There are plenty of different reasons people choose to travel. Some are looking to experience new cultures, meet new people, taste new foods, and see new sights. Others are just looking to get away from it all, fleeing the stresses and worries of their lives and abandoning the mundanity of their familiar surroundings in order to enjoy something totally new and relaxing. Whatever your reason for travel, you have a lot of different destinations to choose from, and New Zealand stands out brightly as one of the very best of all. An increasing number of people are choosing to visit this Pacific Ocean nation for its stunning landscapes and remarkable natural landmarks. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
3.Ninety Mile Beach
4.New Chums Beach
5 Best Romantic Beaches in New Zealand
- Piha, Photo: Fyle/stock.adobe.com
- Anchorage, Photo: corners74/stock.adobe.com
- Ninety Mile Beach, Photo: Patricia/stock.adobe.com
- New Chums Beach, Photo: Nelida Zubia/stock.adobe.com
- Wainui, Photo: Imre/stock.adobe.com
- More Info, Photo: mikesch112/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Sorang - Fotolia.com
More Ideas: Lake Tekapo
Part of the UNESCO “Dark Sky” Reserve, Lake Tekapo in New Zealand is just as stunning during the pitch-black night as it is during the day. Guests will enjoy both on land and by water activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Located just about three hours south west of Christchurch, New Zealand, Lake Tekapo faces the lake and is surrounded by the Southern Alps. The lake gets its stunning, turquoise color from the fine rock flour that has been ground down by glaciers which is suspended in the lake. The area is inhabited by the indigenous Maori people and has a permanent population of just over 300 people. It was officially settled by Jock Mackenzie in the mid-1800s.
One of the more relaxing attractions at Lake Tekapo are their “Hot Pools.” Just off of the main lake are the Tekapo Springs, which are home to five different hot pools. The pools overlook not only the lake but also the nearby mountain range, Two Thumb. The Tekapo Springs are one of the most highly rated family attractions in the country of New Zealand.
There is a family relaxation and recreation complex built around the five hot springs, which were themselves built to resemble and add to the natural beauty of the surrounding area. They are landscaped with alpine plants native to the area. The pools are heated from an underground, pure source using recyclable energy and range in temperature from 27 to 39 degrees Celsius (80 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit).
During the warmer months, there is also an Aqua Play recreation area that has cooler temperature pools and interactive, child friendly water features.
For adrenaline junkies, there is the TRIPPO water slide. The largest of its kind in the country of New Zealand, the slide stands at 11 meters tall, 53 meters long, and 24 meters wide so that the whole family can enjoy it. It is open from December through February on Tekapo Springs outdoor rink. There are three different chutes and combo tickets available to enjoy both the hot springs and the water slide on the same day. Prices include unlimited slides.
On the opposite end of the scale is the Snow Tubing Park. With a 150-meter slope open from June through September, guests can choose to either tube solo or with a group. Fun for guests of all ages, the snow tube slope starts with a “magic carpet” ride that will take riders from the base of the slope to the top with time to enjoy the scenery. Suitable footwear will be required, and the snow slope will be closed during adverse weather events. The park also includes an onsite cafe.
Near the Two Thumb Mountain range, visitors can also take tours by either skis or snowboard. Located just east of the “Main Divide,” the private hut that tours will start at is located at 1300 meters above sea level. Ski and snowboard tours are the perfect way to see the Southern Alps. Adventurous and experienced skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the harder summits like Beuzenberg Peak, Snake Ridge, and Mount Hope.
Visitors who prefer hiking by foot instead of by skis will enjoy the Tekapo Trek, which will lead hikers through the foothill areas of the Southern Alps. Enjoy the stunning scenery of Mackenzie High Country - including snowcapped peaks, the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo, and golden tussocks. Experienced hikers will enjoy climbing to the top of an over 2000-meter peak. In the winter, visitors can enjoy the same path on snowshoes.
