OK, so during my time in NZ I managed to find a couple of places away from the crowds and along adventure alley. These secret hide outs were mostly sourced from locals and some of them take an arm and a leg to reach but they are totally worth it! Check out my 6 off the beaten track hidden gems.
Milford Sound - Beyond the Chasm
Once you’re on your way through the Milford Highway you will no doubt end up at the Chasm, Which is pretty cool in itself, but of course there’s always more room for a little adventure! Just downstream from the roaring chasm is not only great views of the waterfall but also the most tranquil pool and chill out spot.
Directions: Standing on the lower bridge over the chasm walk in the direction of the car park only a few steps or so and you should see a faint path descending down to the river. The path is pretty steep and involves hanging off branches and sliding down mud banks so during heavy rainfall avoid this route! During the decent there are some really cool angles to see the chasm that will either make you go wow or make you shit a brick, but once your down at the bottom you can kick back, relax and take some snaps.
Fox Glacier - Copeland track
Oh the wonderful Copeland track, that surprisingly people seem to miss out for some reason. Maybe because its hidden away from towns and off the main road, I don’t know, but its defiantly worth making the 2 day adventure along the Copeland valley and up to the welcome flat hut. Here you get the prize of amazing natural hot springs surrounded by snow covered mountains and a full sky of stars. Am I selling it yet?
Directions: From Fox Glacier drive 26km south on Highway 6. Follow signs to carpark 150m down gravel road. The 32km return track is very easy to follow and well marked. This track floods heavily in rain and is impassable.
Franz Josef - Tartare Secret Lagoon Tunnel
Franz Josef is full of day hikes some a few minutes, others a few hours. One that is advised to do is the quick 20 minute walk through the Tartare tunnel. However, what isn’t specified is the adventure that lies ahead of the tunnel. Make sure you have a sturdy pair of boots on that will keep your feet dry or you don’t mind getting wet. If it’s been raining a few days before, chance is the tunnel will still be pretty wet and considering the west coast gets 200 days of rain a year well…. You can do the math.
So as I was saying the directions: once at the end of the Tartare tunnel walk on to the bridge, look directly opposite and there is a small waterfall that leads down to the river. This is the entrance to the hidden tunnel. Carefully climb over on to the wooden supports and then hug the rock face until you get over to the other side. From here step over the top waterfall pool, around the door and in to the secret tunnel. Go through the tunnel until you reach a point just before where it gets ridiculously low. DO NOT go through here. If you look up there is a hatch a ladder leading up to it. Remember to put the hatch back on after your visit is over.
Omanawa - Omanawa falls
Omanawa falls is a beautiful blue lagoon surrounded by a circle of towering green cliffs, fed by a 100 ft water fall. The water plunges in to the pool past a huge open cave. It’s like something out of a movie and totally illegal to get to! But of course that doesn’t stop many people these days, and with this inside knowledge you will also be able to access this mini paradise. It is possible to just see the lagoon from a viewing platform as people have cut a hole in a fence, but to get down to the lagoon takes a lot more effort. Once down there, there is a platform and large boulders making It perfect to sunbathe, or you can take a chance and swim through the pool over to explore the cave (I did see a few eels chilling in there). The cave is full of glow worms that are constantly shitting, so that wet stuff dripping on your head isn’t water. The path down from the carpark is also a great place to see loads of glow worms at night.
Directions: This route isn’t for the faint hearted and can be very dangerous! Although I have recently heard they are doing maintenance on the old track to re-open it. Anywho, as follows. Once through the wire fence and at the viewing platform you will see stairs covered by a door with graffiti on it. You need to jump over/round the side of this and then you can start the track up, up up. Follow the track to the top and then turn left. The track will then begin to descend and start to become pretty steep, there are also some large rock drops. After around 40 minutes you will come to some really long ladders to make your way down, and this will lead out to the lagoon.
Tauranga - Kaiate falls
This out the way waterfall is totally under rated! There is a great walking track around the reserve and once you have finished you can take a dip in the pools of the waterfall. The top waterfall is made up of 3 sections which is pretty cool and an easy climb up to the 2nd layer for a little bit of privacy when bathing. However, the lower waterfall is perfect for taking a dip in and also jumping off rocks. I actually spent the night in my van here but it is not an area where freedom camping is permitted, so especially in the high season, best not to take a risk.
Directions: From Tauranga, head towards Waitao. Once here you can begin the drive out in to the wilderness along Rocky Cutting Road, from here take the right turning on to Kaiate Falls road and follow the sign to the sceninc reserve.
Rotarua - Waterfall spout hot Pool
This is probably the best kept secret around Rotarua. As you may know, hot pools get pretty crowded in this geothermal paradise, but this little gem stays out of sight and out of mind. The water is pretty murky and also quite shallow but it’s a great place to relax in peace and quiet either in the pool or sat on the side. The pool is a good size and has a small but powerfall waterfall gushing in to it. Next to the waterfall the ground gets pretty hot as this is the geothermal point, so watch your feet in this area. Someone also left a candle there when I went which was pretty romantic.
Directions: Head down to Wai-O-Tapu and join the Waiotapu loop road that’s full of hot pools. Either park in the car park for Lady Knox Geyser or park outside it if the gates are locked and jump over them. Head down the road towards the Geyser, however you need to keep your eye out for a track on the left going in to the bush. It’s about 5m after sign 045. Follow this track 300m until you arrive at the hot pool.