Summer is just around the corner! We’ve picked out a dozen fresh ideas for things to see and do around New Zealand to inspire your next getaway.
1. Head to Rotoroa Island
Rotoroa Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf makes for an interesting day trip from the city centre. As an addiction treatment centre for nearly 100 years, for many Rotoroa was a place of sanctuary, though not all its inhabitants survived to beat their demons. The architecturally designed, carefully curated visitor centre tells the story of the island’s fascinating and moving history through photographs, informative displays and sound recordings.
2. Soak up the views on the Queen Charlotte Track
With beautiful coves, serene inlets and many great spots to pitch a tent, you’ll be spoilt for vistas on this Great Walk. The complete Queen Charlotte Track is about 70km, taking three to five days. However, it’s easily tackled in sections with local boat services available to help you in and out, or shuttle your gear. Plus, there’s not much better than cycling or tramping through the wilderness then finishing each day with dinner, drinks and a good night’s sleep at a lodge.
3. Admire Huka Falls
Rightfully one of Taupō’s most popular attractions, the Huka Falls are a must-see. 220,000 litres of water per minute rush through the point where the mighty Waikato River narrows from 100 metres to just 15. You can witness this from bridges, lookout points and various trails and paths, some of which take you past hot springs and stunning views of said river.
4. Fly on the ziplines at Adventure Park
A mountain biking mecca on the outskirts of the city, Christchurch Adventure Park is like nirvana for riders and adventurous types. But along with an elaborate network of MTB tracks designed with varying degrees of difficulty, Christchurch Adventure Park also delivers full-service adrenaline with a quartet of ziplines. One of which is the longest in New Zealand at more than 1.1km allowing you to get up to speeds of 120kph.
5. Cycle the Wellington waterfront
Wellington City is physically defined by its harbour, and its greatest civic amenity is, without doubt, its waterfront precinct. It’s a pedestrian highway, a place to eat and drink, work and play. But possibly the best way to appreciate the waterfront is on two wheels. Better still, on two wheels with an electric boost. Switched on Bikes provides both, with guided tours and e-bike hires for novices and lazy cyclists alike. Even with a notorious Wellington headwind, you can explore the city without breaking a sweat.
6. Marvel at Mou Waho Island
For something a little different, visit Mou Waho, the largest of several islands on Lake Wānaka. Geologically interesting due to the glacially scoured Arethusa Pool (earlier named Moutimu by Māori, then Paradise Lake) in the middle of the island, it sits 150 metres above the main lake level. On Mou Waho, you can have the unique and mind-twisting experience of swimming in a lake on an island on a lake.
7. Ride the Sky Waka
Mount Ruapehu’s newest attraction is the seriously impressive Sky Waka gondola. For summer, the Sky Waka will carry sightseers from Whakapapa’s main base at Top of the Bruce to the freshly revamped café and restaurant at Knoll Ridge Chalet on a fast and weatherproof ride up the maunga. Admire mountain vistas both up and down Mount Ruapehu and across the Central Plateau, slide down the upper slopes in the sunshine and grab a bite to eat at the range of dining options.
8. Explore the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark
7,200 square kilometres of the Waitaki district is designated the Whitestone Geopark. Here, karst landscapes with signature white limestone have been shaped over millennia by volcanoes and glaciers to create some of the country’s most remarkable geological features. From Moeraki’s iconic boulders, to the beautiful limestone heritage buildings of Ōamaru; the impressive features of the aptly named Elephant Rocks, the soaring clay cliffs of Ōmarama or the intriguing Vanished World of Duntroon, the Whitestone Geopark is just waiting to be explored.
9. Visit Bridal Veil Falls
Getting to the Bridal Veil Falls – Waireinga in Māori – is via an easy 10-minute walk through native bush, so there’s no need to change out of your jandals. There you'll find a powerful plunge waterfall of about 55m surrounded by 540 acres of Waireinga Scenic Reserve and forest that is dominated by tawa trees. And if you’re up for it, about 400m past the Bridal Veil car park is the beginning of the 6km Pipiwharauroa Way walking and cycling track.
10. Find the remote Gillespies Beach
A rugged, remote, driftwood-strewn, black-sand beach east of Fox Glacier, this is a stunning coastal area, offering great views of the nearby mountains, glaciers, ocean and rainforest. There is a seal colony several kilometres north up the coast. To reach it is a three-hour round trip walking from the car park. Like nearby Ōkārito, this was another site of one of the many gold rushes on the coast and is steeped in history. Stopping off at the incredibly photogenic Lake Matheson on the way is also recommended.
11. Paddle to Whenuakura (Donut) Island
Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary or Donut Island is a sacred spot with a hidden lagoon just 600 metres off the coast of Whangamatā. You can get to the island by kayak or SUP, but the environment is fragile and the journey potentially perilous in the wrong conditions, so do it right and go with a certified local guide. Arriving at Donut Island you will pass through a narrow rock archway to reach the remarkable secluded lagoon in the island’s centre.
12. Discover Grove Scenic Reserve
Golden Bay is known for being geologically interesting, attracting rock-climbers and cavers from all over the world, but Grove Scenic Reserve has some good examples closer to the ground.Here you’ll find towering, sculpted limestone blocks creating narrow passageways, complete with spiky nikau and hanging tree roots and a wonderful view from the top. Plus, not far away you’ll find the extremely weird Labyrinth Rocks with three kilometres of natural maze-like pathways.