There are so many amazing sights, scenes and activities to experience in New Zealand that I am not even sure if a list of “10 things” will do the beautiful country justice.
For our trip, we rented a car and drove around the North and South Islands. We love how flexible and convenient it was to drive and adjust our itinerary according to the weather, or our whims and fancies. The roads at New Zealand were well-constructed and clearly marked, making driving quite a breeze!
1. Visit Hannahs Bay for a secluded view of Lake Rotorua and its beautiful sunset
Lake Rotorua is a beautiful place to relax and admire the scenery, but the park in Rotorua town is often full of tourists.
Take a short drive to Hannahs Bay for the similar view of the dock and the lake, sans the visitors. And to top it off, you may be rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
2. Pop by the free geothermal sites in Rotorua and the Mud Pool at Waiotapu
The entrance fees to the large geothermal parks at Rotorua are exorbitant. If you aren’t really that excited about geothermal sights, visit free geothermal parks around the area such as Kuirau Park – which boasts a couple of geothermal pools, and the large sizzling Mud Pool at Waiotapu, where you see bubbles forming on the mud due to the heat from the ground.
There are also other free geothermal sites that you can consider around the area, listed on this site.
3. Stroll around the Art Deco town of Napier
To take a break on all the scenic routes and geographical delights, head over to Napier’s town centre and feast on the array of Art Deco buildings there. These buildings with style characterised by its skyscraper shape, sunbursts and fountains, and geometric shapes, were rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake.
Today, these buildings serve as office buildings or shops but it is such an interesting experience to walk around and discover the interesting designs along the street!
4. Go for a glacier hike!
New Zealand is home to many stunning glaciers, making a visit to one of them in the South Island a must-do in your itinerary.
The most visited glaciers are Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. The other option is the Tasman Glacier near Mount Cook.
We visited Franz Josef Glacier and in order to hike the glacier, you need to take the helicopter up. It was a unique experience to be hiking on ice and experiencing first hand about glacier formations and glacier melting.
Given the variability of weather, set aside 2 nights for the glacier helicopter hike in the event that your flight could be canceled due to bad weather.
5. Go slow on the drive to Wanaka. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful!
The drive to Wanaka was one of the most beautiful drive in our trip. I think this sentiment was partly due to the fact that the weather was perfect during our drive. There are multiple stop-points to admire Mount Aspiring and other mountains surrounding the glacier lakes Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka.
We particularly loved that stop at “Boundary Creek Picnic and Camping Area” which offered a peaceful and quiet view point of Lake Wanaka.
And that Wanaka tree – in my opinion, it was totally overrated. But if I could have done the trip differently, I would have extended one more night at Wanaka to climb Roy’s Peak.
6. Allocate more time in Queenstown and go for the perfect photo spot for the city view!
Queenstown was one of our favourite stops! It had great landscape, a good variety of hikes for nature lovers and a well-developed town offering plentiful options for food and shopping.
We attempted the Ben Lomond track, which would take about 3-5 hours but had a great scenery and view of the mountainous range of the area.
Photo tip: Take a drive to 17 Vancouver Drive (Lover’s Lookout) for an amazing view of Queenstown. Kindly note that this is a private residential area which offers a panoramic view.
7. Head to Glenorchy and Paradise!
How often can you brag that you have been to Paradise? Take a 45min drive to Glenorchy, a small town off Queenstown, followed by Paradise for a scenic and relaxed road trip in New Zealand.
If you have been fantasising about clamping in the mountains, inspired by all those pictures from Instagram, do experience it in New Zealand!
We spent a night glamping at Moke Lake in end November. The weather was too cold for anything adventurous at More Lake and we spent most of the time inside the tent. Glamping might be a better idea right smack in summer, when the weather warms up.
9. Alpaca farm
While alpacas could be reared for their fibre/wool and meat, what we understand was that most alpaca farms in New Zealand are meant for tourism rather than farming.
And the alpacas are intelligent and adorable animals! There are many alpaca farms in North and South Islands and do make a point to visit one when you are doing your road trip!
10. Visit Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo – and check out the blooming lupins!
While New Zealand has many large lakes to boast about, you should not miss out Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo – the magnificent turquoise lakes at South Island. The glistening blue colour of the lake looks unreal but this is due to the glacial dust that contributes to the colour of both lakes.
The glaciers in the headwaters of Lake Tekapo grind rocks into a fine dust on their journey down towards the lake. This resulted in “rock flour,” which is suspended in the water and results in this unique colour.
Lake Tekapo is also surrounded by lupins! If you visit during mid November till end December, you will be able to catch these flowers in full bloom.
Other things to do:
Of course, this list is by no means the only things that you should be doing in New Zealand. If we had to amend our itinerary, we would certainly factor some time at Mount Cook National Park, and extend our stay to visit Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound.
If you have been to New Zealand, what would be your recommendations? Do share them with me through your comments!
PS: I will be sharing my itinerary in the next post. Stay tuned!