4 Stunning Off-the-Beaten-Path Places in New Zealand

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Exploring New Zealand, you can’t help but feel that nature is the protagonist — and humans are just side characters. Most of the population lives on the North Island, while the South Island offers the best places to reconnect with nature.

While most tourists head straight for the Milford Sound or Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, there are several secret spots to enjoy nature. If you want to get away from tourists, head south towards Invercargill after visiting the Milford Sound — which is a must-see even if you are surrounded by other people. In the south and southeast part of the island, you will find four off-the-beaten-path places to reconnect with nature.

You can start your journey from Christchurch and rent a small RV to travel the island. Stock up with food and equipment for the road in Christchurch and download Campermate to find the best camping spots on the road.

Colac Bay

Colac Bay beach
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On the way to Invercargill, stop at Colac Bay, and spend the night in a secluded, free camping spot with sea view. It may get windy due to ocean exposure, but if you feel the need to sleep close to the water and enjoy a secluded wild landscape, Colac Bay is an excellent choice. And, if you're a surfer, you'll find the waves in this area are prime for some morning surf.

Nugget Point

Sunset at Nugget Point
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The Otago Peninsula is located on the southeast coast. As you travel towards it, make a quick stop at Nugget Point. A short hike takes you to the top of a hill to an old lighthouse where you can gaze over the spectacular rock formations jutting out of the water. From here, you can stay in nearby Dunedin. Dunedin Holiday Park is a good campsite with amenities and unlimited internet, with easy access to areas where you can observe wildlife.

Okia Reserve

Otago Peninsula next to Dunedin, New Zealand
Credit: jcjv/Shutterstock

Okia Reserve is a protected area that includes a mixture of wetland and dune country. The main hike is one hour and 30 minutes (or two hours and 30 minutes for the loop) and will bring you to Victory Beach where you can spot sea lions and wild birds. You can also hike the neighboring "pyramids", or small hills that offer equally-stunning views of the valley and water.

Sandfly Bay

Sandfly Bay
Credit: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB/Shutterstock

Sandfly Bay is a special place where penguins rest after spending hours in the ocean fishing. The secret to seeing them is waking up around 5 a.m. (if you stay in Dunedin) and heading to the bay before the crowds (it takes 20 minutes to get there). After parking, you have to hike for around 15 minutes.

The view of Sandfly Bay will leave you speechless. This long wild beach is surrounded by sand dunes, and as the sun rises, you can hear the sound of waves crashing on the shore and birds.

You have to wait patiently for the penguins. Every day is different, so there is no guarantee that they will show up — but if they do, it will be magical. You can watch them come out of the water and go rest on the beach. Please remember to keep your distance because if they see you they will not come out of the water.

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