New Zealand’s Charm Lies Off the Beaten Path

Hello, everyone! I just returned from my third trip to New Zealand. I was lucky enough to travel for 3 weeks throughout the country with my parents. And while I know that places like Queenstown, Rotorua, and Auckland are the headliners in New Zealand, some of the smaller, off-the-beaten-path places are oozing with Kiwi charm. With New Zealand growing more popular by the day, I highly recommend checking out some of these less touristed areas.

Bay of Islands

We loved our stay in the Bay of Islands! Our hosted stay at the Sanctuary was one of our favorites, with beautiful views over the bay and the quaint seaport town of Russell. Our hosts at the Sanctuary, Glynnis and Yogi, were so friendly, not to mention amazing cooks! And for a bonus, I got to dive at Poor Knights Island, one of the top 10 dive sites in the world.

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - The Sanctuary at Bay of Islands
The Sanctuary at Bay of Islands

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Poor Knights Island Scuba Diving
Poor Knight’s Island, one of the top 10 dive sites in the world

Hawke’s Bay

New Zealand is generally known for its sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. However, Hawke’s Bay is helping the country put their syrah and chardonnay on the international radar. We had a wonderful stay at Millar Road, a quiet villa located on a vineyard outside of town. We had beautiful views of a persimmon orchard, the vines, and the bay.

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Hawke's Bay Wine, Mission Estate
Yum! Lunch at Mission Estate in Hawke’s Bay

Nelson and Abel Tasman

Nelson sits at the top of the South Island, and it is the launching point for 2 national parks: Abel Tasman and Kahaurangi. Abel Tasman is not accessible by road—you must either hike, kayak, or boat into the park. One highlight of our trip was chartering a boat in the park with Abel Tasman Charters. The water was like glass and the scenery was so beautiful! We saw blue penguins and our guide took the tinder out to see baby seals.

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Abel Tasman National Park
Enjoying the view on our cruise through Abel Tasman

Oamaru and Dunedin

Oamaru and Dunedin are both Scottish-influenced towns on the East Coast of the South Island. Both have Little Blue Penguins, and in Oamaru you can view them waddling across the beach each night (around 200 in peak season!). I loved the charm of these 2 places and we had a wonderful hosted stay at Pen-Y-Bryn, a restored homestead in Oamaru.

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Dunedin Railway Station
The Scottish-influenced Dunedin Railway Station

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Dunedin Harbour Cruise with Wine
Dunedin harbour cruise

Te Anau

If you are going to visit Fiordland National Park, I highly recommend staying in Te Anau. It is a much smaller and less crowded town than Queenstown, but still has the stunning alpine and lake views. Queenstown is a more popular gateway to Fiordland, but a day trip from there to Milford Sound will involve a drive of 3-5 hours each way, compared to 2 hours from Te Anau—so departing from Te Anau makes for a much shorter and more pleasant day. We stayed at Fiordland Lodge and enjoyed gorgeous views over Lake Te Anau.

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Lake Te Anau, the View from Fiordland Lodge
The view from Fiordland Lodge

New Zealand Trips - Best Places to Go - Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
Doubtful Sound—just 20 minutes from Te Anau!


I would love to chat to you more about some of the beautiful places to visit in New Zealand! This was my third trip to the country, so I’ve seen just about everything, and I would love to help you plan a dream trip to this charming, gorgeous country. Cheers!