If you have the opportunity to visit 10 places in New Zealand the following list is our recommendation, all of which had to meet certain criteria. These include outstanding scenery, pristine environment, unusual landscapes and pleasant climate.
Don’t miss visiting one of the numerous national parks. One we can highly recommend is the Fiordland National Park part of the South Westland World Heritage area and is New Zealands largest National Park and one of the largest National Parks in the world. The scenery is extremely spectacular, with fine examples of fiords, precipitous mountains, waterfalls and flourishing rainforests. Fiordland is home to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound which are 2 majestic fiords that shouldnt be missed on any trip to New Zealand. Other attractions include the Routeburn and Milford tracks, the Sutherland Falls which is one of thousands of waterfalls in the park and Mitre Peak which rises 1 mile high directly out of the ocean. Fiordland is on the other hand one of the wettest places and when it rains the waterfalls put on quite a show, but on a fine day the landscape is remarkable.
Another ‘must see’ park is the Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealands smallest National Park, but includes the sunniest climate together with the best coastal scenery in the country. The Park is renowned for the many fantastic white sandy beaches and bays that look out onto the clear waters of the Tasman Sea. Behind the beaches, the park is covered in flourishing Rainforest and Manuka, which is a type of Tea Tree. The Abel Tasman walk is a great way to see this park and takes 3-5 days to complete. Otherwise you can spend your time just relaxing on the beaches of your preference. Kayaking is a popular substitution to see the place as you have access to all the beaches, as well as those that the walk misses out on.
For action adventure and scenery Queenstown has it all. This beautiful mountain village is one of New Zealand’s leading tourist destinations. It is the home of bungee jumping and jet boating which are both New Zealand innovations. Other action activities include parapenting and white water rafting. Queenstown is also one of the Southern Hemispheres premier skiing destinations and enables skiers from around the world access to some great ski fields during the Northern Hemispheres summer. If you are not an adrenalin junkie then Queenstown is still a must see, even if it is to just admire the magnificent mountain surroundings while benefitting from the many cafes, restaurants and shops.
Don’t miss visit to Rotorua which is well-known for its volcanic activity. The area contains many Geothermal Reserves such as Waimangu, Waiotapu and Whakarewarewa, which are all situated in beautiful natural environs. All these reserves have great examples of geysers, boiling pools, hot springs, boiling mud and volcanic terraces and craters. Rotorua also has many beautiful lakes to swim in and amples of native bush for trekking. Mt Tarawera is also close by and there are tours by 4WD that take you up to the top of this volcano. The view is magnificent and you also have the chance to walk down into the crater. Rotorua is also a great area to learn about Maori Culture. Rotorua is situated in the Bay of Plenty region.
The subtropical Bay of Islands is the supreme maritime park in New Zealand. There are about 150 islands to look at with many fabulous beaches and private bays. The park has plenty of marine life, together with marlin, whales, penguins and dolphins. The Bay draws many people the world over including fishermen, golfers and marine enthusiasts and of course tourists who just want to enjoy the subtropical climate and swim at some of the best beaches in New Zealand.
Mt Cook National Park situated in the Canterbury region is another park ‘must see’. Mt Cook and neighbouring area is an alpine park that is part of the South Westland World Heritage area. Mt Cook is Australasias highest mountain and Mt Tasman and Mt Sefton the 2 neigbouring mountains come in at 2nd and 3rd respectively. Mt Cook National Park also has the world’s longest ski run, down the Tasman Glacier. The park doesnt have many trees or plants, it is best illustrated as a snow covered rocky environment. However lupines grow well in the soil here and these plants come in every colour that you can think of which this gives this harsh environment a more gentle and charming look. The Ball Pass here is a challenging 3-day alpine crossing of the Mount Cook Range and allows close views of New Zealands highest mountains. Anyone attempting the crossing without a guide needs to be quite an experienced mountaineer. There are other walks for those without mountaineering experience or the chance to acquire a helicopter or plane ride to the top of the Tasman Glacier and back.
Another ‘must see’ place is Kaikoura situated on the East Coast of New Zealands South Island. Kaikoura overlooks magnificent mountains which are snow caped for many months of the year. In the waters off the coast an lavishly rich habitat for marine mammals and seabirds exists. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where whales can be seen all year round. In addition, dolphin swimming, seal swimming, fishing, diving, shark diving, and a great number of both land and water based activities are obtainable.
Westland National Park sited in the Westcoast region also shouldn’t be missed and is part of the South Westland World Heritage area, famous for its glaciers, Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier. These glaciers are only one of its kind as they are the closest to the coastline of any glacier in the world outside of the polar regions, which means that they are not only accessible but the climate is much warmer measuring up to other glacial sites in the world. The park is also covered in a lush ancient rainforest and is backed by steep cliffs and mountains. It seems like a contradiction when viewing the glaciers from a rainforest, and it is this experience that makes this area exclusive. The jagged coastline is only a drive away and there are some great views of the glaciers and mountains shimmering in some of the lakes in the area. Westland National Park also has many activities on offer such as a trek up one of the glaciers or a helicopter ride up to the top of the Southern Alps and back. If you want nature and fantastic scenery, and you dont mind rain then Westland National Park is a must see.
The Tongariro National Park, situated in the Taupo region, is a World Heritage Park and one of the oldest National Parks in the world, thus deserves a mention on this page. The park contains 3 active volcanoes that are situated in a desert like landscape. The area gets regular snowfalls in the winter as it is situated at high altitude. Mt Ruapehu is the largest volcano and home to most of the ski-fields in the North Island. However this volcano erupts on a regular basis and you need to check on its activity before you visit. Another volcano, Mt Ngauruhoe is right next to Ruapehu and also worth visiting while in the area. The Tongariro Crossing is a tough one day walk that comes recommended, and shows off the greatest that this park has on offer. National Geographic has classed it as one of the top 10 one day walks in the world.