It's no secret that New Zealand is uniquely beautiful, with rolling green hills inland and stunning white (or black, depending on the coast) sand beaches spanning our coastlines. It's the picturesque dream that we're known for, and we're proud to call it home.
If you've lived in NZ for a while, you'll already have a few favourite spots on the list to take the family to. Perhaps it's a bach you head to every summer, or a beach you know the waves will be perfect for boogie boarding at - we've all got our little gems that we love to visit.
However, often us Kiwis get a little comfortable with our surroundings and forget to explore the hidden corners of our country that we're so well known for.
This summer, if you're not sure where to go on a beautiful day, check out this list of top 10 hidden locations to visit this holiday season and enjoy exploring something new!
In this blog, we focus on the hidden gems of the North Island, but if you're interested in further exploring NZ, check out our blog where we cover the infamously picturesque South Island.
1. Whale Bay
A stunning cove that's sheltered from the wind and ocean currents, slightly north of Matapouri, Northland - you can only access this little beauty through a 10-minute bushwalk down a steep hill. But once you make it to the bottom, the water is warm and perfect for swimming and the sand is soft, ideal for a game of on-the-beach cricket.
- Easy spot for parking at the top of the hill
- Difficult enough to get to that there wont be crowds of people on the beach
- A safe and sheltered area to swim if you have kids
2. Kai Iwi Lakes
An often unexplored area of Northland, the Kaipara region harbours a magnificent set of lakes on the west coast. There are three lakes in total (one for skiing, one for swimming and one that is 'tapu' and cannot be accessed), each entrenched with local Maori history. To locals, the lakes are a hot spot to visit on a summer's day, with sun-heated, crystal-clear water to splash about in and a campground on-site if you want to make the trip a slightly longer one.
- Perfectly clear water that's usually warm in the summer
- A great campground (with a burger bar if you get hungry)
- Quite literally in the middle of no where and well hidden
3. Otanewainuku Forest Park
A gently graded, two-hour DOC walk (great if you're taking the kids along) nestled in the Bay of Plenty Region, offering breath-taking panoramic views of East Cape, Mount Tarawere and Mount Ruapehu. Plus, if you're a fan of our native bush and the bird life that thrives within it, you're likely to catch a glimpse of Tawa tree canopies with robins, bellbirds and kokako. There have even been a few Kiwi spotted, if you're lucky!
- An easy walk for the family (no strollers recommended)
- Take a picnic and enjoy the view at the top, like nothing you could drive to
- A stunning display of native and protected wildlife
(Photo credit: DOC.govt.nz)
4. The Blue Springs (Waihou River)
Less than a 5km stroll through bushland and alongside a beautiful river bed will bring you to a spring so pure and fresh that the water is bottled and sold. The water takes 100 years to filter up to the surface, resulting in a virtually clear/blue colour that's unreal to look at. Plus, while you're strolling the riverside you'll catch a glimpse of the freshwater trout that live within it.
- Brilliant spot for taking photos
- Boardwalks and stiles to help you get through the wetland areas
- No swimming allowed in this terrifically pure waterhole, sorry family!
5. Coca Cola Lake
A natural phenomenon tucked away in the far-north Karikari peninsular, this lake is filled with peat and tannis minerals that have turned the water a sparkling colour, that strikes an uncanny resemblance to Coca-Cola. Bring your togs along, park right next to the lake and jump in to cool off on a hot summer day. Don't worry - the colour of the water is completely harmless.
- Local legend says the lake has natural healing properties that bring in visitors from far and wide
- It's a completely free activity and a great alternative swimming spot
6. Hunua Suspension Bridge Path
Tucked in the Hunua Ranges regional park south of Auckland is a stunning loop track that will take you over the iconic suspension bridge over Wairoa Stream, through dense native bush and pop out to reveal a stunning vista of the local dam.
The path up is somewhat of a steep incline, but quite easily trekked in around an hour.
The famous Hunua falls are also a short distance away, so if you're looking to pack in a few stunning sights in one trip, this is a location with a bunch of natural marvels nestled amongst it.
7. Taupo Thermal Swimming Spot
Based in the thermal region of the mid-North Island is the Otumuheke stream and spa park; home to a hot-water stream that flows straight into the great Waikato river. It's a very small and specific area of the river where the cold water of the river-current hasn't mixed with the thermal heated spots, leaving bathwater temperature nooks to bathe in. Take the family, bring your togs and find a spot in the naturally heated watering hole.
- The water is warm, so even on a cold day, this is a great option.
- The water is shallow and family friendly
- A completely free activity that's only a five minute walk away from the car park
8. Gisborne (Rere) Rock Slide
For those of you who have an inclination for adrenaline, but don't want to dig too deep in your pockets for a thrilling experience, the Rere Rock Slide in Gisborne is tailor made for you. Grab your boogie boards, hold on tight and dare yourself to plummet downstream into a deep, freshwater watering hole at the bottom. It's suitable for all ages, but bare in mind if you catch enough speed you might walk away with a few scrapes and bruises - nothing a outdoorsy Kiwi can't handle!
- An action packed day out that provides a tonne of entertainment
- Tip: boogie boards go quickly, where as inflatables travel at a more leisurely pace
- If you've got young kids, keep safety in mind
9. Rimu Street Waterhole, New Plymouth
As a kid, nothing could beat finding a swimming spot that had enough elevated areas to safely execute the biggest bomb possible straight into the water. If you're traversing the Taranaki region this summer, we'd highly recommend biking to Rimu Street in New Plymouth, taking a picnic with you and spending a day swimming in the hidden spot. The locals in the area are known for being friendly, so if you can't track it down once you get there - just ask!
- Elevate your swimming activities with great spots to jump off
- Easy to access with a 100m walk from the roadside
(Photo Credit: Venture Taranaki)
10. Spicer Botanical Park
A Wellington Region and Porirua city gem, the Spicer Botanical park is a pretty spot with plantings that represent vegetation from all across the world. A number of trails lead through the vast Kohekohe forest, laced with artificial plantations. From 'Europaea Walkway' to 'Americana Walkway', if you're looking for a global experience tucked away in a small slice of NZ, you'll find it here.
- Many species of vegetation to view, nestled in an NZ forest
- A great spot for picnics with the family
(Photo Source: Poriruacity.govt.nz)
After your big day out...
Of course, after any big day out with the family involving bush treks, off the beaten path routes, sand and surf, you're going to be bringing a little more of the outdoors inside when you get home than you might like. If you do end up with a few outdoorsy stains here and there, don't worry, we've got you covered with our FREE stain guide which you can download below!