I spent a total of three months in New Zealand, travelling from Auckland up to the Bay of Islands and learning to sail, and then heading south, to Wellington and far beyond. These photos are some of the my favourite highlights, but not all. I found the country to be incredibly friendly, full of sights that stunned me with their beauty, and a whole lot of adventure activities to try.

New Zealand is a relatively young country, and its human history is fairly short compared to some of the other countries I’ve written about here. The country was the last habitable landmass in the world to be discovered, and historians date this colonization back to the 13th century. The discoverers were ancestors of the Māori people currently in New Zealand. ?

Europeans only began settling in the country in the 1840s, but discovery began with Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who arrived in 1642. Englishman James Cook mapped his way around New Zealand in the late 1700s, paving the way for whalers, sailors, traders and missionaries to follow. ?

Most of my time in New Zealand was spent driving in quieter places, but I did thoroughly enjoy my time in Auckland and Wellington, with a brief foray into Christchurch also. It is the landscapes that I will share in this photoessay, since these are what truly blew me away. ?

Growing up in Montreal, far from the ocean, meant that these months spent in a small country, surrounded by water, were a treat.

North Island

Learning to sail in the Bay of Islands was an incredible experience, but a stressful one. After several days of instruction, we were set free for three days and two nights alone to sail our boat ourselves.

Anchored in the Bay of Islands.

Anchored in the Bay of Islands.

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I couldn’t head to New Zealand without a visit to Matamata and the Hobbiton movie set! Hobbiton was constructed from permanent materials, so tourists can come and visit the set, which is reachable from Hamilton and Auckland quite easily. Yes, I fit into them just fine.

The Hobbiton movie set in Matamata.

The Hobbiton movie set in Matamata.

The Wai-O-Tapu, a scenic reserve within the Taupo Volcanic Zone that is administered by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, is a quick trip from the town of Rotorua. As you can see, the park makes for some surreal scenes. Covering 18km (6.94 mi) squared, with Maungakaramea (Rainbow Mountain) marking the reserve’s northern tip, Wai-O-Tapu is full of geological wonders.

Photo one is the Artist’s Palette, one of my favourite of the geothermal pools. The second photo is of “Champagne Pool,” the largest in the network of gurgling activity, and very active. At 74C (165.2F), it is home to gold, silver, mercury, sulphur, arsenic, thallium, antimony — all of which are deposited over and over onto the edge of the pool, creating sinter ledges around it.

The Artist’s Palette geothermal pool.

The Artist’s Palette geothermal pool.

The very active Champagne Pool.

The very active Champagne Pool.

New Zealand has 200 species of ferns and 40 percent of them are found nowhere else in the world. This scene outside of Rotorua made me ask “how many ferns are in those dense forests?” So beautiful.

It's ferns for days in and around Rotorua.

It's ferns for days in and around Rotorua.

Tāne Mahuta is a giant kauri tree (Agathis australis) in the Waipoua Forest of Northland on New Zealand’s North Island. As a tree lover, I couldn’t visit the country and skip this majestic beauty. Scientists estimate that it is between 1,250 and 2,500 years old, and it is the largest kauri known to stand today.

Tāne Mahuta tree in the Waipoua Forest.

Tāne Mahuta tree in the Waipoua Forest.

The black sand beaches of Piha, near Auckland. It makes a beautiful place for a road trip, picnic and short hike.

The views at Piha can't be beat.

The views at Piha can't be beat.

Waiheke Island is an easy ferry trip from Auckland and a place that many Aucklanders visit on weekends. Great sailing, swimming and restaurants. It’s busy, but worth a visit!

Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island.

South Island

Autumn trees on the drive from Christchurch to Wanaka.

Trees line the road on the way to Wanaka.

Trees line the road on the way to Wanaka.

“That Wanaka Tree” has its own geotag on Instagram, and for good reason. It’s an old fence post now sitting within Lake Wanaka, and extraordinarily picturesque. Here it is at dawn, one of the few times I actually got up early. This tree made it worthwhile.

That Wanaka Tree at dawn.

That Wanaka Tree at dawn.

Wanaka wasn’t complete without a jump from the air. This was a bit of a joke — we decided to yell together — but it made for a great photo from my dive instructor’s GoPro!

Taking the plunge in Wanaka.

Taking the plunge in Wanaka.

It’s not NZ unless you feed at least ONE sheep from a converted bottle.

Filling my quota of cute with this sheep.

Filling my quota of cute with this sheep.

Beautiful day trip from Wanaka into Lake Aspiring National Park.

The path to the water's edge at Lake Aspiring National Park.

The path to the water's edge at Lake Aspiring National Park.

Queenstown from above the city. What a view!

Queenstown leaves its mark.

Queenstown leaves its mark.

Part of the landscape you can’t believe exists! This was on the drive to Akaroa, an old French settlement by the water’s edge.

The harbour town of Akaroa.

The harbour town of Akaroa.

But, the real reason to go to Akaroa: visiting Shamarra Alpaca farm, including a tour of their beautiful specimens here, and its gorgeous view.

Alpacas!

Alpacas!

These are but a few photos from the months in New Zealand, and yet I barely felt like I had a chance to see what the country had to offer. I’ll have to return once again — and you can bet there will be more alpacas in my future when I do.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures in New Zealand encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.

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