Among other things, New Zealand is well known for our stupendous natural views including snow-capped mountain ranges, rain forests, winding rivers and breathtaking coastal sea views.
While I’ve traveled throughout this amazing country, I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of it outside the major cites which has given me the opportunity of experiencing this country’s true star; our nature.
So without further ado, here are some of the natural wonders of our country.
Tongariro National Park – Volcanoes Galore
This place is truly a rugged natural wonder, home to three active volcanoes and is located south west of Taupo on the north island.
I stayed there with my family a year ago in a very comfortable cabin. I had one of the best walking treks of my life there which included walking over a wide range rugged landscapes, climbing up the side of a volcano and finishing with a very scary walk (almost crawl!) on the top ridge of the volcano.
There are various walks in this national park but the most famous track is called Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It’s an incredible experience but it’s not for people who are very unfit as the walks takes between 6 to 8 hours.
Here’s an important tip; even on a sunny hot day, you should still bring a weather proof coat with you as the weather (especially the wind) is usually very different on top of the volcanoes.
You can read this page to learn more about this wonderful national park.
Milford Sounds – Magical Views
The fiord lands located on the south west side of the south island is one of those places that you would kick yourself later for not visiting.
It contains some of the most inspiring views I’ve seen in New Zealand. Unlike some other natural wonders it looks just as good (some say better) when it’s raining. You see the rain fuels many spectacular waterfalls.
You’ll still see some amazing falls when it’s sunny but you’ll see even more after it has rained.
The most common way to experience this place is via a cruise and you can also go on a plane tour if you don’t mind splashing out the extra money.
Many people get a coach from Queenstown then go on a day cruise but I recommend staying closer at Te Anau as you won’t be quite so tired after the long day trip compared to starting from Queenstown.
The Catlins – Nature’s Playground
This is the south east region of the south island and contains a whole host of natural delights. What I like about this region is while it’s easy to get to from two major cities (Invercargill and Dunedin) it’s also very much separate from them; it’s extremely peaceful which is something my family and I love.
As well as the many walking treks which are available through rain forests and the coast, there are also a number of natural beauty spots. Here are a few of them;
- Cathedral Caves:- These caves right on the coast are only accessible by sea (kayaking is the most common way) or when it’s low tide. Be very careful if you’re walking to make sure you get the tide correct or you may get stranded! Try singing a song while you’re in the caves and you’ll get a nice surprise.
- Purakaunui Falls:- While this waterfall may not be the highest or strongest in the world, it is still a natural wonder in my opinion, with its unique multi-tiered design. I challenge you not to get inspired when watching these falls.
- Curio Bay:- There are two main things for people to enjoy here; the wonderful views of the bay (great on a sunny day but also special at a sunset) and also when you get to see tree fossils which are millions of years old.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in the Catlins then you can check this page which shows various self-contained accommodation units which I found reasonably priced.
Otaki Forks – Views Away from the Crowd
Otaki Forks isn’t quite as well known as the other places listed here, so you won’t find many other people, which is fine for me.
It’s located southeast of the small town of Otaki (which is well worth visiting in itself, lots of nice local food and unusual shops) on the Otaki Gorge Road.
When you first get onto the road it will be well sealed but be warned, it soon starts to turn into a quite rough gravel road. Most cars should still be able to handle this but I wouldn’t recommend taking a fancy sport car!
Take the drive slowly and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely view of a river and arching hills. Bring some food because you’ll find some great places for a picnic.
Jack Hopkin is a travel writer working for the Catlins RiverRidge Retreat, an ideal place for weddings, festivals, conferences and general holidays in the south island of New Zealand.