A visit to New Zealand, the land of breathtaking beauty, of strange flightless birds and of course Hobbits is on many bucket lists. Now New Zealand has something else to offer future visitors- a completely Covid free country. On record as the most successful country to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the nation of 5 million saw only 2507 cases of Corona as at the time of writing, and 26 deaths in the entire country.
Yes, the remoteness of the country and smaller population were on New Zealand’s side, but the real MVP is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her decision to lock down international borders.
So, when will New Zealand be welcoming visitors again?
Ardern announced earlier in 2021 that the borders, shut down since March 2020 will remain that way until New Zealand citizens are “vaccinated and protected.” With the roll out of vaccinations beginning last month, the government is confident the entire population and the citizens of neighboring island nations like Tonga and Samoa will be vaccinated this year, maybe as early as September!
So, why should you visit New Zealand? Aside from the fact that it is one of the safest nations in the world right now, here are 10 of the most stunning locations that will have you waiting on the edge of your seat for the announcement that the Land of the Long White Cloud has thrown out the welcome mat once more.
New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook, or Aoraki in its original Maori is part of the Southern Alps that stretch the length of New Zealand’s South Island. The Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park is a highlight of many hikers, mountaineers, nature lovers and photographers alike.
2. Bay of Islands
White sand beaches aren’t the first thing to come to mind when you think New Zealand, but in the Bay of Islands at the Northern most point of New Zealand offer just that. Along with dense forests and old mining villages to explore, it’s a must do spot to visit if you are heading near the Auckland region.
Heading to the very south now, the secluded fiords in Fiordland National Park are what draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to New Zealand each year. Cruising the sounds on a clear day (sometimes a little hard to come by) is a breathtaking experience. Those seeking more adventure can tramp along the Milford Track – one of New Zealand’s most highly sought-after multi-day hiking routes.
Day and night, visitors flock to Lake Tekapo at the center of New Zealand’s South Island with it’s dazzling glacial waters and Insta-cute Church of the Good Shepherd. After the sunsets the area becomes a stargazer’s paradise. If visiting in spring, you’ll also delight in the carpet of purple and pink the blossoming lupins provide.
5. Arthur’s Pass
Driving or taking the Tranz Alpine train between the West Coast and Canterbury regions along the highest pass in the Southern Alps will leave you gasping at the sheer beauty of the country. Arthur’s Pass which first opened in 1866 is a feat of extreme engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls. But you’ll barely notice the man made marvel when you have views for days. Make that weeks.
Wanaka delights tourists in summer with it’s stunning lake and famous Wanaka Tree as well as winter as an ideal base for avid skiers. The small town offers activities, tourist spots and beauty, so every traveler will be happy.
The North Island is often overlooked by visitors who want to experience New Zealand’s rugged beauty, but travelers would be amiss if they didn’t head up north. One spot to visit is just outside of Rotorua, famous for its boiling (stinky) muds is the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Visitors will be impressed by the geysers and hot pools but most notably the colorful springs like the vibrant Champagne Pool and the fluorescent-green Devil’s Bath.
8. Te Anau
Te Anau is often a base for those visiting the sounds of Fiordland, but is darling little tourist town of its own right. Nestled among mountains and perched along the shores of the stunning lake of the same name, Te Anau is a fantastic place to spot the cheeky keas, a large and intelligent parrot native to New Zealand (not to be confused with the flightless and elusive Kiwi, the national bird of New Zealand).
9. Cape Foulwind and Pancake Rocks
Okay, cheating here as technically these are two spots, but the rugged west coast of New Zealand has many spots worthy of a stop and a photo. Cape Foulwind (I just love that name) is home to a large seal colony then, less than an hour’s drive away you will want to stop at Punakaiki and explore the Pancake Rocks. A number of walkways wind through the rock formations created 30 million years ago with layers of lime, mud and clay from the seabed. Earthquakes raised the seabed and together with the sea, wind and rain these unique rock formations were created and look like stacks of pancakes.
10. Marlborough Region
The big draw for Marlborough is the delicious Sauvignon Blancs and what better way to sip your way through the different varieties than sitting on the back deck of one of the regions 37 wineries, overlooking the sun drenched vineyards stretching out to the ocean sounds. This beautiful stretch of the South Island has put New Zealand on wine lovers’ maps, but even those who do not imbibe will enjoy the hiking trails, scenic ocean views and the opportunities to see penguins and dolphins.
Bonus. Stewart Island.
Cheating again, but it’s hard to leave Stewart Island of this picture perfect list. Sitting at the southernmost tip of New Zealand, it was one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations before the pandemic shut the world down. Hiking through Rakiura National Park you will feel like you have tumbled back in time to the Jurassic period. If visiting through the summer months (November to February), stay for the night to witness the awe inspiring Aurora Australis (Southern Lights).
We hope you like this list of just some of the stunning spots in New Zealand, but if action rather than scenery is more your thing, be sure to see our list of Top Ten New Zealand Adventures