Natural Wonders of New Zealand

Leonard Lea Frazer

Tucked away in the south-western corner of Polynesia and described by the Maoris as “the Land of the Long White Cloud”, New Zealand welcomes travellers from around the world. The relaxed, laid-back atmosphere and the remote natural beauty of this island-nation is what attracted me to the home of the Kiwi bird.

Travelling by car, train, kayak and tall-ship schooner, I explored and discovered the NATURAL WONDERS OF NEW ZEALAND.

Imagine camping out under the stars in January, just you and your sleeping bag and roll-up foamy. Now, add a heated floor under your tent site and access to a nearby steam-heated oven to cook your meals in. Also include a relaxing hot, thermal pool to soak your body in after a daylong hike around the rim of an active volcano. Throw in a few million sheep, and you have a very different, but very New Zealand holiday. Not all the tent sites in New Zealand are “thermal heated,” but at Rotorua, centrally located on the North Island, some are.

Thermal activity beneath the earth’s outer crust has surfaced to form natural hot springs and pools inland and on coastal beaches, on both the main islands of New Zealand. Today, developed health spas at Taupo and Rotorua and boiling mud pools and gushing geysers at the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve attract visitors from throughout the South Pacific and the world.

At a local Rotorua campground I discovered the area with thermal heated tent pads and the above-ground cooking oven with piped in steam, and later found myself soaking in the campground’s indoor hot-pool along with several other New Zealand travellers.

On the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula I located “Hot Water Beach,” an appropriately named beauty spot worth checking out. Walking along the beach during low tide and digging a hole in the sand in just the right area will cause scalding hot water to surface; the wider the excavation the bigger the hot-tub. I was truly amazed at the natural features and popularity of this beach. I was also relieved to find a shovel, enabling me to share a hot pool with a group of five beach enthusiasts.

Not far from the “Bay of Islands” I explored the river-formed Waiornio Caves with a native Maori guide. With a single storm lantern, she escorts groups of visitors through the cave explaining its history and pointing out the many formations. In the glow-worm grotto I marvelled at a canopy of shimmering insects.

My New Zealand travel guidebook included a colour photograph of, what seemed like, big marbles on a beach. Before leaving Canada I had visions of these huge rocks lying on that sandy beach, gigantic boulders, perfectly round, some with a seven foot diameter, just sitting there on that lonely tide washed beach slowly sinking in the sand. The Moeraki Boulders, just north of Dunedin, on the east coast of the South Island, were formed six million years ago and, until recent centuries, lay buried. Years of pounding surf and tide changes have exposed them and today both travellers and geologists that frequent the area enjoy the presence of these beckoning rocks.

By combining the recreational opportunities New Zealand has to offer, with the varied and sometimes exotic natural locations, one can experience the ultimate in a South Seas holiday. During my visit to New Zealand, I encountered Canadian travellers at every stage of my journey. Everyone seemed eager to absorb as much of New Zealand as they could. From river-formed cave exploring and horseback riding inland, to sea kayaking and tall ship touring on the coast on the North Island, to a sea-formed cave visit, seal colony hike, hot pool soak at Harnner Springs, and a visit to the Moeraki Boulders on the south Island,  the New Zealand appeal has definitely caught on. The country’s natural beauty and her friendly and entrepreneurial inhabitants are two good reasons to make New Zealand your next travel destination.

Natural Wonders of New Zealand
Natural Wonders of New Zealand

Left: Leonard lee photos Above: Travel-writer Leonard Lea Frazer prepares dinner using a “steam cooker” at a Rotorua Campground. Recommended cooking times include: one hour for broccoli and Brussels sprouts, two hours for potatoes, three hours for chickens and corned beef, and four hours for pork, lamb or casseroles.

Right: Ground pipes deliver geo-thermal energy to a New Zealand power plant.

Natural Wonders of New Zealand
Natural Wonders of New Zealand

Left:Visitors to “Hot Water Beach” enjoy a soak in a home-made hot tub.

Right: The Moeraki Boulders, formed around central cores of lime crystals, millions of years ago, consolidated carbonate of lime, silica, alumina and peroxide of iron. They are perhaps the most perfect examples of their kind that have been found anywhere in the world.