10 natural wonders you’ll only find in New Zealand

For a small country, New Zealand has really made a mark on the world stage.

We all know about the mighty All Blacks, Peter Jackson and excellent Sauvignon Blanc. But if there’s one thing that keeps New Zealand on the tip of people’s tongues and at the top of their must-visit lists, it’s the country’s natural wonders. There is simply no other place on the planet that offers the diversity of landscapes, remarkable geological features or the number of scenes to stop you in your tracks. From the tip to the toe of the land of the long white cloud, these are places that will leave you in awe.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

In a land overflowing with captivating, awe-inspiring, soul-stirring natural beauty, Milford Sound still manages to surprise you. Buried away in Fiordland National Park, the Sound amazes visitors with its moody waters, sharp peaks and forested cliffs. We can thank the glaciers that carved this landscape during the Ice Age, leaving us with what is widely regarded as New Zealand’s most spectacular natural attraction. And the best part? You can spend the evening sailing on Milford Sound and falling asleep to the sound of waterfalls.

The pancake stone

What does it take to create the perfect stack of pancakes? Eggs, flour, milk and butter? What about pieces of plant and marine life, seismic activity, erosion and 35 million years? Travel to the west coast of the South Island and you will find Punakaiki, home to 100 people and the fascinating Pancake Rocks. These weathered limestone formations look like layers of thin pancakes and provide quite a show for those who visit during high tide. When the wind hits just right, the sea below is forced into caves before erupting through vertical blowholes – what else is there?!

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Auckland’s big city energy is offset by the relaxed atmosphere of nearby Waiheke Island. Just a short ferry ride away from the mainland lies a tranquil paradise of sandy beaches and world-class wineries – what a combination! Small white sailboats bob on sapphire blue waters as Auckland’s skyscrapers look on enviously, while olive groves and vineyards color the island a pleasant shade of green. Whether you fancy wandering to find the best photo ops or stretching out on the beach with a good book, this little piece of heaven will make it hard to believe you were in New Zealand’s busiest city an hour ago!

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Look beneath the surface and discover a subterranean world illuminated by a dazzling canopy of luminescent creatures. The Waitomo Caves are an otherworldly maze of stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and limestone formations, but the real stars of the show are the thousands of glowworms that illuminate the caves. And forget about singing in the shower – the acoustics in the caves are so good that concerts are often given here, so maybe take the chance to live out your opera singer fantasy to an audience of glowworms.

Rotorua

Te Puia Geyser
Picture of Damien Raggatt

Rotorua is a literal hotbed of geothermal activity. Erupting geysers, smoldering mud pools and geological oddities dot the landscape, and if you had any doubt you were in Rotorua, the city’s distinctive sulfur smell will quickly remind you. If you want to experience Rotorua’s geothermal wonders at their very best, Te Puia is the place for you. Here you will find Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere. Exploding around 20 times a day, you won’t have to wait long to see this epic show – prepare to be blown away!

Lake Wanaka

Lake Taupo
Picture of Damien Raggatt

Lake Wanaka has long impressed visitors with its calm waters and dramatic peaks, but it has something special that makes it stand out from the rest. An Instagram-famous willow tree sits at the southern end of the lake, emerging from its reflective waters. That the Wanaka Tree, as it is known, has become one of the world’s most photographed trees, and rightly so! The image of the sloping arrow against the backdrop of the lake and its surrounding mountains is an image worth capturing.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro Crossing Lake landscape

volcanoes? Yup. Lakes? Have them. Native forest? Check. The wonderland of Tongariro National Park has all the natural features that make New Zealand so special rolled into one. A day here will reward you with enough breathtaking sights to last a lifetime, from snow-capped peaks to ethereal green pools. This World Heritage Site is spiritually significant to the Maori people, with its three mountains, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, symbolizing the important spiritual connection between society and the environment.

Lake Taupo

Big, blue and absolutely beautiful – Lake Taupo is certainly a feast for the eyes. Not only is the lake nice to look at, it also offers all sorts of exciting activities. Swimming, kayaking, standup paddleboarding and water skiing are all popular ways to enjoy the water, while sailing and cruise excursions give you a chance to sit back and enjoy the magnificent scenery. The cliffs surrounding the lake feature an impressive 14m high carving by Maori artist Matahi Brightwell – a must-see while in the area.

Franz Josef Glacier

franz josef glacier

A stunning stretch of caves, tunnels, seracs and crevasses descending from the Southern Alps, the Franz Josef Glacier is arguably one of New Zealand’s most impressive sights. A walk will take you within viewing distance of this icy beauty, but if you want to actually get in touch with the glacier, you’ll need to catch a helicopter. Exploring the glacier’s ever-changing landscape while surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Blue pools

It’s something we hear all the time – “the windiest water you’ll ever see!”. But when it comes to New Zealand’s Blue Pools, this really could be the bluest water you’ll ever see – promise! Tucked away deep within Mt Aspiring National Park, the pools are an offshoot of the Makarora River and are fringed by shady forests of beech and podocarp. Cross one of two bridges spanning the pools and you will see how clear the glacial water is. Take a short but rewarding walk through the area to admire the pools from every angle – you’ll want to have your camera ready for this one.

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