Guest Post by Harper Reid
New Zealand’s popularity with tourists means that many of the country’s famed destinations have become a little oversubscribed. It’s a good thing, then, that you don’t have to look far to find secluded paradises in the land of the long white cloud! We’ve got the insider low-down on New Zealand’s best-kept-secret spots, as well as information about how to get there.
Tongariro Crossing, Central North Island
The Tongariro Crossing is a day walk like no other and will see you traverse 20 kilometres of the North Island’s unique natural topography. A must-see for those interested in geological formations and azure lakes, it’s no wonder this volcanic gem is a World Heritage site.
Better yet, Tongariro National Park is easily accessible by road, so whether you’re staying in Auckland or Wellington, it’ll take you just 4-5 hours to drive to the start of the crossing.
Crucible Lake, Central Otago
This remote lake is found in one corner of the Mount Aspiring National Park, in the Central Otago region of the South Island. Most visitors flock to nearby Lake Wanaka, but Crucible Lake is the place for true adventurers. First, you’ll need to take the jet to Siberia Hut, then hike for a day to get to the lake itself.
Makara Beach, Wellington
Avoid the crowds at Oriental Bay in favour of Makara Beach, a less-trammelled bay just outside Wellington city. Check out the surrounding hills dotted with windmills as you embark on the picturesque 3-5-hour Makara walk over the rise – just don’t underestimate those gale-force Wellington winds.
Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf
Of all the islands near Auckland, Waiheke tends to be the most popular tourist destination. This leaves Great Barrier Island fairly undisturbed (especially in the off-season), partially because it takes a 30-minute flight to get to this exquisite land mass in the Hauraki Gulf. Once you’ve arrived on Great Barrier, you’ll understand what the fuss is about – make sure you bring along your best camera: the island was recently established as one of only three Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world.
Rabbit Island, Nelson
With its almost-guaranteed golden sunshine and relaxed lifestyle, the Nelson/Tasman region at the tip of the South Island is a perennial favourite for tourists and New Zealanders alike. Take a break from the crowds at Nelson’s Tahunanui Beach and drive out via Richmond to reach Rabbit Island, a rugged beach reserve which largely remains the haunt of locals only. Enjoying a sandy coastline, great waves and even better sunsets, you’ll feel you could stay forever on Rabbit Island.
Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park
When most people hear “Fiordland,” they think of the famed Milford Sound. Hidden in the same region, though, is Doubtful Sound. After boarding the boat to Doubtful from Queenstown or Te Anau, you’ll glide between grand mountain fiords with only the water, the sky, and – if you’re lucky – a few dolphins for company.
Cape Palliser, North Island
A flurry of shipwrecks in the 1900s necessitated the establishment of a lighthouse at the tip of the North Island, and the original structure at Cape Palliser still remains, towering above the sea on a rocky cliff-face. See the views from the top of the lighthouse yourself by first undergoing a steep climb – you’ll lose most other tourists along the way!
Rangitata, an expansive stretch of mountain land which represents the rural New Zealand of yesteryear, is the best-kept-secret of Canterbury. Home to one of the country’s oldest sheep stations, Rangitata’s Peel Forest was a featured location in Lord of the Rings and boasts kilometres upon kilometres of backroad driving and mountain hiking for those who love to get off the beaten track.
Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who is passionate about travel and adventure. When she’s not writing, she spends her weekend hiking with friends or going on impromptu road trips. Find more of her work here.