The Beautiful National Parks of New Zealand
New Zealand has some of the most amazing scenery in the world, and that’s no exaggeration. What makes this scenery so impressive and awe inspiring are the extreme differences in terrain, elevation, and features. New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery has been protected by National Parks, which can be found all over the North and South Islands. This page will give you an overview of some of the best New Zealand National Parks, but be warned… you may find yourself entirely obsessed with visiting the Land of the Long White Cloud (or Aotearoa, as the native Maori call it).
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Just one look at this gigantic mountain and you’ll see why it’s been protected since 1953. It’s gorgeous. The park is the highest mountain in New Zealand and Australia. Poking through the clouds at 12,349 feet (3764m), this mountain is roughly double the height of the Adirondack’s highest mountain, Mount Marcy. The Ngai Tahu tribe that inhabit the South Island find this mountain sacred and have a legendary tale of how the mountain was formed.
Fiordland National Park
The largest of all of New Zealand’s National Parks, Fiordland, is a region overwhelmingly dominated by lush forests, inlets, rivers, sounds, and lakes. This area contains the often photographed Milford Sound, as well ad Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. There are 15 fiords within the park, all of which were formed by glacier activity during the Ice Age. The park is known also for its abundant wildlife, like the native Fiordland crested penguin.
Abel Tasman National Park
Located on the South Island’s northern side, this park is a limestone landscape with deep caves, underground rivers, and sandy, golden beaches. Abel Tasman National Park covers 87 square km (225 sq km), and is one of the top sea and kayaking destinations in all of New Zealand. From within the park, you can access beautiful waterfalls like the Wainui Falls, Harwood’s Hole, and the 32 mile (51 km) long Coast Track. Estuaries can be accessed from the Coast Track, but reservations for walking within the park are highly recommended.
Paparoa National Park
This is a particularly odd landscape, made up of sea weathered limestone. Located on the South Island, Paparoa National Park is a relatively short distance from Abel Tasman. The park was founded in 1987, and is widely known for its famous Pancake Rocks. Salt spray and constant pounding waves have shaped the limestone into these oddly stacked formations. These rocks during high tide become caverns, with the holes in the rocks filling up with water and pressure. The result is the entire Pancake Rocks area becoming a series of active blowholes, a stunning sight to see!