7 Must-Visit Places in New Zealand You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
When planning to visit New Zealand, places like Queenstown and Milford Sound will rank very highly in most tourists’ list of must-visit places. But as beautiful as they are, they can get very busy at times. If you would like to enjoy some of the most scenic places in New Zealand, yet be far away from the crowd, you may want to include these lesser known places in your itinerary:
1. Te Aroha
Te Aroha is a quiet Waikato town about 2 hours south of Auckland City. While the town proper doesn’t offer much by way of scenery (think Mount Cook), it has one of the finest hot spring spas in New Zealand. The private ensuite units at Te Aroha come with a hot tub with natural alkali hot spring water. You really do get a very relaxing soak here. The spring water here is also very good for your skin. If you are not prepared to stay at Te Aroha (they enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets here), at least make a trip here.
2. Lake Ohau
Most tourists would normally visit its northern neighbor, Mount Cook Village. But, Lake Ohau is really special. It is very remote and offers you beautiful mountain and lake views, right from your accommodation. It does not have any shops, so you will need to stock up on groceries from the nearby town of Twizel if you are making your own meals. There are a number of self-catering holiday houses that can host a couple and up to 10 or more people.. For a taste of what it means to be far away from civilization, visit Temple Valley. From Lake Ohau Alpine Village drive along gravel road for another 21Km. Remember to drive slow (no more than 70kmh) when travelling on gravel roads.
3. Maruia Springs
The Maruia Springs Thermal Resort is really quite a cosy little place. The resort takes pride in its ‘natural spring water’- free from chlorine and filtration. The algae in the water is reputedly good for your skin. I have been visiting this place since when the original Japanese owners were running this place. Then, the Japanese bath houses featured segregated bath houses where nude bathing was mandatory. These days, under new owners, that practice has since been discontinued and you will need your swimming togs. They also have outdoor rock pools if you enjoy that. There are also private ensuite pools for those needing more privacy. Maruia Springs has no cell phone coverage; and Internet, while available, is very expensive. Good if you want some digital detox. If you want some peace and quiet, away from the hive of activities you find at the gargantuan Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools complex, this is the place. It is just 2.5 hours from Christchurch, along State Highway 7.
4. Braemar Station
Braemar Station is a sheep and cattle farm located by the edge of Lake Pukaki, the lake fronting the Mount Cook National Park. There are a few self-catering houses here available for holiday makers. Braemar Station offers unparalleled views of Mount Cook, the surrounding mountains and Lake Pukaki. My favourite place in New Zealand.
Check out Station Cottage at Braemar Station: https://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/properties/63348.asp
Rauri-who? You probably have not heard much about this place. But I stayed at a holiday house located here and it offers a fantastic view of the Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro Mountains. It is just 15 minutes from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre. Its unobstructed views of the mountains of North Island’s central plateau and its close proximity to the Whakapapa skifields, make this the perfect place to stay.
Check out this accommodation at Raurimu: https://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/properties/26560.asp
6. Lake Tarawera
Tourists might not always have time to include Lake Tarawera in their itinerary, as most people would rather stay in a more central area in Rotorua. But giving yourself an extra day or two and venturing to stay at one of the holiday houses at Lake Tarawera is very rewarding. We stayed at the Tree Hut. Built around trees (there is a tree trunk rising from the ground floor right through the top floor), you are rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Tarawera. At Lake Tarawera, you can even go boating on your own by renting one of Clearwater Cruises’ pontoons to go around the lake. No license required! Take the pontoon across Lake Tarawera to a hot water beach and soak in a natural hotspring by the lake. How awesome is that?
Check out the Tree Hut at Lake Tarawera: https://www.bookabach.co.nz/baches-and-holiday-homes/view/7324
Opua, a town in the Bay of Islands, is a very good place to stay if you are visiting some of the most interesting places in Northland. Located in the bay of plenty, Opua is just a short ferry ride across from picturesque Russell. Opua itself sits on the edge of waters and is a very beautiful and peaceful place. A short drive away, is the important historical site of Waitangi Treaty Grounds. About 1.5hrs away, is the largest Kauri Tree in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta. It is estimated to be about 2000 years old, not to be missed! You can also catch one of the 90 mile beach tours from Kaitaia, about 1.5 hours way from Paihia. These tours will take you to the northern-most tip of New Zealand, the captivating Cape Reinga, to Te Paki’s sand dune where you can go sand tobogganing and a ride on 90 mile beach itself. There are also many affordable holiday houses here for you to choose from.
So, if you want to go a little off the beaten path in your visit to New Zealand, why not give these places a try? I am certain you will be blown away by their beauty!