With misted mountains and emerald fjords, ancient fern-riddled forests and cascading waterfalls, and kilometers of black and white sand beaches; New Zealand is privileged to count itself among one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world. As such, this manifold land rife with majesty just begs visitors to walk its many trails, making for a haven for hikers, outdoors people and the average adventurer.
Tongariro National Park
As the first, and easily the most popular, national park in New Zealand, Tongariro is renowned for its surprises and its extremes. Tongariro's biggest attraction is its three active volcanoes: Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngaurohe and Mount Tongariro. However, the park's diverse range of ecosystems also includes tranquil lakes, herb fields, untamed forests and desert-like plateaus. In the winter, the park is transformed into a series of ski hills, but the summer makes for perfect hiking through the expansive wilderness. Visitors can enjoy hiking through mountainous terrain, past cooling lava fields or just enjoying the view of the horizon from seemingly endless scrub land.
Although the Coromandel Peninsula is prized for its white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water, the peninsula itself makes for a stunning walk. Showcasing yet another piece of New Zealand's diverse landscape, the peninsula is covered with hilly rainforest. Unlike most rainforests, Coromandel Peninsula's forests are temperate and home to a number of wildlife. Before starting a day at the beach in Auckland's favourite beach time getaway, be sure to work up a sweat exploring forest that is overflowing with wildlife.
The beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula hold their own adventure. One of the major attractions of the area is a hot water beach where hot springs trickle out through the sand when the tide is low. Visitors can bring their own shovel (or rent one) and dig up their own natural spa pool from the sand. The natural hot springs, kilometers of perfect sand, rainforest and rich diving off the coast are certain to make visitors want to stay on Coromandel Peninsula for their whole trip in New Zealand.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers sit 20 kilometers away from each other on the South Island's west coast. These remnants for the last ice age are among the most easily accessible glaciers in the world, making both guided and unguided walks possible there. Fox Glacier hosts a series of fascinating ice caves that burrow through some of the thickest chunks of ice while the Franz Josef Glacier tapers so low to the ground visitors can walk through the grasslands and right up onto the ice. Heli-tours are popular over the glacier and some parts are only accessible through ice climbing, but those with a series urge to see New Zealand's most chilly attractions can enjoy hiking on or in between them.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is one of the most popular holiday destinations for the residents of New Zealand. This absolutely picturesque area contains an array of 144 islands, some of which only accessible by boat while others remain connected together. The island feature exponentially more secluded bays and small sandy beaches, making this a particularly popular spot for sailing yachts. For those that want to walk the islands, several are chained to the mainland as well as other islands by thin sand bars or shallow tide pools that make them accessible by foot during low tide. Those who decide to take to the water are also treated to an abundance of marine life such as dolphins, whales and penguins that live in the area.
Wai-O-Tapu is New Zealand's thermal wonderland. The park hosts numerous geysers and hot springs, but is particularly renowned for its colourful appearance. The numerous hot springs come in all different colours from green to red, yellow and orange. Unfortunately, many are too hot for a soothing dip but the steaming hot pools, sparse forests and rock formations are a thrill to explore on foot. One of the best attractions in Wai-O-Tapu is the Lady Knox Geyser. The Lady Knox erupts once a day at 10:15 a.m., like clockwork. The eruption reaches a of height of 20 meters, but the eruption lasts for well over an hour.
Abel Tasman National Park
Located on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island, the vast Abel Tasman National Park is a hiker's dream. Closed off to vehicles, visitors can only enter by boat, foot or small plane, but the trip is well worth it. Home to one of New Zealand's Great Walks, one of many long distance hiking trails through the country's most beautiful spots, visitors to Abel Tasman National Park can hike mountainous terrain, dense forest or enjoy endless barren stretches of abandoned white sand beach lined by some of the bluest water in the world. This protected national park is also home to a number of New Zealand's most precious wildlife including blue penguins, wekas, and other rare birds.
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