New Zealand is known as the king pin of spectacular landscapes and memorable holidays, but you’d be a fool to think the best holiday destinations in New Zealand started and ended in Queenstown.
Sure, Queenstown is undoubtedly post card perfect, but New Zealand has a plethora of stunning destinations, quirky villages, and remote getaway places worthy of reaching the top of your best holiday destinations in New Zealand top list.
Travel freely and keep New Zealand beautiful!
Located approximately 3 hours North of Queenstown, Lake Ohau is a remote spot nestled into the valley of the Ben Ohau range. This is a spot you won’t even forget for a few reasons.
Lake Ohau is a a picturesque New Zealand lake on which water activities like boating are perfect in warmer months, or year round trout fishing is a popular past time. If those activities aren’t to your liking, being present between the mountain range is well worth the effort alone.
On a clear day – which is more often than not – you’ll be privy to Mt Cook (New Zealand’s largest mountain) peeking out at the head of he lake, topped with snow. That in itself is a magical experience.
Next to the lake is Lake Ohau Lodge which is easily one of the best accommodations in the country. Lake Ohau Lodge is a family run country style style with warm hospitality and a snow field, cosy vibe. Large comfortable rooms, delicious home cooked style meals, a huge central fire place, and a relaxed bar all sit prominently at the Lake edge capturing the view of Mt Cook.
From the lodge is Freehold Mountain bike track and access to the Otago rail trail, or if you prefer to sleep remotely there are DOC huts planted deep in the lake head that Lake Ohau Lodge owners Mike and Louise can point you in the direction of.
There’s one more feature of Lake Ohau; the ski field. Lake Ohau Lodge also has a small ski and snowboard field complete with heli-skiing on it’s doorstep. The access road comes down to the lodge and there is a shuttle running up to the lifts for the lodge in season. Lake Ohau Lodge is easily accessible by car. The turn off from the state highway is half way between Omarama and Twizel and well signposted. Follow the Ohau road to the lodge from there.
Easily a top runner in the list of best holiday destinations in New Zealand.
Furneaux Lodge, Marlborough Sounds
There’s an area between the north and South Islands of New Zealand known as the Marlborough Sounds which is a haven of inlets, coves, channels and bays. Much of the Marlborough Sounds is accessible only by boat, although water taxis are readily available from Picton wharf.
The Marlborough Sounds can be considered paradise. It’s peaceful with lush green bush and full of marine life. Packed with too many hidden gems to mention, but Furneaux Lodge is one place within the Marlborough Sounds that would make your Marlborough Sounds holiday perfect.
Furneaux is a quiet lodge that was built in the early 1900’s. Access is either by boat of via the famous Queen Charlotte Walking track. At Furneuax you’ll experience the heritage feel that comes with a turn of the century accommodation, while enjoying the pleasant deep green hues that come with native New Zealand scenery, singing birds, and marine line.
Water taxis from Picton can take around 30 minutes to Furneaux’s door and bookings are essential but no trip to New Zealand is complete without experiencing the Marlborough Sounds, be it for lunch or picnic at the lodge, or as an pleasant overnight stay.
30 minutes drive North from Queenstown is a historic, gold mining town that has been lovingly restored to reflect the mining times of years gone by. Entering the tiny town is an invitation into New Zealand history.
The main street is lined with 18th century houses and stores which have a backdrop of native pines, golden leaved trees and bushy hills. The creek that was once panned for gold runs parallel to the main street and is the perfect place for a picnic in the great outdoors of New Zealand.
Arrowtown is a place to stop for half a day en route to other parts of New Zealand, rather than a place for an overnight. Wander the heritage stores, peruse the museum, or enjoy one of the many bush walks that start in the town centre.
Mt Cook Village
Tucked remotely in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, Mount Cook village is just 15km distance from New Zealand’s highest mountain. It’s not so much the village that is the attraction here, but more so the remote lifestyle. The closet supermarket is 65km away, and there is little more to do here than experience nature.
For rock climbers, Sebastopol Bluff is the place to be with multi pitch climbing and spectacular views of the National Park. Helicopter rides over Mount Cook are popular, offering glacier walks through the Mt Cook region, and views of Sir Edmund Hilary’s second home.
This is home to some of the highest mountains and longest glaciers in the country. Spend a night in the Hermitage Hotel, learning exactly what it fees like to be a part of the infamous, remote, New Zealand lifestyle with warm Kiwi hospitality.
