It could be said that New Zealand is a natural wonder in itself. Forged with fiery volcanoes, cooled by epic icy glaciers, its shores have been pummelled by the Tasman Sea and gently lapped by the South Pacific. Nature’s extreme forces have woken ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ from its ocean bed and brought this shining, multi-faceted jewel to life. Aotearoa’s myriad islands of ancient forests, mighty rivers, emerald-green ranges, thermal fields, and clear mountain lakes, entice the traveller and nature lovers with a list of stellar destinations. From pristine wilderness to flawless marine environments, the best of New Zealand’s magnificent natural highlights will stir an endless sense of awe.
Everything is larger than life in Fiordland, New Zealand’s most scenic and timeless region. In a landscape sculpted during the last Ice Age, the steep glacier-carved valleys of the Southern Alps set the stage for the staggering beauty of Milford Sound. Snow-capped mountains rise above its waters as colossal waterfalls crash into its chilly depths, while rugged forests greening dizzying cliffs complete the picture. All this drama was perfectly described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and would be considered, in most books, as the South Island’s unrivalled top natural attraction.
Majestic and unforgettable, the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are a mind-blowing set of twins to encounter. The Franz Josef Glacier is a magical vision of tunnels, caves and crevasses stretching across a vast distance. As both ascend from temperate rainforest at the valley floor into the Southern Alps, icy formations in this phenomenal World Heritage Area shift from pure white to a breathtaking blue. The Fox Glacier is closer to the foothills of Aoraki/Mount Cook and no less impressive at first sight. Head towards nearby Lake Matheson for the best viewing of this 12-kilometre glacial ribbon. A special bonus: the stunning mountain lake happens to be one of the most widely photographed in New Zealand. Capture your own spectacular portrait of the country’s highest peak in its dark, inky reflection.
Tucked away in the idyllic Eastern Bay of Plenty, New Zealand’s most active volcano lies 48-kilometres off-shore from the sleepy oasis of Whakatane. A hidden gem if there ever was one, the bulk of Whakaari’s mass is submerged deep beneath warm, crystal waters, while its crater pops up 321-metres above the sea in the form of a circular island. The Bay’s sun-drenched shoreline receives regular smoke signals in the form of billowing wisps emitted from the volcano’s stack. While White Island cannot be visited by boat, scenic flights over the island are available.