Seeing the Real New Zealand.
A look at some of the sights, off “the beaten tourist track”…
Travelling to New Zealand is a once in a lifetime experience – it’s a beautiful & unique country, and for that reason it’s important to make the most out of your time there. As a traveller about to embark on a trip to New Zealand, you may be wondering how you can really soak up everything this country has to offer, without compromising on your freedom. What can be wonderful about discovering a new place is those moments where you stumble upon something that you can’t find in guidebooks. But how can you make sure you see all you want to see and not miss out on anything, without planning every last detail, nor wandering aimlessly and wasting precious time?
This article focuses on some the sights of New Zealand, that you might not otherwise see on a traditional group tour, or as a tourist following the well marked routes to the ever increasing so called tourist hot spots. Don’t get me wrong – some of these are great sights – but its not so much the sights that aren’t great, but the swathes of people they attract through promotional advertising, that I wish to avoid. So if you want to get in touch with what this great country is really all about, this is best done through tailoring your own plans, and getting well away from the “beaten tourist track”…
New Zealand (as shown here below – see map) is made up of three Islands; two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, and a smaller island called Stewart Island in the deep south. This article starts at the top of the North Island and heads slowly south, as depicted below in the content overview section. Feel free to skip around this article, or if you want the full run-down – read it all from the top. I’d allow about 60-90 minutes to read the whole article. You will also find subtopic articles (linked), designed to give an idea of some of the options available for people with particular interests (i..e history, adventure tours, wine & food, etc…)…
Trueblue Kiwi Experiences
Auckland – 1-3 days
The Coromandel – 1-2 days
Waitomo – 1-2 days
Rotorua – 1-2 days
Taupo & The Tongariro National Park – 2-3 days
Napier & Hastings – 1-2 days
Wellington & The Wairarapa – 2-4 days
Abel Tasman – 3-4 days
Kaikoura – 1-2 days
Christchurch – 1-2 days
Lake Tekapo – 1-2 days
Queenstown – 1-3 days
Wanaka – 2-3 days
Franz Josef – 1-2 days
Greymouth – 1 day
Some other interesting aspects of New Zealand culture
The Kiwi Barbecue (BBQ) – It’s a way of life in New Zealand… So what is the Barbecue all about? Get more information here.
Thinking of visiting Rural New Zealand, or interested in New Zealand’s colonial history – going rural is the way to see it… Learn a little more here.
Are you looking to see locations that are off the well beaten track while in New Zealand? There are hundred’s if not thousand’s of great locations to visit in New Zealand – take a look at some here.
There are some famous and very beautiful walks that you can do in New Zealand. This is the way to go if it is stunning scenery you want to see. You can read about a variety of walks here.
New Zealand has a fantastic coffee (and cafe) culture, whereby the perfection of espresso coffee making has led to a distinct development of this popular drink. Interested in New Zealand’s food and coffee? You won’t be disapointed. Read more here.
Are you a golfer? Golfing in New Zealand is not hard to find. You could travel the whole of the country and find suitable stops to play throughout your travels, with around 400 courses across the two main islands. Here are some you might enjoy.
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, and its Māori name is Te Whanganui a Tara, but it is more commonly known for its wind, and referred to locally as ‘The Windy City’. Aside from this there is plenty to see and do while in Wellington – everything from shopping, mountain biking, wine, golf, food, coffee, great cinema, craft beer, and a wide range of family friendly activities. You can read a little about Wellington here.
For a great blend of the beauty of nature, and a buzzing city, look no further than Auckland City. Located in the northern part of the North Island, it contains around a third of New Zealand’s whole population and is the country’s largest city, so it is quite the contrast from the other sparsely populated areas of the country, and has the feel of a vibrant metropolis. A must see while visiting – read more about Auckland here.
Trueblue Kiwi Experiences are able to help independent travellers find that balance between the freedom you get from finding your own way around a country, and what you gain through the use of small tours. By using short tours at various junctures within a longer country-wide trip, you can create a happy medium between “going with the flow”, doing things your own way, whilst still seeing the iconic attractions that pull people to this part of the world.
Through this article, you will find out more about how you can discover the real New Zealand, whether that be; learning about its culture, seeing the sights it has to offer, meeting kiwis along the way, or all of these things.
