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Tourists bound for New Zealand often choose one of the islands’ top cities as a jumping-off place. And it’s no wonder, with beautiful streets, upscale resorts, and a bustling tourist trade offering every possible amenity, tour, and experience to be had.
But many of New Zealand’s most striking destinations require venturing outside Auckland. These locales offer unique glimpse into the personality, luxury, and real life of the islands.
New Zealand locals know the Northland’s Bay of Islands for its beaches. Ninety Mile Beach, an unbroken stretch of sand and sun on the Aupouri Peninsula, offers the perfect escape. Whether you want a quiet place to soak up some rays and catch up on your leisure reading, a snorkeling and diving paradise, or a natural escape populated by giant kauri trees and breathtaking trails rooted in history, you’ll find a place here.
Russell, a small seaside city full of open-air cafes, cozy restaurants, and beautiful hotels, offers the European romance and flair that only a colonial island city can. For a more local island feel, you might want to base your visit to the Bay of Islands out of Kerikeri or Waitangi.
The Coromandel Peninsula is equal parts natural beauty, adventure, and soul-quieting escape. South of the Bay of Islands on the North Island’s eastern shore, the Coromandel Peninsula is just a 30-minute scenic flight from Auckland–or a stunning two-hour ferry ride. Here, beaches, forests, and waterfalls far from the hustle and bustle of the city offer the perfect respite from work and responsibilities.
Outdoor enthusiasts love the diving, hiking, and biking opportunities, and everyone who visits loves the laid-back atmosphere, welcoming locals, and stunning natural sights–from the hot water beaches, where you can grab a shovel and dig your own spa, to the Pinnacle Mountains, Cathedral Cove, Rapaura Watergardens, and the stunning Thames coastline road.
For a quiet, relaxed vacation and a one-of-a-kind New Zealand experience, Otago offers an enticing mix of scenery, attractions, and the slowing-of-time-atmosphere of a laid-back island community. From rugged, snow-capped mountains to rolling hills and plains, plus penguins, Otago has it all.
You can’t visit without stopping to pan for gold at a historic mine–or sampling some of New Zealand’s best wine from some of Otago’s many wineries. Otago is best when it’s traveled and explored, so try renting a motor home or taking the Taieri Gorge Railway to see a bit more of the countryside at your leisure.
Rotorua’s natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools perfect for a long soak are probably its biggest attraction, but there’s far more to the destination than the beautiful geothermal springs.
Rotorua is quickly becoming known for a different kind of spa: the type that leaves you feeling rested, refreshed, and pampered. Get a taste of traditional Maori culture at the Te Puia Village, stay at a charming luxury lodge, B&B, or full-scale resort, and enjoy your fill of international and local Maori cuisine, which includes a lot of fresh seafood.
Located on the northwest corner of South Island, Nelson’s diverse geography, reputation for sunshiny days, and thriving arts scene make it a one-of-a-kind stop. Here, you’ll find the goldsmith that made the “precious” of the Lord of the Rings movies, idyllic coastal escapes complete with beautiful hiking, biking, and snorkeling, and quirky art galleries around every corner.
Local pubs often feature great live music. And as the nation’s unofficial beer-brewing capitol, you’ll find great tasting opportunities at each one. Nelson also offers an abundance of local aromatic wines, another regional specialty and the perfect way to unwind after a day on one of Nelson’s golden beaches.