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If you’re itching for some adventure without the long overseas flight, there is plenty to do in our own backyard. While New Zealand might be little in surface area, it sure packs a huge punch when it comes to jaw-dropping natural beauty. There aren’t many countries in the world that offer such stunningly diverse landscapes, and the opportunities to view them while you’re swinging, hiking, horseback riding, or paddling past. Here are our top picks of places that might be flying under your radar. Don't forget to protect your Kiwi holiday with Domestic travel insurance.

Lake Tekapo, South Island

People bound for the Otago region from Christchurch often zoom right on past the little town of Tekapo. If they do stop, it’s to take a quick rest stop and a snap of the brilliant blue lake. While it might not have the rock star appeal of its cousins in the south, Queensland and Wanaka, Tekapo stands proudly on its own with its picturesque lake, world-renown stargazing, and hideaway alpine feel.

While other places in the country strap your feet into a bungee cord or at least plant them firmly on the ground, Tekapo throws you out into the universe. Home to the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve and NZ’s largest telescope, Tekapo has some of the best stargazing in the world. On a clear night, every eye in Tekapo is turned towards the heavens - and for good reason. When the stars are tucked away for the day, Tekapo is laced with hiking paths, horse riding tracks and lakeside strolls for the leisurely walkers. When your legs are hurting, there are the Tekapo Springs hot pools to soak in. With a view of the lake, staying in the steamy pools all day is an excellent way to spend the day - especially in winter when you might be showered with a sprinkling of snow.

Lake Tekapo, South Island

Haast Pass area, South Island

A mountain pass on the road from Wanaka to the coast, Haast Pass is the place the cliche “It’s about the journey, not the destination” was written about. A drive through the area will have you stopping and starting more times than a learner driver with a heavy foot for the break. There are more waterfalls than you’ll even care for - who would have thought that could happen - forests of 60-metre tree-giants, and a series of rapids dramatically called ‘The Gates of Haast’.

While it’s hard to pick a highlight from Haast Pass, the blue pools definitely warrant a mention and because they haven’t quite made it onto everybody’s collective radar, there’s a good chance you’ll have the path to yourself if you time it right.  A twenty-minute walk across a swinging suspension bridge - Hello, Instagram - the glacial pools are a Gatorade blue. While the words ‘blue’ and ‘pool’ might inspire a swim, the water is icy cold and could possibly turn you a similar shade.

haast pass

The Bay of Islands, North Island

Just a short three-hour drive or 35-minute flight from Auckland is the intriguingly named Bay of Islands, which unsurprisingly is a bay of 144 islands.  With its subtropical climate, the bay has remote beaches, lush greenery and a strong connection to its Maori culture. Like the rest of New Zealand, you’ll find there are plenty of outdoor activities and hikes to fill your days with, but unlike the country’s Alpine areas, it might just be warm enough for a swim.

The historic town of Kerikeri on the mainland is worth a visit, as is the 4km Rainbow Falls walk nearby. If you’re looking to get underneath the water, the bay is also great for scuba diving. Check out the Paihia region for a chance to see The Rainbow Warrior (a sunken Greenpeace boat) and the HMNZS Canterbury. The subtropical climate means there’s a good chance you will see a variety of colourful tropical fish. Dolphins are also a regular fixture in the bay and you’ll find that there are a number of tour operators in the area which will allow you to swim with them. If you would rather stay dry, kayaking is popular too and a great way to really get a feel for the bay.

bay of islands new zealand

While it might be tempting to jet-off to an exotic location, sometimes your bank account or other commitments won’t allow it. Don’t dismay, there are so many hidden gems and hideaway spots here in New Zealand to explore. So why not get out there and have an adventure in our very own backyard.

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