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From north to south, New Zealand is packed with plenty to do and see. Going beyond Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, these 10 lesser known destinations around New Zealand prove to be packed with handfuls of activities.
So whether you’re a foodie, an explorer, an adrenaline seeker or all of the above, get ready to experience this Tasman beauty like you’ve never before with our travel guide to the 10 best lesser known New Zealand destinations you must visit in 2021 – or whenever you’re comfortable to travel!
Photographed by Alistair Guthrie. Image supplied via Tourism New Zealand.
Sitting on the North Island’s most north-eastern point, Russell in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is easily described as a charming coastal town. With plenty to see and do, Russell is commonly known for its wineries, waterfront restaurants, bustling bars and 19th century historical buildings that are still standing strong. Great for fishing enthusiasts, Russell is the perfect New Zealand destination for the whole family. Sip your way through the wineries, explore the natural habitat in a nearby rainforest or, for something more action-packed, head off on a fishing charter and score the catch of the day.
Photographed by Paul Abbitt. Image supplied via Tourism New Zealand.
From catching waves to sipping on the best coffee around, Raglan has all of this and more. Found just a two-hour drive from Auckland, Raglan is titled as New Zealand’s surfing mecca thanks to its pristine coastal location on New Zealand’s west coast. Beaches feature a distinct black sand and, for wave rider enthusiasts, you’ll be paddling to learn that you can catch a wave and cruise for up to two kilometres. Beyond the beach, Raglan is perfect for any outdoor adrenaline junkie with waterfalls, gorges, hiking tracks, rock climbing opportunities and ideal kayaking and paddleboarding conditions.
Photographed by Hot Pixels Photography. Image via Shutterstock.
With turquoise-coloured waters, sand reminiscent of gold and glistening weather year-round, Kaiteriteri in the northern part of South Island is a must-visit destination for any beach and outdoors lover. Despite this coastal town coming to life in summer, in the cooler months there is still plenty to do both on the land and on the water. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Kaiteriteri, we’d recommend a guided paddling tour to Split Apple Rock. As for a place to sink into at night, luxury boutique bed and breakfast, Bellbird Lodge, will be the perfect place to unwind in after a full day of exploring the region.
Image supplied by Tourism New Zealand.
Home to one of New Zealand’s best accommodations on South Island in 2021, Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat; Glenorchy is equally as magical with mountain ranges, glacier-topped peaks and flowing rivers. A unique destination in itself, Glenorchy is home to handfuls of things to do – from peaceful and equally relaxing bewildering experiences to the more exhilarating, adrenaline-seeking opportunities. Featured within The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and Narnia, Glenorchy’s hinterland is bewitching for first-time and revisiting travelers alike.
Photographed by Strike Photography. Image supplied via Tourism New Zealand.
Stretching out over 11 kilometres, Ōhope Beach takes the title as one of New Zealand’s favourite Bay of Plenty towns. Perfect for explorers, foodies and those who just love to unwind, Ōhope serves up something for everyone. After checking into your self-contained room at Ōhiwa Seascape Studios, head on over to hidden jewel Ōtarawairere Beach for a swim and picnic on the sand before being tantalised by the three-dimensional-like David Poole Art Studio. Next, replenish your tastebuds at Cadera before a swing at the Ōhope International Golf Club.
Photographed by Piotr Gatlik. Image via Shutterstock.
Nestled between the rigid mountain ranges and sitting amongst Lake Hawea and Lake Benmore is a unique geological township, Omarama. Meaning the place of light, Omarama is just that. The ideal pitstop if you’re travelling from Christchurch or Ohau, Omarama is the perfect destination for those who love to sit back and unwind. Think of it as country town with a mix of coastal charm, Omarama wants you to be tantalised by its breathtaking landscape. Start your visit to Omarama by checking into Lake Ohau Lodge before soaking into an outdoor bath with Hot Tubs Omarama.
Photographed by Camilla Rutherford. Image supplied via Tourism New Zealand.
Welcome to Whakapapa – New Zealand’s largest ski area. Just a four-and-a-half hour drive south of Auckland, Whakapapa is renowned for its hiking trails in summer and some of the best skiing and snowboarding conditions in winter. Home to New Zealand’s highest cafe on Knoll Ridge in which you need to ride a gondola to reach, there is still plenty to do in Whakapapa for those who are looking for a bit more speed. If you’re looking to soar above the skies, take the Sky Waka gondola above UNESCO world-heritage-listed mountain area or, stick to the ground on a self-guided hike along the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
Photographed by SkyImages. Image via Shutterstock.
Sitting north of New Zealand’s South Island and overlooking Golden Bay, Tākaka encapsulates an alternative lifestyle. Full of character, Tākaka embraces its distinct surroundings with its plethora of museums, theatres, shops and cafes. Home to the Te Waikoropupū Springs, the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, Tākaka is easily described as an art trail where at every corner and turn, visitors will be embraced by the region’s creativity. If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Tākaka, we’d recommend the Awaroa Lodge that is located in the Abel Tasman National Park. Secluded, simplistic and seriously full of character, any trip to Tākaka is worthwhile.
Photographed by Fraser Clements. Image supplied via Tourism New Zealand.
Breathtaking and adventure-packed, Punakaiki is just as enchanting as it sounds. Its coastline is packed with blowholes and overall it’s the ideal destination for those who love to take the beaten path. To embrace all that this region has to offer, we’d recommend Active Adventures’ 5-Day West Coast Adventure Gecko. Here guests will be able to explore some of the most beautiful, famous and lesser known places on the West Coast of the South Island. Starting from Punakaiki, guests will be taken to Wanaka and will even be able to enjoy a scenic flight to Milford Sound. A highlight of any Punakaiki trip.
Photographed by Miles Holden. Image supplied via
Tourism New Zealand.
Found just an hour’s drive north of Wellington, Wairarapa is a charismatic region that highlights the best of any countryside. One of New Zealand’s most prestigious food and wine regions, Wairarapa is packed with plenty to see and do as well as handfuls of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. If you’re stuck on things to do in Wairarapa, start by checking into The Summit Lodge before heading out on a wine tour to Poppies Martinborough and Palliser Estate Winery. For a spot to eat, Moy Hall Vineyard should be your go-to for some seriously amazing food and service. Meanwhile, to keep you busy, take a coastal walk or stop by Kahikatea Gardens to get up-close-and-personal with native flora and fauna.
Looking to explore more of New Zealand under Australia’s travel bubble? Be sure to add 2021’s Top 10 Must-Visit Destinations in New Zealand to your bucketlist. If you can’t travel right now, don’t stress as Australia and New Zealand have united with this free downloadable recipe book, Taste Buds.
Recently we asked our members on the trans-Tasman travel bubble, here’s what Aussies had to say!