28 Beautiful Reasons to Explore New Zealand
Collected by Bryan Kitch, AFAR Contributor
Nature in its purest form, friendly people, and otherworldly views make New Zealand a spiritual and cultural destination unlike any other. A visit to New Zealand is a voyage of discovery, at once personal and universal—reconnect with the elements, from the heights of Aoraki to the shores of the Tasman Sea.
Lake Tekapo 7999, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo is a sweet little slice of heaven, and a paradise you'll have all to your own, should you visit outside the high season. The glacial waters running out of the Southern Alps are every bit as mesmerizing as they are refreshing - which is...
126 Broadway, Matamata 3400, New Zealand
Welcome to Middle Earth in the South Pacific, and an ideal stop for traveling fans of the author J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie trilogies. Near the rural town of Matamata—itself a destination for its LOTR-inspired...
216 Okuti Valley Rd, Okuti Valley 7591, New Zealand
A farm-style experience about an hour from Christchurch, Okuti Garden caters to travelers who love to create and play. An art box encourages crafting; “tree circles” are great for yoga and meditation; and a small lake features a boat...
Waipoua Forest 0376, New Zealand
As I turned the bend of the trail, the sight of this massive ancient tree took my breath away. Te Matua Ngahere the 'Father of the Forest', has a trunk over five metres in diameter, believed to be the widest girth of any kauri tree in New Zealand....
585 Waitomo Caves Rd, Waitomo 3977, New Zealand
Waitomo, on New Zealand’s North Island, is known mostly for its glowworms. This is one of the few places in the world where they exist and millions of visitors descend onto the village every year to walk through the dark caves and see the sparkly...
Roys Peak, Otago 9381, New Zealand
The guidebooks say this is a difficult trek but well worth it. After a huffing and puffing trek to the top of Roy’s Peak, I would most certainly like to concur. 11k in approximately 4-5 hours, a decent level of fitness is most needed for this...
101 Glenmore St, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
Though Wellington seems best traversed on foot (as Hobbits do, right?), the cable car ride is well worth breaking this habit. Leaving from Lambton Quay, for $6 return, the cable car takes you up to the top of the Botanic Gardens, providing a...
497 Karaka Bay Rd, Karaka Bays, Wellington 6022, New Zealand
One of the best places to get a bite to eat outside the center of Wellington is Scorch O Rama in Scorching Bay. Great food, gorgeous views from the outdoor seating and there is even a small beach for swimming. Not a tourist in sight.
Hampden, New Zealand
Legend has it that these boulders are the food baskets of the great ancestral canoes that brought the Maori to New Zealand. On a recent trip to New Zealand to celebrate my retirement, my husband and I enjoyed walking around the beach marveling at...
Manawatu-Wanganui 4691, New Zealand
This huge, single-day hike is in the running for the "Best Day Hike in the World" contest. If you're spending time in Taupo on the North Island of New Zealand and you love a challenging hike with unbelievable topography, be sure to give yourself a...
Milford Sound Visitor Centre, Milford Sound Hwy 94, Milford Sound 9679, New Zealand
It's probably one of the most recommended activities for travelers headed to New Zealand's south island and it sure doesn't disappoint. A cruise on Milford Sound is an absolute must on any visit to Fiordland. With the gorgeous blue water, the...
Milford Sound 9679, New Zealand
My husband and I spent the night in our campervan listening to the rain pelt the roof- concerned that we wouldn't be able to kayak on Milford Sound the following day. Nothing could have prepared us for the glorious sunrise the next morning and the...
Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast 7886, New Zealand
Brace yourself for the physical pull you'll feel as you approach the dramatic, 7.5 mile long glacier named Franz Josef, in Westland National Park in New Zealand. Together with the nearby 12 mile long Fox Glacier, you'll be astounded by this unique...
Otago Peninsula, 9077, New Zealand
The Otago Peninsula outside of Dunedin is a place for a walk, a bike ride, a crawl, whatever you can manage. Slopes of green, icy blue waters, flocks of sheep... it's just country-side bliss. You can also check out the Albatross colon, new zealand...
Lake Matheson, West Coast 7886, New Zealand
Lake Matheson is a magical little spot near Fox Glacier. It's a great place to take a walk at sunset, before enjoying dinner and some local wine at the Matheson Cafe. On a clear day, the reflection in the lake proudly displays all the reasons to...
Lake Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand
Soak up the endless horizon on this 15k tramp alongside Lake Wanaka. Why is this worth your Kiwi time? The rolling and winding track that follows the lake’s edge provides an unobstructed and ridiculous view of the snowcapped mountain tops (head...
Castle Hill 7580, New Zealand
This 10-day tramping (that's Kiwi for "hiking") trip on the South Island of New Zealand is hard to beat. This will be your first hike of many, all of which connect you to a land so beautiful that it's impossible to ever leave. Kura Tawhiti is a...
Lake Pupuke, Auckland, New Zealand
Hidden away on Auckland’s North Shore is Lake Pupuke, a volcanic fill-in in a city of volcanic fill-ins, not far from the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford. A pleasant stroll on a winter’s day, Pupuke is the ideal place to take the kids to feed the...
Pohara 7183, New Zealand
There aren't too many hikes in the world that start with a ride on a water taxi, but that's how our hike on the Abel Tasman Trail began. We boarded our Sea Shuttle taxi off the beach in Kaiteriteri at 9:15am. Our taxi took us past a tiny island...
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