Off-the-Beaten-Track Spots in New Zealand
Posted on December 1, 2016
Maybe we’re biased, but we think that New Zealand offers the best of all worlds. The opportunities and culture of big cities combined with breathtaking wildness. Beaches, mountains, lakes and all-round stunning landscapes, we’ve got it all! And with fewer than 5 million of us, it isn’t difficult to find somewhere with no one else around.
So next time you’re gripped by wanderlust, no need to look at far-away destinations, here are some special spots to enjoy.
Cape Palliser and its lighthouse
Just an hour’s drive from Martinborough on the southernmost point of the North Island, Cape Palliser will truly make you feel that you have reached the end of the world.
After crossing a bucolic landscape of green hills and vineyards against a backdrop of gentle mountains – with more sheep than you could ever count to fall asleep – the scenery takes on a much wilder character as the winding road leads you to the edge of the coast and Cape Palliser’s lighthouse.
It is an area rich in history and natural beauty. Archaeologists indeed believe that there were Maori settlements there as early as the 14th century. As for the lighthouse itself, this grand old iron lady dates from 1897 but she can still take you on with her 250 steps’ climb to the top.
There is also usually a large colony of seals which you will hear – and smell – before you see them. Don’t get to close to them, especially during the breeding season from mid-November to mid-January when the females will be particularly protective of their pups.
The Art Deco weekend in Napier
Not so much a trip to a remote place as one through time.
Every third weekend in February, this city looks like the film set of The Great Gatsby. Everybody, even the children, comes dressed in 1920s clothes to dance to live jazz bands and watch a vintage airplane show. If you go, make sure that you stay overnight to enjoy the other festivities that take place throughout the whole weekend.
Kids forsake video games and tablets in favour of wooden toys and you may see a parade of classic cars of the era, in surprising numbers considering the relatively small population in the area, and take part in a picnic from the 1920s, laid on lace tablecloths, no less, and fine china.
If you have ever dreamed of travelling back in time, you will love that event.
Stewart Island / Rakiura
With only 380 inhabitants all mostly settled in Oban on the east side, it isn’t difficult to get away from it all.
Most of the island belongs to the government as the Rakiura National Park and its flora and fauna have been remarkably well preserved as the island has always lived in relative isolation.
Native plants have done well in this humid climate and you can see a dense forest of podocarps (southern conifers) as well as hardwoods like the rātā and the kāmahi in the low lands. The island also has large colonies of seabirds such as the sooty shearwater and is even home to a few endangered species such as the yellow-eyed penguin which breeds here. The kakapo, a flightless parrot close to extinction, was found on Rakiura in 1977 and moved to its smaller islands for protection.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the island sits on a geomagnetic anomaly, which makes it a prime spot for observing Auroras australis.
Lake Pukaki in Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park
Although Mount Cook National Park is one of the top tourist destinations in New Zealand, Lake Pukaki isn’t as developed as the other lakes on South Island and it can still feel pretty remote.
An alpine lake occupying ancient glacial valleys in the Mackenzie Basin, it is one of the places on Earth where you will have to pinch yourself to believe that what you are seeing is real. With shimmering turquoise waters, the vivid colours of the landscape make it a truly magical spot. When it is still, usually in the morning, it reflects its surroundings as perfectly as a mirror would.
The area is ideal for active holidays with a wide range of activities available such as hiking, mountaineering, ice-climbing, cycling, and less expected perhaps, star gazing. It was recognised in June 2012 as a ‘Dark Sky Reserve’ for its almost light-pollution-free skies.
This is another part of New Zealand that will delight nature lovers, as around 40 species of birds can be found in the park, such as the kea, a mountain parrot known for its mischievous behaviour; one of New Zealand’s rarest birds, the black stilt, and the elusive jewelled gecko.
Pilot’s Bay beach in Mount Maunganui
Situated on the edge of Tauranga Harbour, a vast extent of sand offers several beaches with different characters. Pilot’s Bay is a sheltered stretch by the harbour, ideal for families with young children who can splash safely in the gentle waves or hunt for shells when they fancy a change, but if you are a thrill seeker, the ocean-side beach is a surfer’s dream with plenty of challenges.
There are many walking trails and water sports activities on offer, including jet skiing and scuba diving, and you can also spot dolphins and whales offshore.
With well-maintained roads, New Zealand is a great country to explore by car with its stunning range of landscapes, but always make sure that you are driving safely by following our tips. If you are importing your vehicle to visit New Zealand, it still has to comply with the country’s road standards, and we can help you through the process to ensure that your holiday isn’t spoilt by a last-minute issue.
McCullough has over two decades’ experience importing vehicles for individuals from all over the world and we pride ourselves on running a very efficient operation. To find out more, call us on +64 9 303 0075, via our contact form or request a quote directly.