- Cape Reinga overlooks the northernmost tip of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific meet in a swirl of crashing waves. The blue-soaked view is unparalleled and Cape Reinga is also sacred to the native Maoris, so no picnics or smoking please. Look down far below and you will see a single, centuries-old pohutukawa tree growing that is the gateway to the netherworld.
- Cathedral Cove: From Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula you can hike about thirty minutes past small bays and farmland to Cathedral Cove, a spectacular beach duo separated by a mighty rock cathedral through which you walk to access the second beach. Cathedral Cove is also only accessible two hours either side of low tide.
- Tongariro is a steaming, flat, volcanic landscape dominated by the 2796-meter Mount Ruapehu (Tongariro and Ruapehu are perhaps better known as Mordor and Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings). The Tongariro Crossing is part of a Great Walk and is a popular day hike which transverses the steaming lunar landscape dotted with gem-like turquoise lakes
- Cape Farewell overlooks the northwestern corner of the south island; soak in the view and then take a small hike (30 minutes) across hilly farmland and sand dunes to spectacular Whahariki Beach, where you will only be able to take your eyes off the majestic scenery to watch the dozens of seal pups frolicking in the waves just meters away. Along the way don’t miss the hundreds of black swans that live on Golden Bay.
- The road to Glenorchy from Queenstown is insanely spectacular, following the lake as it curves through the mountains. If you are brave, from Glenorchy continue on to Paradise (a.k.a. Isengard) on a gravel road criss-crossed with streams that leads to the start of the Routebourne Track through fields of sheep, rocky mountaintops, and a tangible sense of isolation. From Paradise you are only about 50 km as the crow flies to Milford Sound, but the drive takes about five hours!
- The Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki are amazing rock structures and stone towers carved by millions of years of pounding waves. Around high tide the blowholes are raging and you will feel the energy of New Zealand’s wild West Coast surge around you.
- The Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier are two of the most popular and easy-to-reach glaciers in New Zealand; each has a white river rushing from its mouth and is set in an incredible carved rock valley edged with cascades. Franz Josef is larger and steeper than Fox, which has a more accessible terminal moraine and slightly lower prices on heli-hiking, sightseeing flights, etc.
- Nugget Point. Don’t let the narrow gravel road deter you: the lighthouse overlooking huge ocean boulders being pounded by the surf is absolutely awe-inspiring and one of the most-often photographed views in the country.
- North of Dunedin are the Moeraki Boulders, strange, almost spherical boulders of all sizes along the beach that have emerged from the cliff side and exist no other place on earth. Just south of the boulders is a penguin colony where you can observe yellow-eyed penguins in the wild, one of the few places in the world outside of Antarctica (the Ice) where you can see penguins in their natural habitat.
- The drive into Milford Sound is rated one of the top ten on earth by National Geographic, and after passing through a tunnel which took twenty years to dig, the road twists and turns through the glacier-topped sheer rock walls of the ancient landscape, ending with the incredible Mitre Peak. Sleeping and eating options are extremely limited in Milford Sound, the keas (the world’s only alpine parrots) will eat your hiking boots, and the flies are ridiculous; however the stars are ridiculously bright and the beauty of this remote wonderland is worth any number of slight annoyances. It rains three hundred days out of the year here, so bring your wet weather gear.
Hundreds of other amazing sights and experiences await you in New Zealand!