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Ladies, gentlemen and Kiwis of all ages, it’s time to dust off our categorization of the Seven Wonders of World series, inspired by the New 7 Wonders contest years back, and take a close look at all that New Zealand offers! It’s no secret we find it a fascinating country (enough that we profiled it in our 8 Facts Series as well), and it’s beautiful too, with two World Heritage sites spread across the north and south islands—and a third located off the coast of New Zealand. There’s no shortage of cultural, natural, and urban things to do, so without further adieu, here’s our completely subjective list of the 7 Wonders of New Zealand.
Perhaps the most magnificent location in all of New Zealand, Milford Sound is technically a fjord. Viewing the sound is done via many boat tour operators which operate from the harbor. Day trips leave from Queenstown, which is the closest major city to Milford Sound. The Milford Track is also one of the most popular hiking trails in the country. The number of hikers on the track is limited to 40 per day. If you visit during a rainstorm, you can witness hundreds of waterfalls which will appear on the walls of the sound.
Known as Whakaari in the local Maori dialect, the name “White Island” came from Captain Cook, who thought it was always in a cloud of white steam. Located in the Bay of Plenty near the North Island, it’s an active volcano and was the former location of a sulfur mining operation which ended in disaster. Helicopter and boat trips to the island leave daily from Whakatane.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
As the only glaciers in the Pacific, Fox and Franz Josef glaciers have the unique distinction of being the only glaciers in the world flowing into tropical forests. Only a 30 min drive from each other, the two glaciers can be accessed from the town of Franz Josef Glacier. Both glaciers are very accessible by walking, though it is not recommended to get too close because of dangers from falling ice. Also unlike many glaciers around the world, both glaciers have been advancing since the mid 1980s.
Poor Knights Islands
The Poor Knights were named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the 10 best dive locations in the world. He probably knew what he was talking about. Located in the north end of the North Island, the Poor Knights shows the diversity of the geography of New Zealand, as you can go diving in tropical waters one day and visit fjords and glaciers the next. The Poor Knights are a protected marine reserve. The Poor Knights are best accessed from Whangarei or Tutukaka, north of Auckland.
Rotorua is one of the most active geothermal areas in the world. You can find boiling mud and pools of scalding water in the city parks. There are also geysers and geothermal spas nearby. You’ll know when you’re close to Rotorua because of the strong sulfur smell in the city. In addition to the geothermal attractions, Rotorua is also a hub for adventure tourism as well as watersports on Lake Rotorua. Rotorua’s hot springs are a wonder of the country worth exploring and can be reached in a days driving from Auckland.
Tongariro National Park
Home of the real Mount Doom and many of the landscapes from The Lord of the Rings, Tongariro National Park is home to three active volcanoes: Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. The park has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tongariro Track is one of the most popular hiking destinations for backpackers in New Zealand, and Tongariro also has one of the most popular ski slopes in the country.
While not a traditional type of selection, the All Blacks are perhaps the sports team is most closely associated with a single country. The three most popular sports in New Zealand are rugby, rugby, and rugby. The All Blacks are the New Zealand national rugby union team and have been playing for over 100 years. The team name is believed to have come from a typo in a British newspaper who wanted to describe the Kiwis as all backs. Always ranked near top of world standings, they have sadly only won a single world cup. They are famous for the haka, a Maori war dance, which they perform before every match. Watch a video of the haka.
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