Whether you’re flying solo, travelling as a couple, or bringing the whole family, you’re sure to find some hidden gems in here, and whilst you may have planned out some of the major attractions already, there’s always more to discover.
So follow this guide as it suggests where you might visit. Plan to do your trip at your own pace, and to pick and choose where you go and how you travel, depending on what you prefer and the length of your trip.
Most people who travel to New Zealand enter through Auckland – New Zealand’s largest and most populous city located toward the top of the North Island.
When arriving in Auckland, whether by plane or by cruise, the first thing you may want to do is some shopping. There’s shopping galore in Auckland – whatever you want or need, like many other major cities – Auckland is no exception – the shopping is abundant.
If (on the other hand) you want something simpler and more relaxed to do, then you may to decide to take in the many views on offer in and around Auckland. New Zealand is most known for its stunning scenery, so you don’t have to do very much to feel like you are having an incredible visual experience. No photograph or postcard can capture the true beauty of the country, and Auckland has many aspects and views worthy of a photograph (or two), and this is only the start of the journey in this respect, as you travel from cityscape to landscape to seascape.
If you’re a more sophisticated type, then perhaps a trip to the Auckland Museum is for you? The perfect place to brush up on your knowledge of New Zealand history, the Auckland Museum provides incredible insight into the migrations and settlement, particularly on Māori culture. ‘Aotearoa’ is the Māori name for New Zealand, translated as ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud,’ and you can find learning about the culture in this way is both entertaining and educational, providing you with the perfect knowledge base to start your travels.
To take in the wider aspects of Auckland city from the water a trip to Waiheke Island is well worth the time. Waiheke Island is the most populated and second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. Situated within the Hauraki Gulf Waiheke Island is a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches, all just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
Once on the island, if you’re a walker, you can explore the many trails which meander along cliff tops, down to the beaches and into cool enclaves of native forest. At the eastern end of the island the Stony Batter walkway leads you to a system of World War II gun emplacements and underground tunnels.
Getting around Waiheke Island is generally quite easy too. There are public buses and taxis, or you can hire a mountain bike, motor scooter or car. Alternatively if you’ve already got a vehicle you can bring it over with you on the car ferry. Its ferry terminal in Matiatia Bay at the western end is 21.5 km from the central-city terminal in Auckland.
Cathedral Cove (Māori: Te Whanganui-A-Hei) is located in the Coromandel Peninsula, and is in-fact a Marine Reserve, rather than a place of worship. Named after an arch, which makes it feel like a secret hiding place, looking out onto the sea, Cathedral Cove is a special place – uniquely New Zealand in all respects.
Another unique natural location in the Cormandel well worth the time is the popular Hot Water Beach, where the hot springs mean you can make your own pools from digging inside the sand. Visitors to this famous beach will arrive to find groups and families gathered together in water holes they have dug on the beach, to take advantage of the warm water, sitting right on the beach!
Be prepared – The Coromandel is a popular place, in particular with the locals, and weekend travellers from nearby Auckland, which is only two hours away… Both the Cathedral Cove and the Hot Water Beach create a suite of attractions and make The Coromandel a place that is well worth the visit, and a must see, however I’d suggest doing this one on your own arrangements, and not on a tour or group…
Once you have explored these tourist attractions, it’s time to go off the beaten track and take a trip to New Chums Beach. You will need to travel 9 miles east on Whanapoua Road, to the northern end of Whangapoua Beach. Make sure you’ve packed your waterproof shoes, as you will then wade through a lagoon, before emerging to continue along a track that leads to this hidden gem of a Beach. New Chums Beach is shadowed by a large saddle covered with Pohutukawa trees (The New Zealand Christmas Tree) and swathes of native bush above the glorious sand. A location that is well away from the hustle and bustle, and a great spot to surf, to swim, or to take a chance to have a snorkel, looking for marine life.
Another good find, particularly for families, if you have the time, is the Driving Creek Railway. This is New Zealand’s only narrow-gauge mountain railway, which consists of an hour-long journey through native kauri forest and mountain-top views. Once you’ve completed your journey, you can take in the panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf at Eyefull Tower, and choose to visit the pottery and craft shop where it all began in 1975.