Outdoor adventurers will enjoy Dark Sky. Complete with jagged peaks, glaciers, backcountry spring creeks, and pristine rivers, this vast region of New Zealand is well known for its fishing areas. Anglers visiting Dark Sky have fishing access from dusk to dawn to waters that are full of salmon and trout. After dark, the area is one of the best around Lake Tekapo for seeing all the sky has to offer (planets, constellations, and stars in the millions). It is also one of the best places to view the Southern Lights, especially between April and September.
Visitors to Lake Tekapo who are looking for a little more relaxation will enjoy the Day Spa located at Tekapo Springs. With four fully equipped rooms, the spa is open seven days a week and staffed with therapists who are at the top of their game when it comes to pampering guests. A full range of both body and beauty treatments are available, from facials, to body and facial waxing, to sauna and steam rooms and massage.
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And for a more aerial view of the region, guests can take an “air safari.” Offered by helicopter, these tours last between 15 minutes to an hour. It is a great way to see the area from a unique, one of a kind perspective. Guests will be taken over twelve different glaciers and come complete with commentary from the pilot about the history of the region.
Guests should also make sure to check out the Church of the Good Shepherd, located on the shores of Lake Tekapo. The window frames of the altar frame a perfect picture of the Southern Alps, making it a popular photo opportunity for visitors. The church was built by the Mackenzie district in 1935 to serve the local pioneer families. Also, nearby is the sheepdog monument, honoring and recognizing the debt the district feels it owes to the breed of dog that helped build the community.
Due to its “dark sky” designation, Lake Tekapo is home to a variety of events that focus on stargazing.
One of those events is known as the Star Party. Held at Cowan’s Observatory in April, guests are invited to join professional stargazers for a night under the stars. Shuttles will meet at the Earth and Sky office and take guests of all ages out to the observatory. The event itself is held as a “free flow” event, which means that visitors are able to do what they want in their own time instead of being stuck with a strict schedule. Visitors are encouraged to wear warm clothing and appropriate footwear, bring flashlights (preferably red, amber, or dim colored only).
Be aware that there are no restrooms at the observatory. Astronomy guides are available to answer any questions and provide information about the different types of celestial objects that can be viewed through the telescopes offered. Complementary and downloaded group photography service is available and snacks will be served for a suggested donation. No alcohol will be allowed on the premises in order to keep the event family friendly.
Another special event held in Lake Tekapo is the Music in the Mountains festival. Featuring music that ranges from classical music performed by professional chamber musicians to freeform jazz, the fest is held for a full day in March. The cost includes all performances for the full day and is located in the gardens of the local, iconic Glenmore Station in the very heart of Mackenzie Country. Guests can bring in their own picnic lunches and refreshments and dine in the gardens. Chairs are recommended. Proceeds from the festival will go back into the community by supporting the Lake Tekapo School.
Lake Tekapo is also home to a special whitewater rafting course that is only offered occasionally during the year. When the course is open, guests may raft it with the help of a course coordinator who will be responsible for opening and releasing the gates in the appropriate order. The whitewater course is offered as part of the release of the water behind the Tekapo dam, which helps power the local hydro station.
The region is also very popular when it comes to guests booking private special events, especially weddings. From aerial, helicopter photography options to church or garden weddings in a variety of historic, scenic venues, guests from all over the country travel to Lake Tekapo for their special days. Visitors can also get married on a glacier.
Dining and Shopping
There are a variety of diverse dining options in Lake Tekapo. Featuring restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and bars. From the regional cuisine options like the Lake Tekapo Tavern to the ethic options like Jade Palace Chinese restaurant and Kohan Japanese restaurant, guests can take their pick between sit down formal experiences or more casual ones. There are also a variety of shopping options for travelers. Guests can pick up handmade crafts from The Craft Box, souvenirs at Kiwi Treasures, or clothing from the Southern Fern. All stores are locally owned and operated by members of the small, Lake Tekapo community.
