is not your cup of tea, you can still get to the peak through the Skyline Gondola. Have a walk in the busy Marine Parade where local events are held. You can also take a remarkable undertaking of a lifetime in Shotover Canyon, Kawarau River and Coronet Peak. Take a drive up the winding Crown Range but be extra careful.
This place is packed with attractions and activities so you may want to consider shelling out an ample time to stay here when your feet touch the NZ soil.
# 9 Milford Sound
Milford Sound is a place you should never ever miss when coming to NZ. It is found deep within the Fiordland National Park and is the most popular among the fiords in the country and one of the most beautiful in the world! It is incredibly awe-inspiring. To come here is to want to see it more. Its sheer natural artistry will keep you fascinated and will make you fancy to return over and over again. If you are looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, this is it! Even a novice photographer will capture a picture perfect scene for post card or travel calendar.
To get to the heart of Fiordland is to drive a car or ride on a bus or coach along Milford Road. You can also take a flight as you wish. The road to this beautiful isolation is immensely panoramic as well so make sure to apportion a good deal of time for a few stops and short walks.
To explore and bask on the beauty of the fiord, get out on the water by embarking on a cruise.
Tourists usually get very curious to the famous willow tree in Wanaka so they come to take their own photos of it. But other than ‘That Wanaka Tree’, Wanaka is an attractive little town in the South Island. It boasts itself with the interesting Wonderful World of Weirdness, The Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. Visitors can be assured that this is not a tourist trap. Adrenaline junkies may find their happiness in skydiving and canyoning. Water lovers can paddle board, kayak, swim, or boat in Lake Wanaka. Hikers may be fascinated to tramp Roys Peak and the powder shredders can hit Treble Cone which is the largest ski area in the South Island.
# 11 Baldwin Street
Okay, Baldwin Street is a residential street in Dunedin but what makes it amusing is it is the steepest street in the world! It’s about 350 meters long but it will take an average of ten minutes to walk up the top of the street!
NZ is a small country but it is world-class. As visitors, revel on the beauty of every corner of the country. Take with you as much memories to remember, to write about, to share and to treasure but please, leave only your footprints!