Returning home from my year in New Zealand and sharing photos of all of the amazing things I got up to with my family has given my the chance to reflect on all the amazing places I visited during the year and come up with a list of my favourites. In no particular order, here are my top 10 favourite places in New Zealand.
1 – Christchurch
I couldn’t write this list without including my second home for the year. The city itself is fairly small so it is easy to explore and get to know the city and it is in easy reach of the coast and the mountains if you need to get away. As Christchurch city centre continues to recover from the 2010-2011 earthquakes there are lots of exciting new developments and quirky start-ups opening all the time meaning that it is never a dull place. There’s also plenty of green space like the beautiful botanic gardens.
2 – Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park in the central North Island is a fascinating place to visit as it is home to 3 of the volcanoes which form part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone and create a very dramatic landscape. There’s loads of walks in the park including the famous Tongariro Crossing which is said to be one of the best day walks in the world. I had the chance to visit as a tourist to enjoy the spectacular scenery as well as visiting on a fieldtrip to learn more about the volcanoes which have shaped the area.
3 – Milford Sound
Surrounded by sheer walls of rock which tower above the sea below, this fiord in a remote corner of SW New Zealand is one of the most beautiful spots in the country and has been billed as the eighth wonder of the world. The views are absolutely breathtaking no matter which way you look.
4 – Arthur’s Pass National Park
Only a short drive from Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass is a fantastic place to get out and enjoy the Southern Alps and somewhere I visited many times during my year in Christchurch. With a wide range of options from short walks to multi-day trips there are almost endless possibilities to get outside and enjoy the mountains. One of the main roads between the east and west sides of South Island also passes through the park and is a very scenic drive.
5 – Rotorua
Once you get used to the smell of sulphur in the air, Rotorua is a fascinating place with loads of geothermal pools and geysers and lots of opportunities to learn about and experience the culture of New Zealand’s native Maori people. It’s also on the shore of a big lake.
6 – White Island
30 miles off the coast of New Zealand, Whakaari or White Island is the country’s most active volcano, but it is possible to get there by boat and walk amongst the vents spewing out steam and sulphurous gases (accompanied by a guide to make sure you don’t walk in the wrong places). This is an out of this world experience as the landscape is so alien and feels like walking on another planet.
7 – Abel Tasman National Park
With loads of golden sand beaches and crystal clear waters Abel Tasman feels like a tropical paradise. It’s also the most accessible national park in New Zealand making it easy to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the coast track.
8 – Franz Josef Glacier
Nestled on the South Island’s west coast, my namesake glacier (albeit spelt wrong) is a beautiful if wet place. It gets several metres of rainfall every year but when the clouds clear the views of the glacier and surrounding mountains are very impressive.
9 – Mount Cook National Park
New Zealand’s highest peak and the surrounding national park are a very impressive sight. Huge valleys carved out by glaciers are filled with lakes and surrounded by towering peaks. It’s also very easy to see the views without a particularly strenuous trek making it a popular place to visit.
10 – The Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel on the north coast of North Island is home to lots of fantastic beaches including the beautiful Cathedral Cove and the famous Hot Water Beach. Being one the most northern parts of New Zealand the weather is noticeably warmer and drier than it is on South Island.