Think you’ve seen the best of New Zealand? You’ve barely even started. Add some of these under-the-radar attractions to your next itinerary.
Greet the sunrise at Mount Hikurangi
Want to be the first to salute the sun in the morning, not just in New Zealand but the world? Then take a guided walk to the summit of Mount Hikurangi, in the eastern Gisborne district. The mountain peak is sacred to the local Ngāti Porou people, who believe that when the demigod Māui fished up the North Island of New Zealand, this was the first point to rise above the waves.
Dine at New Zealand’s most isolated restaurant
Image credit: Matt Crawford
The Chef’s Table at Blue Duck Station, opening this summer, is about three hours drive from the nearest sizeable town, Taupo, but the 10 diners who get to feast here don’t just enjoy 10 courses of food grown, foraged or hunted on site – they also get to take in some of the best views around over the Whanganui River and Whanganui National Park, before retiring to one of the rustic guest lodges.
See clearly at Te Waikoropupū Springs
They may be the largest cold-water springs (pictured top) in the Southern Hemisphere but that’s not what makes these bubbling beauties in the north-east of the South Island so remarkable. It’s the purity of their ultra-blue water – the clearest in the world – that’s mesmerising. You can see all the way to the bottom, with a visual clarity of up to 81 metres.
Explore a fossilised forest in The Catlins
Image credit: Kalin Geisreiter
Tucked away in the south-eastern corner of the South Island, The Catlins is filled with natural wonders: waterfalls, blowholes and a mirror lake. Its most remarkable attraction can be found in Curio Bay, a petrified forest dating back 170 million years. Come at low tide to view the ancient tree fossils then take a stroll through the remarkably similar living forest nearby.
Be dazzled by aurora australis in Dunedin
Image credit: Patrick Kovar
What makes Dunedin such a special place to see the natural lightshow of aurora australis (the Southern Lights)? It’s not just the dark skies but also what’s on the ground that makes the difference. Dunedin is framed by bodies of water that provide mirror-like surfaces and create extraordinary photos. While aurora australis can occur at any time of the year (with little notice), the viewing is best between March and September.
Say hello to the Lord of the Forest
Image credit: Graeme Murray
Walk into Northland’s Waipoua Forest, about three hours north of Auckland, and you’re stepping into a magical world – a green and ancient place filled with trees that have stood here for thousands of years. Standing sentinel above all others is the largest kauri tree in the world, a 51-metre-high giant known as Tāne Mahuta or the Lord of the Forest.
Feast on Bluff oysters
Image credit: Kieran Scott
Between March and August, the country goes crazy for these oysters with their distinctive creamy taste. The best places to try them are Billypot at the Auckland Fish Market, St Johns Bar & Eatery on the Wellington waterfront, Fishbone Bar & Grill in Queenstown or the Oyster & Food Festival held in Bluff itself, at the bottom of the South Island, every May.