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New Zealand

Main attractions

Orakei Korako, New Zealand
Orakei Korako / Gatis Pāvils, CC-BY-SA-3.0

The island nation of New Zealand hosts some of the most impressive natural attractions of the world.

The number of attractions is divided almost equally between two large islands - the South and North islands.

The highlights of North Island are the geological monuments that are linked with hydrothermal and volcanic activities and include beautiful volcanoes, geysers and other unique features. Among the numerous other highlights of North island are some of the largest trees of the world - the kauri, as well as the extensive cave systems with glowworms.

The South Island has got some of the most impressive fjords in world, breathtaking mountain scenery along the length of the whole island, countless waterfalls and unique coastal formations.

The other islands of New Zealand are considerably smaller but many of these islands also have unique attractions.

Natural attractions

The numerous world-class natural monuments make New Zealand one of the most desirable tourist attractions in the world.

Champagne Pool, New Zealand
Champagne Pool / Photo by Mehlführer C, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-2.5

Volcanoes and geysers

An array of diverse, unusual monuments has been created by volcanic activity on North Island. Among the most impressive are:

  • Craters of the Moon - Waikato. Area with several hydrothermal eruption craters (up to 20 m deep) with bright coloured ground and numerous steam vents. Craters formed after the construction of nearby Wairakei Power station in the 1950s.
  • Emerald Lakes of Tongariro - Manawutu-Wanganui. Three light blue-green lakes in the crater of Tongariro volcano. Unusual color of lakes is caused by suspended particles of minerals from volcanic crater.
  • Mount Ngauruhoe - Manawatu-Wanganui. Symmetric stratovolcano, secondary cone of Mount Tongariro volcano, 2,291 m high.
  • Mount Taranaki (Mount Egmont) - Taranaki. Beautiful stratovolcano, total height 2,518 m, prominence - 2,308 m.
  • Orakei Korako - Waikato. Geothermal area with unique, colourful sinter terraces and geysers. Largest geyser field in New Zealand with some 35 active geysers. Lower terrace - Emerald Terrace - is the largest sinter terrace in New Zealand. Part of it is flooded by hydropower station, submerging some 200 hot springs and 70 geysers.
  • Tikitere - Bay of Plenty. Geothermal field with the largest hot waterfall in Southern Hemisphere - Kakahi Falls. Very active hydrothermal features including acidic boiling mud pools, mud "volcano", hot springs and lakes. Steaming Cliffs lake is 122°C hot.
  • Wai-O-Tapu - Bay of Plenty. One of the most beautiful geothermal areas worldwide. Besides Lady Knox geyser, mud pools, numerous hot springs and sinter terraces it contains highly unusual hot spring - Champagne Pool, constantly filled with carbon dioxide bubbles. Crater of this spring is 65 m across, depth - approximately 62 m. Along the rim of this spring are deposited bright orange arsenic and antimony salts. Champagne Pool contains several species of endemic microorganisms.
  • Waimangu geothermal area - Bay of Plenty. Geothermal area, created by Mount Taravera eruption in 1886. Area contains many interesting features. Frying Pan Lake is the largest hot spring in the world - area of this hot lake is 3.8 ha. Warbrick Terraces and Marble Terraces are sinter terraces in the process of formation. Inferno Crater is the largest geyser like lake - light blue steaming lake with fluctuating water level.
  • Whakarewarewa geothermal area - Bay of Plenty. Geothermal area in Rotorua city with unique cultural properties. The facilities offered by geothermal fields, have been used by Maori since at least 1350 AD - they developed bathtubs, made food here. Area contains seven active geysers including the up to 30 m high Pohutu Geyser.
  • White Island - Bay of Plenty. Active volcano rising 321 m high from the sea as an island. One of the most accessible active marine volcanoes in the world. Fumaroles and boiling mud pools. Crater contains light blue lake.
Glowworms in one of Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
Glowworms in one of Waitomo Caves / Nick Bramhall, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Caves

  • Bulmer Cavern - Tasman. The longest cave in New Zealand, 67,233 m long.
  • Cathedral Caves - Otago. Group of very impressive seaside caves resembling entrances into enormous cathedrals. Two main caves meet, one has up to 30 m high ceiling.
  • Ellis Basin cave system - Tasman. Deepest and second longest cave in New Zealand. Length of explored passages is 33,400 m, depth - 1,026 m.
  • Gardner's Gut - Waikato. 12,197 m long cave with beautiful speleothems, largest in North Island. Contains 6 - 7 m high stalagmite.
  • Ruatapu Cave - Waikato, above the Orakei Korako geyser field. One of two caves worldwide known to exist in geothermal fields. 45 m long, 23 m deep. At the bottom of cave is small lake with warm, sulphate rich water - this water has an ability to clean jewellery.
  • Waitomo Glowworm Cave - Waikato. The most accessible glowworm cave adorned with thousands of blue-green glowing Arachnocampa luminosa insects. Glowworms are met in numerous other New Zealand caves as well. In Waitomo area are located more than 300 caves, often with beautiful cave formations.
Bowen Falls in Milford Sound, New Zealand
The 162 m tall Bowen Falls / Tim Gillons, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Bowen Falls - Southland. 162 m tall, powerful waterfall at the head of Milford Sound, falling almost directly into the sound.
  • Browne Falls - Southland. 836 m tall falls in Doubtful Sound, some of the tallest in the world.
  • Huka Falls - Waikato. The most powerful falls - rapids in New Zealand. Formed on Waikato river where it is only 15 m wide - deep blue water falls by 20 m over 300 m distance. Highest single fall - 11 m.
  • Sutherland Falls - Southland. Powerful, 580 m tall falls originating from Lake Quill.
  • Wairere Falls - Waikato. Impressive, 153 m tall falls, tallest in North Island. Two vertical plunges.

