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New Zealand natural wonders: 5 of the most awe-inspiring sights

Glaciers, mountains and steaming natural springs; the stunning landscape of New Zealand should only exist in fairy tales. In no way an exhaustive list, here are our top 5 New Zealand natural wonders:

#1. Champagne Pools at Wai-o-Tapu, Rotorua

Named one of the “20 surreal places you need to see to believe” by Trip Advisor, the 700-year-old sulphuric Champagne Pools are a feast for the senses. Over 200 feet in diameter and depth, they make up the largest springs in the area. These “Champagne” Pools are only light and bubbly by name – not by nature. The striking orange colours of the geothermal spring are actually caused by trace amounts of arsenic and antimony. Arrive early to watch the Knox Geyser which erupts at 10.15 every day.

Champagne Pools at Wai-o-Tapu, Rotorua - New Zealand natural wonders

What causes the reaction?

The Champagne Pools lie over an explosion vent and the bubbles are carbon dioxide which causes the reaction. The distinctive orange colour around the edge is caused by the mineral precipitation and micro-organisms.

How do I get there?

Wai-O-Tapu is a 20 minutes’ drive south of Rotorua, or 40 minutes’ drive north of Taupo on State Highway 5.

Energise by the geothermal pools of Rotorua on our South Pacific & the Land Down Under cruise.


#2. Tāne Mahuta, Waipoua Forest

Tāne Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’) is New Zealand’s largest known living tree. A truly overwhelming sight, many tourists have been reduced to tears in its presence. According to Maori mythology, all living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tāne’s children. Today, Kauri trees have been depleted by logging and those that remain are threatened by dieback disease. To prevent infection, shoes must be hosed before entering the rainforest.

Tāne Mahuta - New Zealand natural wonders

How big is Tāne Mahuta?

Tree girth: 15.44m

Trunk height: 17.8 m

Tree height: 45.2m

Trunk volume: 255.5 m³

How do I get there?

The Tāne Mahuta Walk is signposted from SH12, which runs through the Waipoua Forest. The southern town of Dargaville is 40 miles away, whilst Omapere is 11 miles to the north.


#3. Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin

A captivating sight for geologists and tourists, these mammoth spherical “stones” started forming in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago. Incredibly, the largest boulders are estimated to have taken about 4 million years to get to their current size. According to Maori legend, the boulders are remains of calabashes, kumaras and eel baskets, washed ashore after the Araiteuru canoe was wrecked at Shag Point (Matakaea).

The Moeraki boulders- New Zealand natural wonders

How do I get there?

The boulders can be found on Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast (between the towns of Moeraki and Hampden). Take a scenic drive on State Highway 1 from the north or south to find them.

Marvel at this mythic phenomenon as part of Australia and New Zealand cruise.


#4. Waitomo Glowworms, Waitomo

These limestone caves were formed more than 30 million years ago and are home to thousands of Arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm unique to New Zealand. Spellbinding and unique, this boat ride is a trip to another galaxy.

Glowworms in Waitomo caves - New Zealand natural wonders

Why do they glow?

The glowworm’s tail is bioluminescent and the chemicals it secretes react with the air to create light. Their prey is attracted to this and is caught in the glowworm’s sticky thread. Arachnocampa luminosa means spiderlike, light producing larva.

How do I get there?

Waitomo is within easy reach of the North Island of New Zealand’s main centres. Hamilton is the nearest major city and is a 1-hour drive away.


#5. Milford Sound, Fiordland

With towering mountain peaks, jet-black waters and carpet-covered forests, Milford Sound is a bounty of natural wonders. One of the most beautiful places on earth, it’s a must-see for any visitor to New Zealand. Interestingly, it’s actually a fiord (as opposed to a sound). Sounds are formed when a river valley is flooded with the sea; Milford Sound was carved out by an erosion of ancient glacial ice. However, the Maori have their own theory. Legend has it that the fiords were carved by a ‘titanic mason’, Tute Rakiwhanoa, using his sharp-edged adze.

Milford Sound panorama of mountains and lake - New Zealand natural wonders

How do I get there?

Situated on the west coast of the South Island, locals will tell you that the journey to Milford Sound is just as important as the destination itself. They’re right. It’s a beautifully scenic drive by car and you can also take scheduled coach trips from Queenstown and Te Anau. Alternatively, if you have a head for heights, helicopter and plane flights are also available.

Cruise the Milford Sound on our Islands of the South Pacific cruise.

These are our favourites but there is so much more. Revisit your top experiences from New Zealand in the comments below.

3 comments on “New Zealand natural wonders: 5 of the most awe-inspiring sights

  1. Carole Deaville on

    We are booked to go on the Australia and New Zealand cruise in January 2019 and was really looking forward to exploring the ports that we stop at.Today was our day to book our tours and found that the ones we wanted to do were already full! Even though only a third of the ship had the option to book earlier then us most of the trips were gone. We stayed up till midnight to book and was blocked from booking and was told this morning that they open the books at US time not UK.COULD VIKING PLEASE PUT ON EXTRA CAPACITY, it seems ridiculous that we travel halfway round the world and are unable to visit the places that they advertise.


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