Rotorua is situated in a huge volcanic caldera which is the source of wide-ranging geothermal activity in and around the town. Boiling mud pits, bubbling hot sulphur pools, neon green lakes and belching geysers cover the land. A visually wonderous, though often foul-smelling region (the sulphur smells like rotten eggs). Breathe through your mouth and let your eyeballs revel in the sublime kaleidoscopic landscape.
Lake Ngakoro (left) and the edge of Champagne Pool (right)
Mount Aoraki and the surrounding region are the result of millennia-old glacial activity, which is still in motion to this day, sculpting the landscape and responsible for the recent appearance of Tasman Lake.
Nearby Lake Pukaki gets its luminous powder-blue hue from 'glacial flour,' extremely finely ground rock particles created by the colossal weight of ice scouring the landscape.
Glacial ice and icebergs, Tasman Lake
Sunset and moonrise over Mount Aoraki, the largest mountain in New Zealand
The small coastal town of Kaikoura is home to an abundance of marine life, including whales, dolphins and fur seals. Sparkling turquoise waters add to the allure and draw in even the most committed of landlubbers.
The Forgotten World Highway, aka State Highway 43, is ranked as one of the ten worst roads to drive by the local police, mainly due to the winding, slippery gravel-surfaced road at Tangarakau Gorge. The distracting, jaw-dropping scenery may also be a reason. It's definitely worth risking the drive for. Verdant green hills and dark and mysterious forest await the explorer.
State Highway 43 (aka the Forgotten World Highway) and Tahora Saddle
Along the Otago coastline, on Koekohe beach, are the mysteriously spherical Moeraki Boulders. Over fifty are scattered along the shore, with more being slowly freed by erosion from entombment in the adjoining cliffs.
Boulders range in size from 0.5 metres to 2.2 metres in diameter, with most being almost perfectly spherical. They were naturally formed as spheres, much like pearls are in oysters
The boulders are composed of mud, fine silt and clay, cemented by calcite. Stones visible today were all originally buried in the mudstone cliffs, with erosion eventully freeing them. Some boulders are still fully or partly trapped (left)
In the tiny coastal town of Te Araroa you will find an ancient, sprawling pohutukawa tree, thought to be the largest in New Zealand. Called Te Waha-o-Rerekohu, it may also be the oldest too, at around 600 years old. With an almost arcane and otherworldly feel to it, it's hard not to imagine you've time-slipped into a more primordial and aborial past
Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is part of the vast and largely unexplored Fiordland wilderness on South Island. Despite the name it's actuallly a fiord, a flooded glacial valley that runs 15km inland from the Tasman Sea. Near vertical rock faces tower overhead on all sides, with some of the highest peaks soaring to over 4900ft. Thunderous waterfalls cascade from many of these vertiginous heights, adding to the monumental aura of a place Rudyard Kipling once described as the eighth wonder of the world.
Milford Sound was 'discovered' in 1823 by Welshman John Grono who named it after his birthplace of Milford Haven. Piopiotahi is the Maori name. Piopio is an extinct bird and tahi means 'one', the overall name relating to the legend of a single piopio bird flying to the fiord after the death of Maui, a mythological figure in Maori culture
The Otago Peninsula is a jagged finger of land that juts out eastwards from the city of Dunedin (South Island). The landmass forms the southern border of Otago Harbour and is largely covered in undulating hills, coastal inlets and wind-swept beaches. Sheep and cows freely roam open pasture inland, with coastal regions home to seals and albatross.
Near the small west-coast community of Punakaiki (South Island) are the strange geological formations known as the Pancake Rocks. Situated south of the town at Dolomite Point, the finlely layered limestone stacks formed around 30 million years ago when the land was deep underwater. Seismic activity evetually raised the land above sea-level, with the elements gradually eroding the rock into the 'pancakes' we see now.
Salt-water blowholes, the often violent action of the sea and other elemental factors ensure the rocks continue to be sculpted and transformed
There is a multitude of other places throughout New Zealand that seem to defy easy description, giving weight to the oft-used adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words'.