Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Full of the world’s most stunning scenery, New Zealand boasts an array of natural wonders that are worthy of being at the top any traveler’s bucket list. The country’s natural beauty is its biggest attraction, where you can spend your vacation marveling at the jaw-dropping landscapes. From islands and lakes to fascinating glowworms, here are the top natural wonders you need to see in New Zealand.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
You’ll surely be impressed by the views at the Bay of Islands, which encompasses more than 140 islands along the Northern coastline. You can sail the region aboard a private yacht or head out in a sea kayak, while history enthusiasts might prefer to walk across the archaeological trails at Urupukapuka Island. It’s likely you’ll spot an array of diverse wildlife, from dolphins and whales to seabirds as you enjoy a scuba diving or snorkeling adventure.
Dubbed as the “8th wonder of the world”, Milford Sound is a natural wonder known for its immense beauty. Carved out by glacial action thousands of years ago, here you will be surrounded by vast mountains and cascading waterfalls. Take a scenic boat ride and keep your eyes peeled for penguins and dolphins or hop on a scuba diving tour to see some unique wildlife underwater.
Instead of heading to Antarctica or Greenland, you can visit New Zealand’s renowned Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. Found in the South Island, they are considered among the most accessible glaciers in the world. Take a professional guide with you to walk and hike on the glacier or sign up for an air safari aboard a helicopter to admire the memorable views of the icy landscapes from above.
Visit Rotorua to soak up the vivid sights and smells of the Champagne Pool in Wai-O-Tapu. The steamy orange-lined spring is the largest spring in the area at around 200 feet in diameter and depth. Formed 700 years ago by a hydrothermal eruption, you can watch as the carbon dioxide bubbles rise to the surface and help give its “champagne” name.
A unique experience that should certainly be on the of any visitors itinerary to New Zealand, seeing the Waitomo glowworms is a memory you won’t soon forget. The unique Arachnocampa Luminosa can only be found in New Zealand, and in Waitomo, you’ll have the chance to see thousands of the glowworms beneath the ground. Sign up for a boat trip into the underground caves to appreciate these natural wonders up close.
Found along the Haast Pass between the West Coast and Wanaka, the Blue Pools are a must-see. Glacier-fed rivers create the vividly blue water, as the glacier melts and runs into the rivers and lakes, absorbing the colors of sunlight. You can take a short bush walk to the pools and admire the area’s beauty and the colorful fish swimming around.
Exactly as the name suggests, the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are rocks stacked like pancakes, creating a mesmerizing landscape that is best seen at high tide. Located on the West Coast just north of Greymouth, these rocks have been formed over the past 30 million years and occur through heavy limestone erosion. As the water rushes in, it is forced through blowholes in the rocks and creates an impressive water show.
New Zealand is full of picturesque lakes, but none are quite like Lake Matheson. On a clear day, the waters of the lake are the ideal surface to admire the reflection of the perfectly placed Mount Cook and Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Its pristine reflection has made it a hotspot for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike, while those looking to stretch their legs will find that the scenic walk around the lake provides plenty of opportunities to soak up the view from a different angle.
Another one of New Zealand’s beautiful natural rock formations, the Moeraki Boulders in Dunedin are around 60 million years old and are found along Koekohe Beach. Steeped in Maori legends, their history is quite mysterious, but have been created by a layering process. The unique spherical boulders span up to 6.5-feet high and weigh up to a couple thousand pounds. Their enormous size and random placement make it a sight to see.
Called the “Lord of the Forest”, Tane Mahuta is a giant Kauri tree found in Waipoua Forest on the west coast of the North Island. The tallest tree in the entire country, it is said to date back 1,250 to 2,500 years and boasts extensive Maori history. Wander down the short loop walk and marvel at this natural wonder that sits 167-feet fall and 42-feet in girth.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known as one of the best day walks in the entire world, and is one of the most picturesque natural wonders in New Zealand. The national park is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts, as you’ll be able to soak up views of an array of natural wonders as you explore the 12-mile trail. Meander past towering volcanoes, turquoise colored Emerald Lakes and the world-famous Mt. Doom, made famous by the Lord of the Rings.
If you’re looking for a postcard-perfect image during your time in New Zealand, look no further than Lake Tekapo. Nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo is not only one of the most scenic landscapes in the country, but it also provides hydro electrical energy to the neighboring towns. Explore the town that faces the turquoise lake and enjoy the snow-capped mountain backdrop until the sun goes down to marvel at the star-filled sky.
A wondrous natural phenomenon, Huka Falls sees an impressive 220,000 liters of water emptying through the falls each second. It’s a dramatic display of Mother Nature, where you can sit back and take selfies with the natural wonder from a viewing platform or explore the walking tracks nearby. If you want to get up close and personal, sign up for a scenic boat trip to cruise near the cascading water.