By Rachael Funk
The beauty of New Zealand pulls travelers from all over the world. Adventure lovers delight in hiking, kayaking, swimming, and trekking through the majestic terrain and over the beautiful landscapes. While the bustling cities offer plenty to do and love, those who set off to find New Zealand’s natural treasures are in for the trip of a lifetime. Here are nine of New Zealand’s most gorgeous spots.
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Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Among the best-known attractions in New Zealand is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. There, you can float down the underground river and gaze up at a galaxy of glowworms illuminating the world around them. As you glide through the water, guides provide information on the caves and the worms that live there.
39 Waitomo Village Road (formerly Waitomo Caves Road), Waitomo Caves, Private Bag 501, Waitomo
Hours: Open 9am daily, tour departure times may vary
Considered one of the best day hikes in the country, this 12-mile trek leads you through the crossing where “Mordor” was filmed in The Lord of the Rings. The trail varies between an easy walk and some steep areas, but is generally considered doable for most hikers. Pass volcanoes, craters, and other unique landforms as you make your way across this breathtaking landscape.
Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park 4691,
Hours: Bus service from town to the crossing begins at 6:30 am and return service begins at 3:00 pm
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The whole name for this gorgeous place is "Te Waikoropupu," a name easier to maneuver when shortened to “Pupu.” The largest freshwater spring in the Southern Hemisphere, Pupu Springs gush spring water clearer than the famously clear Weddell Sea in Antarctica. Contact with the water is forbidden as the springs are sacred to the local Maori, but guests can enjoy walking trails and observation points around the springs.
Pupu Springs Rd, Takaka 7183, New Zealand
Hours: Open 24 hours daily
A main attraction of Moeraki Beach, these beautifully rounded boulders were formed over the span of millions of years. The spheres are concretions that were excavated by shoreline erosion from the cliffs backing the beach. An excellent place for photographs or a romantic walk, the Moeraki Boulders are a point of interest for many locals and travelers alike.
Moeraki Boulders Rd, Hampden 9482, New Zealand
Hours: Open 24 hours daily
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Filled with natural thermal springs, Wairakei Terraces hold pools below the area’s silica terraces and waterfall. Indulge in the mud and silica waters which have been used for centuries for healing and wellness by the Maori. Guests can enjoy baths, massage, and beauty treatments here to revitalize and rejuvenate.
Sh 1, Wairakei 3377, New Zealand
Hours: 8:30 am – 8:30 pm, Friday to Wednesday and 8:30 am – 7 pm Thursday
Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most impressive destinations for locals and travelers alike. A fiord within Fiordland National Park, this spectacular part of the Piopiotahi Marine Reserve appears on bucket lists all over the globe. Rudyard Kipling went so far as to describe the Milford Sound as the eighth Wonder of the World. Take a cruise down the sound to see snowcapped mountains, waterfalls, sometimes even dolphins!
Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre: Lakefront Dr, Te Anau 9640, New Zealand
Hours: Visitor Centre open 8 am – 5 pm daily
The Blue Pools
The glowing Blue Pools of Haast Pass are full of water so clear, you can see straight down to the bottom. The icy glacial water is swimmable, if you don’t mind the cold. A swing bridge is suspended high above the deep water and if you are an incorrigible thrill seeker, you can jump into the pools from there. A gentler entrance can be found below the bridge if you’d like to get in slowly. An easy 30-minute walk is required to and from the car park, and brings you to the pools through the forest to this magnificent area.
Haast Pass-Makarora Rd, Mt Aspiring National Park 9382, New Zealand
Hours: Open daily
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes
Only a 20-minute walk from the main highway of Punakaiki, these limestone rocks are a must see – especially at high tide! 30 million years of compaction and erosion have created these impressive formations and several vertical blowholes for the tides to blast through. Appearing flat-topped and stacked like pancakes, these rocks are reachable via the easy Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk in the center of Punakaiki.
Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre: 4294 Coast Road, Punakaiki RD 1, Runanga 7873
Hours: Visitor Centre open 9 am – 5 pm daily
Obviously you’ve heard of the Northern Lights, but did you know there are also Southern Lights? New Zealand is famous for many natural wonders, and the Southern Lights are among them. Aurora Australis is to be enjoyed only by those who make it far enough south to catch the show. The green and pink hues can be spotted over the horizon when conditions are just right, with very little notice. In New Zealand, the winter months (March – September) are the best to see the lights around midnight. The right solar activity partnered with dark, clear skies makes it easiest to see the phenomenon, especially if you are on Stewart Island, Lake Tekapo, or the Catlins.