New Zealand is a dream destination for many. A nature-filled, snow-capped mountainous dream. Visiting New Zealand means you can visit epic glaciers, grand waterfalls, and vast blue lake; all presented over two alluring Pacific islands. Quite right for the nature-lover within us. Here are 10 Natural Destinations to Explore in New Zealand.
Here are the 10 must-see destinations for nature lovers in New Zealand. After having an idea of these destinations; you will understand New Zealand’s status as the most naturally beautiful country in the world!
10 must-see destinations for nature lovers in New Zealand
1 White Island/Whakaari
Sitting quietly off the Bay of Plenty coast is the fantastic White Island (or its Māori name Whakaari). White Island is an active volcanic island, with its steamy crater poking out just above sea level. It is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano; and a marvel to be seen – through accessible only through booking a tour.
Whakaari/White Island, island in the Bay of Plenty, 43 miles (69 km) west of Cape Runaway, eastern North Island, New Zealand. An active volcano, it is the top of a submarine vent at the northern end of the Taupō-Rotorua Volcanic Zone. With a total land area of about 1,000 acres (400 hectares), it rises to 1,053 feet (321 metres) at Mount Gisborne. Scrub vegetation is common on much of the island.
The island was sighted and named by Capt. James Cook in 1769. It has many hot springs, geysers, and fumaroles; its last eruption, which took place in December 2019, claiming the lives of 21 individuals. Whakaari/White Island is uninhabited, but it was accessible for tourists by charter launch from Tauranga (52 miles [84 km] southwest) and by helicopter. At the time of the December 2019 eruption, 47 people (adventure tourists and guides) were on the island. In the aftermath of the tragedy, visits to the island were suspended.
2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
You can also watch an inactive volcano in New Zealand. Why not stay on dry land in the region and hike up the ancient volcano of Mount Maunganui, where you can bask in beautiful Bay of Plenty views.
Known as the best day-hike in the world, Tongariro Crossing is located in a national park full of the North Islands specialty which you should realize by now is active volcanoes! Located just an hour from Lake Taupo, it has dual status as a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site… so it’s pretty much a nature-lovers fantasy.
Get ready to visit this place fully prepared as it is not an easy hike. You will traverse up and down steep volcanic basins, and conditions can change rapidly. However, the exquisite views of crater lakes and steaming vents will definitely be worth it.
3 – Rotorua
It is the adventure capital of the North Island, comes equipped with its fair share of natural wonders. Here, you can explore New Zealand’s ancient forests and bask in the glory of its native trees, some of which were here long before humans ever set foot in Aotearoa.
If you want to explore the ancient forests, and looking for a bit of a thrill, the Canopy Tour will take you through and above the dream world full to the brim of ancient plants and trees. A huge focus of the Canopy Tour experience is conservation.
Surrounded by volcanoes, you will find many geothermal parks and walks in Rotorua like the stunning Wai-O-Tapu. Often you do not have to search for – geothermal vents are known to spew out sulfuric steam from people’s back gardens!
4 – The Coromandel
It is located just a two-hour drive outside of Auckland is the stunning Coromandel. This picture-perfect peninsula has a coastline of over 80kms and gorgeous native forests. Though the main attractions of the Coromandel are undoubtedly Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, driving through its stunningly scenic roads is another clear highlight. Cathedral Cove is accessible only by foot, boat, or kayak.
The aptly named Hot Water Beach boasts geothermal hotspots right underneath the sand! Hire spades from the local shop, head on down at low tide, and build your own volcanic hot tub in the sand.
The ideal time to go at night under the stars, away from the large daytime crowds. If you’re looking for a more active adventure on the Coromandel, the Pinnacles hike is a glorious way to see its stunning beauty.
5 – Abel Tasman National Park
This part is widely loved by tourists and locals alike, Abel Tasman’s turquoise blue waters and golden beaches will leave you in awe. You will find many coastal activities here and plenty of opportunities to bask in nature’s glory. You can Kayak on the flat waters, take a slippery ride down natural water slides and trek through the kiwi bush.
The national park is also native to project Janszoon – who work with the department of conservation to preserve the biodiversity of the site, such as returning lost bird species the kākā and the kākāriki to the park. So it is the best place to watch birds through binoculars.
6 – Akaroa
It is a small French settlement town in the heart of an ancient volcanic basin. Nestled away just 75 km outside of Christchurch, this tranquil town has natural wonders. The peaceful waters surrounding Akaroa are home to Hector’s dolphins, the world’s smallest and rarest kind of dolphin. You can swim peacefully with them in a memorable encounter led by an ethical tour operator.
Undoubtedly the best thing about Akaroa is that its home to the largest colony of little blue penguins on mainland New Zealand. You will find little blue penguins were declining at an alarming rate due to introduced predators like dogs and ferrets, and some colonies were wiped out forever.
7 – Punakaiki
This little community on the west coast of the South Island is home to an array of natural wonders from dense subtropical rainforest to alpine mountains and white sandy beaches. You will find something or the other for each one of you. The local community in Punakaiki actively cares for the dense forest, and the whole area is considered a nature reserve.
Pancake rocks in Punakaiki are a must-see attraction in the area. These eroded limestone rocks have many blowholes where the sea bursts through, and yes they do look like a stack of pancakes!
8 – Wanaka
The lakefront town of this place is a sleepy little town known for its breathtaking scenery. Wanaka is a mecca for nature lovers due to the abundance of free hikes, the most popular being the dazzling Roys Peak.
You can stroll along the lakefront shores, you’ll find the “most-photographed tree in the world”, a lone tree that found its way out of the pristine waters and stands sheepishly in front of the dramatic Alps.
It is in proximity to so many other places. World Heritage Area Mt Aspiring National Park and all its wonderful hikes are only an hour’s drive away. On the other side, you’ll get easy access to The Remarkables in all their glory – particularly during snow season.
9 – Lake Tekapo
The bluest lake you ever did see! Lake Tekapo is a must-do for nature lovers if just to witness the turquoise color of the lake itself. Getting its blue hue from rock sediment from surrounding glaciers, Lake Tekapo gives you floral serenity in the front (especially in the spring months) and mountainous drama in the back.
But it isn’t the only surreal blue lake in the region – nearby Lake Pukaki may give Tekapo a run for its money as you drive along its shores to Mt Cook (Aoraki) and the easy but dramatic Hooker Valley hike.
10 – Fiordland
This park needs to be seen to be believed. Another UNESCO World Heritage site, its exceptional beauty is very popular. For nature lovers, Milford Sound is by far the main attraction in Fiordland. Often dubbed the most beautiful place on earth, Milford Sound boasts nearly 4000ft snow-capped mountains flanking the open sea.
Here, you can see wild seals, dolphins, and countless waterfalls (especially when it rains)! Cruising or kayaking the fjord is a massive crowd-pleaser, but there’s also many walking and tramping tracks to take in the beautiful views.
Don’t forget to look for the South Island native Kea birds while visiting Fiordland. These super-smart birds are cheeky and mischievous, and naturally curious about humans. These bold birds will approach you, just make sure not to feed them.