St Paul's Rock, Whangaroa. © Alistair Guthrie

10 super spots to explore around New Zealand this spring

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With warmer weather, more daylight hours and an abundance of fresh foliage, spring is a lovely time of year to travel. We’ve rounded up ten places to explore around New Zealand that you may not have discovered yet…  

1. St Paul’s Rock, Whangaroa

St Paul's Rock stands high above Northland’s Whangaroa township and provides spectacular views of the Whangaroa Harbour. The track climbs steeply through regenerating mānuka bush, with chains installed to help you climb the last 30 metres. St Paul’s Rock and the other formations around the edge of Whangaroa Harbour are the remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted more than 20 million years ago. When you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping vistas of the harbour below.

2. Peters Pool, Franz Josef

Enjoy the reflective views of the glacier valley and mountains on this easy, accessible walk to a small kettle lake. Peters Pool walk is a 1.2km 25-minute return walk via the same track that takes you to a small lake formed by ice melting amongst glacial moraine about 200 years ago. to get there, drive or walk south from the Franz Josef Waiau township across the Waiho River bridge and turn left onto the Glacier Access Road or Te Ara a Waiau. Drive or walk for approximately 4km to the car park at the end of the road. 

3. Lake Mangamahoe, New Plymouth

One of the best places to take in the beauty of Mount Taranaki is from Lake Mangamahoe. The 262-hectare lake and surrounding forest isn’t just a pretty sight; the lake itself provides all the drinking water for New Plymouth, so boating, swimming, horse riding and camping in the immediate vicinity of the lake are prohibited. However, there’s a dedicated 5km bridle trail, as well as a 6km circuit walk around the lake that takes around two hours. You’ll be able to see a small collection of redwood trees planted in 1931 – not quite as high at their 100-metre Californian cousins yet, but impressive nonetheless. There are also purpose-built downhill and cross-country mountain biking trails accessed via Plantation Road, just south of the lake's main entrance. 

4. Nugget Point, Tokatā, Clutha

Enjoy dramatic coastal views from the iconic Tokatā Lighthouse and spot seals, penguins and other seabirds on the short walking trails around Nugget Point. The Awakiki Track takes you through a scenic bush resave that is an outstanding example of lowland tōtara forest, explore Kākā Point Scenic Reserve, or take the short, easy walk out to the Nugget Point Tokatā lighthouse itself. The area is rich in wildlife; several seabird species nest on the rock stacks. New Zealand fur seals/kekeno also breed here, and other marine mammal species can sometimes be seen.   

5. New Chums Beach, Coromandel

New Chums Beach is in The Coromandel’s Wainuiototo Bay, handy to both Whitianga and Coromandel townships. To get there, drive to Whangapoua Beach and then it’s all on foot. It’s about a 30-minute walk, which begins with a wade through the estuary at the northern end of Whangapoua Beach at low tide. A track crosses a saddle over the southern headland and there you are, overlooking a classically-formed stretch of dazzling white sand, backed with bush that is in turn fringed with pōhutukawa and confronts the sparkling water of Mercury Bay. New Chums Beach.

6. Tasman Glacier, Mackenzie District

Canterbury’s Tasman Glacier, 29km long and up to 3km wide, can be viewed from the short walks that start at the Blue Lakes Shelter in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Start from the Blue Lakes Shelter and meander up past the lakes to a viewpoint on the moraine wall. There are good views of the lower Tasman Glacier and the mountains at the head of the valley. The lakes offer good swimming in summer and can be reached by making a side trip off the main track. To reach the famous Tasman Glacier Lake, branch off the Tasman Glacier View Track just past the Blue Lakes Shelter and head to a viewpoint of the glacier terminal lake and the source of the Tasman River. Icebergs can be seen floating in the lake in summer, and in winter the lake freezes over.

7. Mount Kariori, Raglan

Mount Karioi is an extinct volcano that sits in the Pirongia Forest Park near Raglan. While it’s a steep climb, not for the faint of heart that takes roughly 3.5 hours from the car park to the summit (one way), it’s definitely worth it for the views. From the top, on a clear day, you can see Pureora, Maungamangero, Te Aroha, Pirongia and Maungatautari and even all the way to Mount Taranaki. Karioi is said to be the oldest and westernmost of the Alexandra lineament of volcanoes.

8. Westhaven / Whanganui Inlet, Tasman

Westhaven or Whanganui Inlet in the Nelson/Tasman region is the first estuary in New Zealand to be protected by a combination of marine and wildlife reserve. The landscape is a rare combination of lush native coastal forest and tidal channels. The reserve covers 536ha of tidal sandflats and channels within Whanganui Inlet, on the western coast of Golden Bay. It’s also a great spot for kayaking, especially for exploring the more secretive tidal arms and channels that flank the inlet.

9. Putangirua Pinnacles, Wairarapa

Ancient gravels and millions of years of erosion have created one of New Zealand’s most spectacular geological sites at the Putangirua Pinnacles. Soaring, spiky cliffs stretch up to the sky from the stony riverbed in formations that almost look too dramatic to be real. An hour’s drive south of Martinborough, you’ll find these remarkable rock formations. It’s a short, easy walk, suitable for dogs and kids, but you’ll need sturdy shoes and to keep an eye out for falling rocks, especially after heavy rain. If you’re feeling energetic, continue uphill from the lookout for a longer walk that includes excellent views over Palliser Bay and Lake Ōnoke.

10. Queenstown Hill, Southern Lakes

The Queenstown Hill Time Walk is a rocky delight and when you summit you’ll be surprised at the staggering views from above the tree line. The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, parts of Lake Wakatipu and the Kawarau River all slide into view. The Time Walk also features a series of information panels that showcase the past, present and predicted future of this stunning part of the world, each explaining the different epochs on Lake Wakatipu. They include depictions from the first Māori settlements through the heady gold rush years to the more recent development of Queenstown into the adventure capital of the world. Representing all this, a reward near the top of the climb is a huge ironwork sculpture called ‘The Basket of Dreams,’ a link from past to present and into the future.

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