Whether visiting the North, South or both of New Zealand’s main islands, there is a ton of nooks and crannies for you to explore. Highlighted in this list are some specific places you should seek out, given the chance. From cities to bird colonies and everything in between, New Zealand promises to placate the traveler inside us all.
Christchurch has been included in this list for honorary purposes. It used to be considered New Zealand’s crown jewel of the South Island. Its architecture and overall quaintness made it a location for romantics the world round. Much of the ambiance resonates from being the oldest declared city in New Zealand. However, Christchurch has found itself decimated by a long series of constant earthquakes from 2010-2012, and has yet to find its feet again. Many of its iconic buildings have been damaged beyond repair. Not content with abandoning the city, Christchurch’s residents are rebuilding (whether this is a good idea or not remains to be seen). But rest assured that this gem is still worth a visit and will be even more so in the near future.
9. Muriwai Gannet Colony
Ask many New Zealanders about the Muriwai Gannet Colony and you might be surprised at the nonchalance they exhibit. You park at a lot and you see some birds, no big deal. Don’t let the apathy fool you, the gannet colony is a legitimate slice of National Geographic quality nature found right outside the city of Auckland’s back door. This spot is a mere thirty five minute drive from the central business district. Once you arrive, a well-worn path and wooden rails lead you to a bird’s eye view of the shorebirds’ colony. The best time to visit the Muriwai gannet colony is during the Jan-Feb birthing season. You will find the gannets nesting a mere 10 feet or so from the railings. Watch them fly past at staggering speeds. Your heart can spend hours gazing at parent gannets nursing their young or sink as you watch them try to resuscitate dead chicks. The cycle of life is on full display. In addition to the gannets, New Zealand is an ideal destination for any bird lover as they have some of the coolest flightless birds in the world. But that is another list for another time.
8. Kerosene Creek
Kerosene Creek is a (small) geothermal heated river near Rotorua, New Zealand. This rivulet runs through a series of small waterfalls and pools. The real experience is only a bit further down where the largest waterfall lets out into the widest swimming hole Kerosene Creek has to offer. Experience the feeling of fine gravel and smooth rocks underfoot while a hot waterfall rushes over your back. Recent rainfall can cool it down a bit, so try to go when there hasn’t been a downpour in a while. Also, like many places in NZ beware of sand flies!. There are many other (some are more secretive) geothermal hot springs scattered throughout the Rotorua region. Rotorua itself has lodgings aplenty that include their own geothermal heated pools and baths.
7. Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is probably the best option to visit in New Zealand that doesn’t include a lot of walking to enjoy. Travelers who are looking for a little less adventure and more casual surveying of natural beaches and rolling vineyards are best suited for this trip. You can catch a ferry out of the Auckland Viaduct and enjoy a relaxing trip through the Hauraki Gulf. Past Mt. Rangitoto, the Volcano that stares at and can be seen from the city of Auckland, you will find Waiheke. There will be a wealth of ways to get around including all inclusive bus packages. Look for the bus route that suits you best and go visit the many wonders Waiheke has to offer. Whether you soak in sun and sand at Palm Beach or enjoy a bush walk through one of the many nature reserves, Waiheke provides a unique island expedition. The island is especially known for the liquid treasure found at its many wineries.
6. Stewart Island
Right off the southern tip of New Zealand there is Stewart’s Island. It can be reached by way of Invercargill and is one of the most pristine, untouched places you can find in the country. Stewart Island is a great place for unbridled nature and viewing fauna. There is only a mere 400 or so people that call the place home permanently, mostly living in a town of Scottish origin, Oban. The major drawback is that it is quite expensive and out of the way of New Zealand’s many other natural attractions. So while it is probably one of the best trips you can do in the country, it is far from being the most practical.