FOR A RELATIVELY compact nation (it’s about the size of Colorado), New Zealand packs in a striking array of landscapes and biomes.

From the 10,000ft snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps, which run down the middle of the South Island like a spine, to the geologic bizarreness of the North Island and its resultant volcanoes, geysers, and other geothermic phenomena; from the dramatic, glacier-carved Fiordland sounds, to the temperate rainforests of the West Coast and Northland’s mangroves…there’s a lot to take in. Here’s a start.


Mount Taranaki

This 8,260ft stratovolcano sits in the region of the same name, just a few dozen miles from the Tasman Sea. Maori legend holds that the mountain used to reside with the North Island's other major volcanoes on the Central Plateau, but that it fled to the coast after a feud. It has been used as a film stand-in for Japan's Mt. Fuji.
Photo: Dave Young


Bridal Veil Falls

One region over from Taranaki, in the Waikato, the Pakoka River plunges over a 150ft cliff to form this waterfall. There's a short path that begins 15 minutes outside of Raglan and gives easy access to the falls.
Photo: Adam Campbell


Wharariki Beach

In the South Island, but far from the tourist draws of Queenstown and Fiordland, lie the cliffs and beaches of Cape Farewell. Given its remote location, you could have it all to yourself.
Photo: Aaron Jacobs


Waitomo Caves

These two-million-year-old caves in the North Island are populated by a species of glowworm endemic to New Zealand.
Photo: Donnie Ray Jones


Mount Tongariro

The 6,490ft Tongariro is one of the main active volcanoes in the North Island. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is 12-mile trail that traverses it, passing features such as the Emerald Lakes above, and is considered the best one-day hike in New Zealand.
Photo: Benurs - Learning and learning...


Rakaia River

The Rakaia drains a section of the Southern Alps. On its path to the Pacific it crosses the Canterbury Plains, a lowland region just south of Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island.
Photo: Chris Hartman


Cecil Peak

Rising from the south shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown, Cecil Peak gives a good vantage point on this iconic South Island landscape.
Photo: Tomas Sobek


Champagne Pool

Near Rotorua in the North Island, the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area features geysers, boiling mud pools, and hot springs like the bubbling Champagne Pool shown above. The pool is just 900 years old, showing how active the North Island's geology remains.
Photo: Christian Mehlführer


Tongariro in winter

Here's a look at Mount Tongariro (photo #5) from a different angle, and during a different season.
Photo: ed 37 ~~


Taranaki from the plane

Similarly, here's an alternate take on Mount Taranaki, as seen in photo #1, showing just how prominent it is in the expanse of forested hills and coastal plains that surround it.
Photo: Phillip Capper


Fox Glacier

A scientific inventory from the '80s counted over 3,000 glaciers in the Southern Alps. Of those, Fox Glacier is one of the largest, falling more than 8,500ft over a distance of 8 miles and ending in lush rainforest less than 1,000ft above sea level.
Photo: Robert Young


Keas at Mackinnon Pass

This pass is the highest point on the 33-mile Milford Track, one of the most popular multi-day hikes in the country. According to this photographer, there are groups of keas here who work together to relieve unsuspecting hikers of their trail snacks.
Photo: anoldent


Milford Sound

The best known of Fiordland's mighty sounds, and by some estimations one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Milford Sound runs from the Tasman Sea 9 miles inland, flanked by 4,000ft cliffs on either side. After a good rain, hundreds of waterfalls plunge down the sheer rock faces.
Photo: ed 37 ~~


Mount Ngauruhoe

Another of the North Island's active stratovolcanoes, towering above the Central Plateau. Technically it's part of Tongariro, though images of its prominence like the one above make the case for the separate naming.
Photo: Sid Mosdell


Pohutu Geyser

The North Island's Whakarewarewa valley is home to 7 active geysers, Pohutu being the biggest, with blasts reaching 100 feet high around 20 times per day.
Photo: Neville10


Hooker Valley Track

This 4-hour round-trip hike in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park takes in Hooker Lake and the Hooker Glacier, all within the shadow of Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain.
Photo: Andrea Schaffer


Cape Reinga

At the very northern tip of the North Island, Cape Reinga marks the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean and, according to Maori belief, is the place where spirits enter the underworld.
Photo: Elmastudio


Franz Josef Glacier

Like the Fox Glacier in photo #11 above, Franz Josef descends from the shoulders of the Southern Alps to the green temperate rainforest of the South Island's west coast, one of the few glaciers in the world to take in such extremes.
Photo: Anthony Cramp


Lake Pukaki

Tekapo, Ohau, and Pukaki are the three glacially formed lakes of the Mackenzie Basin, near Queenstown. Their distinctive light blue color comes from the finely ground rock particles produced by the glaciers that feed the lakes.
Photo: Andrea Schaffer


Whakarewarewa redwood forest

In the late 1800s, the area around the Whakarewarewa valley had been almost completely deforested by European settlers. It was essentially a blank canvas, on which the government initiated an exotic species experiment to determine which foreign trees would grow most quickly in the valley. One of the results is a grove of California coast redwoods, the tallest tree species in the world.
Photo: Eli Duke


Rarangi Beach

Classic New Zealand scenery of beach in the foreground, backdropped by snow-capped mountains—in this case Mount Tapuaenuku, the country's tallest outside the Southern Alps.
Photo: Sid Mosdell


Shotover River gorge

The Shotover River carries meltwater from the Southern Alps south through a series of narrow gorges before meeting the Kawarau River near Queenstown. Its fast flow and rapids draw a lot of tourists.
Photo: Jeff Hitchcock


The Remarkables

This steep mountain range near Queenstown rises from the waters of Lake Wakatipu below. There is a lift-serviced skifield in winter.
Photo: Jordan Sim