Not far from Waitomo Caves on the East Coast of NZ’s North Island, you’ll find a remote beach with a special secret. To get to this beach, you first walk through a hand-carved tunnel. Excavated in 1911, this tunnel allowed access to the beach for farmers moving stock to Nukuhakere Station. The high peak of this tunnel was to allow a horse and rider through. Three men created this, using only picks and shovels.
If you're looking into visiting these odd spots - it can be worth checking with State NZ for domestic travel insurance.
The Blue Pools, Haast
Take the track off Makaroa Road between Central Otago and the West Coast of the South Island to get to the Blue Pools of Haast. This isolated hidden gem is a series of startlingly clear pools of glacier-fed water. The water is an unusual colour due to the minerals from the glacier. The area itself has been nibbled away due to erosion over several centuries, leaving the area a geographer’s delight- and an Instagrammer’s dream.
This tiny Island is only accessible by boat. As a tapu site, the local Māori only allow small tours so make sure you plan well in advance. There are geothermal springs and an unusual rhyolite lava dome. On the island you can take a guided tour, watch local birdlife and try local traditional food.
Another Rotorua treasure, take a short walk along the Hamurana trail to these natural springs. A tranquil spot, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee, but it’s worth it. Take a picnic and spend the day lazing beside these crystal clear turquoise waters. There’s a high-level viewing platform for those who enjoy additional stunning views.
The water is amazing- it takes 70 years to make its way to the surface through underground aquifers. The walk is easy, perfect for kids and prams.
In the Far North of the North Island, there are many hidden gems, isolated beaches that only locals know about. Matapouri Bay is one of these. A horse-shoe shaped bay, white sand, and the gentle waves lap along the beach fringed by native bush. At low tide, you can access Mermaid Rock Pools, which are bursting with sea life. There is a takeaway shop within walking distance so grab your dinner and eat it on the beach while watching the fading rays of sun for a perfect end to your day.
Hidden far from the reach of most tourists, Lake Quill is an incredibly beautiful spot on the Milford Track. High in the mountains, you’ll have to tramp there or take a flight- it’s not an easy journey. But it’s totally worth it, with the rugged rocky mountains dropping dramatically into this clear glacier-fed lake.
On Banks Peninsula, about 1.5 hours drive from Christchurch in the South Island, you will find this small secluded bay. There’s a scattering of holiday homes with a relaxed bare-foot-and-windblown-hair feel to the place. Follow the beach road down to a great kids playground with a flying fox. Keep an eye out for local wildlife- as well as beautiful native birds, Okains Bay is also playground to seals.
A one hour drive from the tourist capital of New Zealand, Queenstown, leads to Glenorchy. A picturesque spot in itself, you’ll want to stay here for a few days. Follow the track to Earnslaw Burn, a glacier formed by waterfalls. Made famous by The Hobbit movie, this rugged spot is breath-taking. Ice tumbling 2000m down a sheer rock face is pretty impressive!
Karamea Moira Gate Arch
A short drive from Westport on the West Coast of the South Island, Karamea is the beginning of Kahurangi National Park. There is a huge range of activities in the area- tramping trails that take you to the wildest, rugged places on the ends of the earth.
Visit Moira Gate Arch, Honeycomb Hill Caves and Arch, or Oparara Arch. Take a few days to walk the Heaphy Track, or walk a short day walk- Fenian Track, Mt Stormy, or part of Wangapeka Track.
One of the most Southernmost points of the South Island, Curio Bay is found in the Catlins in Southland. It’s a rocky beach- with a difference. The ‘beach’, is in fact a 180 million year old petrified forest. As you walk along the shore, you can see the trunks of the trees buried by volcanic mud-flows.
Curio Bay is often closed off as the area is where Hoiho, the native yellow-eyed penguin nests. This place is paradise for geology enthusiasts, nature lovers and for those seeking something you’ll find no where else in the world.
Article written by James
(Photo by chanc via Flickr)