It's no secret that New Zealand has an almost impossible number of amazing locations to visit. But I know you're gonna want to find the best of the BEST locations to visit, so why not start with the ones that really make you go WOW!
I'm always amazed by places where the water is incredibly surreal, so much so that you have to blink and rub your eyes to believe that you're actually there. We have our fair share of unique locations where for various reasons the water is an incredible shade of blue, green or aqua. So without further ado, here are 5 places where I guarantee the water will leave you breathless!
The Blue Spring bubbles up with 100 year old water filtered from the nearby Mamaku Range - making it some of NZ's purest water. The water here is so pure that it provides 60% of NZ's bottled water, you've all heard of the the PUMP brand right? The water remains a chilly and constant 11 degrees all year round and the flow is actually deceivingly fast. To stand on the banks of the Blue Spring watching the water flow serenely downstream, you wouldn't imagine that there's actually the equivalent of enough water to fill a 25 metre swimming pool in about 10 minutes flowing by. If you look closely, you can often see trout hanging out in the shallows here, the water clarity is so amazing that you can easily see all the way to the bottom of the river, and the water colour is enhanced even further by the bright green weed that flows under the surface waving gently with the flow.
There's two options for visiting The Blue Spring, if you're pressed for time you can park at the Leslie Road carpark - the Spring is only about a 10 minute walk from here, but to really appreciate the whole area, it's worth walking from the Whites Road end - about 1.5 hours each way. It's also a location that I visit on my Spring photography workshop as it's just so photogenic!
If I had to pick a favourite WOW spot in this list - Hokitika Gorge would be it. Maybe it was the lighting conditions we experienced when we visited (minus the incessant sandflies you always have to watch out for on the West Coast), or perhaps it was the lovely drive in from the coast with views of the Southern Alps all the way in front of us, but either way I was absolutely mesmerised by Hokitika Gorge and rightly so.
The vibrant, milky turquoise colour of the water here is due to the fact it is glacial fed and full of 'rock flour'. What is rock flour you might ask?! It's basically ground-down schist rock and sandstone from the Southern Alps travelling out towards the sea, and the particles are so fine that instead of settling to the bottom of the river they remain suspended in the water.
The vibrancy of the water is only enhanced by the stark contrast of the white rock on either side of the gorge too. Visit anytime, but preferably not directly after heavy rain as the colour is likely to be quite diluted then.
It's a bit of a big call saying that this beach has the best water colour in NZ, and you might have been to spots that would suggest otherwise. But unless you've also been to Matai Bay to compare, perhaps reserve judgement until you do!
Matai Bay is a small bay at the tip of the Karikari penninsula in Northland. The appeal of this place is that there is a large DOC campsite right on the beach where you can park up and stay. I've heard that it is very popular in summer though, so it may be best to go out of the busy season. We stayed here one evening in late April and even then the water was still warm enough for the boys to swim both on sunset and not long after sunrise - they loved how amazingly clear the water was that they had to go in twice - meanwhile I was too busy taking photos and videos to indulge!
There are actually two bays here with a small headland joining the two so you actually get double the beauty. The best time of day to photograph the gorgeous water colour is after sunrise during the golden time of morning once the sun is high enough to highlight the water.
I did hesitate to put Blue Pools on the list - only because this place has grown exponentially in visitors over the past few years - I read a statistic saying the number of annual visitors had grown from 3,000 to 100,000 annually in just a few years. So if you're looking for a secluded spot all to yourself, this might not be it, we found it one of the busier spots we visited on our whole campervan trip round the South Island, but it was school holidays. Even finding a carpark can be tricky at certain times.
BUT like anywhere, if you plan well you'll be able to have a great experience. I'd try to visit early morning or late afternoon, and if you're camping, you can easily be early to visit if you're camping - just stay at the Cameron Flat campsite a few minutes down the road - this spot is also incredibly scenic overlooking a beautiful river valley surrounded by mountains - just magical.
The walk takes about half an hour through gorgeous NZ beech forest before you pop out into the clearing. If you're brave enough to take on the sandflies you can swim here too!
Many of the alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Country have a stunning colour when seen in the right light such as Lake Tekapo and Lake Ruataniwha, but none have the backdrop of Mt Cook like Lake Pukaki does.
One of the best places to get a shot of the lake is from Peter's Lookout - about halfway up the lake on the way to Mt Cook. Visiting in the middle of the day on a calm, clear and still day will provide your best chance of seeing the water colour at its most vibrant, and if you're lucky possibly capturing some reflections too!
If you plan your visit during lupin season (end of November - mid January), you may even get the added bonus of capturing these amazingly colourful plants with the vivid lake colour in the background as well. On the day I captured these shots it was moody as anything and threatening rain, but Lake Pukaki still looked amazing!
You wouldn't even know the water colour at Bob's Cove is so incredible if you just drive past on the Queenstown-Glenorchy road. It's not until you actually make the 15 minute walk around to the jetty here that its true beauty is revealed.
The cove itself is about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown and to get the full experience here, it's worth climbing up to the lookout - a bit of a short, sharp uphill slog but the views are worth it, 360 degree views in either direction up and down Lake Wakatipu. I did the hike up at sunrise in a hurry when I saw the sky about to light up - it nearly killed me but it was very worth it!
I highly recommend pausing for a while and sitting at the end of the jetty to just take in the view - it's very good for the soul. You can easily see the bottom of the lake here too - it's that clear!
Have you discovered these places on your travels around NZ? Which was your favourite? And are there other places I should put on the list?
Send me a message and let me know!
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