Glorious New Zealand For The Trip of A Lifetime

New Zealand is a land of contrasting landscapes, having scenes ranging from dramatic mountain peaks and glaciers, to volcanoes and unspoiled rainforests. National parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, embrace and protect the remotest of wilderness areas so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come. If you’re planning on going to New Zealand on holiday in 2012, between the North and South Islands there is enough to see and do to last a lifetime.

Cape Reinga

As far north as you can get on New Zealand’s North Island is the mystical and spiritual area known as Cape Reinga. Steeped in legend and Maori mythology, the name Reinga means Place of Leaping. It refers to the belief that departed spirits begin their journey to the next world by leaping from an ancient, sacred Pohutukawa tree into the Cape.

The famous lighthouse overlooks the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet; creating some dramatic water effects as the two bodies of water join forces. From the car park near the lighthouse, the more energetic or adventurous can walk or drive to further explore nearby areas.

Ninety Mile Beach runs the length of the north-western side of the island from Cape Reinga. The beaches are drivable, but beware hazards and beach goers (!) and take heed of the warning signs.  Remember to take postcards with you, as there’s a special post box at Cape Reinga where all mail is stamped with the unique NZ Cape Reigna stamp.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is located in the centre of the North Island. Tongariro National Park was the first in New Zealand and forms one of the three World Heritage sites (the others are Te Wahipounamu and the sub-Antarctic Islands) and featured as the Gates of Mordor in the film Lord of the Rings.

There are three active volcanoes at the heart of the Tongariro National Park and for experienced trampers there is a 19 km track, The Tongariro Alpine Crossing that takes hikers across lava flows and emerald lakes. Two huts situated along the track allow hikers to break the journey over two days.  For the less intrepid explorer, there are shorter walks or cycle tracks and trails, taking in such scenes as the Waitonga Falls, which at 39 meters are the highest falls in Tongariro.

Bird Lovers Love Ulva Island

For bird lovers, there’s no better destination than Ulva Island, a tiny island sanctuary in Paterson Inlet off Stewart Island on New Zealand’s south coast. The island, which packs 4.5 km of walking tracks into just 226 hectares, is reached by water taxi from Stewart Island.  The Ulva Island Charitable trust raises funds for conservation projects concerning birds and plants and maintains the visitor’s walking tracks as well as keeping the island free from the pests and predators that endanger birds, such as the Kiwi, elsewhere in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s highest mountains, Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman, tower over the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers that are at the heart of World Heritage Area of Te Wahipounamu.

Many landscapes across the world bear evidence of glaciers past, but New Zealand’s glaciers still cut valleys through the living earth. Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers flow at rates that are ten times faster than most, with the natural steps in the valley floor causing the ice to break and reform. The dramatic resulting crevasses can be viewed from strategic points along short valley walks.  Both Franz Joseph and Fox have organised guided walks along the many tracks and trails through and over the glaciers. Other activities and sights in the area include the famous mirror views of Lake Matheson, horse riding and helicopter flights.

Fiordland In The South West

Southwest on the South Island of New Zealand is Fiordland, a mostly inaccessible-by-road area covering around 1.2 million hectares. It’s one of New Zealand’s premier holiday destinations, prized for its outdoor adventure activities such as kayaking, diving, hiking and camping.  The heart of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area, Fiordland’s snow-capped mountains and deep, calm lakes vie for attention with vast forests and open grasslands. The isolation of the area provides an ideal habitat for endangered or rare species, including the yellowhead bird.  A network of campsites, huts and other accommodation exists in the wilderness, but visitors planning overnight treks, whether here or anywhere else in New Zealand’s large open spaces, are advised to make sure they’re properly equipped – you’re in a natural, unspoilt wilderness and nature is in charge!