As a small country, there are not as many national parks in New Zealand as, say, Australia (14 versus over 500). However, less is certainly more in this case, as the over 30,000 square kilometres of land these beauties cover are a sight to behold.
Hire a rental car in NZ and be sure you visit as many of this list as possible. Your camera will thank you!
In the heart of the North Island, Tongariro is famous for its mountain ranges, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ filming locations and excellent walking tracks. In fact, Mount Ngauruhoe was the setting for Mount Doom, though the real-life version has a lot less smoke, lava and bad guys.
Egmont National Park
Home to a wonderfully volcano-shaped mountain (Taranaki), Egmont National Park is a popular place for mountain climbers, hikers and geology enthusiasts.
Whanganui National Park
Road trip to Whanganui National Park (about halfway between the above two examples) to paddle the country’s longest river, and see the famous Bridge to Nowhere – a touching monument to fallen World War I soldiers.
Abel Tasman National Park
Proving smaller is sometimes better yet again, Abel Tasman is the smallest park in the nation, but has a range of spectacular beaches and unique historical sites to accommodate.
Kahurangi National Park
The second-largest place in this list is Kahurangi, in the upper South Island. There are 570 kilometres of walking trails here, according to Nelson Tasman Tourism, including the ‘Great Walk’ Heaphy Track.
Nelson Lakes National Park
A little further south, Nelson Lakes has been carved by past glaciers, leaving a rugged landscape filled with pretty lakes. Fishing and skiing are both popular activities here, according to Tourism NZ.
Paparoa National Park
Another ideal West Coast tourist spot, Paparoa National Park will delight you thanks to its fascinating rock formations (Pancake Rocks, for example) and blowholes. Plus, the region is packed with historical attractions as well, including mines and replica villages.
Linking Greymouth to Christchurch is Arthur’s Pass, a veritable mountain and forest wonderland. The curious kea parrot is known to frequent the local eponymous township, so keep a camera handy.
You simply can’t leave the South Island without adding Mount Cook – the tallest mountain in the nation – to your road trip itinerary. There’s loads to do here, from glacial cruises to mountain climbing to star gazing.
Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Also known by its nickname, ‘glacier country’, you can probably guess what you’ll see at Westland Tai Poutini. The famous twin glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef are within close proximity to each other, making for an excellent day trip.
Mount Aspiring National Park
Stop in Wanaka on your journey and explore the World Heritage Mount Aspiring area. Towering peaks here flow down into sparkling rivers and lakes, plus the area is covered in renowned vineyards.
If you say you’ve been on holiday to NZ but didn’t visit Fiordland, you need to book another trip immediately. Why? World Heritage listing, check. Fourteen fiords, including Milford and Doubtful Sounds, check. One of the country’s greatest ‘Great Walks’ (Milford Track), check. A bounty of wildlife, check.
Rakiura National Park
The only non-mainland item on this list, Rakiura National Park is situated on Stewart Island. This is the youngest park here, and is a sub-Antarctic location where you can see the Aurora Australis at night, not to mention a great sunset. With only 25 kilometre of roads, according to Tourism NZ, you’ll be able to explore the island and park in no time at all!