One of the most breathtakingly beautiful countries in the world, New Zealand in Oceania is awash with stunning natural sights. Its many volcanoes and mountain peaks tower over its long and scenic coastline, with fertile valleys, sparkling lakes, and rivers dotting the countryside.
While the majority of the country’s landmass consists of the North Island and South Island, which are separated by the narrow Cook Strait that runs between them, there are also some smaller islands, such as those of Stewart, Great Barrier, and Waiheke for you to check out.
On top of the incredible scenery which greets you wherever you go, New Zealand boasts a rich cultural heritage, as is evidenced by its substantial and influential Maori minority. In addition to this, towns and cities such as Auckland, Wellington, and Queenstown are well worth visiting, due to their scenic settings, with the latter being the adventure capital of the country.
Covering the northern tip of the North Island, the appropriately named Northland boasts some of the best beaches in the country. It is a popular holiday destination for all the amazing sights that it offers up, with the majestic Bay of Islands its stand-out attraction.
With lots of beautiful kauri tree forests and the enormous Kouto and Wairere Boulders to boot, the scenery in Northland is absolutely gorgeous. While traveling around, you’ll come across lots of unspoiled nature, with Ninety Mile Beach and the sand dunes at Opononi particularly impressive.
Besides its glorious natural bounties, the region also has lots of interesting historical sights for you to discover, with the spectacular Bay of Islands home to both Russell – the first European settlement in the country – and Paihia, where Maori chiefs and the British Crown signed an important treaty recognizing the formers’ ownership of land and natural resources in New Zealand.
Other towns that are worth visiting are Whangarei – the largest in the region – and Kerikeri; both are located in stunning settings, with lots of great outdoor activities, including boat trips around the bay. Another popular attraction is Cape Reinga at the northernmost tip of New Zealand.
Centered around Auckland – the largest city in the country – the region of the same name is packed full of incredible scenery. Its rugged, wild west coast is in stark contrast with the beautiful beaches and inlets on the east coast, while lots of lovely islands are also found throughout the Hauraki Gulf.
While the vibrant city of Auckland and its surrounding metropolitan area understandably dominates the region with its wealth of historical sights and cultural landmarks, its stunning setting is just as worthwhile exploring. A multitude of sandy beaches are scattered around the two bays upon which the city is located, with numerous volcanoes also on show.
From Auckland, you can take a scenic ferry ride to any one of Great Barrier, Tiritiri Matangi, and Waiheke islands. Each offers a wide range of beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and beaches. There are plenty of great hiking trails and activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding for you to choose from.
With towns such as Muriwai and Piha on the west coast of North Island also boasting glorious beaches and fantastic outdoor activities, the region of Auckland provides the ideal mix of big-city amenities and stunning natural wonders.
Named after the majestic river that runs through it, Waikato is home to some of the nation’s most iconic sights. It is here that you can find the peaceful landscape of Hobbiton – from the famous Lords of the Rings films – and the awe-inspiring Waitomo Caves, which sparkle with the lights of thousands of little glowworms.
While these two attractions are the most popular things to see and do in Waikato, the region is also bursting with some incredible nature and scenery. The Coromandel Peninsula’s stunning coastline is particularly arresting, with lots of delightful paths and beaches to explore.
Dotted about the peninsula’s spectacular coastline are some lovely towns for you to visit. Check out, Hahei – home to the aptly named Hot Water Beach – and the seaside towns of Whangamata and Whitianga, with their abundance of watersports.
In addition to this, Waikato’s otherwise predominantly rural landscapes boast the towering Mount Pirongia, with forested slopes to hike through and the dazzling depths of the Ruakuri Cave to delve into.
Bay of Plenty
Based around the Bay of Plenty, the region of the same name is awash with astounding natural sights. Snow-capped volcanoes such as Mount Ruapehu dot its scenic landscapes, with lots of laidback surf towns found along its gorgeous coastline.
Among the most popular seaside towns are those of Tauranga, Waihi Beach, and Whakatane; each of them lies next to beautiful sandy beaches and surf spots, with lots of great coastal hiking trails also on offer. White Island, an awe-inspiring active volcano with rugged scenery and a brilliantly green crater lake, makes for a great day trip. The boat or helicopter ride across the Bay of Plenty to reach the island will surely live long in the memory.
