We spent ten days on the road, encountering vast and varied terrain – from volcanos and lakes to mountains and tropical beaches. Here we pay tribute to eight of the most magnetic places we discovered along the way: The spots that made our heads spin with wonder, and our pulses tick along a little faster. Join us on our journey in the feature that follows.
Piha Beach, West Auckland
Our journey began at the top of the North Island. The rugged black iron-sands of the country’s most formidable surf beach were secluded when we ventured out to West Auckland on a quiet Monday afternoon. Here, scrubby sand dunes set the scene, giving way to the vast stretch of dark and sparkling sand. Piha is a place where the wind whips harder, and waves are unforgiving.
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
A few hours’ drive down the North Island led us to a beach of a very different nature. After a 20 minute walk from the carpark, we followed a steep stairway down to a breathtaking beach, divided into two by the iconic upside-down ‘V’-shaped rock that lends the cove its name. On a the mood couldn’t have been more idyllic: Sparkling sunshine saturated the water in deep blue tones and native Pohutukawa trees threw splashing shadows onto the blistering golden sand. It felt like the height of summer. Total serenity.
Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve
Coromandel Peninsula 3591
White Island, Bay of Plenty
Situated 49km off the coast of the North Island is one of the world’s most accessible live volcanoes, and the site of enthralling otherworldly geothermal activity. We took a boat out from the town of Ohope to be guided around the inner crater, learning about the island’s history and geology. The jaw-dropping atmosphere marked by jagged pink rocks, bubbling mud pits and steaming acid made our trip out completely unforgettable.
White Island Tours
15 The Strand
Blue Spring, Putaruru, Waikato
Possibly the country’s best-kept secret, the Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway is home to water so pure that it supplies roughly 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water. The water takes up to 100 years to filter through the spring, and appears breathtakingly blue whilst being clear. Surrounded by lush ferns and forest that’s home to native birds such as the fantail, the short walk along the spring is incredibly meditative.
South Waikato 3483
Whakapapa, Tongariro National Park
Three active andesitic volcanoes dominate the Tongariro National Park landscape in the middle of the North Island. Holding Dual World Heritage Status, the park offers incredible burnished textures, and is a popular ski location in winter. The rest of the year around, it’s an inspiring site for hiking. We took a guided sunset walk up near the Whakapapa ski field and were lucky enough to catch a whisp of blue sky as the clouds lifted.
Adrift Guided Outdoor Adventures
3 Waimarino-Tokaanu Road
National Park 3989
Whanganui & Taumarunui, King Country
One of the highlights of our journey was getting to know rural New Zealand with an exhilarating day tour of the Whanganui River and the small towns dotted along a disused railway line. Beginning with a jet boat ride along the river, stopping to observe Māori pā sites and hear the history of the mighty body of water, we then took a short walk to the beautiful Bridge to Nowhere. A helicopter ride up the river then dropped us off for a rail cart tour, which saw us drive a converted golf cart along a railway line to learn about the heritage of the towns dotted along the countryside.
Forgotten World Adventures
9 Hakiaha St
The country’s compact capital city offers as much culture (and a burgeoning coffee and cuisine scene) as it does breathtaking views from the hilltop vistas that surround the city. We spent a weekend taking it all in, topped off with a Seal Coast Safari, which saw us take a four wheel drive along the hilltops and down to Red Rocks, where we climbed steep sand dunes and met the friendly local seal colony.
Seal Coast Safari
Departs from i-SITE Visitor Centre
Flying down from Wellington to the South Island, we were lucky to glimpse the break taking beauty of Central Otago’s rugged landscapes. Taking a traditional steamboat ride along Lake Wakatipu, we visited the charming Walter Peak farm. The evening saw us take a gondola ride to the peak of the surrounding hills for an incredible view of the city.
Walter Peak High Country Farm
Steamboat departs from Steamer Wharf
88 Beach Street
– With thanks to Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand for making the journey possible. –
We were lucky enough to travel from Berlin to Auckland in Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy class cabin. With nine one-stopover connections from Germany to New Zealand, the award-winning carrier turns one of the world’s longest flight stretches into an event to look forward to in its own right. Our route saw us travel via Los Angeles in the new 777-300 carrier, in which Premium Economy passengers are treated to the comfort of the Spaceseat™, offering passengers privacy, ample leg room and a generous recline. Combined with delicious in-flight cuisine, the entertaining new safety briefing video and a vast selection of films and TV shows the bar for the rest of the journey was set at lofty heights.