New Zealand, a famous country in Oceania for its natural beauty. The expansive landscapes and panoramas are like no other place on earth. Tall snow-capped mountains rise dramatically into the clear blue sky. Endless green valleys and sun-drenched meadows stretch into the distance with bottomless crystal clear lakes. Far from the world, the stunning scenery was made in the popular Lord of the Ringsmovies. Because New Zealand's national parks are well protected and preserved, you really get a treat from mother nature here. It's actually astonishing that relatively few visitors and tourists come to explore the incredible landscape. New Zealand is also truly unique in that sense: both in terms of landscape and freedom. You don't share the country (yet) with hordes of tourists! A tour of New Zealand is a unique experience and highly recommended.
Tip:: Watch the beautiful video at the top of this page. It takes no less than an hour(!) but zapping through it is also great. It's extra cool to watch the video in 4K on the TV in your living room – then the images really come to life!
1. Mount Aspiring
This mountainous part of the country has to be seen to be believed. The entire park is rich in incredible sights. Snow-capped mountains rise high above the canyons. Valleys flow dramatically into lakes and rivers wind their way down. With an elevation of over 3000 meters, it is the imposing Mount Aspiring that gives the park its name. The sheer cliffs and rocky ridges are a joy to explore. This national park is therefore also popular with mountaineers and nature lovers who flock to the hidden trails.
Untamed and untouched, like many places in New Zealand, the park has an abundance of unforgettable sights to enjoy; dominant mountains interspersed with serene and tranquil lakes, what more could you want?
Looking for scenic lakes surrounded by dreamy mountains? Then Nelson Lakes National Park is the place for you. Lying between the rocky canyons and valleys, the twin lakes of Rotoiti and Rotoroa look absolutely stunning. This scenic landscape reflects the sky above them. The Saint Arnaud and Mount Robert mountain ranges are sure to provide you with an abundance of memorable photo opportunities. Trails meander from the shores of the lake and wind their way up the steep mountainside. Those who continue to follow the paths will end up at beautiful vantage points with a view of the perfect panoramas below.
With an abundance of fish in the lakes it is a popular area for fishing. Many visitors to the park choose to camp and stay overnight in the remote beauty. Nelson Lakes National Park is a peaceful and picturesque park to visit with some breathtaking sights.
3. Westland Tai Poutini
The gigantic dominant peaks of the Southern Alps are truly an awe-inspiring sight to behold. These beautiful mountains, reaching over 3700 meters at their highest point, make Westland Tai Poutini an incredible national park to visit. This indomitable mountain range extends to the shoreline. The various vantage points offer fantastic views of the mountains plunging into the ocean. Interspersed among the rocky peaks are some beautiful serene lakes to explore. With each ridge conquered, you are in for another treat of incredible panoramas.
High glaciers dominate the landscape and two popular attractions are Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. For a bird's-eye view of all the beautiful scenery on display, take to the skies in a helicopter for the ultimate viewing experience.
Paparoa is home to the signature Pancake Rocks. The Pancake Rocks are the main attraction of the park. In addition, Paparoa has some beautiful landscapes for visitors to explore. Located right on the coast of the South Island, the beautiful mountains of the Paparoa Range overlook the Tasman Sea and the lush forests that cover them. The different landscapes add to the charm of the area.
With steep ravines flanking pristine rivers and canyons cutting through the ancient rock; the national park has a wealth of scenic views to see. Hidden within the boundaries of the park are a number of caves that make for delightful exploration. Paparoa National Park has an abundance of beautiful geological formations that make this a wonderful park to visit.
5. At Urewera
With vast forests stretching as far as the eye can see, stepping into the wilderness of Te Urewera National Park, like the untamed wildlife of the park, is an unforgettable experience. Te Urewera's crown jewel is undoubtedly the beautiful Waikaremoana Lake. Here you will see beautiful scenery and the juxtaposition of the wild forest that threatens to invade the shores and the quiet tranquility of the waters of the lake is enchanting to behold. Scattered among the vegetation are some beautiful waterfalls that you can stumble into. Lichen and moss cover the rocks on either side of the falls, enchanting in their splendor, far removed from the outside world.
This national park is truly amazing to explore and as with most of New Zealand you will find scenes of such beauty that you will want to come back again and again.
6. Aoraki / Mount Cook
Home to the highest mountain in the country, it is the massive Aoraki/Mount Cook that gives the park its name. At a colossal height of 3724 meters, it is the main attraction that draws visitors to the area. Glaciers cover much of the park's surface, hinting at the cold and unexpected weather that often plagues the highest peaks.
Sparkling clear and beautiful, the glaciers and snow-capped mountains will dazzle you in the sunlight, reflect the sun's rays and shine vividly in the dark blue of the sky. With a rich array of flora and fauna to discover, the lush vegetation forms a stunning contrast to the lifeless rock of the mountainside.
7. Abel Tasman
Named after the first European explorer to see New Zealand, one can only imagine what he was thinking when he saw the spectacular coastline before his eyes. The pristine turquoise waters, beautiful sandy beaches and forested hinterland of Abel Tasman National Park are breathtakingly beautiful and unlike any other national park in New Zealand.
Although it may be the smallest in size, it definitely stands out above its weight thanks to its impressive landscape that attracts a large number of tourists every year. Nature lovers may want to stay at one of the campsites within the park or venture into the woods to discover one of the beautiful waterfalls that plunge into the pools below. The peaceful coastal waters are inviting and make for great kayaking; on the water, the beautiful coast is an awe-inspiring sight.
The desolate rocky landscape pierced with dazzling turquoise lakes is almost otherworldly in nature. Remarkably, it was the fourth national park ever to be established in the world and this alone is testament to how spectacular the scenery is. Within the park are three active volcanoes, one of which is Tongariro, from which the national park takes its name.
Dead in the middle of the North Island, the park also contains lava fields and lakes formed in the craters of extinct volcanoes. The snow-capped Mount Tongariro is famous all over the world for its mesmerizing splendor that was so beautifully highlighted in the Lord of the Rings movies. A Maori homeland with numerous religious sites; Tongariro National Park has to be seen to believe that there are so many natural wonders to see.
9. Arthur's Pass
As the sun sets over the national park, an abundance of golden hues paint the mountains in a dancing array of bright yellows and oranges before slowly fading into darker shades of purple as another beautiful day draws to a close. Arthur's Park National Park occupies a rugged part of the Southern Alps mountain range and as such offers a range of beautiful viewpoints over the surrounding countryside with particularly beautiful sunsets.
Divided in half by the range that runs through it, one side of the park is covered in rocky peaks, while the other side consists of lush forests and winding riverbeds. With skiing, rock climbing and even hunting, Arthur's Pass offers a number of adventurous activities to entice visitors into.
One of the largest national parks in the world, the vast and expansive Fiordland National Park is great to explore. The ancient nature of this incredible landscape really strikes you when you see the vast canyons and fjords left behind by glaciers that cut through the rocks over the millennia. The most famous fjords in the park are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound – daily scenic flights and cruises reveal their beauty to visitors.
Home to pristine wilderness, vast forests, soaring peaks and crystal clear lakes; Fiordland really has it all. While New Zealand as a whole is really just an endless expanse of breathtakingly beautiful scenery, Fiordland somehow manages to stand on its own, such is its unsurpassed magnificence.
Your heart will aches leaving this wondrous corner of the world and you will no doubt have your mind set on returning once you leave the park behind. enchanting. Unforgettable. A treasure to cherish. New Zealand is truly a bucket list worthy country to visit.
More New Zealand?
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- New Zealand | Bay of Islands travel guide
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