Check out the electric blues of Hamurana Springs in Rotorua. © RotoruaNZ

10 fresh adventures for the New Year


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With each New Year comes the chance to do things differently. Start with your summer adventures and explore some of these unique and lesser-known gems around New Zealand. 

1. White heron sanctuary, West Coast

Visit New Zealand’s only nesting site for the incredibly rare kōtuku (white herons) at Whataroa on the West Coast. From purpose-built hides, reached by a short jet boat ride and a walk through majestic kahikatea forest, you can watch these elegant, other-worldly creatures undisturbed in their natural environment. Kōtuku nest from mid-September until late February here, so the summer months are the perfect time to visit. 

2. Mokena Geyser, Te Aroha

Te Aroha is renowned for it’s hot pools, with some of the underground mineral springs naturally infused with sodium bicarbonate. But there is another remarkable attraction here, too – the world’s only hot soda water geyser. In the 1930s, a bore was sunk to improve access to the springs, resulting in the unique Mokena Geyser. Named for Mokena Te Hau, the Māori chief who once owned the land, the Mokena Geyser erupts every 40 minutes and it’s free to visit.  

3. Sandfly Bay, Otago Peninsula

Not in fact named for the biting insects, but instead for the prevalent winds whipping sand of the large dunes abutting the beach, Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula is arguably one of Otago’s most beautiful bits of coastline. Several walking tracks provide the chance to see local wildlife, including kekeno New Zealand fur seals, rāpoka sea lions and a colony of shy hoiho yellow-eyed penguins. 

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Dunedin

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4. Connells Bay Sculpture Park, Waiheke Island

On a gravel road at the far end of Waiheke Island you’ll find the Connells Bay Sculpture Park. Home to over 30 permanent works by prominent New Zealand sculptors and regular temporary exhibitions, all set in a remote, coastal environment, the park is available to visit by appointment only. A two-hour guided walk will take you around works by the likes of David McCracken, Michael Parekowhai and Paul Dibble. Wind through bush and over farmland while taking in the artwork and views over the Hauraki Gulf. 

5. Durie Hill Elevator, Whanganui

Built in 1919 to provide residents of Whanganui’s burgeoning Durie Hill garden suburbs with faster access to the city, the Durie Hill Underground Elevator is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Connecting to the banks of the Whanganui River via the 213 metre-long Durie Hill pedestrian tunnel, the elevator is the far easier alternative to climbing the adjacent 191 step-walkway. 

6. Sutherland Falls, Fiordland

At 580 metres, Sutherland Falls is claimed to be New Zealand’s highest waterfall. A majestic triple-tiered waterfall, the Sutherland Falls drop from Lake Quill to the Arthur Valley. The waterfall is not easily accessible though – to get there, it’s a one hour 30-minute return side trip on day three of the world-renowned Milford Track in Fiordland. Or via a scenic helicopter flight, if you’re feeling flush. 

7. Ferrymead Heritage Park, Christchurch

Created by a group of Cantabrian history enthusiasts in the 1960s, Ferrymead Heritage Park is a step back in time. With a reconstructed Edwardian town including cottages, a schoolhouse, church and theatre, a functioning steam train, a tram and a vintage printing press, the Heritage Park also hosts regular night markets and events hosted by local community groups and historical societies. 

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Schools out. #historic #tram #vintage #vintageclothing

A post shared by Darryl Kirk (@darryl.kirk01) on Oct 13, 2018 at 4:09pm PDT

8. Hamurana Springs, Rotorua

A short drive north of Rotorua will take you to Hamurana Springs Reserve. Comprised of the Hamurana Stream and scenic walking tracks through Redwoods, the big drawcard here are the springs. The main spring Te Puna-a-Hangarua produces four million litres of water per hour and is the deepest natural freshwater spring in the North Island, at approximately 15 metres. It has water so spectacularly clear, in shades of Instagram-friendly blue and turquoise that you’ll need to resist the urge to dive straight in. 

9. Underwater Observatory, Queenstown

On Queenstown’s Main Town Pier you can explore underwater without getting wet. See below the surface of Lake Wakatipu at the Underwater Observatory. Spot diving ducks, trout, eels and other freshwater lake residents from behind a big glass window. Spend a couple of dollars on fish pellets for maximum action.  

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Ever wondered what lives under the lake?

A post shared by KJet Queenstown (@kjetqueenstown) on Apr 4, 2016 at 12:23am PDT

10. Find fossils, Southland

Along the Catlins Coast in Southland you can find some of New Zealand’s oldest sedimentary rocks along with fossilised remains dating back to the Triassic and Jurassic periods. Ferns and tree species that once grew on Gondwanaland before the great split are preserved here. At Curio Bay, you can spot fossilised tree trunks and leaves, while further north between Nugget Point and Papatōwai there are marine fossils of Bivalve and Brachiopod shellfish. 

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