Venturing to the Land of Hobbits: 7 Hidden Gems to Discover in New Zealand
Unspoiled nature is abundant in New Zealand and just a glance at pictures of it gives you a clear answer to why Peter Jackson decided to film the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy there. With so much beauty to behold, it can be hard figuring out where to start when planning your own Kiwi adventure. But worry not – from lush greens, hot springs and snowy mountaintops to unreal geological formations, we’ve got you covered with these top picks that surprisingly aren’t crawling with fellow tourists!
Mount Aspiring National Park
OK, technically, something this huge can’t be “hidden”, but hear us out, because there are several good reasons why this national park is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Area. It’s like a buffet of natural beauties! Towering mountains, including one of the country’s highest peaks, lush wilderness, alpine lakes, river valleys – Mount Aspiring has it all. This is a must-see if you’re an avid hiker because you will be awarded with sights such as the one at the Blue Pools – crystal-clear water at the very beginning of the Blue River, while one of the paths leading you there takes you over a swing bridge.
For starters, the drive itself to Punakaiki is rewarding, since a choice of cheap car rental will not only grant you the chance to drive along the West Coast and take in the beauty and serene sights but it will also spare you from the typical travel agency offers and packages. After you arrive at West Coast’s Punakaiki, better known as Pancake Rocks, you will see awe-inducing rock formations look like pancakes neatly stacked upon another. This is thanks to nature’s excellent use of sculpting tools such as rain, wind and the sea that have shaped this magnificent sight for millions of years.
Lake Rotoiti Hot Pools, Rotorua
You will need a boat to access this gem, but it will be worth it. The edge of Lake Rotoiti contains several pools filled with nature’s own mineral hot springs in which you can soak your problems away. This place is no one-trick pony since you can also cool down in Lake Rotoiti, have a picnic with your fellow travellers or indulge in various food and drinks that are offered there. It’s worth noting that these Manupirua hot springs are open daily, so any day can be spa day!
The Pouakai Crossing, Taranaki
If you’re looking for another hike, the one-day trek of the Pouakai Crossing is the way to go. Hidden gems are scattered along the way, from the red waters of Kokowai Stream to the haunting Ahukawakawa Swamp. But the crown jewel of this adventure surely is Mt Taranaki – a lone and imposing giant, its gray base and snowy top even made it as a stand-in for Mount Fuji in the movie The Last Samurai! You can even trek to the top on some days, but some people choose not to do so, given the mountain’s sacred status in the Maori community.
Waipu Cove boasts its own set of caves that enrich New Zealand’s repertoire. The Waipu Caves are even more so a treat since there is no entrance fee! This means that it isn’t as developed as other caves, seeing as how there are no set tracks, but that makes the experience an even more authentic venture into the belly of New Zealand. And don’t worry, it is still a noted landmark, with a parking lot nearby. Stalactites and stalagmites aside, the real attractions are the glowworms! These oddities of nature are numbered in millions in these caves and make for a spectacular and dreamy display of light.
The Farewell Spit
Did you know that the Farewell Spit is the longest natural sandbar to be found anywhere on the globe? You know what that also means, right? With a stretch of beach of 26km, you are bound to find privacy and you’ll be able to seclude yourself from other beachgoers! You can find this endless beach on the north-western coast of the South Island, more exactly at the very end of Golden Bay. Bear in mind this is a natural reserve and bird sanctuary, so you will be best taken care of on a supervised tour, but you can wander off later a little further for privacy.
The Fiordland National Park has several impressive sights, one of them being Lake Quill. There are two ways of experiencing it – on foot from the Milford Track, one of the country’s best known, or by helicopter ride. Either way, seeing the glacier lake at the altitude of almost 1000m is a rewarding sight. Check out the Sutherland Falls when you’re already there, which boast the height of 580m and are believed to be one of the tallest waterfalls in New Zealand.
There you have it, your crash course in some of the country’s gems! What’s left to do now is to pack your bags and get ready for a trip of a lifetime!