Fiords and glaciers

Some of the most grandiose sights in the world are offered by the western coast of South Island and especially by Fiordland in the south. Here there are located numerous deep fiords, called - sounds. In many respects, these natural monuments are unsurpassed in the world. The walls of the fiords are sometimes more than 2 kilometres high with ice on the top and a rainforest at sea level. Nearly continuous rain creates thousands of waterfalls falling for many hundreds of metres and caught by strong winds. Millions of tourists admire Milford Sound - but Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and other fiords are no less (or even more) impressive.

Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Fox Glacier / Jobling M., Wikipedia, public domain.

Some unique monuments of nature are the glaciers whose descent is so steep that the ice ends up close to the rainforest: Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Lake Matheson, which is nearby, is one of the most admired observation points in world due to its unique scenery.

Trees and biotopes

One of surprising natural monument of North Island is a kauri (Agathis australis) - one of the largest trees in world. A tree named Tāne Mahuta has a girth 13.77 metres and a height of 51.2 metres. Another tree - Te Matua Ngahere - has a girth of 16.76 metres and a height of 37.4 metres. Waipoua Forest is the largest remaining New Zealand kauri forest.

Moeraki boulders, New Zealand
Moeraki boulders / Eli Duke, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Cathedral Cove - Waikato. Beautiful natural arch in the beach of Coromandel peninsula. Through this arch is available secluded beach with impressive sea stack - Te Hoho Rock.
  • Hot Water Beach - Waikato, Coromandel peninsula. Hot spring seeping through the sands in beach. Water is up to 64°C hot.
  • Ihumatao fossil forest - Auckland. Fossils of many kauri trees exposed in coastal plain. Trees were growing here in Jurassic period some 160 million years ago.
  • Moeraki boulders - Otago. Large, spherical boulders in the beach. Diameter of these spheres reaches 2.2 m. There are similar spheres elsewhere in the world (also Koutu Point Boulders in Northland) but these are not that impressive and that exactly spherical.
  • Te Waikoropupu Springs - Tasman. Very powerful (14,000 l/s) spring, renowned due to the clarity of the water with the highest measured lucidity in world (63 m).

Man made attractions

Larnach castle, New Zealand
Larnach Castle / AJ Oswald, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

New Zealand is one of the most recently settled habitable areas on Earth - people arrived here 700 - 2000 years ago. Although the country has its share of archaeological and architectural monuments, these attractions in general are not the main reason for visiting New Zealand.

  • Art Deco architecture in Napier - Hawke's Bay. The town at Hawke's Bay was destroyed by earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in the architectonic style of the time. Thus Napier represents one of the best Art Deco architecture complexes worldwide.
  • Chateau Tongariro - Manawatu-Wanganui. Grand hotel, comparable to grand historical hotels of Canada. Chateau was built at the foot of Ruapehu volcano in 1929.
  • Larnach Castle in Otago is the most beautiful historical palace in New Zealand, built between 1873 - 1887. Building has 43 rooms and is well known also due to ghost stories.
  • Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) - Auckland. One of the largest Māori fortified settlements () with some of the most impressive earthen fortification systems in world.
  • Percy Burn Viaduct - Southland. One of the largest historical wooden viaducts, initially built for logging tramway in 1923. Now this 125 m long and 36 m high bridge serves for pedestrians.

List of described attractions by regions

New Zealand is divided into 16 regions. Below they are listed by two major islands in alphabetic order.

Northern Island

Auckland
Bay of Plenty
East Cape
Hawke's Bay
Manawatu-Wanganui
Northland
Taranaki
Waikato
ArrowWairere FallsWaterfall
Wellington

Southern Island

Canterbury
Marlborough
Nelson
Otago
Southland
ArrowBrowne FallsWaterfall
ArrowFlying waterfalls in Milford SoundWaterfall
ArrowSutherland FallsWaterfall
Tasman
West Coast

Smaller islands

New Zealand includes also several groups of islands which are distant from the two main islands.

Islands

Antipodes Islands
Auckland Islands
Bounty Islands
Campbell Islands
Chatham Islands
Kermadec Islands

States associated or administred by New Zealand

Two states (Cook Islands and Niue) are associated with New Zealand and one (Tokelau) is administred by New Zealand:

Cook Islands
Niue
Tokelau

Map of New Zealand

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