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Nature at its best

National Parks in New Zealand

New Zealand is a paradise for varied nature. With no less than 13 national parks spread over the North and South Island. There are more than 30,000 square kilometres of diverse wildlife, flora and fauna to be discovered. The locals are proud of the unique nature found in their country and are always happy to show you around. You can explore these special parts of New Zealand either by foot, by helicopter, by car or by boat!

7 favourite national parks in New Zealand

1. Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park is located in the southwest of the South Island. It is a nature lover’s paradise named on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Ancient rainforests, snow-capped mountains, tumbling waterfalls and the remarkable Milford and Doubtful Sound fiords. They can be explored by kayak, on foot and by boat.

To access the more remote areas, an overnight boat trip is recommended through Doubtful Sound. An abundance of wildlife can be spotted including dolphins, fur seals, penguins and the cheeky Kea bird. Hiking enthusiasts will be in heaven, with three of the ten “Great Walks” located in the national park - Milford, Kepler and Routeburn Tracks.

Be sure to pack your insect repellent because sandflies are legendary here. The local myth goes like this...when Hine-nui-te-po (the goddess of the underworld) set eyes on the fiords, she deemed them too beautiful to be touched by man and released millions of sandflies to chase them away.

Iconic silver fern | New Zealand nature
Find unique native plants in the Fiordland National Park
Overnight cruise into the Doubtful Sound | New Zealand holiday
Enjoy an overnight cruise into the breathtaking Doubtful Sound

2. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman is named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, who discovered the area in 1642. Today, it’s a favourite spot amongst locals with many Kiwi holiday homes dotted around the region. The Abel Tasman National Park is an outdoor adventurers dream. A coastal paradise featuring granite and marble rock formations.

Explore the coastline and lush native forest by foot, together with a local guide, learning about the rich biodiversity and Maori history. Set sail on a catamaran or paddle through the crystal blue water in a kayak. Discover secluded bays, islands, golden beaches, and marine life such as seals, penguins and dolphins.

Kayak and discover Abel Tasman
Bay of golden sand and turquoise water | New Zealand nature
Explore the coastline and native bush of Abel Tasman with a local guide
© TravelEssence

3. Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand. A place where you can find natural hot springs, mineral lakes and alpine meadows. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the most popular among visitors, it is widely regarded as one of the best one-day hikes in the world. During your trek, you will journey past all three of its active volcanoes. The scenic hike is 19.4 kilometres and passes ancient lava flows and geothermal wonders.

Are you after something extra special? Enjoy the views of the dynamic landscape during a scenic flight or join an experienced guide and complete the hike in winter. Equipped with crampons, ice axes and helmets - get ready for an adventure!

Hike between two active volcanoes | New Zealand active holiday
Hike between two active volcanoes - Mount Tongariro & Mount Ngauruhoe
© Barton Matthews

4. Mount Aspiring National Park

Right in the thick of it - Mount Aspiring National Park lies in the Southern Alps, West of the South Island. A diverse range of wilderness makes it a paradise for hiking. A mecca for outdoor adventure from alpine lakes, towering mountains, deep valleys to spectacular glaciers.

Capture a bird’s eye view during a helicopter flight or why not hike, fly and jet boat - all in one day? We highly recommend this thrilling day trip. Soak up the aerial views of ice carved mountains and glaciers. Land in the remote Siberia Valley, and endeavour on a three-hour walk before tearing up the icy blue waters of Makarora and Wilkin Rivers on a jet boat ride.

Scenic helicopter flight | New Zealand holiday
Explore Mount Aspiring National Park on a scenic helicopter flight

“I experienced Mt Aspiring National Park with a local company. It was an incredible and memorable experience.”

Brooke, Product manager

5. Arthur's Pass National Park

Climbing 924 metres through the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park is one of the highest settlements in New Zealand. A stretch of mountainous road connecting Christchurch with the wild West Coast is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the South Island.

The landscape varies immensely from east to west. The drier east consists of mountainous beech forests and wide riverbeds. While the west has high rainfall, consisting of deeper rivers and rainforest. Arthur’s Pass Village is the starting point for many walks through the national park. Including Bealey Spur Track, Avalanche Peak and the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall.

Bird watching enthusiasts are in for a treat! A cheeky olive-green New Zealand parrot - the Kea can often be spotted. It is the only alpine parrot in the world and is well-known for its intelligence.

Stunning views on Arthur's Pass | New Zealand nature
Be amazed at every turn on the Arthur's Pass
© TravelEssence

6. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

At 3724 metres, Mount Cook is the towering centrepiece of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and New Zealand’s highest mountain. A vast alpine landscape with snow-capped peaks, glaciers, lakes and ski fields, all set under a canopy of stars. Hiking and nature lovers will be in their element, with many walking tracks to discover as well as native flora and fauna along the way.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is lucky to also be home to New Zealand’s largest glacier - Tasman Glacier. Stretching 27 kilometres in length, and over 600 metres deep. Due to the national parks geographical location, far from bustling cities, there is very limited light pollution. Gaze at the clear sky with millions of stars in the International Dark Sky Reserve.

"Whether it's a flight across Lake Tekapo or above the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers - it's always special to get a bird's eye view."

Nicole, Travel specialist
Scenic helicopter flight | New Zealand holiday
Marvel at Mount Cook from a bird's eye view
© Jimmy Nelson

7. Whanganui National Park

Venture into a true outdoor Kiwi experience at Whanganui National Park. In the central North Island, this national park is brimming with hiking trails, rivers, valleys, mountains, native forest and birds. Learn about the rich history of the region, and take a walk to The Bridge to Nowhere, built-in 1935. Following the footsteps of pioneers who settled here after WWI.

Whanganui River runs the length of the national park and is New Zealand’s third-longest river. A popular river for canoeing, kayaking and jet boating. The Whanganui River is sacred to local Maori and after 150 years of negotiations, the river was granted the same legal rights as humans in 2017.

Canoe the length of Whanganui River
Canoe the length of Whanganui River

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