Waitomo is known for its caves that are home to a type of glow-worm that is found exclusively in New Zealand. The visitor experience includes a boat ride through the glow worm caves, where you can witness close up, this strange and beautiful site. This might be a typical tourist experience, but it is so for a good reason, as this natural phenomenon is truly a sight to behold, and one not to be missed. Through these cave systems you can also see stalactites and stalagmites – icicle-shaped formations that hang from the cave ceiling, or grow upwards from the ground.
In Waitomo you can also be at one with nature with so-called ‘Blackwater Rafting’. This is a kind of tubing through caves, where you float down underground rivers on inflated rubber rings. As well as these more adventurous pursuits, this destination offers easy-walking tracks from the village, which are perfect for family treks.
Another activity that is certainly away from those usually on the tourist checklist is a visit to the local angora rabbit shearing shed. Here, you can see shows where the audience can watch long-haired rabbits essentially get a haircut. It is the only place in the world where you can see these rabbits shorn, so why not?
This district is most famous for Lake Rotorua, which is built over a geothermal hot spot and home to a total of 18 different lakes, and three major rivers. The 7 geothermal fields contain hot pools, and here you can witness the incredible steam eruptions. From parks and gardens, to farmlands and wetlands, the volcanic landscapes provide an idyllic setting for exploration. There are many activities to do, including lots of free parklands to hike or bike through, as well as land-sledding down Mount Ngongotaha, or play golf amongst mud pools.
When you are done with all this activity, you can treat yourself to relaxing in a traditional Polynesian spa, using those hot mineral springs for bathing, all while sitting amongst the beautiful lake scenery.
Rotorua is becoming an increasingly popular destination for mountain biking in particular. It’s possible to hire bikes in the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest, which offers what is considered to be the world’s finest mountain bike trails. There’s provision of both public and private shuttle services that transport mountain bikers to the topmost point, giving you a fun-filled down-hill ride. There are a wide range of different trails you can do, suited to a variety of riding abilities and levels, whether you want an easy ride, or a challenge.
In Rotorua, there are also around 35 Māori meeting grounds, making it possibly the ideal place to have genuine interaction with the Māori population. You may be fortunate enough to be invited to stay as a guest on a marae. Otherwise, make sure to see a traditional show where stories are told through song and dance. Experience traditional cuisine with a hangi feast, where food is cooked in earthen ovens below the ground. This is also the perfect place to pick up a souvenir, with traditional Māori crafts on sale in the city centre, whether contemporary artwork to cheaper bits and bobs.
In Taupo you can find the largest lake in the whole of Australasia, home to one of the largest volcanos in this area of New Zealand, and it has a whole host of adventure activities to go with it. From bungee jumping, to jet boating, to skydiving, there is plenty to do for thrill-seekers.
For quieter pursuits, the 616 Square kilometre Lake Taupo has plenty of room for sailing, kayaking, and fishing. Have Trueblue Kiwi tours arrange a boat ride for you, to see if you can find some of the hidden bays, with amazing views that can only be accessed when travelling by water.
Like Rotorua Taupo is also a geothermal area, and nearby you can experience some of this natural activity, just a few minutes out of Taupo Township, North along state highway 1. Here you will find a geothermal location known as Craters of the Moon, where you can feel like you’re on another planet.
Along the same road, you will also find the Wairakei steam field, where geothermal power is being harnessed at the Te Mihi Power Station. Slightly further afield, you can discover Orakei Korako, translated as ‘The Glittering Place of Adorning’, where you will find a uniquely beautiful place, full of geysers, mud pools and hot springs, as well as the Ruatapu Caves.
At the edge of Taupo, you will find the Tongariro National Park, which was New Zealand’s first ever national park and a World Heritage site. Gifted to the nation by Te Heuheu Tukino IV (chief of the Ngāti Tuwharetoa tribe) in 1887, the mountains are meaningful to the Māori people spiritually. These mountains are connected to the Māori folklore that tells the tale of the high priest Ngatoroirangi, who was thought to be frozen in a snowstorm while exploring Tongariro. He prayed to Hawaiki for fire and the mountain erupted. For these reasons, these mountains are thought to be very sacred by their culture.
Whilst exploring this region, you can take a hike across the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which can be completed in around 6-8 hours, and is considered one of the best walks in New Zealand. To extend your trip even further, you could spend a whole 4 or 5 days hiking around Mount Ruapehu, where you will witness a host of different landscapes. Somewhere in the middle of the two options is the Northern Circuit, which takes between 3-4 days.
