New Zealand is a destination like no other. From vast glaciers and tree topped mountains to glorious sandy beaches, here are the top 10 reasons to visit.

New Zealand is a land of geographical diversity, filled with dramatic landscapes and stunning coastlines. It is so vast and varied that it can be difficult to know where to start – here are just some of the most picturesque places in this fabulous country where you can get ‘snap happy’.

Fiordland National Park
One of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand, the power of Fiordland’s scenery never fails to enthral travellers. This remarkable natural environment features stunning fiords, spectacular waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. Ancient rainforest clings impossibly to the mountains and waterfalls tumble hundreds of metres into massive fiords, shimmering lakes and granite peaks look the same today as they did a thousand years ago.

Milford Sound
Milford Sound is a fusion of spectacular natural features with amazing visual cues around every corner. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. The fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect, making for a spectacular experience.

Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a subtropical micro-region known for its stunning beauty and history. For those that love beaches and water activities, it’s paradise. It encompasses 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula and includes the boutique towns of Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri. Take a trip by sea or air to spectacular Cape Brett and the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island. On land, enjoy beautiful river and seaside walking tracks or encounter the mighty Kauri Tree in pristine rainforest.

Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park
The beautiful Lake Taupo is about the size of Singapore – more of an inland sea! Visit the Craters of the Moon and you’ll see evidence of the lake’s fiery birth in the geysers, steaming craters and boiling mud pools. At Tongariro National Park see the Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu volcanoes and some of New Zealand’s most contrasting landscapes.

In and around Rotorua sneaky threads of steam drift upward from parks, river banks and drains. Watch boiling mud pools and feel the heat underfoot from landscapes that hiss with steam as the unmistakeable scent of sulphur wafts through the air. Minutes from the city centre, geysers of boiling water roar from the ground and pools of bubbling mud gurgle and belch.

Fox and Franz Josef Glacier
Witness the puzzle of huge valleys of ice that extend well below the snowline, almost to the sea. Here the ice age is still underway. The temperate climate at this low altitude means these glaciers are among the most convenient to visit in the world. Easy walks to the foot of the glaciers pass along ancient river valleys with steep sides bearing gigantic horizontal scars from when the glaciers have retreated and advanced over millennia. When you stand close to the foot of these glaciers, their sheer enormity is very humbling.

Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park, but it’s perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure. Here, inviting sandy beaches fill the spaces between trees and tide. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean. Granite and marble formations fringe the headlands, which are cloaked in regenerating forest. Native wildlife is an essential part of the scenery. Tui and bellbird song fills the forest, shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner while fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.

Mount Cook
Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Everest. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense – with sky-scraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky. Here, you can perfect your hiking, skiing and mountaineering skills in a truly stunning environment.

The Coromandel, renowned for its pristine beaches, misty forests and laid-back vibe, is one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday destinations. A binocular’s view across the gulf from Auckland, the Coromandel is everything that a big city isn’t. With a mountainous interior cloaked in native rainforest and more than 400 kilometres of dazzling white sand beaches, it is rustic, unspoiled and relaxed.

Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish (in the Maori language ‘kai’ means food and ‘koura’ means crayfish). Kaikoura’s environment is truly spectacular – caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean, it is a hotspot for incredible marine mammal encounters. It’s a year-round destination – in the winter the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape and giving the village a magical atmosphere.

An escorted tour is the perfect way to explore New Zealand, with most meals and sightseeing included and time to explore at your own pace. Not only will you be accompanied by like-minded fellow travellers, but by letting someone else do the driving, you get to sit back, relax and enjoy the incredible scenery, all with the benefit of a professional tour director looking after every detail.

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Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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