Whether you are craving stunning mountains, gorgeous stretches of coastline, tantalizingly blue lakes or thrashing rivers, the spellbindingly picturesque landscapes of New Zealand are not to be missed.
With a variety of eco-travel experiences to impress even the most seasoned traveller, there is no shortage of places to go in New Zealand’s North Island.
The geothermal lakes of Wai-O-Tapu’s Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua display some stunning sights that are definitely worth a visit. With over 20% of New Zealand being covered in National Parks and reserves, it is easy to see why eco-tourism in New Zealand has taken off so successfully.
On arrival you can watch the eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser, an exciting spectacle created by adding soap to the water to cause the geyser to erupt. The effect is a bubbling mound of water that then shoots into the air, the spray falling gracefully across the spectators and resulting in varying “ooohs” and “ahhs” from the audience.
Following on from the geyser a series of winding paths branch off in different directions, enticing you to adventure further. A variety of hot springs, cascading waterfalls, vibrant lakes, craters and mud pools create plenty of photo-worthy opportunities. All the sights are signposted with information on the importance of conserving these incredible geothermal spots, providing an education on the criticality of eco-tourism.
The “Artist’s Palette” is a particularly impressive sight: the appropriately named herbal lake has an oily complexion of colours shimmering across its surface and looks stunning. Deep hues of yellow, orange, green and blue merge into each other, morphing into a bizarre but impressive lake. A wooden board walk stretching over the Palette allows you to wander across and admire the colours from different angles.
The “Champagne Pool” also succeeds in impressing, with bright orange hues fading dramatically through a rainbow of colours into a deep turquoise blue caused by minerals in the water.
Lakes and thermal springs
After adventuring around the winding pathways of Wai-O-Tapu, a short drive away Lake Taupo awaits with the option of further adventure, or simply a beautiful place to relax.
The Department of Conservation in New Zealand manages lakes and thermal springs to ensure they are encouraging tourism, whilst simultaneously protecting and managing the culture and environment.
The lake is beautiful but massive, with various different water sports attracting visitors. A chain of restaurants and bars lines the lake front with little tables outside: a quaint and clearly popular spot for food and cocktails.
Not far from Lake Taupo are the popular hot springs frequented by locals and tourists alike. A scenic view greets you as you approach: a waterfall splashes down into a series of rock pools in which people sit and relax, letting their aches and pains soak away in the hot mineral waters.
This then merges into a large, fast flowing lake, so the further you move away from the waterfall, the cooler the water becomes. As the end to a long day this is a perfect place to relax and wind down.
The incredible views provided by Mount Taranaki are breathtakingly beautiful. A hike up one of the several trails towards the various lookout points presents you with stunning panoramic views across New Plymouth.
The information centre for Mount Taranaki promotes eco-tourism by explaining the different species one might encounter, the different types of terrain and the ecosystems on the mountain. This was both interesting and informative, and definitely worth visiting before you begin any treks – education of eco-tourism is important in promoting conservation of certain areas.
On my visit there was a light cloud covering, but you can still see New Plymouth stretched out before you right up to the sea. After a one hundred and eighty degree turn you are staring up at the mountain in awe, peering through the light mist that often clouds the view of the summit.
Unsurprisingly Mount Taranaki provides ample photo opportunities, the most popular one showing a lake reflecting the grandeur of the mountain on a clear day.
The path up the mountain to this fantastic photo location winds up narrow steps fashioned from wooden crates, with numbered boxes at the side to display how far you’ve walked.
The first half of the walk takes you through jungle type terrain, with light filtering through the canopy, causing dust motes and insects to dance in the light. The second half of the walk opens out into spacious, grassy pathways with views all around and an impressive variety of flora and fauna blanketing the area.
Black sand beaches
North Island provides a beautiful array of black sand beaches to choose from, that will no doubt amaze you with their beauty.
As a lover of white sand beaches and deep turquoise seas, I was not sure that I would be convinced by New Zealand’s famously black sand beaches, but how wrong I was! Vast stretches of black volcanic sand create a stark contrast against the foaming white wave tops spilling onto the shore.
New Plymouth is a popular area for surfing, with plenty of places to hire a board and take to the waves. Fitzroy Beach is particularly popular, with plenty of space and a quaint outdoor café wafting the smell of fresh coffee across the beach.
Beanbag chairs and little outdoor tables create a homely, inviting feel frequented by both locals and tourists in the beautiful sunshine New Zealand often has to offer.
This beautiful environment is maintained through regular beach clean ups along the coast. This contributes to conservation by reducing the amount of waste littering the shore that may cause wildlife to be harmed, and also brings local communities together and creates a sense of pride in the pristine condition of their beaches.
New Zealand has engaged more successfully in eco-tourism than many other places because they are proud of their country and seek to develop its tourism industry in a way which will not damage the beauty of this incredible place. Regardless of what kind of scenery or adventure you like, North Island has a special something to offer everyone.
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