One of the sunniest places in New Zealand, Napier, Hastings and Havelock North in the Hawkes Bay is a great place for a mixture of city living, river walks, wine, food and soft sandy beaches. There’s plenty to do and you could quite easily spend a week or two in this area…
Where to start!
Napier is the dominant town in the area (by size), and here you can take in the Art Deco architecture of Napier, some fantastic and unique shops and within and explore one of the many wineries and vineyards this region has to offer, and there are many! By my count there are 72 wineries in the local area, and as a wine region this place certainly stands up to its fine reputation as a renowned wine and food destination, with numerous award winning wines available at cellar doors.
There’s a great Wine Tasting Map available for this region from Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers (the official regional wine industry organisation), which provides a great overview of what’s on offer… Check it out here
Keep in mind that the Hawke’s Bay is one of NZ’s leading wine destinations, so pace yourself and take the time to sample the many different varietals on offer, have a lunch at one (or two) of the wineries whilst soaking up the Hawke’s Bay river valleys, terraces and hillsides of vineyards… Of course – if you want a tour – let us know we’re often running these, and enjoy taking people through this region.
After taking in a wine or two – Te Mata Peak is well worth the time, and presents a great opportunity to refresh yourself, with a walk around one of the many trails on the peak… Towering over Havelock North, Te Mata Peak is one of the highest peaks in the area, offering incredible views over Hawke’s Bay, with the landscape stretches far into the distance. In my view – not a place to be missed…
Not too far from Havelock (and Te Mata Peak) is the Southern Star Abbey (Kopua Takapau New Zealand), and although it is very much off the “beaten tourist track” it is for this reason well worth the time, if you are someone who a more spiritual travel experience. Visitors can join the monks’ services, or enjoy a quieter pace of life in this rural region. Bear in mind – bookings are essential if you want to enjoy this experience, and you can even request to have a consultation with a monk, or simply make use of the library of books in the guesthouse. Check it out here
Before you arrive in Wellington be sure to plan ahead what you want to do, and if required book anything you want to do in advance. Trueblue kiwi Experiences are the tailored tour specialists and it’s worth considering the options they have available here in Wellington, if only to learn about the region… and what you might prefer doing.
One of the tours that jumped out for me related to food. Wellington is a food city, with more cafes per capita than many much larger cities, including New York (fact – it’s true!). One of the tours Trueblue Kiwi Experiences offer is their ‘Sensations Tour’, which is ideal for those who love food and who have a genuine desire to meet the people who run some of the many eateries found in this wonderful city. If you’re a foodie – Wellington is a dream and on this tour you get a real feel for the city and the kiwis who inhabit it. In addition to the food you’ll also be treated to the city’s most loved panoramic sights, and engage in an interactive lunch with a kiwi foodie and chef, for a truly unique experience. Packed with one-of-a-kind experiences, you’ll be treated to local sweet delicacies, meet a passionate perfume maker, and have the option to indulge in some beer tasting. A true taste sensation!
Another highly recommended tour in Wellington is the Weta Film Studio – which is Peter Jackson’s movie creation business, and Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fans will know that many of the film locations for LOTR’s were filmed close to Wellington. Mount Victoria and Kaitoke Regional Park are key places where filming took place, but you may also want to visit Matamata, Nelson Tasman, Mackenzie Country, Southern Lakes, or Fiordland to see all the site where the film was set.
At the northern tip of the South Island, you will find Abel Tasman National Park.
The park was established to protect the natural wonder of the area and came about as a result of strong protests from European Settlers to heavy logging that was taking place in the area.
The Abel Tasman is at the top of the South Island, it is renowned for its golden beaches, wildlife and beautiful coastal walking track which features as one of New Zealand’s top nine iconic walks. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is 51Km long and is accessible at many points giving you options to walk the whole track or part of the track. Most people walk the whole track
in 3-5 days however day walks or short walks can also be completed. Its an easy walk and can be completed by most ages and fitness levels. There is also the option to Kayak along the track or in one of the gorgeous bays. There are lots of accommodation options on the track including Huts, campsites, glamping (upmarket camping) a boutique lodge, and even a floating boat.
If walking isn’t your thing you can still explore the area by boat. There are a number of water taxi operators that can take you to whichever bay you would like to visit or sightseeing cruise options are a plenty.
