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.
The Sanctuary at Bay of Islands
Poor Knight’s Island, one of the top 10 dive sites in the world
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.
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.
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.
The Scottish-influenced Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin harbour cruise
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.
The view from Fiordland Lodge
Doubtful Sound—just 20 minutes from Te Anau!