Looking to do a gap year in New Zealand, but want to find some hidden spots on your tour to amp up your Insta? Kiwi photographer lola.photography has scoped the place out and provided her top 8 spots to escape the crowds and have a piece of New Zealand all to yourself.
With a simple 4WD rental, you can live a life of luxury with your own private beach. Hit the 4WD tracks through Woodhill Forest that run along the West Coast of Auckland. A sweet 30 – 45 minute drive from Auckland’s North Shore will see you dune surfing and skinny dipping in the golden sunset without a soul in sight. When evening comes, it’s time to snuggle up for a night of satellite spotting and shooting stars.
Great Barrier Island
A hike from Auckland City will get you to one of New Zealand’s most beautiful islands. The Barrier is basically New Zealand on steroids. The 4 hours by car ferry it takes to get there is worth every moment plus it comes with incredible harbour views and dolphin sightings nearly every trip! Get ready for white sand beaches, secret waterfalls and natural hot pools hiding in the bush. Dreamy!
The Mount Roy hike in Wanaka is increasing in popularity, and for good reason. Get a sweat on with a casual six-hour hike (eek) for epic views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, the Matukituki Valley, and Wanaka (if it’s a clear day!). The weather here tends to change quickly so plan ahead with sturdy shoes and warm, windproof clothing. Nobody wants sun, rain, wind, sleet and snow in the space of 3 hours dressed in a pair of shorts and a tee!
We know what you seasoned travellers are thinking, it’s not possible to get Cathedral Cove to yourself… Hello ungodly morning hour and a hike in the pitch black. But is it worth it, we hear you ask. For the solo sunrise worthy of Narnia at the end, that’s a firm yes from us. Take a torch, a jumper and a buddy – it can be pretty cold through the bush (and marginally spooky too…).
Anawhata Infinity Pools
Natural infinity pools you say?! We’re sold already. Head to West Coast beach in Anawhata, an off-the-radar beach right next door to Piha, to seek out these incredible pools. What’s travel without a little adventure (slash hide and seek!)? Our top tip to finding them in no time? Stay on high ground and be ready to bush-whack, and possibly be whacked right back by Mother Nature.
Opoutere secret beach
You know a spot’s a goodun when it’s a favourite of the locals. Drive down an old dirt logging road and trek through the bush to find this small secluded white sand beach with an awesome sea cave you can walk through! Visiting this spot on a weekday will give you your best bet of topless sunbathing without the prying eyes. If you wanna get active, this place is perfect for some paddle boarding.
Hahei Rope Swing
We do love a rope swing. Swing from the tree(s) – literally – on this piece of rope tied to a giant old Pohutukawa tree. There’s quite the drop off overlooking Hahei beach which is sure to weed out the brave from the rest! This ancient tree sits up in a grassy (and super gorsey) Pohutakawa Grove to the left of the Hahei Pā walkway. At the very beginning of the walk, look up the hill to your right and you should be able to spot it. Don’t look down, wait, DO look down! If you dare…
While this waterfall certainly isn’t off the beaten track (in fact it’s right next to the road) if you’re an early riser, you can take a morning dip in this magic setting before the crowds arrive. Don’t just go under the falls, go behind them – duh! Just be careful, it’s a slippery devil! Get ready to belt out Rihanna when the comes up, glistens through the falls and makes you shine bright like a diamond. A RAINBOW diamond.
Want more inspiration? Check out @lola.photography on Instagram for the ultimate in travel envy. Ready to pack up and head off for your own gap year adventure? Find out more about travelling to New Zealand and get booking your slice of paradise.