Nestled away in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, are the islands of New Zealand. Often overshadowed by its large neighbor, Australia, this is a country that should be singing its natural rugged beauty. Instead, it quietly carries on — knowing that every day, a few thousand new visitors fall in love with it.
There's a wealth of beauty to discover here — and these top magical places to visit in New Zealand are just a few of our favorite places.
The North Island, home to the capital Wellington and boasting great rolling hills, dense rainforests, fruitful wineries and steaming geothermal lakes, was the stunning setting for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. Volcano cones dot the countryside — some extinct, others still bubbling. The South Island is best known for its spectacular scenery — vast blue lakes, world-famous glaciers, rusty red mountain ranges and dramatic fjord land.
4. Top Magical Places to Visit in New Zealand: Napier
In February 1931, an earthquake measuring a 7.8 magnitude reduced Napier to rubble. The positive Kiwi attitude meant local authorities saw a blank canvas and gave Napier an Art Deco facelift.
Now, the town's sleek, low-rise, pastel-colored houses brighten palm-fringed streets. The Deco houses of Marewa and the extraordinary Art Nouveau-style National Tobacco Company building shouldn't be bypassed. Explore, on foot, or book a 1930's vintage car tour for the whole 'Great Gatsby' experience.
5. Top Magical Places to Visit in New Zealand: Hawke's Bay
A few miles south, New Zealand's wineries come to life. Spend the day tasting reds, whites and rosés from family-run Craggy Range, before heading to Hakakino where Maori tribe, Ngati Kahungunu, welcome guests with legends of their ancestors. Learn the traditional 'hongi' greeting, before sitting down to a 'Food of the Chiefs meal, which serves fresh crab and vegetables as well as the Maori delicacy, sea urchin.
6. Top Magical Places to Visit in New Zealand: Christchurch
The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 devastated Christchurch, with many buildings, including the town hall and cathedral, left severely damaged. Nearly three years on, the city is rebuilding itself, with a restoration plan, in full swing, at the cathedral. Every local has a story of where they were on those fateful days. Spend time talking to them, and you'll be in awe of their fighting spirit.
See this beautiful, hopeful city while punting along the River Avon. Although there are still 'Red Zone' reminders, posters declaring 'Tomorrow starts here,' line car-park walls. An earthquake-friendly shopping mall, created out of old shipping containers, has already been built.