Some of the best “off the beaten track” locations in NZ
There are hundred’s if not thousand’s of great locations to visit in New Zealand, but here are a few that I have enjoyed.
New Zealand is a sparsely populated land, but there are many hidden treasures to be discovered simply by stepping away from the busiest parts, and venturing down the road less travelled. It is hard to keep really special locations a secret, but if you have time to explore some of the destinations that are often overlooked by travellers, you could have a really unique experience. Here are some of the best locations in New Zealand – off the beaten track.
For an idyllic family location, ten minutes by car from Tutukaka (in the far North of the North Island), you will find Matapouri Bay. This white sand coastline provides safe swimming at the beach, and a peaceful estuary. The hidden gems where are the Mermaid Pools. Seen at low tide, these stunning natural rock pools provide the perfect clear blue water for swimming. The estuary is also a safe swim spot, and you’ll often see locals jump from the bridge at high tide, with a boat ramp also ready to launch yourself from as well. It is perfect for when you want a restful time, soaking up the sun and the scenery and treating yourself to ice-creams.
The Pinnacles Track
For rugged mountain ranges, experience the beauty of The Pinnacles Track in the Coromandel Peninsula. Made from an original packhorse track for the transport of natural resources in the 1900s, this luscious forest is located upriver from Thames in the beautiful Kaueranga Valley. This particular track runs overnight, and allows you to witness some of the incredible sunrises over the mountain tops as the day begins. Taking 8 hours in total, it provides a leisurely walk for intermediate hikers over two days. Within 3 hours you will reach the hut, and the summit is a further 40 minutes or so. It will take you through nikau palms, huge rata trees, and across streams and swingbridges. It is also recommended you access the track from the west coast.
For a truly wild experience, near Taupo, Huka Falls are a set of roaring waterfalls and rapids that make up a (proportionally) narrow exit of water from the great Lake Taupo, and form the primary feed that makes up the mighty Waikato River – New Zealand’s longest river. They thunder through forestry and can be viewed at many different points. The volume of water flowing through often approaches 220,000 litres per second. – which is pretty tremendous! You can even board a jet boat tour of the river and find yourself getting up close and personal to its crashing waters. At Spa Park, you can hike the Huka Falls trail, where you can walk from the wide, calm part of the river, and see as its speed increases, and the noise gets louder and louder.
This is one that I would not miss – well worth the time…
Cape Palliser is mostly made up of rural farmland, and more sheep than people, and the primary feature is a large a renowned lighthouse. Near the Wairarapa wine region, the neat landscape soon turns more wild and rugged when you approach your destination here. The winding ocean road can be wild and has been known to wash out the few houses that stand on the narrow road of the town. These rough waters are also home to a large colony of seals. Feeling as if you are on the edge of the world, at the lighthouse you will find yourself at the southernmost point of the North Island, able to soak up incredible views.
Located in the South Island, The Catlins are a sparsely populated area, full of rough and rugged coastlines. The beaches are often wide and deserted, and amongst the rolling hills you will be swept away – partly by the wild weather, but also by the tremendous views provided by both the landscapes and seascapes. The Catlins are also home to lots of marine wildlife, so you can spot sea lions, dolphins, and penguins across its shores. A road trip down the Southern Scenic Route will allow you the opportunity to take in the views, whilst making stops along the way. At Curio Bay you can not only try surfing, but also explore 160 million year-old tree fossils at low tide.
Invercargill at the bottom of the South Island is a bit more people-filled, and here you can visit the botanical gardens, museums and art galleries. One of New Zealand’s oldest lighthouses can be seen at Nugget Point, and both here and Slope Point make lovely cliff-side walks. There’s also incredible cascading waterfalls at Purakaunui Falls within the Beech and Podocarp Forests. There’s also the Cathedral Caves, and although only accessible at low tide, they are well worth the vist, and feature a 30-metre high cave system that has been formed over thousands of years.
These are just some of the highlights that New Zealand has to offer when you wander away from the well-trodden tourist paths. As you explore this expansive country, you are sure to find hidden treasure of your own.