Aotearoa. The land of the long white cloud, as we call it, is not short of beauty. One finds beauty through the kindness of locals, the way the milky way shines brightly at night, or through the perfectly framed beach just down the road. You see, beauty truly is everywhere down here. With that, however, comes the great conundrum of the modern traveller: where to go first? To make things a little easier for you, I have compiled a very special Dame Traveler list of the ten best views in New Zealand – from the far North to the bottom of the South Island.
Remember to take in all the goodness with your own eyes before you snap away. I hope you will meet friendly strangers, get to grow and go beyond your comfort zone, and ultimately, make lasting memories that will outlive any and all Instagram posts.
1. Waitakere Ranges, Auckland
Auckland can be a little overwhelming and disorienting at first. I suggest you head north-west for some fresh air. Come for the day or get your hike on and complete the rugged Hillary Trail. My favourite spots include Bethells Beach (especially at night), Maori Beach (at sunset), Piha (including Lions Rock), Anawhata (magical during golden hour), and Te Henga (especially the lookout).
2. The Coromandel
The Coromandel Peninsula is paradise away from paradise. Its precious golden beaches and mountainous rainforests add a generous layer of authentic remoteness and seaside living to the country, while only being a 90-minute drive from Auckland. My favourite locations include but are most definitely not limited to; Slipper Island, Hahei Beach, Cathedral Cove (rise early to get there before the crowds), Top Hut in Tuatewa, The Pinnacles overnight walk, New Chums Beach as well as the coastal walkway in the North of the peninsula.
3. Pouakai Tarns, Taranaki
The multi-day Pouakai Tarns Circuit is one of the country’s best walks. The weather is known to have a mind of its own over here, so please gear up and check the conditions at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre in North Egmont beforehand. For a more considerate overnight or day walk, start at the Mangorei Road end to reach Pouakai Hut within 2 hours. Snap that money shot at sunrise or sunset from the tarn just north of the hut.
4. Tongariro National Park
One of the country’s most iconic views. And with that come to the huge tourist numbers, be warned! To complete the Tongariro Crossing, start early, come prepared with lots of extra layers, proper walking shoes and extra snacks. Arrange your transport well in advance and remember to pay the highest respect to your natural environment by leaving footsteps only.
5. Banks Peninsula, Christchurch
The Banks Peninsula is my go-to city escape whenever I’m in Christchurch. Head east for about an hour and you’ll see why. The French village Akaroa is also home to Hector dolphins, the world’s smallest, arguably cutest and endemic to Aotearoa. Le Bons Bay and Lavericks Bay are two of the best-kept secrets over there. There’s not much reception down there, so unplug and soak it all up.
6. Mt Cook / Aoraki National Park
Were you really in New Zealand if you didn’t make it to Mt Cook Village? The Instagram game is intense down there. So is the weather; prepare for four seasons in one day. Other than that, just head out and explore. Mueller Hut is my favourite overnight walk in the country. Pre-book your bed at the DOC website or the village Visitor Centre. Head up to Sealy Tarns for lunch, walk out to Tasman Lake at sunrise and have a picnic dinner at Hooker Lake.
7. Fox Glacier, West Coast
The overall glacier is retreating at an unexpected rate, while the ice itself is also in constant movement. This means, every day on the glacier is different. The ice tunnels I crawled through won’t be there when you go. Howbeit, standing atop something of such staggering size and beauty left me speechless and I have a feeling it will do the same to you.
8. Wanaka, Otago
Fun fact: Lake Wanaka is home to the most photographed tree in the world. Besides a tree with an enormously inflated ego, there is so much more to see! Take your pick; Mount Roy, Mount Aspiring National Park, Cardrona, or Treble Cone are all favourites. Just in case the sun goes into hiding, head to Cinema Paradiso, the cutest movie theatre there is, including freshly baked cookies and all.
10. Milford & Doubtful Sound
Fiordland needs no introduction. It’s off the grid, raw, mesmerising – New Zealand in its purest and most beautiful shapes. Bring a raincoat, mosquito repellent (for sandflies especially) and spare camera batteries.