As my time in New Zealand is coming to an end for the time being I thought I would have a look back at my 5 top places to visit in New Zealand.
5. Cape Reinga
Often overlooked when people come to New Zealand, as it is a little out-of-the-way, but if you have time you need to visit. Located at the very tip of the North island you can take a walk down to the lighthouse and look out to the ocean and you can see where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet each other. This is a place of spiritual significance to the early Māori settlers. It is believed that this is where the spirits left this land and embarked on their journey to the home of their ancestors.
4. Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman is the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks but also one of its most beautiful. When I visited this area I decided to hire a kayak. Having never been on a kayak before, I can honestly say it was amazing! It gave me the chance to explore some of the islands here which are inhabited by fur seals. What an experience kayaking around and having all the seals swimming and playing around you. There is also the option of taking water taxis if you are a bit more pressed for time. This area is renowned for its hiking. I have hiked only a small section of the Abel Tasman track but when I return to New Zealand I intend to do the 3- 5 day trek as I’m sure this will be the best way to experience this coastal paradise.
3. Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki
This was one of my first glimpses into the true beauty of New Zealand. I remember driving down towards Queenstown just following the meandering roads and then out of no-where, there right in front of me was the snow-capped mountains with this beautiful lake resting at the foot of the mountains. I spent some time by the lake just looking in awe. I didn’t think it would be possible but the further south I drove the more beautiful the scenery seemed to become. 50k or so past Lake Tekapo we arrived at Pukaki with Mt Cook towering in the distance at over 3724m high. Genuine postcard material.
Another reason why these are one my favourite places in New Zealand is that it is a dark sky night reserve. Apparently its the 2nd best place in the world to come star-gazing. It is just unbelievable. There is an observatory here which you can go and look at the stars through telescopes. Unfortunately I have never had the chance to do this. Everytime I have tried the clouds just seem to roll in. One day though.
2. Castle Hill
Located on the South island close to Arthur’s Pass, Castle Hill is named as the megalithic limestone rocks resemble the ruins of an old castle. Parts of this area were in the film Narnia, so as you can imagine there is a lot of tourists that come here. This is area is thought to have been used by early Māori travelers for refuge as they travelled throughout the South island. Back in 2002 the Dalia Lama visited Castle hill and was so taken by the landscape and his spiritual experience that he declared it the “spiritual centre of the universe”. It’s easy to see why he done this.
Close by to Castle Hill there is the Cave Stream walk. Be prepared to get wet and also bring a flashlight or head lamp as it is pitch black. You have to wade through the water of the 362m long cave and at parts is up to your chest. I have to warn you it’s pretty cold at first and can take your breath away, so choose carefully which season you decide to do this. This was a unique experience for me and would definitely suggest that you do this if you are in the area.
1. Milford Sound
I’m not sure if there are any words that can describe Milford Sound. Beautiful, incredible, and marvelous? These words all seem to fall short. Maybe a mixture of all these words would come close to describing the grandeur of the sheer vertical cliffs that rise up out of the sea. The tallest of all, Mitre Peak, rises 1692m. I have been here twice during my time in New Zealand, and both were glorious days which was unbelievable as it rains 182 days of the year with an annual rainfall of over 6800mm. Don’t worry if it rains when you go though. You will get the opportunity to see hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the cliffs in to the sea below. I was hoping for rain the second time to be honest. Because it rains so much here the top 10 meters of the sea is actually fresh water. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world so there is such a variety of wildlife and fauna in the area. The best way to see the sounds is to take a cruise with one of the many tour companies here. This truly is a magical place and for me it was one of the most beautiful places not just in New Zealand but the entire world.
These were my top 5 places to visit in New Zealand. Leave a comment on your experiences and where you think should be in the top 5.