While the volcanoes that dot the mainland are also bewitchingly beautiful to behold, one of the main attractions in the region is actually the town of Rotorua. This geothermal region is full of geysers and hot springs, providing awesome sightseeing and some fantastic spas to relax in. With its rich Maori culture and heritage for you to learn about, and wealth of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting, Rotorua is definitely not to be missed when traveling around the Bay of Plenty.
Also known as Eastland due to its location, the Gisborne Region was the first bit of New Zealand to be sighted by Captain Cook, who then set foot on the North Island to explore and map out the many beaches and coves that line its rugged coastline.
Due to the fact that it is one of the most isolated areas in the country, the region is mostly only home to small settlements, with the beachside city of Gisborne the one exception. Here, you can either relax on its beautiful beaches, enjoy some of its watersports and outdoor activities, or go on a tour around its many wineries and vineyards.
As the majority of the population are Maori, and much of its territory constitutes ancestral land, Gisborne is a great place to learn more about their rich culture, customs, and heritage. Its remote nature will attract just as many people looking to venture off the beaten path.
Lying on the east coast of the North Island, most of Hawke’s Bay’s population are based around the twin cities of Napier and Hastings, both famed for their amazing array of Art Deco buildings.
Located on the Heretaunga Plains, the two cities are surrounded by wonderful countryside, with lots of lovely orchards, vineyards, and wineries to be found in Esk Valley.
In addition to this, its scenic coastline along the Mahia Peninsula is certainly worth exploring, as are the rolling Te Mata Hills. Another popular place to visit in the region is the impressively named Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu – which boasts the longest name in the world.
Named after the domineering volcanic mountain that so imperiously looks out over the coastal plains and farmland surrounding it, the region of Taranaki in the west of the North Island is full of gorgeous scenery for you to enjoy.
Centered around the majestic peak, Egmont National Park is the highlight of what’s on offer; nature lovers, in particular, will revel at all the breathtaking scenery and incredible wildlife on show
Besides its standout natural attractions, much of Taranaki consists of peaceful farmland and rural areas, with New Plymouth, the only city of note, well worth a visit for its lovely coastal promenade looking out over the Tasman Sea.
Defined by the two rivers that run through the region, Manawatu-Wanganui is home to a vast array of different landscapes, each more beautiful than the last. Volcanoes and mountain ranges lie alongside plains, forests, valleys, and gorges, with some stunning coastline to boot.
While the open plains of the Manawatu River are mostly home to settlements with a European look and feel to them, the towns and villages lying along the heavily-forested banks of the Wanganui River are distinctly Maori in nature. Here we see society mirror the stark contrasts that are to be found amongst the wonderful scenery on show.
As such, it really is a fascinating region to travel around, as you get to see various sides to New Zealand. Tongariro National Park boasts one of the most impressive nature reserves in the world, with the volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro a majestic sight to photograph. The park is also home to several important Maori cultural sites, and the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most popular hikes in the country.
Bursting with fantastic museums, impressive historical attractions, and boasting a lively arts and culture scene, the nation’s capital of Wellington understandably dominates the region of the same name.
While the city’s scenic setting on Wellington Harbour certainly makes it one of New Zealand’s stand-out attractions, it is well worth venturing further afield to check out places such as the Kapiti Coast, which is home to lots of lovely beaches, laidback seaside towns, and a stunning mountain backdrop.
Hutt Valley, with its beautiful mountain ranges, rolling hills, and forests, is well worth a visit, as is Wairarapa, which boasts loads of excellent vineyards and wineries. As Wellington is located right in the south of the North Island, you can easily take a scenic ferry or boat ride across to Picton in the South Island after you’ve explored all the region’s marvelous sights.
Home to magnificent mountains, sweeping valleys, and expansive plains, with large rivers cutting dramatically through the landscape, Tasman in the northwest of the South Island really is a breathtakingly beautiful region to explore.
While features such as Tasman Bay and the Matiri and Tasman mountain ranges are certainly stunning, the real highlight is the Abel Tasman National Park, which is named after the famous European explorer. Despite being the smallest national park in the country, it is home to lots of beautiful forests and hills, with some scenic islands lying offshore; lots of wildlife can be found hidden away among its gorgeous scenery.
