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Narrowing down to the best 10 views in New Zealand makes this one of the more difficult blogs I’ve ever had to write and not for lack of choice but rather for too much! There's a reason why our country makes it onto just about everyone's bucket list somewhere, and maybe after reading this, it might just top yours. If you don't want itchy feet, I’d suggest you stop reading now…
New Zealand is one of the best and most beautiful countries in the world. The sheer diversity of the North and South Islands is something incredibly special, from the volcanic geothermal activity and pristine golden beaches of the North, to the grand mountains and glaciers of the South. Adventure can be found literally everywhere and us kiwi’s love getting out there and doing it.
So, in no particular order (as that would be too difficult), here are the 10 best views in New Zealand!
The epicentre of New Zealand’s Geothermal activity, Red Crater provides both a view and an experience of an ‘otherworldly’ landscape in the form of Tongariro National Park. Located in the centre of the North Island, the red-tinted soil and the incredible Emerald Lakes provide an incredibly vivid volcanic landscape. Add to that the fact the whole landscape is made up of still active volcanos, and you have yourself a pretty jaw-dropping view.
From Red Crater, you can see the unmissable Mt Ngauruhoe, Mount Ruapehu and if you're lucky, even Mt Taranaki several hundred km's away. With scenic flights available, you can witness all this from the air. However, there is a better way - the Tongariro crossing is an incredible day hike that allows you to experience all of these wonders with your own 2 feet. If you don't feel you have the experience and/or knowledge to tackle this hike along, there are some fantastic guided options to look at.
New Zealand's largest national park is located in the south-western corner of the south island, and there is simply no end to Fiordland's incredible scenes. It’s the wildest setting you will have ever set your eyes on and the last true wilderness of New Zealand. Most of the area is inaccessible by foot making by air the most sought out option.
Endless fiords, glacial-sculpted mountains, alpine lakes and endless native bush and forests, nature truly dominates this region and will always continue to do so. Weather permitting, the changing lights of the day make the views of Fiordland genuinely remarkable. If you can, try and get yourself on a sunrise/sunset flight so you can see for yourself!
Cape Reinga is the northwesternmost tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand. Of all our incredible coastal vistas, the view seen here is one of the most dramatic. You get to witness two oceans collide in the form of the Pacific Oceans and the Tasman Sea.
Driving is the best way to get here, but it takes a while and is some 100km from the nearest town of Kaitaia. That aside, the view is more than worthwhile! If you enjoy your sunrises, then this really is the place to be.
Tasman Glacier is a place that really does represent the power and sheer size of nature. As New Zealand's largest glacier, it also holds the largest glacier lake which is also full of floating icebergs. Yes – it is understood by many that all of New Zealand's glaciers are currently retreating and have done so for several years now. Hence the large pieces of ice now floating in the Tasman lake. Nonetheless, it really is an incredible wonder of the Southern Alps and a must-see!
Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters offer an amazing scenic flight experience to fly over the glacier and terminal lake and even land on it for a walk around if you're lucky. It's literally one of the best experiences I've ever had in New Zealand and what a way to say you’ve actually landed on a glacier!
The surreal coloured waters of the Hokitika Gorge give you an everlasting memory. The vivid turquoise coloured waters, formed by ‘rock flour’ particles suspended in the cold waters and yes, it is cold if you were thinking of going for a swim!
If you arrive here on a sunny day, the colour of the water is much more vivid and gives the waters a colour you simply didn't think was possible! Set in the backdrop of the West Coast Nikau palm forests, it's an excellent example of New Zealand nature at its very best!
Lake Marian is one of the best alpine lake views in Fiordland. Sitting in a hanging valley formed by past glaciers, the Darran mountains surrounding the lake on all sides provide the perfect backdrop. Word's don't begin to do it justice!
While you can see the lake from the air, the best perspective of the lake is viewed from the shores where you can take in the clear glacial waters up close; truly incredible! I remember first visiting here in Winter, and due to the surrounding mountains, an avalanche on the far side of the lake echoed through the hanging valley; just phenomenal.
One of the Mckenzie basins best-kept secrets. It's a region renowned for its vastness with many man-made lakes throughout the area for the glacial flows coming from the surrounding mountains. The glacial waters are a resounding blue colour, giving it a surreal blue colour. Lake Benmore really is the best example of that.
The best way to view Lake Benmore is to literally walk around it. Stooped by hills on all side, there are some magnificent views of the lake to be had at all times of the day where on a clear day, you can see right out to New Zealand’s highest mountain; Aoraki Mount Cook!
I think it goes without saying that one of the main reasons people want to come to New Zealand is to see Milford Sound; I don’t blame them!
Holding dual world heritage status and named “the 8th wonder of the world”, it’s a place you really have to see to believe. The journey there is breath-taking in itself, going through the homer tunnel and popping out into a valley loomed over by towering fjords and waterfalls crashing on either side.
I can only describe it as the best example to witness the power of nature, for the weather has literally shaped the land you see before you.
There are now several ways to see Milford Sound, by air, by boat or by foot; each with their own perks. Like many others, I personally like seeing the place during heavy rain as that is when it comes most alive. With the waterfalls crashing down the steep-walled fjords and the dark mist surrounding the high peaks above you. This is also because this is how I've only ever seen Milford sound in the 5 times I have been there… Yes, it rains a lot! Over 300 days of rain hit this region of the country, with up to 9 metres of rainfall in Milford Sound alone. So, if you do see some sunshine here, make the most of it!
This is a place that I had only discovered quite recently and is well off the traditional tourist trail. Located in the vast Mckenzie Basin some 4 hours’ drive south of Christchurch, the clay cliffs are a natural phenomenon of weather erosion. For those avid Lord of the Rings fans, this is where some of the scenes were captured… (I won’t tell you which)
While the trail is easy to navigate, there are many off-trails where climbers have gone to ascend up specific faces. The main trail takes you right into the heart of the cliffs, where you will find yourself towered over by stalactite-looking structures.
The best views are earned, and this is precisely the case here. Tucked away in the Southern-West corner of the North Island, Mount Taranaki (2518m) is an active volcano and is very recognisable for its cone-shaped structure. Standing alone in otherwise flat terrain, it really is a phenomenal sight but just where is the best spot to get a view of the mountain?
There are incredible scenic flights that go over and around the mountain as well as several drives within Egmont National park that give you some sweet views. My personal favourite involves a bit of a trek in the form of the Pouakai circuit, which is 23km long. Starting at the visitor centre, you will sidle around the mountain before ascending the Pouakai range. While many people stop only for a little while, make time to stay in the hut here and view the mountain during the different lights of the day; something which you can't do on a scenic flight!
There is a well-known tarn (pond) located upon the ridge, which provides a fantastic reflection on a calm day and gives you a front-row seat to one of the greatest views in New Zealand!