New Zealand's 13 national parks showcase more than 30,000 square kilometres of diverse, natural scenery ready to explore by foot, boat, car or air. Spend time in New Zealand's national parks and you'll begin to understand the soul of this place. The country’s national parks are treasured and preserve natural heritage, forests, wildlife and la ndscapes close to (if not exactly) as it was before people arrived there.
Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park encircles the volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu and features some of New Zealand's most contrasting landscapes. Tongariro's huge massif extends over 18 kilometres in length - classic, cone-shaped Ngauruhoe is actually one of Tongariro's vents. Ruapehu had the honour of playing Mordor and the Emyn Muil in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the near-perfect conical shape of Ngauruhoe was the basis for Mount Doom.
Whanganui National Park
This national park is home to the mystical Whanganui River, New Zealand's longest navigable waterway. The Whanganui National Park has a very distinctive landscape of river valley systems with steep slopes, razor-sharp ridges and an almost complete cover of native lowland forest. The park is at the centre of a large sedimentary basin, so the rocks are mostly mudstones - easily sculpted by the river into fascinating shapes.
Egmont National Park
Egmont National Park encompasses the huge volcano Taranaki and offers lush waterfalls, rainforests and mossy swamps. The snow-capped cone of Mt Taranaki lures visitors who appreciate geological phenomena. Apart from one small bump - a subsidiary vent called Fantham's Peak - the mountain's cone is beautifully symmetrical. Climbing to the summit is achievable for experienced hikers in all seasons – although winter is more difficult – and is best done with a guide.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest national park- but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure. Here, inviting sandy beaches fill the spaces between trees and tide line. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean. Granite and marble formations fringe the headlands, which are cloaked in regenerating native forest. Native wildlife is an essential part of the scenery. Tui and bellbird song fills the forest; shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner; fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.
Arthur’s Pass National Park
Arthur's Pass is the highest pass over the Southern Alps. Long before surveyor Arthur Dudley Dobson found his way over the pass in 1864, it was known to Maori hunting parties as a route between east and west. The eastern side of Arthur's Pass National Park is characterised by wide, shingle-filled riverbeds and vast beech forests. The western side of the park, where wet weather is more common than dry, has deeply gorged rivers flowing through dense rainforest. Down the middle of 'the great divide' is an alpine dreamland of snow-covered peaks, glaciers and scree slopes.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Everest. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.
Mount Aspiring National Park
Stretch your legs and feed your soul in this beautiful wilderness of native forests, towering mountains and long river valleys. At its heart is a massive area of wilderness - glaciers, snowfields, mountains, valleys and wildlife habitats that require days of hiking to reach. To the west of the divide, where rainfall is plentiful, the beech forest comes with a sound track of birdsong and waterfalls.
Fiordland National Park
One of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand; the power of Fiordland's scenery never fails to enthral travellers. This remarkable natural environment features stunning fiords, spectacular waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. Ancient rainforest clings impossibly to the mountains; waterfalls tumble hundreds of meters into massive fiords; shimmering lakes and granite peaks look the same today as they did a thousand years ago.
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