New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes have always struck awe in visitors and locals alike. The blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” movies led thousands on a pilgrimage to see the beauty firsthand.
I am one of them. This summer, I am traveling through the country, and it is a humbling experience. The land, so grand in scope, makes a visitor feel small in scale. Here are five must-visit locations that will have you gazing in wonder.
Lake Waikaremoana, North Island
In the eastern mountains of New Zealand’s North Island, Lake Waikaremoana boasts one of the country’s nine Great Walks skirting along the lake’s shore. To get here, prepare for quite a scenic drive as you wind 90 kilometers on a dry, dirt road from Rotorua through some of the less traversed Maori areas of New Zealand.
The beginning of this Great Walk has you climbing a steep bluff rewarding you with views of the lake from above. Remember to bring your fly rod for the trek around the base of the lake; there are massive fish that lurk in these deep blue waters.
Nugget Point, Catlins, South Island
The lighthouse on Nugget Point lures you to the edge to see the meeting of the roaring sea and the sheer cliffs. Step to the absolute edge and your senses will be overwhelmed as the wind blows you backward and your ears fill with the roar of the waves crashing on the “nuggets” of land out in the sea.
Catch your breath and adjust to nature’s forces and you’ll see the birds overhead while seals splash and play in pools below. Even though the walk to the edge is a short stride, plan to take your time to soak in this spectacular spot.
Harris Lake, Routeburn Great Walk, South Island
Every step of the grueling climb on the Routeburn Track is worth the sweaty effort once you snag a glimpse of Harris Lake. The lake is not the final destination, just the beginning. Continue to traverse the edge of the lake to Harris Saddle’s grand, mountainous vista.
By this time your calves will be burning, but push yourself to continue up Conical Hill and receive an even grander view of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park.
Sandfly Bay, Otago Peninsula, South Island
Don’t let the name of this incredible spot keep you from adventuring here. The bay’s name reigns from the enormous sand dunes stretching away from the sea. Get pumped for a fun run down the dunes as you make your way to the water.
Once you reach the beach, make sure to respect the reclusive and endangered yellow-eyed penguins and watch out for the massive walrus lounging about. They aren’t logs to rest on!
Lake Tasman, Mount Cook National Park, South Island
Kayaking among the glacial icebergs at the base of New Zealand’s largest glacier gives you a unique and intimate view of this melting beauty. Keep a respectful distance from the icebergs as we only see the top 10% of the berg and the other 90% is under these frigid, grey waters.
When the iceberg shifts the glacier adjusts and builds enormous tidal waves. Be prepared to be humbled and feel as small as a hobbit as you take in the girth of the Tasman Glacier and paddle around the islands of ice.
Lindsey Nubern is currently touring New Zealand with her husband Adam, indefinitely.