Make the long trek to New Zealand for these 10 remarkable nature experiences

New Zealand

New Zealand is a country full of natural wonders, cultural diversity and adventure opportunities, but beyond the popular attractions like Hobbiton, Milford Sound and Queenstown, there are many hidden gems and offbeat experiences that await the curious traveller. Here are 10 of them that you should not miss on your next visit to the land of the long white cloud.

Follow the winter fireplace trail in Marlborough

If you love wine and cozy fireplaces, then this is the perfect winter activity for you. Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine region, famous for its Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The winter fireplace trail is a scenic and gourmet adventure that links over a dozen wineries and restaurants, where you can enjoy warm hospitality, delicious food and fine wine by the fire. Some of the highlights include Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott Family Winemakers and Arbour, which was voted ‘New Zealand’s Best Regional Restaurant 2022’.

Stargaze in a dark sky reserve

New Zealand has some of the best stargazing spots in the world, thanks to its low light pollution and clear skies. One of them is the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest reserve of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It covers an area of 4,300 square kilometres in the heart of the South Island, where you can marvel at the Milky Way, constellations and planets. You can join a guided tour at Mt John Observatory, soak in a hot pool at Tekapo Springs or visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo.

Drive or horse ride on Ripiro Beach

Ripiro Beach is New Zealand’s longest driveable beach, stretching for 100 kilometres along Northland’s west coast. It is also known as The Shipwreck Highway, because of the many vessels that have met their end on its turbulent shore. You can explore this wild and scenic beach by car or horseback, and discover its ancient mysteries, retro-style beach houses and star-studded night views. You might even spot a legendary 15th-century Portuguese shipwreck that has been buried and uncovered by the shifting sands.

Walk to Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is one of Dunedin’s hidden treasures, a secluded beach surrounded by towering cliffs and rock formations. To access it, you need to walk along a 1.5-kilometre track that descends steeply from a car park. The track was carved by hand in the 1870s by a local politician who wanted to create a private beach for his family. At the end of the track, you will find a tunnel that leads to the sandy beach, where you can admire the views, explore the caves and arches or swim in the clear water.

Bike or hike on Paparoa Track

Paparoa Track is New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, a multi-day trail that showcases the stunning scenery of Paparoa National Park on the West Coast. It is also the only Great Walk that is open to both hikers and mountain bikers. The track is 55 kilometres long and takes three days to complete. It passes through diverse landscapes, such as native forests, alpine tops, limestone karst formations and river valleys. Along the way, you can stay at comfortable huts or campsites and enjoy panoramic views.

Kayak around Urupukapuka Island

Urupukapuka Island is the largest and most diverse island in the Bay of Islands, a subtropical paradise in Northland. It is a great place to kayak, as you can explore its many bays, coves and beaches, and see the abundant marine life, such as dolphins, seals and penguins. You can also walk on the island’s network of trails, which offer spectacular views and historical sites, such as Māori pā (fortified villages) and European whaling stations. You can camp on the island or take a ferry back to the mainland.

Camp by Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Waikaremoana is a beautiful lake in Te Urewera, a vast area of wilderness in the East Coast. It is also the setting for another Great Walk, a 46-kilometre trail that circles the lake and takes four days to complete. The trail offers stunning views of the lake, waterfalls, forests and mountains. You can camp at designated sites along the trail or stay at huts. You can also fish, swim or boat on the lake, or learn about the rich Māori culture and history of the area.

Fly to Hollyford Track

Hollyford Track is a lesser-known but equally rewarding alternative to the famous Milford Track in Fiordland National Park. It is a 56-kilometre track that follows the Hollyford River from the mountains to the sea. It takes four days to complete and can be done independently or with a guided tour. The track passes through ancient forests, glacial valleys, alpine lakes and coastal lagoons. You can also see native wildlife, such as kiwi, kea and fur seals. The best part is that you can fly to and from the track by helicopter or plane, saving time and adding excitement.

Hotels in Wellington, New Zealand

Climb New Zealand’s Pinnacles

The Pinnacles are a pair of rocky peaks that rise above the Coromandel Forest Park, a lush area of native bush on the Coromandel Peninsula. They are a popular destination for hikers, as they offer spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The Pinnacles can be reached by a 7-kilometre track that starts from Kauaeranga Valley and takes about three hours one way. The track follows an old packhorse route that was used by kauri loggers in the 1920s. You can stay overnight at Pinnacles Hut or return to the valley on the same day.

Visit Kapiti Island Nature Reserve

Kapiti Island is a predator-free sanctuary for native birds and wildlife, located off the coast of Wellington. It is home to some of New Zealand’s rarest and most endangered species, such as takahe, kaka, kokako and hihi. You can visit the island by taking a ferry from Paraparaumu Beach and joining a guided tour or staying overnight at a lodge or campground. You can walk on various tracks on the island, ranging from easy to challenging, and see the birds up close. You can also learn about the Māori and European history of the island.

ENS Editors

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