New Zealand: best bits and hidden gems

17 June 2020 | 1 comment

Lake Wanaka

After a second extended trip, I’ve seen a fair bit of the country through a visitor’s eyes, so here are some personal highlights…. useful if you are a keen walker planning a trip, or see what you think of my choices if you know them.

Walks I loved(in no particular order – details of these walks can all be found on the excellent NZ Department of Conservation website)

Angelus Hut

Nelson Lakes: walks up to Mount Robert, but most especially to Angelus Hut and beyond, then catching a boat a few walking days later from the head of Lake Rotoiti back to St Arnaud. Big, remote with wonderful huts.

Diamond Lake and the Rocky Mountain trail

Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Trail near Wanaka. An perfect day walk, views, lakeside, mild scrambling, really lovely. Everyone else tramps up nearby Roy’s Peak (particularly to see the sunrise – a nice idea, but you are with the crowds) and we were left with this beautiful tucked away lesser but oh so much more interesting walk.
Tongariro National Park. A dramatic volcanic landscape, colourful and so much more. There’s the option of the world famous Tongariro crossing, which I’ve missed out on twice, I’d love to do this even though it is a bit of a busy path. The multi day Tongariro circuit sounds even better (which includes the crossing), but an alternative walk Tongariro, quieter of course, and breathtakingly beautiful, Taranaki Falls and Tama Lakes.
Aoraki/Mount Cook. The stiff climb to stay at Mueller Hut was fabulous, but the more gentle walk up the Hooker Valley to the glacial lake is pretty special too.

Ramblers in the Karangahke Gorge

• Abel Tasman coast track. Kayak and walking combination was amazing, even in pouring rain.
• Karagahake Gorge, goldmining and railway history, spectacular walks, cycle ways and tunnels, a couple of hours south of Auckland and yet off the tourist trail.


Random favourite places
Wanaka, also known as Queenstown’s little sister, is a delightful small lakeside town. Seems to have all the stunning scenery, fabulous walking, lakeside setting, good food, but none of the downsides, of Queenstown.
Christchurch remains top of my list of NZ cities, a city reinventing and rebuilding (after the earthquakes). The choices of architecture, what to keep, what to lose, and how they’ve moved on, are fascinating. Also a lovely setting, lots of history and great walking. Wellington has to be a close second, though.

Te Puia

Te Puia Thermal reserve, in Rotorua, was not somewhere I thought I’d put on a favourites list before I went (Rotorua has a very touristy reputation) But what a treasure. It’s a winning combination of spectacular geothermal activity, knowledgeable Maori guides and an outstanding school of Maori crafts. And live kiwi’s (the birds), very well cared for. Lots of cultural heritage.

Picton is the little town you arrive in, on the ferry from North to South island. On my first visit I drove straight through, keen to see all the South Island has to offer. Second time round we stayed a couple of nights: joy. What a pretty little yacht harbour, and what lovely walks all along the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Ramblers on the South Island

1 Comment

  1. Amy Pankhurst

    Fantastic recommendations by a great guide. Will take a tour of the caves near Nelson after hearing your story about them next time I’m in NZ. 🙂


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