By J.E. Hinners, MD MPH
Prefer achieving your fitness goals in the great outdoors? So do I!
If you’re planning (or itching to plan) a trip to New Zealand anytime in the near future, you’re in luck–New Zealand has an abundant supply of breathtaking, natural sites for taking your workout outside.
IN NEW ZEALAND‘S SOUTH ISLAND
1) Fiordland National Park
Located in the southwest region of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park is the largest national park in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world. This scenic World Heritage site is filled with lakes, waterfalls, steep mountains, valleys, and rainforest. Much of the film Lord of the Rings was filmed here.
Milford Sound is one of the more famous ice-carved fiords in this region, with the distinctively-shaped Mitre Peak emerging out of the nearby waters and reaching a height of one mile. Milford Track is one of the many picturesque hiking trails in the area; climbing, biking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and diving activities are also available.
2) Otago Peninsula
Otago peninsula is on the southeastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island and is known as the wildlife capital of New Zealand–many seals, sea lions, albatrosses, and penguins decide to make their homes here. In addition to swimming, diving, hiking, and biking options in this region, Queenstown also offers skiing, kayaking, and rafting.
3) Abel Tasman National Park
Located on the north side of New Zealand’s South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is a small but sunny national park with some of the most beautiful beaches. Sea kayaking is popular here, but there are also swimming, diving, snorkeling, hiking, and biking opportunities available.
4) Mount Cook National Park (Aoraki)
The postcard-esque Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, listed at 3,724 m (12,218 ft). With 19 rugged ice and rock peaks over 3,000 m (9,842 ft) high, this site attracts both international tourists looking for beauty as well as skilled mountain climbers looking for a challenge. In addition to climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and hiking trails are also available.
5) Westland Tai Poutini National Park
New Zealand’s South Island west coast contains Westland Tai Poutini National Park, which is particularly famous for its Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, both accessibly located at the edge of temperate rainforest, only 250 m above sea level. The unique shape and location of these glaciers cause them to move about 10 times faster than the speed of any other valley glaciers around the world. Climbing, hiking, skiing, and biking are all available here.
Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Kaikoura is especially known for its range of marine activities. Surfing is often sought after in this region, but kayaking, diving, rafting, skiing, biking, and hiking are also available.
And although it may not count as a physical activity (unless you are assigned a particularly strong and rebellious llama), I can’t help but mention that there is also llama trekking available here–for those who simply can’t go home without having traversed New Zealand terrain with a llama, of course.
IN NEW ZEALAND’S NORTH ISLAND
7) Tongariro National Park & Whanganui River
Tongariro National Park is yet another World Heritage site in New Zealand and is located in the center of the country’s North Island. Here you can dare to hike and ski among active volcanos. The nearby Whanganui River also offers canoeing and kayaking adventures.
8) Bay of Islands
The beautiful Bay of Islands is a sub-tropical favorite among beach and water-lovers and is located in the northern region of New Zealand’s North Island. Surfing, swimming, diving, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and biking are just some of the many physical activities available here.
9) Waitomo Caves
Located in the central western region of New Zealand’s North Island, Waitomo glowworm caves offer more than simply a visual spectacle, as black water rafting, hiking, and cave rappelling are all available activities at this site.
10) East Cape
The scenic, more isolated East Cape region is located in the northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, just north of Gisborne. White-sand, cliffside beaches can be found here, and available physical activities include surfing, swimming, diving, kayaking, biking, and hiking.
11) Auckland West Coast Beaches
Conveniently located near Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand, these beaches include some of the most famous beaches for surfing (such as Reglan). Piha, Oakura, and Karekare are also well-loved beaches in this region. Some famous scenes from the film The Piano were shot at Karekare. Surfing, swimming, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, biking, and walking routes are all available here.
12) Coromandel Peninsula
Coromandel Peninsula is on the eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island and includes the well-known Hot Water Beach, where naturally heated mineral water bubbles up from the sand. Hiking trails may be found at Mount Maunganui, and rock climbing adventures may be undertaken at Moturiki island. Surfing, swimming, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and biking opportunities are also available at Coromandel.
13) Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island is the fourth largest island of New Zealand’s main islands and is located 100 km (62 mi) northeast of North Island’s Auckland. Filled with bays, forests, and white-sand, high-cliff beaches, Great Barrier Island is sought after for surfing, kayaking, diving, swimming, walking, and biking.
14) Tawharanui Regional Park
Tawharanui Regional Park is located in the Tawharanui Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. White sand beaches, bays, and rolling pastures contribute to the stunning beauty of this region. The northern side’s sandy beach is one of preferred surfing and swimming regions near Auckland. Diving, snorkeling, kayaking, waking, and biking activities are also available here.
Don’t forget, if you’re from the northern hemisphere, that climates and time of year are reversed in New Zealand. So New Zealand’s winter is June through August, and summer is December through February. More detailed info on New Zealand weather and climate is available here.
Happy New Zealand dreaming and planning!