Anyone who has seen the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy has probably dreamt of visiting this land of phenomenally enchanting scenery that appears almost too perfect to be real. In fact, while filming the movies, many of the cast expressed concerns that viewers would think the landscape was fake. How, they argued, could moviegoers believe that such stunning scenery is real? Where in the world do thundering waterfalls, turquoise lakes, volcanic pinnacles, and alpine glaciers all occupy a terrain with hardly any people? Luckily for travellers, this fantasy-world of rings and hobbits was shot in a very real place- New Zealand!
From spectacular glaciers to picturesque fjords; volcanos, caves, vast plains, subtropical forest and miles of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches – you’ll be hard pressed to find a more geologically diverse land than New Zealand. The landscape is also home to some of the world’s most unique geological sites. You could easily spend months to explore the land, visiting every single gorgeous spot. It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are the seven natural beauties of the island you won’t want to miss when you are there!
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel
Located on a Coromandel peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean on New Zealand’s North Island, you will find a unique beach that produces geo-thermally heated mineral water bubbling up through the sand. At low tide at the southern end of the beach you can dig your own hot spa pool in the sand, have a relaxing soak then take a refreshing dip in the ocean.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Located two hours’ drive south of Auckland, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a magical experience. Climb through the long galleries and lofty chambers to view stalactites formed over thousands of years by the constant dripping of water. The cave system itself is over two million years old. A highlight of the caves is the glowworm grotto; illuminated by thousands of glowworms suspended from the cave ceiling, it is a magical place.
If you are travelling around the North Island, a must-visit spot is the Rotorua region, where you can experience one of the world’s most active fields of geothermal activity with hot springs, spectacular geysers, boiling mud pools and even a hot water waterfall. In addition, Rotorua is also a great place to experience Maori culture or try some adventure, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter months to trout fishing, skydiving, white water rafting or mountain biking.
On the West Coast of the South Island, you will come across one of New Zealand’s most spectacular geological sites – the sunken mountain ranges at Milford Sound. It is truly one of New Zealand’s most accessible and captivating fjords, bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest. While the scenery and wildlife are spectacular here, the underwater world is just as intriguing with the world’s biggest population of black coral trees, some up to 200 years old.
You can choose to walk the famous Milford Track or paddle the Sound by kayak, while other options include bus and cruise tours and scenic flights. Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth, creating spectacular waterfalls cascading over the cliffs, so be sure to pack wet weather gear.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are the gems of the South Island’s West Coast glaciers and the most spectacular glacier environments accessible to the general public year round anywhere in the world. The Glaciers are stunning and easy to access. There are various ways to approach the glacier, from helicopter rides, walking yourself to the mouth of the glaciers, or joining one of the glacier expedition where you can clamber on it with an experienced guide. The helicopter rides usually have an option to visit Mount Cook too, the highest peak in New Zealand, in the setting of gorgeous Southern Alps. Follow your hike into these icy wonderlands with a blissful soak in the Glacier Hot Pools.
Known as Whakaari in the local Maori dialect, the name “White Island” came from Captain Cook who thought it was always in a cloud of white steam. Located in the Bay of Plenty near the North Island, it is an active volcano and was the former location of a sulfur mining operation which ended in disaster. Helicopter and boat trips to the island leave daily from Whakatane.
Kaikoura Whale Watch
Just two and a half hours north from Christchurch is Kaikoura, a very popular location for whale watching. Because of its unique underwater geographical feature that direct massive flows of nutrients and their attendant marine life, the ocean around Kaikoura is a natural habitat for the giant sperm whales. There are many of these sperm whales in the area, so many that the Kaikoura’s Whale Watch Company guaranties 80% of your money back if there’s no whale spotted on your tour! Not only sperm whales, you will also see many fur seals, dusky dolphins, and many different kind of sea birds, including the endangered albatross. If you are lucky, you can also see the other types of whales. When the sky is clear, you can enjoy this with the snowcapped Southern Alps in the background.
The diversity of the New Zealand landscape has been a draw for filmmakers and travellers from around the world. Many activities and attractions offer the chance to see the film locations for yourself, as well as the many other experiences New Zealand is known for. In a true sense there’s no place like New Zealand. So when are you planning your trip to the home of Middle-earth?
Team Veena World