Marvellous mountains, spectacular seaside environments, exquisite islands and ancient forests offering magnificent wildlife, bewitching vistas and exhilarating experiences are in a range and variety unmatched in the world. And these natural features are generally within easy reach of major towns and cities.
Auckland: Waitakere Ranges (Distance from CBD: 25 kilometres or 40 minutes)
Visitors speak of the power of this place – there’s an energy that comes from the fertile rainforest and fresh coastal air. It’s revitalising and enlivening, even if you only spend a couple of hours in its embrace. From the Maori statues that guard the forest’s entrance to the black sand beaches that fan into the mighty Pacific Ocean, there is an abundance of tracks, lookouts and natural treasures such as the Karekare Falls. The Arataki Visitors Centre is a great place to start. Plus, there’s an incredible view from its lookout points.
Canterbury: Banks Peninsula (Distance from CBD: 81 kilometres or 80 minutes)
Could the Banks Peninsula be the perfect place to spend a day at leisure? You can get lost in New Zealand’s natural beauty, then fuel up on the best of local cuisine, coffee and wines in picturesque villages and towns, such as French-flavoured Akaroa, and even pick up a handcrafted souvenir or two. There’s great rock climbing on breathtaking volcanic formations, awesome fishing off dramatic beaches, beautiful hikes and an abundance of wildlife, including seals, dolphins and penguins to be discovered on coastal cruises or from kayaks.
Wellington: Kapiti Island (Distance from CBD: 54 kilometres or 50 minutes to the departure point)
New Zealand’s extraordinary birdlife is in abundance on Kapiti Island, a wildlife sanctuary of huge significance. A scenic drive along the coast to the pretty town of Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast followed by a quick ferry ride is like travelling back in time, when New Zealand was free of introduced mammalian predators in its gargantuan forests. Vegetation restoration and a strictly controlled program of conservation – only 50 visitors are allowed on the 10-by-two-kilometre island at any one time – mean Kapiti Island is now home to some of the world’s rarest birds, including two types of kiwi and weka. The animals have little fear, having existed from birth unaware of predators. So encounters are remarkably intimate. And the cacophonous sound of birdsong here is something visitors remember forever.
Queenstown: Mount Aspiring National Park (Distance from CBD: 128 kilometres or 110 minutes)
Queenstown and its surrounds are blessed with an abundance of natural beauty throughout. But none perhaps encapsulates its incredible array as the variety of landscapes in the Mount Aspiring National Park. This 355,000-hectare wilderness is home to snowfields, glaciers, a variety of forest, grass and river habitats and jaw-dropping tectonic rock formations. Even if you have limited time, there are well-signposted walks to waterfalls, such as Roaring Billy Falls, and Blue Pools. The Rob Roy hanging glacier is accessible, too. This park, a location for The Lord of the Rings movies, is nothing short of dazzling.
Hamilton: Waitomo Caves (Distance from CBD: 71 kilometres or 60 minutes)
You don’t need to be an expert caver or even overly brave to love your experience at New Zealand’s famous Waitomo Caves. This otherworldly network of caves and underground streams has a fantastic variety of activities – from the most adventurous, such as abseiling and black water rafting, to the gentle via boat rides through caves. Discovered by Maori hunters 500 years ago, the attraction is run by local descendants and features the Glowworm Cave, so named for the enchanting network of pretty electric blue bugs that light its cavernous roof. Adrenalin junkies can enjoy extreme experiences such as abseiling down seemingly infinite holes, rapelling underground waterfalls and riding a tube through black water subterranean rivers.
Dunedin: Otago Peninsula (Distance from CBD: 10 kilometres or 20 minutes)
Fresh air, glittering coastal vistas of sheep farms meeting the sea at soaring cliffs, secluded beaches and amazing rock formations await on the Otago Peninsula. Penguins, seals, sea lions and incredible birdlife accompany days of exploration through this changing landscape. From the dunes of Sandfly Bay to the sandstone arch of Tunnel Beach, or the amazing albatrosses at the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head, you can stroll boardwalks or hike sand hills, visit the nesting site of yellow-eyed penguins on a private farm, walk through genteel woodland gardens or kayak to meet sea lions.
Hooked you yet? Find out more about hosting your next conference in New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand’s Business Events team provides the advice and support to help you host your best-ever meeting, incentive or conference in New Zealand. Funding is available to support educational and familiarisation visits, marketing materials, and strategic support in the bid process.