Known as New Zealand’s capital of cool, Wellington is the queen city of the country, where cosmopolitan pursuits and outdoor recreation merge. Its strategic location places it as the southernmost city on North Island, making it the gateway to South Island.
Wellington boasts of the Parliament Buildings, galleries, coffee houses, and world-class restaurants. At the center of its glistening waterfront is the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the central repository of the country’s cultural artifacts, including the Maori culture.
Autumn’s clear sunny days are best spent by taking the cable car and exploring the Botanic Garden. Then, hike all the way to Mt. Victoria’s lookout point, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Wellington.
Along with Hutt Valley and Weta Cave, the mountainous terrains served as one of the beautiful locations of the phenomenal Lord of the Rings movies. In fact, there are special tours to fully transport fans into the magical world of the Middle Earth.
The sprawling magnificence of Auckland oftentimes makes bewildered tourists think this is the capital city. Surrounded by water, flanked by two natural harbors, and replete with close to 50 dormant volcanoes, New Zealand’s largest city poses a definite sightseeing challenge.
With so much attractions and activities going for it, Auckland is aching to be explored from top to bottom. There are a few highlights, however, that deserve to be included in anyone’s itinerary.
A climb up the Auckland Harbour Bridge will set your pulse racing once you see the city in its entirety, including the bays and islands. For those who want more, bungee jumping from Auckland Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, may just be your shot of adrenalin.
Cruises from Waitemata Harbor provide visitors a taste of the daily scenes at this lively hub of activities. The sight of hundreds of yachts anchored in neat rows earned Auckland its moniker “City of Sails.” A ferry ride from downtown, on the other hand, is the ticket to lazy strolls around the golden beaches of Waiheke Island.
To know more about New Zealand’s history and get a glimpse of different Maori treasures, visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which is housed in a fine heritage building overlooking the Waitemata Harbor.
Bay of Plenty
Located along the Pacific Coast Highway, Bay of Plenty derived its name from the abundance of fruit crops growing in the region. Right here in this veritable “fruit bowl” of a region, you can find Te Puke, the richest source of kiwi fruit in New Zealand and the kiwi fruit capital of the world,. Bountiful fresh seafood and a bustling local wine industry also thrive within the area.
Traveling around the region brings more of the impressive attractions and highlights. Being only a few hours’ drive from Auckland, the Bay of Plenty’s charming sights are easily within reach.
With a year-round mild climate, Bay of Plenty is ripe with activities like surfing, kayaking, and parasailing. If you want to do any of these water activities, head to Tauranga, the main center of the region and where some of the best beaches in the country can be found.
Worthwhile visits to coastal villages and towns of Papamoa, Waihi Beach, Katikati, Maketu, and Paengora add another dose of excitement. But Bay of Plenty’s focal point remains to be the mighty Mauao or Mount Maunganui, where the first Polynesian migrants landed in 1290 AD.
The earliest tourist attraction in Rotorua was a range of silica terraces cascading into a volcanic lake. While this awesome sight is no longer in existence due to the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886, Rotorua prospered into the modern age as one of the best spa destinations in the world.
Rotorua is a cultural cradle of all things Maori. In fact, Maori guides are often seen leading the way around Mount and Lake Tarawera while sharing stories of their ancestors. Traditional villages offer crafts-making and cultural performances as well.
The deep-seated volcanic activity in Rotorua makes it a haven for rejuvenation. Numerous spa therapies, from thermal pools to hot springs, can be found within the region. The scent of sulphur wafts through the air, particularly in Kuirau Park, the main hub for crater lakes and boiling mud pools. The park belongs to the famed 26-kilometer long Rotorua City Walkway.
More excellent exploration options are found in Hamurana Springs, Lake Okareka Walkway, Lake Tikitapu, Rainbow Mountain, and Okere Falls.
Trout fishing and endless pursuit of outdoor activities describe a typical visit to Taupo, a town nestled on the banks of the lake with the same name. Lake Taupo is teeming with brown or rainbow trout, attracting fishing enthusiasts.
But fishing is only one of the activities tourists can do in Lake Taupo, as its geothermal landscape offers mind-blowing recreational prospects, keeping boredom at bay.
For instance, walks along Craters of the Moon Thermal Area in Wairakei Tourist Park, north of Taupo, bring to view steaming hot pools and bubbling craters. Also within the same area is the amazing sight of the rapturous rush of waters from the iconic Taupo landmark, Huka Falls.
More natural attractions such as geysers, mud volcanoes, hot springs, and silica terraces can be seen during explorations at Orakei Korako Geyserland.
