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New Zealand's Natural Sparkle

New Zealand is home to some spectacular stretches of water. Ben Groundwater nominates four of the best.

It doesn’t take long to spot what all those film directors have seen. When you arrive in New Zealand, you realise immediately why this country has become a movie star in its own right, and why so many directors and cinematographers – not to mention viewers – have swooned over the depth of natural wow-factor on offer here.

New Zealand is beautiful, without a doubt: jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly beautiful. And that natural splendour is never more apparent than when you take in the country’s waterways, its lakes and its rivers, its sounds and its bays. Waterways are a huge part of what makes New Zealand so attractive, what makes it such a celebrity, and they’re also a huge part of the country’s tourism experience. Here are four of the best.

Small upright rocky islands, part of the Bay of Islands located in New Zealand

1. Bay of Islands

Locals flock to the Bay of Islands, a shimmering archipelago at the top of the North Island, as soon as the weather warms up, and it’s easy to see why. Though there’s natural wonders aplenty here, easily visible from the deck of a boat, the Bay of Islands is also a place to go ashore and enjoy a cultural or natural experience, whether that’s touring the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, strolling through Russell – New Zealand’s first European settlement – or relaxing on the beach at Paihia.

Closeup of yellow lupin flowers growing near the coast of New Zealand

2. Lake Taupo

At New Zealand’s North Island lies Lake Taupo, the country’s largest lake, and one that offers myriad activities upon or aside its sparkling waters (which cover an area the size of Singapore). Some choose a languid boat trip to take in the mountain scenery, while others simply stroll the lakeside paths. The town of Taupo on its northern shore hosts world-class resorts and restaurants.

Queenstown Lake Wakatipu The Remarkables, South Island

3. Lake Wakatipu

Though Queenstown on the South Island, Lake Wakatipu is a lightning-bolt-shaped body of water that is surrounded by some of New Zealand’s most ruggedly picturesque landscapes. There are several ways to explore the lake: at a sedate pace on the TSS Earnslaw steamboat; a little faster on a jet boat or water taxi; or under your own steam by kayak or canoe. Any outing on Wakatipu will take in views of snow-capped mountain ranges and deep, lush valleys, all bathed in the soft, pure light that makes this region so special.

Rapids with mountains in background, Milford Sound, South Island, NZ

4. Milford Sound

This is surely New Zealand’s most famous body of water, known for its sheer cliffs that drop into cold waters from high above, and for the visage of Mitre Peak, the jagged mountain that features in so many photographs. Though walking, or “tramping” as the locals call it, is a popular way to explore this area, there’s no better way to see the sound than from the water, where boats provide the chance to explore the area’s inlets and bays and spot its many spectacular waterfalls. (Milford Sound is named after the Pipiotahi in Maori, a bird that is now extinct but once inhabited this region.)

New Zealand can certainly outshine the best of them when it comes to natural bling. There is nothing understated here. This is a nation that simply envelopes you in its scenery, sounds and still waters. Come face to face with New Zealand's natural sparkle on our 15 Day New Zealand Getaway, which covers the North and South islands from top to toe.