4 Under-the-Radar Places to Visit in New Zealand

Skip the popular locales and explore less-visited destinations across the country.

By Claire Volkman, ContributorFeb. 10, 2016
By Claire Volkman, ContributorFeb. 10, 2016, at 10:41 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

4 Under-the-Radar Places to Visit in New Zealand

Doubtful Sound

The secluded coves of Waihau Bay and the mossy green hills of Doubtful Sound beckon to those looking to get off the grid.(Getty Images)

One of the most rugged and beautiful countries in the world, New Zealand has long been a favorite destination for adventurers. Apart from its unique cultural influences, diverse settings and its population just shy of 5 million, the country offers the chance to explore a mix of cosmopolitan cities and off-the-beaten-path locales. And with no one else around, you'll have just the breathtaking rolling green hills, craggy mountain peaks, dense forests, rushing waterfalls and secluded beaches to keep you company. Here are four lesser-known places to check out on your next trip.

Lake Tekapo

Though Lake Tekapo on the South Island is a popular stopping point for visitors traveling between Christchurch and Queenstown, most only stay for an hour or so as their bus refuels. But with postcard-worthy views of pale blue waters, snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and lush wildflowers, it's hard to see why more visitors don't stay longer. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view from any vantage point. And don't leave before sunset. A stay past dark yields unspoiled night skies. Recognized as one of the International Dark Sky Association's International Dark Sky Reserve, Lake Tekapo's picturesque location allows you to take in unrivaled views as you gaze up to admire the stars and planets speckling the sky.    


Napier is a city that completely transforms depending on the season. Nestled on the rocky shores of Hawke's Bay along New Zealand's North Island, this relatively sleepy town comes to life during the renowned Tremains Art Deco Festival, which takes place every February. Rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1931, the town has kept its art deco vibe, with buildings such as the Daily Telegraph Building reflecting the iconic zig-zag patterns of the 30s. Despite an influx of visitors decked out in dazzling Gatsby-esque costumes, the town remains relatively quiet the rest of the year. Spend your time jogging or walking along the rebuilt, tree-lined waterfront Marine Parade promenade, and revel in the stunning views of the beautiful bay.

Doubtful Sound

Three times the length and 10 times the area of its famous sister sound, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound in Fjordland National Park on the country's South Island is often overlooked for more popular areas. It's shocking how few people visit the Doubtful Sound. While this remote, rugged sound may be harder to reach, the unparalleled views upon arrival make every step and hurdle worth it. Gushing waterfalls cascading off mossy green cliffs, jagged fjords sloping around the glacial bay and lush, dense forests can be seen from every view. And due to its relatively isolated location and serene lack of noise, it's often called "the Sound of Silence." To explore this area, book a boat tour or a cruise to see every beautiful enclave, mountain and rocky beach up close.

Waihau Bay

Filled with beautiful beaches, scenic coves and a rich Maori culture, the crescent-shaped Waihau Bay on New Zealand's North Island is the place many Auckland residents go to unplug and unwind. Home to just one general store, a sandy beachside campsite and a small collection of bed-and-breakfasts, this bay is truly untouched by development. Explore the incredible Maori heritage with a cultural walk, surf the waves of the Bay of Plenty, relax on the soft sand, spend an afternoon fishing on the calmer side of the bay or drive along the peaceful Pacific Coast Highway to take in the sights of the water and the lush surrounding mountains. 

Claire Volkman, Contributor

Claire Volkman is a social media journalist with a passion for food and travel. She's spent ...  Read more

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.


World's Best Places to Visit in 2019-20

Using reader input and expert analysis, U.S. News identified the latest can't-miss vacations.

June 25, 2019

The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Take advantage of the adventures this coastal city has to offer with a guided trip.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

12 Top Napa Valley Wineries to Visit

Set your sights on these can't-miss wineries during your next visit to California's wine country.

June 24, 2019

The 6 Best Denver Brewery Tours

Discover the buzz about Denver's craft beer scene with these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 21, 2019

The 10 Best Charleston Walking Tours

Experience true southern hospitality as you explore Charleston on one of these strolls.

Claire LawtonJune 20, 2019

The 15 Best Charleston Tours

See everything this historic South Carolina city has to offer on one of these guided excursions.

John RodwanJune 19, 2019

The 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours

See the Garden Island's far-reaching beauty from the air.

Holly JohnsonJune 14, 2019

The 6 Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours

Get a thrilling look at the lights and sights of Sin City and its surroundings with one of these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

20 Road Trip Essentials for Your Vacation

These road trip must-haves can help you save money, travel more comfortably and ensure you stay safe on the open road.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

13 Top Charlottesville Wineries to Visit

Sip a glass of Virginia's signature viognier as the sun sets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

June 12, 2019