#10 The Catlins
Often overlooked, The Catlins is one of the most underrated regions of New Zealand. Almost empty of tourists, this area provides you with a chance to fully immerse into the New Zealand countryside. You can find sea lions at Cannibal Bay, see beautiful waterfalls at either Purakaunui Falls or McLean Falls (or both!), walk among ancient petrified forests, enjoy beautiful views at the Nugget Point Lighthouse, and tick off the Southernmost point of the South Island from your bucket list.
#9 Abel Tasman National Park
Filled with golden sandy beaches, Abel Tasman National Park is not to be missed, especially if you're a beach-lover. Although this National Park is often off the usual South Island route, it is well worth the detour. You can either spend the day relaxing on the beach or kayaking along the coast, or if you're feeling a bit more adventurous, tackle the 5-day Abel Tasman Great Walk which is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful of all 10 Great Walks.
#8 Mt. Taranaki
Often compared to Mt. Fuji of Japan, Mt. Taranaki is a sight to behold! Unfortunately this is a yet another region often skipped on many tourists' itineraries, due to it being awkwardly on the far west coast of the North Island. Nevertheless, the lush forest ecosystem that surrounds this dry mountain/volcano makes the region even more fascinating with hidden waterfalls, reflecting lakes, and countless of trails, including the famous reflective Poukaki Circuit (pictured here).
#7 Bay of Islands
Situtated in the middle of the "Winterless North", the Bay of Islands is a perfect holiday spot anytime throughout the year! Made up of 144 islands, you'll never run out of things to see, and this is not to mention that this is the perfect jumping off point to visit Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. For ocean-lovers, you can take a day cruise to the "Hole in the Rock" with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. For the history buffs, you can visit the Treaty of Waitgani museum to learn more about the history of the English colonisers and Maori people. And finally, for those who just want to relax, you can soak into the Ngawha Hot Springs.
#6 Tongariro National Park
After a few minutes of walking through New Zealand's oldest national park, Tongariro National Park, you'll feel as if you were transported to another planet. Surrounded by volcanoes, colourful rocks, and turiquose blue acidic lakes, it's so easy to forget that you are still on Planet Earth. If you're reasonably fit, we definitely recommend you to tackle New Zealand's best 1-day walk, the 19.5km Tongariro Alpine Crossing. For an even more immersive experience, we also recommend completing the 4-day Northern Circuit (which also includes the Crossing).
#5 Coromandel Peninsula
With endless gorgeous coastlines and plenty of activities, there's a good reason why this area is Aucklanders' favourite destination for a weekend escape. The top activity here is unarguably the Cathedral Cove (pictured), which you can visit via a leisurely walk, or even a kayak. Speaking of kayaking, this peninsula is also home to the beautiful Whenuakura Wildlife Sanuctuary (known as Donut Island), which is only accessible by a kayak! However this isn't the most unique thing in this area, for there is also the Hot Water Beach where you can literally dig up a hole on the beach and soak in bubbling hot water! If soaking into the sand isn't your thing, you can also head to the luxurious Lost Springs in Whitianga.
The coolest hot spot in the world, this town is filled with bubbling geysers, colourful lakes, mud baths, hot springs, and surprisingly, redwood forests! Spend your days walking among geo-thermal activity at one of the many geo-thermal parks or on one of the swinging bridges at the Redwood Treewalks if you need a break from the rotten-egg smell of sulfur. Rotorua is also home to rich Maori culture, and is arguably one of the best places in New Zealand to attend a marae (Maori meeting place) and experience a haka performance before feasting on food made in a hangi (traditional Maori method for cooking).
#3 Aoraki/Mt. Cook
The tallest peak in Australia & New Zealand, Aoraki/Mt. Cook is easily one of the most stunning landscapes in all of Aotearoa/New Zealand (and there are plenty!). The most accessible activities in the area are -- obviously not hiking up Mt. Cook -- but visiting one of the many glaciers and glacial lakes in the area. Measuring at 23.5km long, the Tasman Glacier is the largest glacier in New Zealand and can be easily viewed by a short 30 minute return walk. Alternatively, if you're in the mood to splurge, we highly recommend the Tasman Glacier Boat Trip or even taking a helicopter to land on the top of the glacier for a hike!
Home to adrenaline-filled activities, gorgeous natural scenery, and the best restaurants in the entire country, all of your five senses will be spoiled in this town! Walking down Shotover Street, one of the very few streets in this small town, you'll immediately encounter a very long line outside the famous chain of restaurants starting with Ferg... Fergbaker, Fergburger, Ferg's Bar, and the lady Mrs. Ferg Gelateria for delicious gelato ice cream. Trust us, every one of them is worth a visit! After filling up your tummy, you'll have to make the hardest decision of your life and choose between the countless activities available right at your fingertips - skydiving, bungee jumping, jetboating, paragliding, mountain biking white water rafting, quad biking, and skiing (in the winter). And Queenstown knows that the best way to wrap up any adventure is a soak in hot springs so be sure to grab a spot at the scenic Onsen Hot Pools which is just a 10-minute drive out of town.
#1 Milford Sound
What can I say that this photo doesn't say?! Although this is the smallest area listed here, it has the most beauty to offer. With an average of 182 rainy days per year, it is one of the wettest places on Earth, but rain is not something to worry about as you will have even more waterfalls to photograph! In addition to cascading waterfalls, the region is also known for the Mitre Peak that towers over the region, pristine glacial water, lush rainforests, and rare marine life -- your eyes will be in for a huge treat! You can view all of this from a leisurely 2 hour boat ride, an overnight cruise, a kayak, or even a 4-day hike on the Milford Track.