The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in New Zealand

Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand
Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand | © Autumn Sky Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Thalita Alves
4 May 2021

A visit to New Zealand will allow you to enjoy some of the most beautiful and geographically diverse landscapes in the world. From rocky alpine terrains to pristine beaches, here are 15 exquisite destinations you won’t want to miss.

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Natural Feature, Ski Resort
Map View

Hiker? Mountaineer? Nature lover? If you’re any one of these things, head into Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park to marvel at mountain ranges, glaciers and rocky terrains. The national park, part of the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage area, is in the southwest of the South Island. It’s home to Aoraki/Mt Cook – the tallest mountain in the country.

Piha Beach

Natural Feature
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Piha black sand beach, New Zealand
| © sweetasNZ / Alamy Stock Photo

Piha Beach is most popular among surfers, landscape photographers and holidaying Aucklanders not wanting to stray too far from the city. Black sand and a rugged appearance make this a natural idyll, while Lion Rock – a volcanic monolith with a war memorial and Māori carvings – is a ‘grammable manmade marvel.

Cape Reinga

Natural Feature
Map View

Cape Reinga is at the northernmost of the North Island – though it’s not quite the northernmost point of New Zealand. Māori legend tells us this is the place where spirits depart from Earth and into the ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. However, for those not quite ready to pass into the underworld, the lighthouse provides some spectacular views of the coastlines and surrounding greenery.

Lake Tekapo

Natural Feature
Map View
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand | © Nadly Aizat / Shutterstock

During the day, Lake Tekapo dazzles with bright-blue glacial waters. At night, the area becomes a stargazing haven, with the township and nearby Mount John Observatory all part of the International Dark Sky Reserve. In spring, you get another picturesque bonus: the lupins that colour the roadside in a carpet of purple and pink hues.

Milford Sound

Natural Feature
Map View
Milford Sound is a secluded fiord in Fiordland National Park that welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Many of them come locally, from Queenstown or Te Anau, to spend a day cruising the clear waters and admiring natural scenery. The more adventurous should explore the Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s most sought-after multi-day hiking routes.

Coromandel peninsula

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Hoho Rock, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Hoho Rock, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand | © Dmitry Pichugin / Shutterstock

The Coromandel peninsula is a summer holiday favourite among New Zealanders. A collection of picturesque coastal towns, campsites, surf spots and fishing locations are serious assets; gems such as Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are bonuses.

Mount Taranaki

Hiking Trail
Map View
Mount Taranaki, Egmont National Park
© Stephen Sykes / Alamy Stock Photo

Also known as Mount Egmont, Mount Taranaki is a quiescent stratovolcano on the western coast of the North Island. The symmetrical shape gives it a strong resemblance to Mount Fuji – so much so that Taranaki stands in for the Japanese peak in The Last Samurai (2003). Hiking tracks around Egmont National Park provide access to this magnificent summit.

Hokitika Gorge

Natural Feature
Map View

Located on the west coast of the South Island, the Hokitika Gorge is one of those rare places that look as good as the pictures. A walking track 33km (20.5mi) outside the town of Hokitika will bring you to the shimmering turquoise waters and densely forested surrounds. As you reach the viewing platform, a stunning swing bridge comes into view: the ultimate spot for a photo opportunity.

Wanaka

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Lake Wanaka, New Zealand869655
Lake Wanaka, New Zealand | © weerasak saeku / Shutterstock

Just an hour’s drive from Queenstown, Wanaka is a getaway loved for the small-town quaintness and incredible natural beauty. In winter, it’s an ideal base for skiers, as the town is en route to some of the premier resorts on the South Island; summertime offers plenty of water-based activities in the expansive lake.

Wai-O-Tapu

Natural Feature
Map View
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, just outside Rotorua, has long impressed visitors with geysers and hot pools. The geothermal park is notable for the colourful springs, including the vibrant Champagne Pool and the fluorescent-green Devil’s Bath. There’s also the spouting Lady Knox Geyser and bubbling mud pools that aptly showcase the local volcanic activity.

Nelson Lakes National Park

Natural Feature
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Mount Robert over Lake Rotoiti. From St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National Park, South Island, New Zealand. Image shot 02/2008. Exact date unknown.
© Vincent Lowe / Alamy Stock Photo

Set on the upper end of the South Island, Nelson Lakes National Park marks the beginning of the Southern Alps. At the heart of the park, you’ll encounter two breathtaking alpine lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa, surrounded by forested valleys. The lakes and parkland are great for camping, fishing, hiking and swimming.

Castlepoint

Natural Feature
Map View

Castlepoint is a small seaside town on the Wairarapa coast, just north of the capital city, Wellington. Its lighthouse is the tallest on the island – a walk to this 23m (75ft) beauty will expose you to some of the North Island’s most dramatic seaside views. A collection of fossil shells are found on the lighthouse route; if you’re lucky, you might spot native fur seals and birds hiding in full view. The sheltered lagoon at the base is another highlight.

Tongariro National Park

Natural Feature
Map View
Mt Ngauruho, New Zealand
Mt Ngauruho, New Zealand | © Sangchai Olanrittinunt / Shutterstock

Tongariro National Park is a rare Unesco Dual World Heritage site, because of both the Māori cultural associations and remarkable volcanic features. The park is home to three active volcanoes – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and the ski slopes of Ruapehu – as well as the glacial Emerald Lakes (best viewed by hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing). For something a bit more “out there”, there’s also the boiling mud pools of the active Red Crater.

Moeraki

Natural Feature
Map View
Moeraki Boulders Scenic Reserve, South Island, New Zealand
Moeraki Boulders Scenic Reserve, South Island, New Zealand | © Xavier Fores - Joana Roncero / Alamy Stock Photo

The claim to fame Moeraki has is the spherical boulders scattered around Koekohe beach. These intriguing rock features on the Otago coast are notable for their size; they’re also of great interest to geologists, making this area part of a protected scientific reserve. Ooften in clusters, they’ve been carved out of mudstone erosion and turbulent waves.

These recommendations were updated on May 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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