For something a bit less popular you might want to consider heading to Kahurangi National Park, which is further inland and offers secluded treks and a true back country hiking experience. There is also caving for those interested (or experienced) in caving, of which Kahurangi National Park has many and touts some of the deepest caves in the world. Like the coastal walk kayaking is also available, but this is best suited to those with a good level of experience. The area has an interesting range of wildlife too, with 18 species of birds native to New Zealand located here, as well as giant carnivorous snails that feed on long worms that can be up to a metre in length. If you are planning on some caving, you may spot one of the world’s rarest spiders, with legs as long as 12 centimetres – scary!
The Abel Tasman can be accessed by a 40 minute drive from Nelson, Nelson is a 75 minute flight from Auckland.
Located near the top of the East Coast of the South Island Kaikoura is generally the first township you will encounter if driving from Picton (where the Picton Ferry docks from Wellington).
Kaikoura is famous for seafood, especially its crayfish, which is plentiful and readily available. Interestingly “Kaikoura” the word, directly translated from Māori means “food-crayfish”, with ‘Kai’ meaning ‘food’ and ‘koura’ meaning ‘crayfish’. Kaikoura therefore was obviously significant for the Māori for its easily secured catch of crayfish, a feature of the location that remains relevant today… Should you enjoy seafood and wish to try this local speciality, I would recommend you do – it is a sumptuous bit of Kai!.
In more recent times Kaikoura the township suffered badly in the 2016 earthquakes, and it has only recently (at the time of writing this article) recovered having repaired the main highway and railway line, which was badly damaged in the earthquake.
There’s a lot to see and do in Kaikoura, and visiting the town can be approached as a day trip from Marlborough (Picton, Blenheim or Nelson) if you so wish, although I’d recommend spending at least one night here to take in the sights. Between the Pacific Ocean and high mountains, it is a wonderful place to relax and to take in nature, the scenery all whilst enjoying some Kai… If “on the other hand” you’re up for some more adventurous activity, there’s plenty of it! Getting out on the water is where most people who visit Kaikoura start off, where you can see incredible sea life including; dolphins, seals, and whales, on the water and shoreline (as the case may be). To do this I’d recommend taking a tour out from Kaikoura township, by selecting from the many various tour operators offering this service – Whale watching in particular is a popular activity unique to Kaikoura, where visitors can head out about 90 minutes to see Humpback Whales “in the flesh”…
Further afield, just north of Kaikoura, you will find Mount Fyffe, a true gem to discover when the coastline gets busy. It is a location with unique fauna including the Marlborough Rock Daisy, and the New Zealand Lilac, so an ideal place for capturing some nature photography, not to mention the awesome scenery. Rock daises are small shrubs, featuring leathery leaves and pretty daisy flowers, and New Zealand lilacs are pale mauve flowers on long sprays, developed from the tips of branches. Hikes here are suitable for families, but if you want to reach the summit and return, it will take about 8 hours to do so, there are however shorter walks are available for between 1 to 5 hours. Longer hikes are also possible over more than one day, but require good footwear and experience to boot, with some trails unmarked.
Christchurch is the biggest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and it is famed for its Garden City. Along with this carefully cultivated patch of nature, there are many other things to see and do there. The city hosts a range of festivals and carnivals, so depending on the time of year you travel you could catch some music at the World Buskers Festival, or a whole variety of arts at Christchurch Arts Festival. Its influence of past Anglican English settlers is evident in the architecture of some of the older buildings that are designed in a neo-gothic style. This is particularly true along Worcester Boulevard and Rolleston Avenue.
Christchurch – known as the “Garden City” due to its mega Botanical Garden is the South Island’s largest city. The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch was very scenic.
Christchurch fell victim to a series of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, with the biggest and most devastating occurring on 22 February 2011, which killed 181 people, but also forced thousands of people out of their homes, and left the city in ruins. Today there are still many things to see and do in Christchurch and the earthquakes and the rebuilding efforts play a major role in defining today’s Christchurch.
In places the city didn’t quite feel like a city, with construction still occurring and cranes common on the city skyline (as at 2017). However don’t worry – a lot of what made Christchurch a great city prior to the earthquakes is still very much there.
