The New Zealand landscapes are as diverse as can be, and Kiwis themselves are as genuine and friendly as they’re known to be. If you’re planning to travel across Aotearoa — “the land of the long white cloud” — be sure to set aside a good amount of time. Whilst you will naturally be taking the scenic route instead of a speedy highway, weather, too, has a mind of its own over here. Prepare to only loosely stick to your schedule, especially on the South Island — where there’s not only weather proposing distraction, but also some of the best hikes and scenic sights in the country.


Otago Peninsula

Dunedin’s great outdoors begin at the spectacular Otago Peninsula. Start at the top and go from there. To reach Harbour Cone, follow Portobello Road, take a right turn onto Seaton Road and park your car at Highcliff Road for a 30-min (or so) walk to the top.


The Catlins, Purakaunui Falls

A 1.5-hour drive south from Dunedin, The Catlins bear rugged treasures. Options are endless but a trip to Nugget Point (see below) and Purakaunui Falls - One of the South Island’s most accessible tiered waterfalls - make for a pleasant and very photogenic introduction.


The Caitlins, Nugget Point Lighthouse

The lighthouse can be reached with an easy 10-minute walk from the carpark. Views are best at sunrise and gusts are almost always strong.


Hooker Valley in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park

A very accessible introduction to Aoraki National Park, the 3 to 4 hour return Hooker Valley Track offers views galore. Do you dare to go for a dip next to the icebergs?


Banks Peninsula

From Little River to Lavericks Bay, there is much more to the Banks Peninsula than Akaroa. Aside from the simply-put epic views along summit road, I suggest a day trip to Le Bons Bay. One bay over to the left is Lavericks Bay, with an exquisite glamping option (look for Canopy Glamping). Back in Little River (1 hour from Christchurch), the Silo Stays add a new, luxurious dimension to sustainable tourism, housing visitors in converted silos.



A spectacularly-set French village within two hours from Christchurch. For a dose of culture, be sure to stop by at the Giant’s House – a local institution by international renown Kiwi artist. Dolphin cruises are a popular option, too.


Wharariki Beach

Beaches come in a plethora of colors and settings In New Zealand; from rugged black sands to sparkling golden grain. Wharariki Beach, located on the northernmost point of the South Island, is one of the purest. A 20-mintue walk from the DOC car park will take you through green meadows onto white sand. Watch out for seals and stay for sunset.


Abel Tasman National Park

Its easy accessibility and vicinity to Nelson makes the Abel Tasman one of the busiest national parks in the country. Rightly so, as the many hidden bays and beaches could be from one of the Pacific Islands up north. Bring your walking shoes and do some kayaking to best enjoy New Zealand’s version of Fiji.


Nelson Lakes National Park

Heading South from Nelson, the Nelson Lakes reminds me of continental Europe, Austria perhaps. Clear lakes and excellent day walks (or multi-day hikes) make this a popular camping destination. If you only have one night, stay in Kerr Bay. Bring sand-fly/mosquito repellent.


Hanmer Springs

An easy 2-hour drive (make it three if you stop at the wineries along the way; Black Estate is a favorite), Hanmer Springs calls for adventure. After all the outdoors fun, the thermal pools will soothe tired muscles.


Shamarra Alpaca Farm in Wainui Bay

Did you know that Alpaca fiber is three times warmer than sheep’s wool? Feed the cuddly creatures and don’t forget to take in the backdrop.


Sealy Tarns/Mueller Hut

The choice for day walks around the South Island is abundant and while I have spent my fair share of days and nights hiking across it, Mueller Hut remains a firm favorite. Plan for a 4-hour ascent and a 3-hour descent. Staying overnight requires a booking (DOC website) and is highly recommended. Otherwise, Sealy Tarns make a beautiful 3-hour return trip.


Milford Sounds

Awesome rain or shine. On a sunny day, take a scenic flight with Milford Sound Scenic Flights. Otherwise, rise early for a long drive (4 hours) from Queenstown or base yourself in picturesque Te Anau (2 hours). Once arrived, jump aboard a nature cruise to get up and close with the fiord, its waterfalls, and seals.


Queenstown Hill

A local favourite and accessible by foot from town. The 500-meter climb up starts and ends on Belfast Street and takes around 3 hours return.


Mt. Roy

There is a reason Mt. Roy is one of New Zealand’s most instagrammed spots. From Wanaka, follow Mt. Aspiring Road for approximately 6km until you come across a Roys Peak Track sign on the left. Towering 1578m over Wanaka, the 8km hike to the top will take you around three hours. Note that the track is closed in spring from October 1st to November 10th (inclusive) to allow for lambing.