Tongariro National Park, which is New Zealand’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another attraction. Three volcanoes, namely, Ngaurohoe, Tongariro, and Ruapehu, are found within the vast nature preserve.
To have a memorable visit, reflect on the beauty of the region while soaking in any of the numerous hot mineral springs in Taupo.
The “Garden City” of Christchurch is the biggest city of South Island. Dotted with lush gardens and beautiful parks, Christchurch breathes a vibrant and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
In Christchurch city center, you will find the Christchurch Cathedral, where fine architectural details of the Gothic Revival period are very well preserved. The city is also home to several 19th century buildings, which enhance the tree-lined avenues and consequently make Christchurch as elegant as some of the European cities. Hop on the historic tram to see more city sights such as Victoria Square, Canterbury Museum, Arts Center, and the Avon River.
Also in Christchurch is Hagley Park. It lies at the heart of Christchurch, covering an area of 165 hectares (407 acres). Within the park is the Botanic Gardens, which is situated alongside Avon River. Horticultural hobbyists are attracted to its extensive collections of roses, different herbs, and other flora exhibitions.
Notable excursions from Christchurch include driving to Lyttleton Harbor, which offers more spectacular scenery, or to the Banks Peninsula to visit Akaroa, a coastal village with quaint French influences.
As if the volcanic landscapes were not enough, New Zealand has yet more awe-inspiring attractions to offer. The premiere all-season alpine and lake resort of Queenstown heeds the call to adventure on a higher scale.
The area is not called “Adventure Capital” for merely two or three reasons. In fact, you’ll have countless adventure options to enjoy an action-packed holiday in Queenstown.
The road to high adventure starts in Skippers Canyon, situated some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Queenstown town. Kawarau, Shotover, and Dart Rivers in Skippers Canyon are ideal for whitewater rafting and jet boating, while gondola rides 450 meters above Queenstown offer an enjoyable view of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu.
After the energy-sapping outdoor activities, spend an afternoon in the award-winning Queenstown wineries to have a rare treat for the senses. The vineyards at Gibbston Valley have earned gold medals for their prized Pinot Noir wines.
And make sure to escape to more rugged country scenes in Glenorchy and Arrowtown, which were deemed perfect for the visual rendition of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings movies.
If you happen to visit during winter, make a trip to the Coronet Peak and the Remarkables Range, where you can go skiing and snowboarding to your heart’s content.
Dunedin is found in the Otago region, where Queenstown is also located. The city of Dunedin is the main center and gateway to the diverse Southeast coast of South Island. Its name is derived from the Celtic term for Edinburgh, in remembrance of the city’s Scottish legacy.
Otago’s lone city is all about heritage preservation. A wealth of stately mansions and buildings, such as Olveston, Lamach Castle, First Church, and Dunedin Railway Station, stand proud of their Victorian and Edwardian architectural elements. Traditional Highland games are still being played in the city.
Dunedin’s coastline provides beaches for both surfing and swimming. Popular St. Clair is always vibrant, while Esplanade has a cosmopolitan spirit. The more private Tunnel Beach, on the other hand, is a favorite hub for romantic walks. Long Beach is a perfect spot for rock climbers and cave explorers, while the shores of Brighton Beach on the South Coast are frequented by families and surfers.
Before leaving Dunedin, challenge yourself to a walk along Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world.
Fiordland is an area on South Island’s Southwest coast known for its thought-provoking scenery. Its UNESCO World Heritage status promises one-of-a-kind exploration experiences.
The resort town of Te Anau is the usual starting point to adventures in the ever-famous Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful fiords in the world. Twenty minutes by car from Te Anau, Lake Manapouri casts a heavenly sight framed by the Cathedral Mountains. From here, trips to Doubtful Sound can be arranged.
Te Anau is also the base for exploring Fiordland National Park, where nature trekkers can choose from famous walking tracks that will take them through ancient forests, glacier-fed lakes, and alpine views.
The longest region in New Zealand is referred to as West Coast, located between Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps. The region is home to several geological treasures and a small human population, evoking a feeling of remote wilderness.
With the region isolated from the rest of the country due to the Southern Alps, folks in the West Coast, commonly called “coasters,” have developed a culture of their own. Indeed, the uniquely exotic cuisines of the West Coast are celebrated in a food festival in Hokitika. Jades or greenstones are also produced in Hokitika and in Greymouth in South Island.
Perhaps the most famous attributes of the West Coast is its glacier country. These glaciers cascade to valley floors only 300 meters above sea level, making them accessible for explorations. The two most popular names in the region are Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier.
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