90 minutes drive East of Christchurch on the Banks Peninsular, is a small French village called Akaroa. Here you’ll find a village rich with the 18th century French architecture of which is the founding of the towns heritage.
Akaroa is where you go to see dolphins, enjoy bush walks, quiet walks along the harbour and classic fish n chips sea side. There are plenty of restaurants serving french cuisine, but it’s the restored buildings, and peaceful harbour that make Akaroa a nice place to escape to.
Driving to Akaroa will take you around windy hair pin hills or the country’s typical green countryside. This is a romantic spot to choose for a short weekend for those based in Christchurch.
Hanmer Springs is a small alpine village around 90 minutes North of Christchurch, and a short detour en route the popular Christchurch to Kaikoura. Here you’ll find a small village with that snowy resort vibe, that has numerous outdoor activities and entertainment.
Mountain bike and running trails circulate the township and maps are available from the information centre on the main street, or avoid loosing your bearings. There are quad biking centres and the famous AJ Hackett bungee jump to keep your days action packed before a cosy meal and beer in one of the many pubs walking distance to any of the log cabins you’ll be staying at.
But the real gem of Hanmer Springs are the thermal pools. It wasn’t long ago these were sulpha smelling, slimy tubs set in a surround of snow capped mountains but the thermal resort made hefty refurbishments around 10 or so years ago and they are now the place you want to stay for a long lazy day, into the night. If you’re lucky enough to be in here during a snow fall you’ll be having a magical day.
For an entry fee of NZD $24 adult and NZD $12 for kids, you’ll have around a dozen hot pools of varying temperatures to lay around in, with rocky pools and channels connecting many of them together for more secluded options. There are even hydro slides to keep the kids happy.
Hanmer Springs for one to two nights is a must do; this is without a doubt one of the best holiday destinations in New Zealand.
When was the last time you visited a country known for it’s landscapes and found it’s capital city making an entry onto the list of best holiday destinations? In New Zealand that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Wellington city is a dark horse. Home to parliament you would be mistake for thinking it’d be full of stuffy suits because Wellington is the most diverse city in the country.
There are a lot of surprises in Wellington. Spend two nights here so you have time to observe the standard attractions like Te Papa museum, The Beehive, Waterfront, and Cable Car. Then peep a day up your sleeve to either explore nature. Wellington was built with a town belt surrounding which was a smart move back in the early 1900’s because it has paved the way for a city built around nature. Climb Mt Kau Kau or Mt victoria for views over the city, Cook Strait, or oven across to the South Island on a good day. Enjoy waterfront walks with talented musicians playing, or a wander through the botanic gardens. Even without the numerous activities available, Wellington’s vibe is laid back, anything goes, good old fashioned kiwi.
The Wairarapa region is synonymous with the green rolling hills you expect to witness during a visit to New Zealand. A region predominantly home to cattle farmers with large stretches of well maintained land; pristine country side in its very essence. The Wairarapa is a destination to visit for peaceful time with nature enjoying New Zealand’s stunning coastlines, fishing, surfing, and trail walking. It’s fair to say there’s something spiritual about New Zealand’s Wairarapa region.
Castle Point is a small seaside township on the coast within the Wairarapa region, and a magnificent option for a peaceful day trip or quiet weekend away. Home to just a handful of quaint holiday Bach’s parked directly opposite the beach, the township has little more than a dairy and fish n chip shop; precisely all you need in a place like this.
The main draw cards to Castle point are the cliff walks and surfing. Main beach is long stretch of sand with an easy break directly in front of public toilet and change facilities. To the end of the beach is a lighthouse erected by Captain Cook in 1913 which makes a nice short walk with coastal views. The walk to the lighthouse has been beautifully maintained with wooden steps, walkways, and seats fr viewing. Along the coast are a selection of picnic tables to enjoy lunch or an alfresco dinner.
Past the lighthouse is a second beach with lagoon that’s a major draw card for fishermen. There’s a popular surf break known as The Gap tucked between two sets of cliffs. The beach is 4wd-able and at the end a steep hill wall up Castle Rock.
The walk up to Castle rock requires medium levels of fitness. It’s a short distance but steep and risky in some parts where there is little more than goats track. What greets you from the top is even better than the enjoyable ascend up a mixture of trail and wooden steps. Standing on the tip of a sheer cliff face (not recommended in windy conditions) you’ll be treated to 360 degree views in land for bright green paddocks, and along the coast for typical New Zealand stretches of surf.