By Samantha Deese
Traveling and discovering new places is a great way to slow-down and reflect. It is an opportunity to learn from new cultures, to heal from the wear and tear of everyday life, and to connect with people that might live very different lives from you. And in those experiences, we often find a lot of self-discovery.
New Zealand is a small island country of extraordinary beauty. Within a short distance, you’ll find mountains, glaciers, beaches, lakes, volcanoes, fjords, and green farmlands with a seemingly endless supply of sheep. The weather is consistently temperate; you can expect sunny days in the 70s during summertime (our winter). And the locals (known as Kiwis) are exceedingly hospitable and friendly. In early February, I made the choice to step away from life in Los Angeles, buy a ticket and have an adventure.
Here are my top 4 hiking destinations from my 5-week New Zealand escape:
1. Wharariki Beach – Pronounced Fah-ra-riki Beach. The perfect, hidden oasis. You’ll walk about a mile through sheep-ridden farmlands and come out onto a long stretch of beach with soft sand, soft waves and powerful cliffs. It is quite the remote location, despite the short 30-minute walk.
Mount Victoria – Wellington is New Zealand’s
capital and lies at the southwestern tip of the North Island. Mount Victoria is
a prominent hill that lies in the eastern part of the city. It is only a
short walk to the top of the hill, where you’ll find a lookout spot to see the
entire Wellington Bay. It makes the perfect morning hike to start off your day.
3. Gertrude Saddle – Milford Sound is a must-see if you are visiting New Zealand. However, if you want a special view that few of the tourists get to see, I highly recommend making this slightly challenging trek. The start of the saddle is a little past the Homer Tunnel. It is about 3.5 km hike and will take about 4-5 hours round-trip. But if you’re up for it, you definitely won’t be sorry.
4. Mueller Hut – This camping destination offers a beautiful view of New Zealand’s famed Mt. Cook. This was by far the most challenging hike I have done to date. This tramping route will take you 3,000 feet up in around 3 miles. That being said, the majority of the hike is stairs going straight up. However, Mueller Hut offers expansive views of snowy glaciers and an unparalleled view of the stars at night.
Photos by Greg Balkin, Brightwood Photography.