If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you probably have some big highlights in mind. Waitomo glowworm caves, hiking Tongariro Alpine Crossing, bungee jumping, and heli-hiking Franz Josef glacier are likely on your list already.
You might not have even heard of two of my favorite places in New Zealand. Well off the main touristic route on either end of the country, you can’t go further north or further south than these two spots, and your flight isn’t going to be making a stop there either. I’m talking about Cape Reinga on the North Island and Stewart Island on the South. These are New Zealand’s northernmost and southernmost points, and they are worth every kilometer off the beaten path you’ll go to get there.
Why You Should Visit Cape Reinga
If you are traveling to Paihia and the Bay of Islands (3 hours driving north of Auckland), Cape Reinga is an easy and fun day trip! There are several coach tour companies that will pick you up at your accommodation in the morning (typically around 7am) and drop you off in the evening (around 6pm). On the tour you will drive you along 90 Mile Beach, stop for sandboarding, and give you an hour to explore the Cape and its picturesque lighthouse upon arrival. There will also be a lunch stop and a short walk in the Puketi Forest to see old-growth kauri trees.
Why You Should Visit Stewart Island
Ferries ($79 NZD each way) depart for Stewart Island from the town of Bluff, but there are also options that include transportation from as far north as Queenstown (3 hours driving from Bluff). There are three or four departures daily during the summer season and two in winter. Check the schedule before you go. The ferry is an exhilarating one-hour jaunt through the Foveaux Strait – expect some rough waters and plan accordingly if you’re prone to seasickness! The ferry will arrive in the town of Oban on Stewart Island, and from the ferry terminal it is an easy walk or short ride to all local accommodations.
In the evenings, walk down to the ferry port where you arrived to try to spot blue penguins. Additionally, the rugby field is known as a reliable place to find kiwis late at night. For both, bring a red-light torch with you, as the white light hurts their eyes and frightens them.
To visit Ulva Island, you will take either a water taxi (starting at $30 NZD; flexible times) or ferry ($20 NZD return; set times). Note that this ferry departs from Golden Bay Wharf, not Halfmoon Bay where you arrived! It’s a quick 15-minute ride. When you arrive, put a $2 NZD coin in the honor box and grab a self-guided pamphlet, which has walking tours and pictures of the birds you will see, so you can identify and learn about the wildlife! If you’re lucky (and quiet), you might even spot a day walking kiwi!
While both Cape Reinga and Stewart Island take a little bit of effort to visit, they are each well worth it. Plus, you’ll be able to say that you thoroughly traveled both the north and south islands of the amazing grown-up playground that is New Zealand!
About the Author: Sarah Puckett is a travel blogger currently traveling around the world on an extended honeymoon with her husband. Follow their travels at www.our21stcenturyodyssey.com and on Instagram at @our21stcenturyodyssey