One of the easiest ways to see the city is to take a ride on the Christchurch Tram (a restored heritage tram), which runs through central Christchurch from New Regent Street through Cathedral Junction to Cathedral Square and along Worcester Boulevard. There are 17 total stops along the way and your ticket gives you the ability to hop on and off as often as you like. Go ponting on the Avon River, visit the Botanical Gardens, or stop off at the Canterbury Museum. These and many more Christchurch highlights can be found along the route.
One of the highlights in Christchurch is of course the history around the earthquakes and city’s rebuild process. It only takes a few minutes walking around town to see the destruction left by the earthquakes – you can’t miss it, and if you have never experienced an earthquake you may find this natural phenomena interesting. To learn more about earthquakes I’d suggest a trip to The Canterbury Museum which has created a special exhibition called Quake City. This multi-sensory attraction helps to inform people about the earthquakes that took place. You’ll get to hear the stories of locals who lived through the quakes and get insight into what it takes to rebuild a city that has been devastated by one. Earthquakes are quite common in New Zealand – if there is anywhere you can learn more about them, it’s here.
Beyond the more common tourist spots, you have the option of going further afield to some locations not too far from Christchurch. Firstly, there’s Okains Bay, which takes around 80 minutes to get to, and is ideal for families. With camping facilities, you can enjoy some peace and quiet by the beach, in a small settlement with plenty to do. The Okains Bay Māori and Colonial Museum provides another opportunity to learn about Māori culture, with over 3000 Māori pieces, as well as some colonial-era items. There’s even history in the ice-cream, with the Okains Bay Store being the longest operating store in New Zealand since it opened in 1873. From the views on Big Hill, to the 1890s Barry Bay Cheese Factory, there’s plenty for everyone.
Just an hour away, Methven offers skiing at an affordable price, as children under 10 are offered free lift passes and ski/board rentals. Skiing and snow-sports are offered in winter, and it makes for great hiking all year round. It has some of the world’s best heli-skiing, with 6 ski fields of over 365 hectares. Further out, there’s Springfield, which offers a range of adventure activities, and is nearby to film locations for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, so you can find yourself in Narnia. Not only that, but there’s some great golf courses within an hour’s drive, and you can board the Tranz Alpine train that goes from Waimakariri Gorge to Greymouth.
Surrounded by mountains, Lake Tekapo is worth a visit if only to view the stunning scenery, and the unique Turquiose colour of the lake, which comes from the glacial ice grinding away at the rocks. It is a very beautiful place…
Lake Tekapo is nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island. The lake lies at the foot of the Southern Alps, which rise to a height of 3 kilometres. New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt Cook (Aoraki) is a short drive away and rises to 3,753m (12,313ft).
The town has been provided with World Heritage status as the world’s first starlight perseveration area, and as a consequence local light-pollution laws prevent light from shining into the sky at night. You can take in the views of the night sky from The Church of the Good Shepherd, or from Mount John Observatory. Either location provides the most perfect conditions for stargazing, where you will enjoy silhouettes of the serene landscape against a backdrop of the clear night’s sky, glittering with stars. Nowhere else on earth do you see the night sky and milky-way with such clarity – an experience well worth the time…
A short 100km away you can find Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, home to New Zealand’s highest mountain. It’s possible to charter a flight over this landscape, and witness Mount Cook from above, with flights taking you through 12 major glaciers, sub-tropical rainforests, and the highest peaks in Oceania.
If the sky isn’t your thing, then you can have as much fun from the ground, with the many walks in and around the Lake Tekapo area – which can be enjoyed in both
summer and winter. If you arrive during the winter consider a hike up Cosy Mountain Hut, which is located at the snowline (1280m) on the foothills of the Southern Alps. Once there you can use this as a base to explore a winter wonderland of ice-covered streams, curving ridges and snowy valleys. Relax in the evenings in the warmth of a pot belly stove.
In warmer weather, you can golf nine holes through lakes and glacial views. However for something different try Golf Cross at Braemar Station on the eastern shore of Lake Pukaki. If you cross golf with rugby and you have Golf Cross. Instead of little holes on greens, there are goal posts, and the golf ball is still small, but instead of round it is oval! Only 30 minutes from Tekapo and located on the shores of Lake Pukaki with spectacular views of Mt Cook (Aoraki), GolfCross is a great game for family and friends. Finish off with a swim at Tekapo Hot Springs – where you will experience awesome views from the warmth of a hot pool…
One of New Zealand’s major tourist attractions, for its spectacular scenery, extreme sports and skiing – Queenstown is a winter wonderland nestled in the shores of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu.
