Picture striking beaches and sprawling fantasy landscapes – a place of dense forest, rolling plains, and mountains and lakes to rival the Rockies. Cruises to New Zealand open up a wide variety of landscapes and natural wonders to explore. Spend some time ashore on these unique islands, and you’ll have the chance to see wildlife found nowhere else in the world – like the flightless kiwi bird, the diminutive Hector’s dolphin, and caves filled with glow worms, lit with an eerie glow.
New Zealand’s native Maori people share the islands with European towns built during the colonial era, giving the nation a mixed and fascinating cultural history for visitors to discover. But perhaps New Zealand’s finest attraction is its breathtaking landscape – and with just over four million inhabitants spread across a country larger than the UK, you won’t need to travel far to find yourself deep in beautiful, secluded countryside. Make the most of your time in New Zealand with a look over some of the islands’ most incredible natural beauty:
Bay of Islands
Lying on New Zealand’s northern tip is the Bay of Islands, a remarkable range of hundreds of sandy beaches and forested isles, which are more reminiscent of the Australian coast than much of the rest of New Zealand. This is the country’s most popular holiday destination, and it’s easy to see why: whether you’re looking for scenic hikes over the hills and along the coast, or quicker-paced adventures on a fast-boat tour or a dune rider, there’s a range of activities in this region to suit everyone.
Aoraki National Park
If you like your sightseeing slightly more vertical, be sure to take a trip to the dramatic, snow-capped peaks of Aoraki National Park. Hike up stony trails, surrounded by seemingly endless mountain ranges; or relax in the tall grass of peaceful meadows straight out of the movies, with not a soul around for miles. Almost half of the national park is glacial, and the vast majority of the nation’s highest mountains can be found within its boundaries – making this an incredible place to see some of the finest, most rugged natural beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
Hawke’s Bay offers a completely different landscape again, and the gentle slopes and vast vineyards here are bound to make an interesting prospect for wine lovers on cruises to New Zealand. Along with the chance to try the local wine, Hawke’s Bay also makes an incredible place to explore. You’ll find gentle coastland here, not unlike that of Cornwall or Dover; combined with endless meadows and dusky tree-lined fields, highly reminiscent of the South of France.
Home to the Fiordland National Park and glaciers, Milford Sound on the South Island offers some of the most jaw-dropping scenery that you’re likely to find anywhere in New Zealand. Imagine jagged mountain peaks that seem to rise straight up out of the water – and then double it. Picture yourself taking a canoe out into the sound, where the vast, placid water reflects the peaks all around you like a mirror. Short of the most stunning of the Norwegian fjords, you’re unlikely to find a place like Milford Sound anywhere else on Earth.
West of Wellington across the Cook Strait lies Picton, a scenic port town surrounded by green hills, palm trees and pristine lawns – and combined with the sunny skies and the turquoise waters of the harbour, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were somewhere in the Caribbean. The town itself is surrounded by dark green mountains, and mixes colonial charm and stately architecture with a wealth of nautical heritage.
Cruises to New Zealand can give you the chance to combine a sightseeing tour of the nation’s natural beauty with an opportunity to see the islands’ unique wildlife. Visit Akaroa and your shore excursion may allow you to swim with the tiny, endangered Hector’s dolphins in the bay, which are found solely in the waters around New Zealand. Aside from its aquatic wildlife, the small town of Akaroa is an attraction in itself – and sees a huge number of visitors each year, who come to the area to find out more about the native Maori culture. Even if you’re happy to sail through Akaroa rather than venture ashore, the scenery here will keep you glued to the top deck – especially when the sun sets over this vast, wild coast.
Much of New Zealand’s natural beauty can be seen in its wealth of varied landscapes – but it also hides some of its appeal below the ground. Those looking for an unforgettable sightseeing experience on their next New Zealand cruise can’t afford to miss the Waitomo Caves – where countless glow worms turn the subterranean labyrinth into otherworldly constellations with an eerie green glow. This hugely popular attraction gives you the opportunity to take a guided boat tour of the black waters down in the caves – and a chance to see one of the most remarkable natural light shows on the planet.