New Zealand is one of those countries that visitors go to for the immense beauty and to be close to nature. That’s why we went at least! There is something for everyone whether you are looking for sunny beaches, glacier hiking, whale watching, lush forest or climbing mountains. We learned quickly that there is so much to do and see here that you have to either plan a long trip, or plan to come back again in the near future to cover what you missed the first time around! Though New Zealand is small in both size and population, with the same land mass as two-thirds of California and only 4 million residents, you’d be surprised how much ”amazing” can be packed into one small country. Here’s our Nature’s Top 5 Attractions in New Zealand.
If you are a proud beach bum there is plenty for you to explore on both the Islands! The country’s North and South Islands combined boast 8,700 miles of coast line! There is diving, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling and, of course, sun bathing opportunities to be had everywhere! They even have one beach appropriately named the 90-Mile Beach in the far north. When we visited it was a little too cold for any true beach fun, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t take advantage of some of the spectacular coast! Our favorite beach experiences were in the Abel Tasman National Park where countless coves create a new beach around every corner! The path through the park navigates you right along the coast with endless views of crystal blue water, soft sandy beach and steep granite cliffs.
I don’t think I realized how much I love seeing animals in the wild until we came to New Zealand! There is nothing quite like it! We were fortunate enough to see hundreds of baby fur seals socializing in a waterfall, yellow-eyed penguins arrive on the shores of the South Island to sleep in their nests for the night, a sperm whale dive deep into the ocean, and albatross birds spread their 10ft wing span above us. There are also dolphins, kiwis, seal lions, and dozens of species of whales calling New Zealand home! There are opportunities to take tours for the opportunity to see many of these animals in the wild, and sometimes they just surprise you all on their own when you’re least expecting it!
The Kauri Trees
If you think the Redwoods in California are legendary, you will be shocked when I tell you the biggest kauri trees in New Zealand are nearly twice as wide as the widest California Redwood! The Waipoau Forest is where you can find most of the remaining kauri trees that still stand today (most were destroyed before 1900 by settlers, fires and lightning) The biggest tree, and most famous, is named Tāne Mahuta standing at 168ft tall and 45.1 feet in diameter! There is a short walk from the main road to see the tree and I highly recommend it! The size of the tree is stunning.
Two world famous glaciers are found on New Zealand’s South Island! Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier! You can take a guided ice hike, a heli hike, ice climbing or a helicopter tour of the glaciers and I highly recommend a trip that includes walking on the ice! These living glaciers are not only magnificent, it is such a unique experience to walk on ice 300 meters deep!
Whether you like it or not the entire country is covered in mountains. (I learned the hard way on our 25-day road trip that 7 hours of driving on nothing but mountain roads makes me feel…um, a little sick.) But, in regards to the scenery of the lush green mountains on the North Island and the snow-capped Southern Alps on the South Island, you just can’t take your eyes off of them! I am generally partial to the South Island, but if you had to pick a place to visit the mountains-from a car window or hiking to a summit-the Southern Alps is were you should go! While on the South Island you can also check out the world renound Great Walks including the Milford Track, Routeburn Track, Kelper Track, Heapy Track, and Rakiura Track! These routes will get you up close and personal with some of the best views in the country!
Have you been to New Zealand? What was your favorite nature spot?