Remember this far far away land you used to dream of, where all you could hear was the sound of birds and waterfalls, and all you could see was trees, mountains, and seas? This magical place you found only in fairy tales and wished a million times you could escape to and leave everything behind?
Somewhere on the Pacific stretching across town main islands lies this land, waiting to mesmerize you with spectacular views around every corner. Welcome to New Zealand, the wonderland, the adventure land, the land of the long white cloud, where every day is a day in paradise.
With endless attractions and magnificent spots, this list tries to compile the must-see places for whoever’s decided to take a break from the ordinary and breathe in some extraordinary.
A coastal city in the Bay of Plenty, Mount Maunganui has been ranked one of the best beaches in New Zealand. With crystal white sand, a harbor beach and an ocean beach, the town is a haven for surfers and people looking for a relaxed time next to the sea. Mount Maunganui also referred to as “The Mount”, is called after the extinct volcano rising 232 meters above the Pacific and one of the town’s main attractions. Several tracks leading to the summit offer tourists a mesmerizing view of the harbor and the beach.
Also located in the Bay of Plenty is New Zealand’s largest kiwi orchard and the center of the kiwifruit expansion. A visit to Te Puke near Mount Maunganui takes you through vast kiwi orchards and into the heart of the kiwi industry and what constitutes the major horticultural export of New Zealand. Whether you decide to take a Kart tour or a helicopter ride, you’ll be sure to enjoy fascinating landscapes and discover more than fifty different varieties of delicious fruit and nuts!
A destination you should definitely not miss in the North Island. Known to be a volcanic wonderland with incredible geothermal attractions, Rotorua offers magical forests, natural hot springs, amazing mountain biking trails, explosive geysers including the legendary Pohutu Geyser, steaming volcanic crater lakes, bubbling mud pools and free thermal reserves, not to mention exceptionally luxurious spa resorts.
Rotorua is also the heartland of the Maori culture. Visit Te Puia and immerse yourself in the life and culture of the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand through cultural shows and a journey into the traditions and heritage of a tribe that has become a vibrant part of the country’s culture.
Te Puia is also home to a Kiwi bird Conversation Centre where one can see New Zealand’s famous native flightless and nocturnal bird and national icon, to which the country owns its “Kiwiland” appellation.
Nice restaurant to try: Flying Burrito Brothers, 07 Grey Street, Tauranga.
Who hasn’t seen the incredible Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies and doesn’t dream about visiting the real hobbit village where all the magic took place? The actual movie set located in the small town of Matamata in the Waikato region includes The Hobbit Holes, The Mill, The Party tree, The Green Dragon Inn, the shires, the lake, the double arched bridge, and other structures, trees and gardens created for the films.
The Waitomo Caves
Located also in the southern Waikato region of the North Island, the Waitomo Caves have been a prime tourist attraction given their outstanding beauty. Known for their limestone formations, their amazing stalagmites and stalactites, and their luminescent glowworms, the caves are a true enchanting experience – not to miss!
New Zealand’s largest city and financial capital, Auckland is not just any city. Known for its beautiful nearby beaches, its many wineries, and its harbor, it offers activities and attractions for everyone.
- Boat cruises
- The 328-meter Sky tower (the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand where you will experience a stunning 360 view of the city and top restaurants, cafes, and bars)
- Waiheke Island – Wine tasting (try the Cable Bay vineyard for great food and a fantastic view)
- Must-do: A boat trip to Waiheke Island known for its high-quality vineyards, its white sand beaches, beautiful craft boutiques, as well as many water-based activities. (Contact Ecozip adventures for your activities’ booking)
Located in the Southern Island, Queenstown is famous for its natural beauty, its majestic mountains and its lakes, especially Wakatipu, the third largest lake in New Zealand. With tall mountains falling majestically into the sea, cruising the lake offers stunning alpine scenery and a truly serene and beautiful encounter with nature. But behind this relaxed and romantic feel, the town reserves a haven for adrenaline lovers with its wide choice of water activities including water rafting, kayaking, jetboating in the river (a must try!), not to mention the paragliding, parasailing, hiking, bungy jumping and skydiving activities that are also available.
Must-do: take a gondola ride up the mountain for a unique stargazing experience where you will be assisted by experienced guides and top-notch telescopes to enjoy stunning sights of our galaxies, from high over Queenstown! Make sure to wear warm clothes (even though you’re provided with a jacket once there) and comfortable shoes – you will have to walk a short distance to reach the stargazing platform on top of Bob’s peak.
Stayed in: Rydges Lakeland Resort (5 min walk from city center).
Restaurants to try: Ferg Burger / Vudu café / The Cow restaurant.
Acclaimed as New Zealand’s top tourist destination, Milford Sound is an impressive fjord lying deep within Fiordland National Park and a stunning natural attraction that every traveler should put on his itinerary.
The wonders of Milford Sound are countless. The second largest natural reserve of New Zealand, the fjord extends over 12,000 hectares of forest, beautifully invaded by lakes and waterfalls. Huge mountains dive deeply into the sea offering stunning landscapes that make every moment spent there a real therapy for the soul.
Besides several nice cruises available from Milford Sound to the Tasman sea where lake and sea water meet to create an exceptionally beautiful color effect, one particular activity showcases the fjord’s beauty like nothing else. Although a bit costly (500 NZD), the Cessna plane ride over Milford Sound takes you on an exhilarating journey over valleys of forests, spectacular rivers and mountains, and blue-green ice falls.
You should know:
- There is no consulate for New Zealand in Lebanon. The visa should be done in Dubai and takes one month. Details about the required documents and the necessary steps to take can be found on the internet.
- A transit visa to Australia is needed even if you’re just there for a stopover – that is of course if you have only a Lebanese passport. It takes 2 weeks and can be applied for in Beirut.
*Story and pictures were provided by Nadine Baroud and Cynthia Hanna, written and published by Notes of a Traveler with travelers’ permission.