Aside from action and adventure, there is plenty to see in Queenstown, and a drive to Glenorchy, 50 minutes north up Lake Wakatipu, is renowned for being one of the best drives in the world for its postcard-perfect scenery. In addition to its scenic roads, you can also take part in horse treks and hikes, or make use of the Dart River by jet boating and kayaking.
Another great spot to visit and just a short 40 kilometres from Queenstown is Earnslaw Burn Valley in Mount Aspiring National Park, and the Earnslaw Burn Glacier, which has many waterfalls that fall from it and stream down massive rock faces. There are a variety of walks here and one that piqued my interest allowed you to follow the glacier though bush to the tussock basin at the head of the valley. From here you can view the icefall, and use overhanging rocks for shelter. For movie-buffs, you are able to view the different perspectives used by Peter Jackson to film a variety of scenes for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which was filmed here.
There are a number of hikes for families, and some are for more experienced-hikers. I’d suggest being careful before entering this area as it can be treacherous in places, but if planned properly it is safe. Tours can be arranged with Trueblue Kiwi Experiences, to get the most out of this stunning scenery.
Located in the stunning alps of the South Island in New Zealand, visitors from around the world are drawn to the Wanaka region, for it’s outstanding natural beauty. But it’s not just the outdoor enthusiasts who have plenty to do, stroll the streets and be inspired by galleries, stylish shops and be spoilt for choice with a great selection of cool cafes, and restaurants.
I’d recommend chacking out the local events on at the time of your visit in and around Wanaka here. I found this site useful, and during my visit I checked out the local market, and watched a marathon start – whilst enjoying a wine at a local eatery. It’s a small and enjoyable town with a focus very much on action and adventure. On that point – Wanaka is a jump to the nearby ski fields and if this is something you want to do – it’s the place to start.
Alternatively – if you only have a short time, one of the best ways to see the spectacular scenery is to drive from Wanaka to Haast, on state highway 6. This 140-km drive is a spectacular and scenic route that reaches beyond wind-whipped Lakes of Wanaka and Hāwea and that passes through golden tussock-covered hills, and steep mountains, cloaked in lush rainforest and tumbling rivers. The road then skirts undulating forests that seemingly float in tea-stained swamps, to finally reach the foaming surf of the Tasman Sea. If it’s scenery you want – this is well worth the time!
Another popular activity is walking & hiking in and around Mount Aspiring National Park, which is a wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. There are alpine lakes, river valleys, waterfalls, glaciers, and beech, and podocarp rain forests. Whatever you do here (and there are plenty of options), you will witness an untouched beauty, that allows you a glimpse at true wilderness. Not only that, but it is home to over 37 native bird species, so you can hang up your walking boots and see how many you can spot. For more information see here.
The best time to explore the park is between November and March, and weather is very changeable, so pack clothing and gear for all seasons. During winter (between June and September/October), it is best to stick to walks around the Matukituki Valley for safety reasons if you are not an experienced tramper.
Located on the west coast of the South Island, you will find the settlement town of Greymouth, which provides a gateway to Punakaiki, a local attraction famous for Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Formed from limestone deposits that have developed over tens of thousands of years through natural erosion at a
point where the land meets the Tasman Ocean after seismic activity millions of years ago, lifted ground based limestone up and above the seabed, and over time acidic rain and wind has sculptured the fascinating shapes you see today. Adding to the attraction – dramatically water is blasted from the blowholes of up to 50 feet in the air, much to the pleasure of visitors, who come for miles to see this formation of nature. Punakaiki is easily accessible, being just a 20-minute walk from where you can park your vehicle. Care must be taken, especially
with children, making sure to follow the track provided.
Further out from Greymouth you will also find Nelson Creek 25km away, where you can follow the trail of early gold miners from 1895, and you can even fossick for gold yourself. The area has been formed from layers of sandstone, which were covered by glacial out wash chippings, where gold was then formed in trough-like caverns on the sandstone’s surface. The West Coast as a whole is known for changeable weather, so make sure to bring good footwear and wet-weather clothes as a precaution, and be aware of tracks as shafts and tunnels remain in the area. A range of walks are possible from around twenty minutes to over an hour, and Colls Dam Walk is also wheelchair accessible.