GET WILD: Experience New Zealand's best wilderness areas

New Zealand’s parks and reserves make up a third of the country’s land mass, so you don’t have to travel far to experience the wilderness.

New Zealand’s parks and reserves make up a third of the country’s land mass, so you don’t have to travel far to experience the wilderness.

Here are some of our suggested places to go if you want to switch off from city life and dive head first into nature.

 

TE ANAU – GATEWAY TO FIORDLAND

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Te Anau, a picturesque township on the shores of Lake Te Anau, is the gateway to the southern wilderness area of Fiordland National Park and the famous Milford Sound.

Te Anau is a great destination for an overnight visit or a longer stay for those wanting to explore the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest conservation area. Waterfalls cascade downwards from as high as 1000 metres, dolphins and seals frolic in the pristine waters as penguins watch on from the shore. It’s also a great place to stopover and prepare to tackle the Routeburn Track, Kepler Track or Milford Track.

For a taste of the region, book a table at Redcliffs Cafe to try locally sourced crayfish, venison, hare and lamb. Miles Better Pies serves up the classic Kiwi favourite and their famous venison pies are not to be missed! If you want to join the locals, have a hearty pub meal at the Fat Duck Gastro Pub.

 

HUMP RIDGE TRACK

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Tuatapere, Southland (Credit: Graeme Murray)

On the fringes of the spectacular Fiordland National Park, the Hump Ridge Track begins just outside the historic timber town of Tuatapere. The three-day, 61km trail leads hikers on a journey of natural discovery across remote landscapes typical of this rugged south-western coastal region – endless panoramas guaranteed to have you reaching for your camera as each new vista appears.

Doing the Hump Ridge offers a variety of adventure options and price points whether self or fully guided, catered or not, in private or shared rooms. And if you want a lighter walking distance, there are options that include a helicopter flight in and jet boat ride out with the Wairaurahiri River Jet.

Hikers can have a fully guided experience or opt for the freedom walk option, staying in backcountry lodges along the way. The Okaka and Port Craig lodges are fully-equipped for up to 40 people and accommodation includes premium upgrade rooms. Both lodges have a licensed bar so a cold beer or wine at the end of a long day’s walk is always on the menu.

 

STEWART ISLAND

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Ulva Island, Stewart Island. Credit: Miles Holden

Stewart Island or Rakiura is the third island in New Zealand’s main chain and one of the country’s undiscovered gems.

Stewart Island is sparsely populated, with less than 400 full-time residents. Human occupants are far outnumbered by the local brown kiwi – just one of many native bird species living on the island. There is more chance to see the flightless bird in its natural environment here than anywhere else in New Zealand. Real Journeys Wild Kiwi Encounter takes guests by catamaran to an isolated beach for a memorable up close-up experience of New Zealand’s national icon in its natural habitat.

Oban, the only township on the island, has a variety of accommodation options including the Stewart Island Lodge which hosted Prince Harry during his 2015 visit. There are also backpackers, motels, one hotel, holiday houses to rent, B&Bs and campsites. The local pub is where the community comes together and they are more than happy to welcome visitors for a drink and a meal.

For wilderness explorers looking for the ‘end of the earth’, the Rakiura Track is the place to go. One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this trail has the most birdlife and least predictable weather, but planked walkways keep feet dry and ensure the three-day walk is possible year-round.

What areas of New Zealand would you most like to explore?