If there’s a country more blessed with natural wonders than New Zealand, I’ve yet to see it. While itineraries in places like Europe tend to stick mostly around cities, you’d be absolute mad to take that approach in NZ.
New Zealand’s natural beauty is spread all throughout the country. Whether you’re on North Island or South Island, you’re never far away from a scene that’s jaw-dropping, breathtaking, awe-inspiring or any combination of any other overused travel clichés out there.
Ready to see nature at its most glorious? Add these unmissable natural wonders to your New Zealand itinerary…
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Let’s start off with one of the weirdest natural attractions, not just in the New Zealand but in the entire world, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Located in Waitomo on the North Island, the caves are home to thousands of Arachnocampa Luminosa worms that light up the caves with their unique effervescent cyan glow.
The 45-minute ride (NZ$53) through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves can feel as if you’re staring into distant unknown galaxies. It’s an absolute must-have experience while travelling through NZ’s North Island!
I doubt there’s a natural wonder in New Zealand that’s more associated with the country’s beauty than Milford Sound. This South Island favorite forms some of the most spectacular alpine scenery in the entire world, and is almost indescribable in its grandeur.
It took thousands of years for glaciers to carve out these fiords (thought those were just for vikings, didn’t ya?). The masterpiece of Milford Sound has not gone unappreciated by travelers, photographers, and adventurers alike.
One of the best ways to experience Milford Sound is to slide into a kayak and experience its sparkling waters and jagged alpine backdrop up close.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
If you’ve ever spent time touring the geothermal oddities of Iceland, you’ll have an idea of what to expect at the weird & wonderful Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua. This geothermal park showcases the planet among its rawest and the earth’s surface at its most colourful.
Among the highlights of the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland are its orange & green hued hot spring ponds and bubbling mud pits. Also don’t miss a chance to check out the Lady Knox Geyser, timing your visitor with one of its daily eruptions at 10:15am when it’s open to visitors. Catch her on a particularly angry day to watch he geyser shoot its scalding water up to 20 metres into the sky!
Tongariro National Park
As New Zealand’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage area, you’d better bet that Tongariro National Park is a worthwhile addition to any nature lover’s NZ itinerary. With over 80,000 hectares of volcanoes, hiking trails, and lakes to explore, Tongariro offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery on the island.
The park’s most famous attraction is, without a doubt, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hiking trail. It’s often listed among the world’s great nature walks, stretching over a relatively challenging 19.4 kilometres that can be tackled in a single (albeit long) day. On the way, you’ll witness the earth at its best as you sweep by lava flows, volcanic peaks, and brilliantly-coloured pools.