As much of the region is quite sparsely populated, with most people living in Richmond, nature lovers and outdoor aficionados will enjoy exploring Tasman. Ellis Basin and Nettlebed – two of the deepest cave complexes in New Zealand – and the awe-inspiring Kahurangi National Park also lie within the region, with the latter straddling the West Coast border.
Often referred to as ‘the Top of the South’ due to its location on the island, the city of Nelson is the second oldest settlement in the country. Due to its laidback, alternative culture, constant sunshine, and idyllic coastal setting with beautiful beaches all around it, the city attracts a lot of holidaymakers.
The aptly-named Golden Bay sports a gorgeous collection of golden beaches. Along the scenic coastline, you’ll find charming seaside towns such as Collingwood, Mapua, and Takaka, with each of them offering a wide range of watersports.
Bordering the region are many excellent national parks for you to visit. The Richmond Region is very popular among skiers, who head to St Arnaud during winter, while the dazzling Nelson Lakes National Park never fails to amaze with its beautiful mountains, lakes, and hiking trails.
Covering the northeastern corner of the South Island, the sun-kissed region of Marlborough is home to the largest wine-growing area in the country. As such, there are loads of great wineries and vineyards in the Awatere and Wairau valleys.
While the Kaikoura and Richmond mountain ranges boast lots of stunning scenery, the undoubted highlight is the magnificent Marlborough Sounds; its flooded valleys are full of incredible wildlife, with lots of great watersports, such as kayaking and sailing, also on offer.
The region is also one of the best places to go on a whale or dolphin watching tour, with the charming seaside town of Kaikoura particularly famous for the abundant marine life that lies offshore. Havelock is the gateway to the flooded landscapes of the Pelorus Sounds.
Hugging the western coastline, this beautiful part of the country is nestled away between the spectacular Southern Alps and the sparkling Tasman Sea, with a plethora of amazing glaciers, mountains, and forests.
Bordered to the north by the delightful Kahurangi National Park, which strays into its territory, and the majestic Fiordland National Park to its south, the West Coast also boasts incredible natural wonders of its own. Mount Aspiring National Park and Westland National Park are both home to the awe-inspiring Southern Alps.
Due to its small population, all the nature is untouched and unspoiled, and there are a plethora of great outdoor activities for you to enjoy. Towns such as Karamea and Punakaiki are mainly used as gateways to nearby sights such as Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes, which lie along the beautiful coastline.
Home to Christchurch, the largest city on the island, Canterbury boasts a breathtaking range of incredible scenery. The rugged coastline around the volcanic Banks Peninsula contrasts delightfully with the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps that lie to the west.
Traveling around the region really is a treat. The majestic Arthur’s Pass National Park and visually arresting Aoraki Mount Cook National Park are not to be missed out on for all that they have to offer, with some of the highest peaks in New Zealand scattered between them.
While many people come to enjoy the fantastic nature, the city of Christchurch is well worth visiting; not only is it located in a scenic setting, but also has lots of historical sights for you to check out, as well as some interesting museums and cultural landmarks.
With the twinkling Queenstown-Lakes and towering Southern Alps lying inland, and the beautiful Blueskin Bay and charming coastal scenery of the Catlins hugging its shorelines, Otago really is blessed when it comes to its astounding natural attractions.
Due to the variety of habitats available, you can be hiking or skiing in the mountains one minute, surfing, swimming, or sailing along the coast the next. You can end the day gazing out over the ocean from Oamaru – a breathtakingly beautiful town with lots of wonderful Victorian architecture, and famous residents in the shape of its amazing blue penguin colonies.
As there is so much for you to see and do in the region, it is well worth spending a considerable amount of time in Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Pay a visit to the lovely Hawea, Wanaka, and Wakatipu lakes, or try out any one of the exhilarating activities that it has to offer, like mountaineering, skiing, or bungee jumping.
The southernmost region in the country, Southland is awash with stunning natural sights, with the towering mountains and icy glaciers of Fiordland National Park counting amongst the most impressive landscapes in the world.
Fiordland is the largest national park in New Zealand. The rugged cliffs, sparkling waterfalls, and reflective waters of the Milford Sound are awe-inspiring to travel around, with each sight being larger and more impressive than the last.
With so much magical scenery on show, towns such as Bluff, Mataura, and Te Anau are mainly used as gateways to the natural sights around them. Both the forests and beaches of the Catlins, as well as the rugged terrain of Stewart Island, are well worth checking out if you have the chance.