A unique species of glowworm is known to light up the North Island’s Waitomo Caves. Whether you opt to take a scenic cruise across its limestone formations or you’re more inclined to try your hand at spelunking and rafting into it, you can be sure that an exquisite light spectacle is never too far away.
The Coromandel’s Cathedral Cove is so magical that it has made its mark in the cinematic world. Most famously, the site was transformed into Cair Caravel in the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Visitors can access Cathedral Cove by taking a short stroll from the nearby Hahei Beach, a route with a trove of dramatic coastal vistas to admire.
The Mirror Lakes
The Mirror Lakes are among the sublime landscapes that make the South Island so exquisite. These lakes lie to the west of Te Anau and Milford Sound, and have become a popular stopover point. A short walk from the roadside will lead you straight to it. Besides having some of the most stunning, mirror-like waters, the lakes also provide great views of the Earl Mountains.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is one of New Zealand’s remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Areas. It earned this status in part because of its rich Maori heritage, and partly because of the stunning volcanic features that lie within it. The park’s Mount Ngauruhoe is famous for its cameo as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Tongariro is also home to some of the country’s best hikes and ski slopes.
A story commonly associated with Milford Sound is that writer Rudyard Kipling once claimed it to be the eighth wonder of the world. If you’re lucky enough to see it from up close, you might just conclude that Kipling was onto something: the fjord, located in the southwest of the South Island, is comprised of towering Mitre Peak, several waterfalls and lush rain forests. Milford Sound is also a good place to see some native wildlife like fur seals, penguins and dolphins.
Wai-O-Tapu is a geothermal park just outside of Rotorua. It is a hive of volcanic activity that will amaze visitors not just because of its bubbling formations, but also because of the sheer diversity of the geothermal pools and spouting geysers on show. Colourful features like the vibrant green Devil’s Bath and the intriguing orange and green tones of the Champagne Pools are just some of the key attractions to look out for.
Poor Knights Islands
The Poor Knights Islands are located off the Tutukaka Coast, on the east of the upper North Island region of Northland. It is popular among divers and snorkellers because of the fairytale-like cliffs, caves, arches and tunnels that surround it. The biodiversity here is also quite noteworthy: a dip in the oceans will expose you to a myriad of fish and shellfish, while a cruise along the surface will showcase an array of rare birds.
The Huka Falls
The appeal of Taupo’s Huka Falls is the sheer force of the current. The falls begin on the Waikato River before draining into Lake Taupo, and have become one of New Zealand’s most photographed attractions. Adrenaline junkies can go to the Huka Falls to get their jet boating fix, while those who prefer a calmer expedition can readily see the rapids in all their glory through the various walking paths and lookout points around it.
New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook, rises above 3,724 metres (12,218 feet) as it challenges experienced climbers to venture to its treacherous summit. Sir Edmund Hillary, the Kiwi who famously conquered Mt Everest, took the challenge to ascend to Aoraki/Mt Cook himself before his remarkable Himalayan expedition. The mountain lies amid the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park area and can be seen via various hikes in the vicinity.
Ninety Mile Beach
This is a misnomer that’s worth visiting because of its remarkable sand dunes. Ninety Mile Beach lies on the western coast of Northland, stretching across 88 kilometers (55 miles) as it sweeps from the Reef Point Headlands near Ahipara Bay into Scott Point. Over the years the beach, and its desert-like landscape, and has become a popular spot for surfing, sand boarding and four-wheel drive adventures.
The South Island’s West Coast is demarcated by its rugged features. This is especially true as one travels around the town of Punakaiki, located at the tip of Paparoa National Park, where a spectacular stretch of rock formations and blowholes come into full view. Better known as the Pancake Rocks, these spectacular limestone formations are best viewed at high tide, and can be accessed through a 20-minute loop walk just outside the main highway.