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More Ideas: Northland and Bay of Islands
This subtropical region of Northland New Zealand is comprised of coastline beaches tracing the top of the island all the way to Auckland. Highlights of the area include swimming with dolphins, Ninety Mile Beach, Maori culture, and Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
Northland is unique between it is traced by both the East and West coasts. On the west coast, the island is rugged while the east coast is more urban. Northland is a significant location in Maori culture and the history of New Zealand. It is said that Northland is where Kupe, a legendary Maori explorer, arrived in New Zealand by canoe. Kupe is famed as discoverer of New Zealand and lead the Maori Settlers to land at Hokianga Harbour in Northland.
Northland is comprised of culture, coastline, Kauri forest, and historical landmarks. There are many different sites to see on Northland and the islands including these top activities.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds- The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are one of the most important sites to New Zealand's history. The site features a giant Maori war canoe called a Waka, a hand carved meeting house, and a traditional earth oven. The grounds are part of the Waitangi National Reserve and can be found next to Paihia. The visitor's center features performances and cultural exhibitions. The treaty was signed in 1840 and was an agreement for peace between the British and Maori people.
Poor Knights Islands- Off the shore of Tutukaka the Poor Knights Islands are a beautiful place to snorkel, scuba dive or go boating. There are volcanic outcrops, diverse tropical marine life, and sea caves that can be explored. These islands boast the best subtropical diving in the world. The water around Poor Knights Islands is clearer and warmer than of the coast of New Zealand.
Te Paki Sand Dunes- The very tip of Northland features the Te Paki Sand Dunes which are the largest sand dunes found in the southern hemisphere. Getting to the top of the dunes is difficult but the boogy board ride down gives quite the adrenaline rush. Surfers that normally catch waves, will be thrilled to surf the sand dunes.
Dolphin Cruises- There are 144 islands that make up the Bay of Islands off the coast of Northland. These islands provide the very best opportunities to interact with dolphins, whales, and other marine life in their natural habitats. The waters here are warmer than anywhere else in New Zealand and is perfect for swimming with dolphins' excursions.
Waipoua Forest- See the tallest Kauri tree in the world in the Waipoua Forest. The tree is named Tane Mahuta which means "Lord of the Forest" and is surrounded by other giant trees with ancient roots. Footprints Waipoua will take visitor son guided hikes through the forest.
Cape Reinga- If you want to visit a place that is teaming in legend, Cape Reinga is the place to visit. This cape is the northernmost part of New Zealand and is the place where Maori spirits leap into the ocean to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral homeland.
Twin Coast Cycle Trail- This 84 km cycle trail is a 1-2 day trek the connects the Bay of Islands with Hokianga Harbour. Steeped in Maori and colonial heritage, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail winds through wetlands, ancient forest, farmlands, and coastline. The trail is a mix of paved cycle paths and country roads with cultural sites and historic monuments as stops along the way. The cycle path is suitable for cyclists of all abilities and is mostly flat and wide. The incline is gentle, and paths are smooth.
Ninety Mile Beach- This stretch of beach is never ending, stretching ninety miles over the western coast of North Island. Known for the most beautiful sunsets in the world, and some of the most impressive left-hand surf breaks on the planet, the beach is an official highway that offers guided coach tours.
Shopping and Dining
Northland is known for it's amazing artistry and fresh produce. There are farmer's market and artisanal shops throughout Northland's many towns. Visitors can find many different souvenir and gift shops in the Bay of Islands and local arts and crafts festivals are set up whenever cruise ship dock in the harbor. Russell's promenade features local art galleries, boutique shops, and dining. The Old Packhouse Market is held on Saturdays. The Stone Store is one of the oldest retailers on the continent, dating back to 1870 and operates as a convenience store. A shopping mall is located in Whangarei and an Artisan's Fair is held there October through April featuring local art.
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