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New Zealand  road trip

The 15 most breathtaking places in 3 weeks

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when talking of New Zealand is the All Blacks, the highly acclaimed national rugby team-largely due to the players’ finely chiseled bodies. However, there is even more natural beauty beheld by this tiny island nation. So, here we go with this new adventure: New Zealand road-trip!
With a population of just 4.5 million, this country is also renowned for its picturesque terrain and rich Maori heritage sites such as the Cathedral Cove, the city of Auckland, and Rotorua are some of the best places to include in your 3 weeks New Zealand road-trip. Each of these locations has been crafted with surreal natural beauty making them a must-visit for your next trip to this paradise.
During my 3 weeks New Zealand road trip in a van, I collect the 15 more breathtaking places and here they are, all for you!

What can you expect from this New Zealand trip itinerary?

A vast aquatic ecosystem, snow-covered peaks, fjords, and coastal glaciers are some of the natural wonders packed into this minute region. What’s more, this is the largest geothermal territory known to man, thus, it is the most ideal place to witness firsthand the bubbling mud as well as hissing springs that hold testament to Mother Nature’s mighty force.
Fitness freaks and adrenaline junkies will also appreciate the country’s dramatic landscape which offers the perfect surface for extreme sports. From mountain biking to jet boating, skydiving, and water rafting, New Zealand has it all. It is home to some of the biggest bungee jumping sites in the globe and well suited for natural adventures.
Expect New Zealand to expose you to a vastly diverse geographical terrain and stunningly gorgeous sites. Its pristine coastlines and rocky terrains go a long way in making this the ideal getaway location. Nature, camping and van addicts this is your place!

How safe is New Zealand for a female traveler?

First things first, what is the security situation like in New Zealand? Over the years, this country has managed to build a reputation as a peaceful region inhabited by easy-going communities. Not to say that crime is non-existent in New Zealand, but it is less intense here than it is in other states. True to this fact, the country was ranked the second safest worldwide as per the Global Peace Index. In fact, it poses a low travelers risk for women as compared to most of the main European nations, USA and Canada. Nonetheless, one needs to be strategic in order to ensure the utmost safety while canvassing this island nation. Tremendous changes in the region’s societal make-up have led to more volatile communal spaces. Cases of physical violence and other crimes have been on the rise recently especially major urban areas such as Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland.

Some safety tips…
  • Avoid noisy bars and any other aggressive crowds with access to drugs or alcohol. Violent crimes have been on the rise in the recent past especially among youthful travelers in the outskirts.
  • Do not take walks very late at night. As such, it is recommended that visitors try their best to remain indoors during the late hours of the night. If you have to move about, make sure you are in a group of trustworthy persons, preferably people whom you have interacted with on previous occasions.
  • Most importantly, exude confidence at all times. It is a well-known fact that muggers are always on the look-out for easy targets and that female tourist is at the top of the “food chain”. As such, it is paramount that you carry yourself with confidence in all that you do. Maintain eye contact, let your shoulders fall back, and stand tall.

New Zealand road-trip in 3 weeks

With that in mind, below is a list of the most breathtaking places to visit I collect during my New Zealand road trip.

The list is ordered from North to the south for the most awesome 3-week (approx.) van journey!

Cape Reinga

Legend has it that this is the gateway through which sprits access Hawaiki, the Maori ancestral fatherland. It is the northernmost part of the North Island and as such, provides visitors with breathtaking views of the region’s greenery as well as coastlines.

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Cape Reinga | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Russell (Bay of Islands)

There is no sight more breathtaking than the starry evening skies of Russell’s cloudless covers. Imagine sitting by the beach as you feast your eyes on master constellations that reflect on the crystal blue waters while bottleneck dolphins click away. This is the pristine evening environment that Russell has to offer. It is home to the oldest European settlement in the country and still has ancient buildings that date back to 1843. Moreover, it is the gateway to a beautiful enclave with over 140 subtropical islands to its name.

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Russel | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Karangahake Gorge

A visit to the Karangahake Gorge is mandatory as you get to take in the picturesque vies of the Owharoa Falls. Not only is the sight one to behold, but the turquoise blue waters are perfect for swimming. You and the girls could enjoy a couple of free dives in your best bikinis as you enjoy the fabulous sceneries.

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Karagahake Gorge | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is arguably the most breathtaking place I’ve visit during my New Zealand road trip. There is freshwater gently flowing down the side of the cliffs while waves stroke their lower edges in steady motions. It’s the perfect place to take a swim and rinse off at the bottom of the cliff. However, it tends to get overcrowded during the day so you best make this the first activity on your itinerary.

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Cathedral Cove | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Tongariro National Park

This national park is the most advanced in years within New Zealand. Most notably, it houses a total of 3 different volcanoes including Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Tongariro. The third volcano, Mt. Ngauruhoe, is more reputable among fanatics of The Lord of Rings. Parts of the film were shot in this mount also commonly termed as the Mount of Doom.

