The Kapiti Coast is located within a 45-minute drive from central Wellington and comprises some the most spectacular sea vistas, unspoiled forests and dramatic hillsides you’ll ever see. It is home to the Kapiti Island, which is just one of New Zealand’s esteemed nature reserves, as well as a number of scenic beachside towns like Paraparaumu, Waikanae and Raumati.
New Plymouth is the main city in the Taranaki region — an area movie buffs might recognise because of its namesake mountain’s cameo in The Last Samurai. The city’s main draws include a sunny climate, beautiful parks and New Zealand’s first contemporary art museum, the Govett-Brewster/Len Lye Art Gallery. For the outdoor lovers, Pukekura Park and the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway should be on top of your must-sees — those epic views are going to be a treat.
The Hawke’s Bay is quite famous for its food and wine, but have you thought about exploring its main cities? Napier is the place that gets instantly recognised for its historic architecture, but its twin city, Hastings, is just as worthy of a visit. Walk around the town for a lovely showcase of art deco- and Spanish Mission-style buildings, or head along to the local Sunday market to get the most out of the city’s produce and artisan delicacies.
The sunny South Island town of Kaiteriteri is known for being the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, but Little Kaiteriteri is lesser-known to the area’s visitors. If you want to escape the crowds, head a little a further down the golden coastlines to find this secluded gem. This sheltered beach offers stunning seaside vistas, fantastic swimming conditions and a few secret spots to discover in your own time.
The Kauri Coast is a remarkable showcase of native forestry within a 90-minute drive north of Auckland. It is accessed via the Twin Coast Highway, stretching right into the Hokianga Harbour. Waipoua Forest is one of its main highlights, it is where you’ll find the Tane Mahuta, the world’s largest Kauri tree which is more than 2,000 years old. Another point of interest in the area is the Trounson Kauri Park, which is one of the few places in New Zealand you’ll get to see kiwi birds in the wild.
Hahei is one of those places in the Coromandel you don’t hear much about. It is situated right next to the esteemed Cathedral Cove, between the settlements of Cooks Beach and Hot Water Beach. A sheltered, white sand beach invites visitors to chill out in its calm waters. Mahurangi Island, which lies right in the midst of Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, is one of its most prominent features.
Waipapa Point is a rocky promontory in the Catlins region, right at the lower end of the South Island. With a tumultuous coastline known for its shipwrecks, Waipapa Point is probably best known for its historic lighthouse (which was built in 1886 and is still active), but it also hides a treat for marine animal lovers. Hang around by the beach and you might just spot one of the world’s rarest seal species, the New Zealand sea lion.
The tiny coastal settlement of Te Araroa is situated near New Zealand’s easternmost point, the East Cape Lighthouse. Venture into the township to find Te Waha-o-Rerekohu, the 600-year-old Pohutukawa tree that is currently believed to be the country’s oldest and largest. Te Araroa is also known for being the birthplace of Sir Apirana Ngata, a historic New Zealand figure who dedicated his life to improving Maori social, cultural and economic conditions.
These rugged coastlines are a definite must-visit if you’re driving from Fox Glacier to Queenstown or Wanaka. Also known as Mahitahi, Bruce Bay is a lovely coastal gem right on the Tasman Sea. The bay is a nesting ground for some native penguin species, and endemic critters like the Hector’s Dolphin and southern right whales can occasionally be spotted swimming in the oceans.
Te Uruewera lies right between the Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay regions. Its nearest towns are Whakatane and Taneatua to the north, Wairoa to the east and Murupara and Ruatahuna to the west. The area was originally established as a national park in the 1950s but has ceased being a national entity in 2014 after the local Tuhoe tribe took ownership of the land. Despite all of this, the lush forested ranges are still open to the public, who readily enjoy a series of walking tracks which are surrounded by beautiful lakes.