Its rich natural wonders make the distant country of New Zealand an ideal candidate for travelers in search of breathing some fresh air and exploring some of nature’s finest gifts.
Given its picturesque, rolling green hills and snow-topped peaks, it’s no wonder that many choose to road trip New Zealand rather than flying to each major city. Yet in doing so, it’s easy to miss out on some of the most extraordinary landscapes if travelers are heading there for the first time. In my own recent road travels of both the north and south islands of New Zealand, I made some discoveries of my own as to some of the most scenic spots in the country.
1. Fox Glacier
Almost halfway down the southern island, Fox Glacier is an ideal spot for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the snowy peaks sprinkled around the country. The glacier itself is so scenic that it almost looks like a fake green-screen background—both in photos and in person. But equally as impressive is the sight on the other side of the mountain that you’re exposed to when you turn around on the way up to the glacier itself. Steep rock formations and green mountains create an incredibly majestic view. For the more adventurous types, both helicopter rides and glacier walks with trained guides are readily available in the surrounding towns.
2. Lake Tekapo
Lakes are quite common spots for viewing perfect scenery in New Zealand, yet Lake Tekapo is one of the most striking among the multitude that you’ll undoubtedly come across. Lake Tekapo’s waters are an incredible turquoise blue, and at the shore of the lake is an Instagram-worthy church house that looks as though it sprung from a fairy tale. A small town at the southern edge of the lake holds multiple hotels and restaurants, and a nearby observatory makes the lake one of the prime spots for stargazing at night.
A visit to New Zealand is never complete without touring some of the filming locations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s renowned epics—The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. A prime stopping point on the northern island is Hobbiton, the set of the Shire where the movie’s famous Hobbits resided. The set has been completely rebuilt and can be visited through a fascinating two-hour tour. And even if you have limited knowledge regarding the movies or their dwarfish characters, the area’s lavish rolling hills and undisturbed natural scenery are worth a visit in themselves and create the ambiance of an authentic, legendary Middle-Earth.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s bigger cities, and was definitely my personal favorite. A known ski town, Queenstown is nestled among New Zealand’s snowy mountains and has a warm and inviting atmosphere that makes you want to stroll its tidy streets with a hot chocolate in hand. Located at the bottom of the southern island, Queenstown is also a stone’s throw away from Milford Sound, New Zealand’s most impressive fjord often referred to as the “eight wonder of the world.”