New Zealand, though not a tremendously large country, is blessed with some incredible scenery and landscapes. Both the North Island and the South Island have their share of natural wonders. Wildlife is also a top draw here since many creatures that are found in New Zealand are found nowhere else in the world. Here is my list of the best of both. A photo album will soon follow.
1. Rotorua Thermal Areas – The entire area here is geothermal with numerous places to view and experience the volcanic activity. Among these places are Whakarewarewa with its many hot springs, fumaroles, mudpots, and geysers. The most famous geyser is Pohotu geyser whose eruptions each hour may reach almost 100 feet.
2. Fiordland National Park – This sparsely populated area of the South Island is home to numerous fjords, here called "sounds." Wilderness trekking is a common activity, although most visitors are here to see the beauty of the narrow, deep channels of water etching into the mountains. The most famous fjords are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
3. Tongariro National Park (with Lake Taupo) – This was New Zealand’s first national park and the world’s fourth. It preserves a region of active volcanoes of which Mount Tongariro is one. Hiking and skiing are very popular activities here. There are also Maori religious sites within the park.
4. Westland National Park – This park, along with its neighbors, Mount Aspiring National Park and Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, preserves some of New Zealand’s tallest peaks and numerous glaciers. They are wilderness areas and not accessible for the average tourist except by plane.
5. Waitomo Caves – These limestone caverns have become especially popular due to the presence of glowworms, actually the larvae of a gnat, which dangle strands of silk to catch their prey. They glow as a result of a chemical reaction, forming the compound luciferin. The glowing probably attracts their prey.
6. Otago Peninsula – This protrusion of land near Dunedin, South Island, is all about wildlife. There are several species, Northern Royal Albatrosses and Yellow-eyed Penguins, whose colonies are especially popular with visitors. Ecotourism has become the major tourist draw in the area.
7. Bay of Islands – Near the northern tip of the North Island, this area is popular with ecotourists and water enthusiasts. All types of water sports are available here, especially big-game fishing.
Other sites considered:
Abel-Tasman National Park