Our most beautiful destinations in New Zealand
After spending a year in New Zealand, it's time to pass on our tips to you. We covered 28,000 kilometers by car and experienced a lot in New Zealand. We want to share our most beautiful places of our New Zealand trip with you today. For a more detailed overview, we also have a whole column here in the blog, you can find them under the following link.
West Coast around Wanaka
The most scenic places we have found on the west coast on the South Island. We hiked mountains like the Isthmus Peak and the Roys Peak. Especially the view from the Isthmus Peak to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea is gigantic. The walk to the isthmus peak is good in 4-5 hours feasible, best on a sunny day and not in winter.
The whole area around Wanaka on the west coast is simply unique. There are countless hikes and beautiful places to discover. Only with cheap campsites it is more difficult on the west coast. Our recommendation for cheap camping is Albert Town, depending on the comfort you want there is Albert Town 1 (drinking water and normal toilets) or Albert Town 2 (compost toilet but a little cheaper). In terms of pricing, this is the cheapest opportunity to camp in the Wanaka area if you are not self contained. If you stop in Wanaka, stop by the Wanaka Tree and look at this tough and famous tree. This can be found at the southwestern end of the lake and even has its own hashtag (#thatwanakatree).
Haast Blue Pools
A highlight in summer are the Haast Blue Pools. The bluest and coldest water we have ever seen. Pack your swimming gear and swim a few moves in this glacial river. For the brave, there is a bridge from which you can jump into the river that is about 5m lower.
On the east coast of the South Island, there is the sleepy little town Oamaru. Do not let that fool you, because Oamaru's big days are a few years back. At that time, Oamaru was blessed with a big harbor, a railroad, and the accompanying prosperous economy. Today it has great old buildings and two penguin colonies. You can watch the penguins against dusk. It is best to be there one hour before dawn, then you can see how the penguins come out of the water and disappear into the jungle.
On the way down the west coast you should definitely make a detour to Milford Sound. Whether the weather is sunny or rainy it is always worth a visit. The Milford Sound is rainy on 300 of 360 days a year, leading to its uniquely many waterfalls coming from the surrounding mountains. Also the drive there is spectacular. You see an impressive tunnel that leads through the middle of the mountain. The special thing is that the tunnel walls are made of pristine stone and keas, New Zealand alpine parrots, can be observed. On the Milford Sound offers a boat trip, so you come closer to the waterfalls and marine animals. You even have the chance to see dolphins, seals and penguins. We did one of the first tours in the morning and can only recommend it to you. If you like to hike, we can recommend you the Gertrude Saddle Track. This takes at least half a day and you walk up to 1410m. As a reward, there is a breathtaking view. Please note that most hiking tours should not be done, especially in winter. The area around Milford Sound is alpine and the weather can change very fast.
For the night you can either book the Milford Sound Lodge (be sure to book in advance!) Or stay overnight at one of the DOC campsites en route. Please note that camping outside the campsites is not allowed as the entire area of Te Anau is part of Milford Sound Nature Reserve.
Thermal Explorer Highway
Great impressing we also found the Thermal Explorer Highway. This starts in Auckland and leads via Rotorua and Taupo to Napier. Here you can discover impressive and bubbling mud lakes. In Rotorua the heavy sulfur air hangs everywhere in the air. If you want to spend a day in the geothermal area, you literally have to follow your nose. Of course, there are some nice walks between the steaming paths along. Rotorua is located directly in the core area of geothermal springs. In parks, you can go up to a few meters on the hot mud. In winter it is much more impressive than in summer.
If you drive from Rotorua towards Taupo, you can see a huge geothermal power plant and visit the Huka Falls, which are passed by tons of water per second. Tosen not only looks gigantic, you can hear it over hundreds of meters n. For the very brave, there is the Huka Falls jet in which you can drive up to the lower end of the Huka Falls with a jet boat.
From Taupo you drive on to Napier, where the highway ends and the picturesque beach promenade invites you to a short walk directly on the sea. The National Aquarium is also located here. In the aquarium there are kiwis and a beautiful tunnel-shaped aquarium. There the stingrays and sharks swim directly over one another.
Cape Reinga and the far north
In the far north of the North Island lies Cape Reinga. Holy place for the Maori and a highlight on every New Zealand trip. There is a super nice lighthouse and beautiful bays for walking or spending time. Also, the Te Araroa Trail starts here and leads you once completely from the top down to the very bottom in New Zealand. Near the Capes there is a practical DOC camping for little money. Here you can admire the stars and the Milky Way in the clear skies at night. On the way from Cape Reinga to the south, there are several beautiful beaches. Especially we would like to highlight Henderson Bay. The bay looks like a Caribbean place. Dreamlike blue water and few other visitors. There is also Rarawa Beach on the way, here you will find the softest and whitest sand of New Zealand. At Rarawa Beach there is also a cheap DOC camp just minutes from the beach.
These were our personal recommendations
These are the places that we found the most beautiful, which are still vividly remembered after a year and make us smile. We are happy if we could help you with your travel planning for New Zealand. You are welcome to tell us your highlights in the comments.