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Mt. Ngauruhoe | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Auckland

With plenty of retail outlets and art galleries, this metropolitan city is the best place to shop until you drop while on your vacation. However, its prime feature lies in the area’s rich blend of a natural and urban lifestyle. With a heavy population of students given that prime learning institutions such as the Auckland University of Technology and Massey University-based here, the city is renowned for its numerous music concerts and cultural exhibitions. Better yet, thrill-seekers will appreciate the availability of sporting activities in this urban space. The mountain biking tracks, vast pristine beaches, and green bushes are perfect for adventure lovers. More notably, the famous Auckland Sky Tower is the highest free-standing building in New Zealand and a worthy challenge for thrill-seeking bungee jumpers.

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Auckland | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Eden Park

For sports lovers, watching the All Blacks perform the famed Maori war dance, Haka, is an experience you will live to remember. This makes Eden Park, home ground to the All Blacks as well as the Auckland Blues, a must-visit while holidaying in New Zealand. Make sure to head down to this highly acclaimed stadium on any of the scheduled test matches and witness some of the most vigorous and enchanting displays of the Haka. However, tag along a couple of natives who will educate you on spectating etiquette. As you might know, Kiwis are big on rugby and have strict traditions governing their enjoyment of the sport.

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All-Blacks | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Piha Beach, West coast

Its rugged outlook and black sands are some of Piha Beach’s most prevalent attractions. The pristine landscape is a favorite among landscape photographers from across the globe with spots such as The Lion Rock some of the best for taking photos. This is a volcanic monolith that features a plethora of distinct Maori carvings and is used as a war memorial. If you are visiting Auckland and would like to New Zealand’s coastline without delving far out of the urban space, then Piha Beach is the place to be!

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Piha-beach | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Pouakai Crossing

One of the best things to do in New Zealand is going on a day-long hike along the Pouakai Crossing, during which you will encounter the Pouakai Tarns. The scenes are amazingly gorgeous especially during calm, sunny days when one can easily view Mount Egmont’s reflection in the blue waters. The sunsets are also to die for! What’s more, as a natural playground, Taranaki is renowned for its rugged landscape which is ideal for surfing, snowboarding, and mountaineering action.

 

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Taranaki | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Castlepoint

This is the first and only town on this list. It is located to the north of Wellington, along the wide Wairarapa Coast. Just as its name suggests, Castlepoint is home to the highest lighthouse in the whole country. It stands at 75 feet and offers dramatic views of the coastline. If you are lucky enough, at this height, you also get to witness some of the rarest bird species flying around.

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Castlepoint | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Ending with the north island…let’s get started with the impressive south island cool

Marlborough

A visit to New Zealand without a wine-tasting detour is incomplete. Inter-island expeditions are quite popular in the country especially those between Marlborough and Wellington-the capital city. The former is renowned for its viticulture and especially Sauvignon Blanc cultivation. As such, the stretch of colorful plantations along the southernmost parts of the island makes for breathtaking scenery. Exotic wine and beautiful landscapes…what more would you ask for!

 

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Malborough | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Hokitika Gorge

Situated just 20 miles West of Hokitika town, this gorge is well known for its dense forest cover and turquoise waters. Better yet, the Hokitika Gorge is home to one of the highest swing bridges on this side of the world. It offers immense photo opportunities and great views of the West Coast terrain. Ideally, that 30-kilometer trek to the Hokitika Gorge is worth it if not for anything else other than this photo opp.

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Malborough | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Lake Tekapo

Filled with crystal glacial waters, the mass of water makes for breathtaking scenery. Its dazzling waters are sparkly during the day and turn into a stargazing wonder when it is dark. It is because of this that the lake is considered to be an integral player in South Island’s International Dark Sky Reserve. To sugar, this pill, the pink and purple lupines that come out during spring add to Lake Tekapo’s natural appeal.

 

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Lake Tekapo | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Roys Peak

It will take you in excess of 6 hours to hike up and down Roys Peak and period during which your lactic acid levels are guaranteed to heat the roof. It will, however, be worth it given that you ultimately get a pristine aerial view of the Matukituki Valley, Wanaka, Lake Wanaka, and Mount Aspiring. Noteworthy, the weather here is known for its dynamism. Therefore, on appropriate windproof attire and be prepared to experience the sun, snow, rain, and wind altogether.

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Roys Peak | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

Queenstown

It is impossible to create a list of the most breathtaking places to visit in New Zealand without including Queenstown. It presents you with a chance to go up the gondola and enjoy some of the best views of the Southern Alps. The Remarkables, a highly mountainous range in the area,  visible from various vantage points in Queenstown including onboard the electric cart.

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Queenstown | New Zealand’s road-trip | 15 breathtaking places to visit

In sum, New Zealand is home to some of the most geographically diverse and alluring terrains in the world. From the Tongariro National Park volcanoes to the starry skies of Lake Tekapo, it is impossible to understate New Zealand’s natural beauty. With several places to visit and many fun things to do in New Zealand, you have no reason not to visit this island nation next time you are out on holiday.

Let’s keep on traveling!

I hope you’ve learned a lot about this awesome country. Fell free to share with other travelers your favorite spots commenting below. In case you have any doubt about organizing your next journey, do not hesitate to contact me on the e-mail: gabriela@nomadicmindtravel.com

About the author

Hey! I am Gabriela, a full-time traveler & founder of Nomadic Mind Travel. Originally from Spain, but I find home everywhere I travel too. Currently living in Australia and happy to share my travel experiences with you!

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