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Landscapes to Make-You-Go-Oooo

Untouched for millennia and only recently molested by Western hands, New Zealand occupies a unique and almost spiritual place in the world, attracting visitors with its brutal beauty and awe-inspiring landscapes. Bruised by volcanoes and scarred by glaciers, its dazzling array of promontories has achieved iconic status. Whether its daunting mountains or placid lakes you are seeking, New Zealand will no disappoint.

No matter what kind of terrain tends to take your breath away you will find it somewhere here in New Zealand. In the mix are dramatically sculptured cliffs and coastal rock formations, lakes in almost impossible colours from startling blue to inky black, snow-encrusted mountain peaks, stark volcanic landscapes, lush rainforest, glow-worm lit underground wonderlands, majestic glaciers and much more. What makes all of this even more attractive is the fact that so much of it is super-accessible and also close together which means you can have an awful lot of oooooh-look-at-that moments in any one day. Get ready to have your heart-wrenched over and again by the wonder and majesty of it all and expect to fall impossibly in love. Everyone does.

Curio Bay Petrified Forest – The Catlins, South Island

180 million years old is a concept fairly difficult to wrap your head around but so too is accepting that what you are looking at as you wander this coastal platform at low tide is actually stone and not wood. The older-than-the-mountains forest is so full of fine detail you can see tree stumps, wood grain, knots and even trace out whole trees complete with branches. Ferns and other fossilised plants can also be found if you are lucky and there is a viewing platform at the cliff top for a bird's eye view.

Hang around until dusk and your experience here will be enhanced by watching the super rare yellow-eyed penguins hop ashore and waddle their way over the forest to their nests in the bushes.


Milford Sound – South Island

An often repeated fact regarding Milford Sound is that Rudyard Kipling dubbed it the eighth wonder of the world and anyone who has been here tends to find themselves in instant accord with Mr Kipling. Towering over these breathtaking scenes is the mighty Mitre Peak and all your eye can take in is majestic and dramatic. On arrival it is easy to see why it remains - despite its somewhat out of the way position - one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.

The normal way to do things is hop onboard one of the day cruises and get onto the sound where you're likely to get a crick in the neck from gazing ever upwards at impossibly towering cliffs and mountains leaning in at you from every side. There are two permanent waterfalls but visit the sounds just after a downpour and watch thousands more spring into life.


Lake Tekapo – Lupins and Late Night Skies – South Island

Arrive here at certain seasons and you will be greeted with scenes of nature so perfect you could be forgiven for believing they are part of a movie set. The backdrop is formed by mauve-tinged snow-capped mountains while the rest is made up of vivid and shifting blues of the sparkling lake, a tree-fringed shoreline and seas of lilac and violet-coloured lupins which ripple in the breeze. The whole makes up a scene so impossibly idyllic it is hard to believe it is quite for real no matter how much you gaze.

However, Lake Tekapo is a little greedy on the wow factor front because it has also bagged itself a 'Dark Sky Reserve' status – one of just a handful in the world with a gold ranking and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. Once the sun sets expect to be bedazzled by a sparkling canopy of stars far more numerous even than the endless swathes of lupins below.


The Moeraki Boulders – Koekohe Beach, Otago, South Island

We grant you that rocks in general aren't necessarily oooo inducing but how about totally spherical giant boulders strewn across a beach? Ranging from small up to 2.2 metres in diameter this natural phenomenon comes complete with Maori legend which explains them as the debris from a wrecked sailing canoe.

 

Matai Bay - Kerikeri Peninsula, North Island

New Zealand is not short of beach landscapes guaranteed to take your breath away but for the perfectly idyllic check out the double crescented golden sands of Matai Bay. It helps that you can take in the whole with an elevated view from the Department of Conservation camp-site here. This also makes it possible to pitch your tent or park your van and wake to supreme views of dream-like beach lapped by crystal clear aquamarine waters, typically as serene as a pond.


 

Volcanic Landscapes – White Island, Bay of Plenty, North Island or Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, North Island

Boat tours to White Island allow you to step ashore an active volcanic island complete with a totally alien landscape of billowing steam, boiling rivers and mud-pools, roaring jets and weirdly creeping crystal rock formations of a vibrant yellow. Nestled within is a stunning turquoise crater lake and the spookily atmospheric ruins of a sulphur mining factory.

Should your budget not stretch to the price of this tour however or you prefer a hike, you can take in another volcanic lunar-scape with the 12 mile Tongariro Crossing. Your route weaves in and out and over craters while also skirting Mount Doom from LOTR (otherwise known as Mount Ngauruhoe). Panoramas are of the

spectacular variety and you also to get feast your eyes on a stunning turquoise crater lake en route.

 

Waitomo Caves – Waitomo, North Island

New Zealand's breathtaking landscapes are not just confined to the over-ground type as the Waitomo Caves complex testifies. This vast subterranean network qualifies as awesome on any scale with mighty caverns and underground rivers so wide they can be toured by boat and a host of bucket-list type rappelling entries available too.

However it is something added which gives these caves their true wow factor and that comes thanks to the glow worms which call them home. In places they come by their hundreds, creating an appearance of a sky twinkling with stars. In other places these creatures are so densely packed they emanate an other-wordly bluey green glow in the darkness. Prepare to be enchanted.

 

The Haast Pass Scenic Drive – West Coast, South Island

If you would prefer a series of scenes to make you go oooooh rather than one fixed panorama of breathtaking beauty make the drive from Wanaka to the west coast. Thrown into the journey will be wildly rushing rivers, tumbling waterfalls and lakes representing blues ranging from icy turquoise to sapphire and an ever-changing backdrop of natural wonder as good as it gets. There are plenty of added extras too requiring no more effort than a short walk from the highway edge which include the Blue Pools, Fantail Falls, Thunder Creek Falls and Roaring Billy.

 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – Near Rotorua, North Island

Rotorua and its surrounds serve up a whole host of wonderful geothermal landscape gems but the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is recognised as one of the most extensive. A daily show comes courtesy of the Lady Knox geyser and the whole comes complete with vividly coloured mineral pools, multi-hued rock terraces and the largest boiling mud pools found anywhere in the country.

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