Alright, we have to say first and foremost that we absolutely love, love, love New Zealand! It’s amazing, adventurous and stunningly beautiful and we feel very lucky to call this place home for a year. But like any other place, it doesn’t mean that everything about it is beautiful. During our time here so far we experienced some spots that turned out to be rather disappointing. Here are the five places that we think are at least a little overrated, and what you should better spend your precious time and money on instead.
That Wanaka tree is a crooked willow that is grows in the water near the shore of Lake Wanaka. The tree is considered to be one of the most photographed trees in the world and is seen on t-shirts and shopping bags. It even got its own hashtag: #thatwanakatree and Facebook page. To us, That Wanaka tree is surely a tourism mystery and hype that we don’t quite get. When arriving you will find hundreds of tourists on the beach that are trying to take the same photo (which actually is a pretty hilarious thing to watch). We think it ruins the beautiful lake and the serene spot that it (apparently) used to be.
Instead: skip That Wanaka tree and use your time to drive down the amazingly scenic route to Lake Hawea just North of Lake Wanaka to spot many other beautiful trees and viewpoints that are far better. Bring a picknick and enjoy a place all by yourself!
Another nature phenomenon we didn’t quite get is Moeraki Boulder Beach. While many people rate this Boulder Beach on the East Coast as something wonderful and unique, we honestly were more amazed by the hordes of tourist buses stopping there to see these ‘’small smooth rocks’’. Each year, over 300,000 visitors a year make a stop here to look at these boulders. Google fact: a boulder is a rock that is usually smoothened by water and weather over time. And that is exactly what it was. The beach was packed, the rocks very small and the 25$ pancakes on offer at the cafe doesn’t make this a favouraite on our list.
Instead: use your time wisely and don’t go to Moeraki Boulder Beach. What we would recommend instead is visiting Dunedin Tunnel Beach. It is a 1 km hike down the track and you arrive at a spectacular rocky coastline. In 1870 pioneers hand-carved the rock tunnel down to a secluded beach so that the families could bathe in privacy. The water is wild and it is surely amazing seeing the massive waves crashing on the rocks.
So far we have seen quite a few cities in New Zealand. Our favourite so far, and we might be biased, is our hometown Christchurch which has a very calm vibe to it and is easy to get around. Auckland is usually the place where many travellers start or finish their journey. The Auckland Central Business District (CBD) is definitely an example of a concrete jungle and a very business-minded place that is much like any other big city. To us, the city doesn’t reflect on New Zealand’s beautiful outdoor character. The restaurants are above-average in price and you can find heaps expensive boutique shops. Not the place for a traveller to relax and enjoy!
Instead: We would recommend getting out of Auckland as fast as you can and head straight up north to the Bay of Islands. Here you will find beautiful beaches, pristine islands, marine life, forests and a lot of history. Go out on a cruise to see whales and dolphins, go scuba diving, kayaking, sailing or hiking. There is so much to see and do and you definitely won’t regret spending a few days up there.
Let’s set the record straight before it looks like we are disliking Queenstown. We do think Queenstown is a beautiful town. It is located in an amazing place and surrounded by beautiful mountains and a big lake. The perfect surrounding for this idyllic town. Though, it is a very touristy place and all about tours, day trips and thrillseeking. Perfect if you need your adrenaline boost and want to bungee jump or jetboat through canyons. But if you are not into extreme activities, or you just don’t feel like it, it might feel a little off coming here.
Instead: Grab your walking boots and head out of Queenstown to get a more natural thrill. There are so many good walking tracks all over the place on which you can truly enjoy the beautiful scenery of Queenstown. You can hike up Queenstown Hill, Ben Lomond or go further down the bay towards Glenorchy and do a trail there. Bob’s Cove is a shorter and easier hike while the Glacier Burn Earnslaw Trail is a tougher and longer one. Or just explore Queenstown itself by foot!
Waitomo is a small village that is known for its extensive underground cave system. Thousands of glowworms light up these caves and you can spot them on a boat trip. It does sound very impressive but to be honest, it turned out to be quite underwhelming. Multiple boats enter the cave simultaneously and it feels like a theme park ride. Unless you are really into worms, we think the price is too high and you don’t get to see what you are promised on the pictures.
Instead: Skip Waitomo and drive a bit further up North to the coastal town Raglan. This quaint, cool, hip and chic town is known for its amazing surf, cool bars and chill vibe. Not a bad place to spend a few days and to get away from the tourists’ crowds. Snack away on the good local food, enjoy the flat whites and get out on the water to improve your surf game.
Explore the outer coast of Pohatu Marine Reserve and marvel at its spectacular towering cliffs, rock stacks, reefs, and deep sea caves. Observe the diverse wildlife and marine species such as penguins, seals, various sea birds and possibly the world’s smallest dolphin!