New Zealand is well known for its extreme sports, its beautiful small towns - like Queenstown, and its natural wonders that defy belief - like Milford Sound. But, this country, as small as it might be, has a lot of equally magnificent places that are not as famous. I'm going to introduce you to six places no one has told you about, but that you shouldn't miss when visiting New Zealand.
Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Park
Wai-o-Tapu is one of the most colorful places you will see in New Zealand, thanks to thousands of years of volcanic activity. This thermal park is close to Rotorua, a town famous for its geological activity and soothing thermals baths. Wai-o-Tapu, while not suitable for bathing, is a place where you can enjoy viewing unique volcanic features that include geysers, mud thermal pools, sulfur yellow caves, and psychedelically colored pools.
Do not miss seeing the Lady Knox geyser, which erupts daily at 10:15 am, in addition to the beautiful Champagne Pool with its submerged orange rim. There's also the funky pool called the Devils Bath, with its neon green water that looks almost unreal.
This is Mother Nature in her best hippie phase.
Fox Glacier is the lesser-known brother of Franz Josef Glacier, but even though it doesn't get all the attention, it is still considered one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. You can easily walk to the glacier from Fox Glacier village/Weheka, just 6 kilometers away.
Even though the other glacier overshadows it, during high season, up to 1,000 people visit every day. While you can visit the glacier on your own (up to a certain point), it is best to visit the glacier with a tour to have a professional guide help you reach hard to get places and explore the best features safely.
Not too far from Fox Glacier, you'll see one of the best reflective lakes in all New Zealand: Lake Matheson. The beauty of the reflection comes from the still, dark lake waters that reflect views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
This place is also a traditional mahinga kai (food gathering place) for Maori people.
The lake contains long finned eel as well as being home to many water birds. Surrounding the lake are trails you can walk or bike and feel like you are completely engulfed in nature. Well, that's because you are!
The main reason people come to Glenorchy is to spend time in the outdoors: camping, hiking, fishing, canyoning, snowboarding, kayaking, and mountain biking, among other activities. This small town of slightly over 300 residents lies near the borders of Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park.
One of the most popular draws to Glenorchy is the highly popular Routeburn Track, which can be accessed by passing through the town.
In fact, if you're a Lord of the Rings fan, it is possible you might be already familiar with this place, since it was used in several scenes, including the one where Boromir dies in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Ninety Mile Beach
This beach is renowned for its spectacular sunsets and one of the best left hand surf breaks in the world. The beach is made of a long strip of sand that stretches from Ahipara to Scott Point flanked along the way by the Aupouri Forest, which provides a green escape from the hot sun. While it is called Ninety Mile Beach, it is actually 88 kilometers long (which is still pretty long, anyway).
One fun fact about this beach is that it is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the day due to tides.
Activities you can do along the beach include surfcasting, swimming, and body boarding down the sand dunes, to name just a few.
Among places that no one mentions, this probably takes the crown. The area is truly an outdoor playground, and there are rarely many people there. Whakahoro is located in the Ruapehu District on the banks of the Whanganui and Retaruke Rivers, and surrounded by Whanganui National Park.
Whakahoro's history is both Maori and European, and that can be clearly seen through historic remnants around Blue Duck Lodge.
In Whakahoro you'll also find the Blue Duck itself, which is an endangered species, walking along the Kaiwhakauka track above the waterfall.
If you happen to stay in Blue Duck Lodge, you'll have the opportunity to participate in their conservation efforts that range from surveying the Kiwi and Whio populations to helping restore some of the historic buildings in the area.
Now that you know of all these places, keep them quiet so we can keep their charm intact! Shhhh...
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