10 Drop Dead Gorgeous Little Towns in New Zealand

10 Drop Dead Gorgeous Little Towns in New Zealand

These charming little towns in New Zealand will steal your heart.

Known for its magnificent landscapes, New Zealand has enthralled and won the hearts of many travellers. To truly experience New Zealand in its full glory, one has to stray out of cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The charm of New Zealand lies in its tamed wilderness, and also their quaint little towns. So get on the road, and check out some of the most gorgeous little towns in New Zealand.

Also Read: 20 Incredible Experiences You Must Have in New Zealand

1. Wanaka, Otago

Wanaka, OtagoImage credit: Kathrin & Stefan Marks

This hidden gem near Queenstown is truly worth a stopover. Wanaka is a scenic lakeside town, and it is a wonder why tourists have not yet flocked here to take in its wonders – not that I’m complaining. This town is perfect for lazing by the lake, or taking on scenic hiking trails. Travellers should drop by Paradiso Cinema, a classic and cozy theatre, for a movie in the evening.

2. Napier, Hawke’s Bay

napier hawke's bayImage credit: John Ted Daganato

Located on the eastern coast of the North Island, Napier is by far my favourite place in all of New Zealand. I lived here for a little under a year, and this small town had everything that you need for a life in Aotearoa (the native Maori word for New Zealand).

After a devastating earthquake in 1931, which flattened most of the town, Napier was rebuilt in the then-popular Art Deco style. It is right by the beach, and if the 10 kilometre stretch of beautiful promenade isn’t enough already, you can also explore at least ten other beaches that are reachable within 15 minutes. Did I mention that Napier is famous for its many vineyards?

3. Raglan, Waikato

Raglan, WaikatoImage credit: Florian Bugiel

Raglan, population 3000, is situated on the west coast of North Island and surrounded by a truly charming bay. The small community offers plenty of cafes to chill out and many beaches which have become a hotspot for surfers. Like many other towns on this list, Raglan is a place to take refuge from the world. Never-ending beaches and unbelievably beautiful nature make it the spot where summer never ends.

4. Whakatane, Bay of Plenty

Whakatane, Bay of PlentyImage credit: Chris Thompson

The name says it all. The Bay of Plenty is one of the most scenic regions on the North Island. One reason to visit is the motto of Whakatane itself – it claims to be the ‘sunshine capital of New Zealand’. But if you ask me, they could call it ‘sunset capital’. Sitting at the mouth of the Whakatane River, one can see the most magical sunsets ever. I am not even exaggerating.

5. Russell, Bay of Islands

Russell, Bay of IslandsImage credit: Chris Gin

Small in size, like many other towns in New Zealand, but big in gorgeous landscapes. Russell is surrounded by the Bay of Islands and offers many small and hidden beaches just about wherever you go. As summertime is extremely idyllic; it is not hard to understand why Russell was the very first permanent settlement of Europeans in New Zealand.

Also read: 23 Things Every First-Time Traveller in New Zealand Should Know

6. Bluff, Southland

bluff, southlandImage credit: Chris Hartman

Located on the southern shores of the island, Bluff is the very last town on the mainland. Being here, you won’t help but feel far away from everything – and this feeling is quite justified since this charming little port town is at the world’s end… well, sort of. While the town itself faces the Awarua Bay, the Motupohue Scenic Reserve on the south-west of Bluff offers the most amazing views onto the ocean and Stewart Island in the distance.

7. Queenstown, Otago

queenstown, otagoImage credit: Hey Explorer

Queenstown is hands down one of the most picturesque towns in New Zealand, no doubt about that. Also known as New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown offers opportunities for bungy jumping, jetboating, white-water rafting, skydiving… the list goes on. Set against Lake Wakatipu and flanked by snow-capped mountains, Queenstown is a place you’ll remember for life.

8. Akaroa, Canterbury

Akaroa, CanterburyImage credit: Andrew Schaffer

Hidden in the hills and situated by the bay of the same name, Akaroa is about a two hour drive from Christchurch. The small township is also known as ‘long harbour’, due to the shape of the bay. The green hills and mountaintops in the surrounding create a striking contrast with the clear blue waters of the bay. The natural beauty does not only attract visitors from all over New Zealand, but also dolphins that can frequently be spotted in the bay.

9. Aramoana, Dunedin

Aramoana, DunedinImage credit: Bruce McKinlay

Sometimes the stopovers can be just as rewarding as the destination itself. Aramoana is about 30 kilometres outside of Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand, and the drive up to the town will take you along one of the most scenic routes in the area. The winding road between the Otago Harbour and the surrounding hills lead up to Aramoana’s beautiful sand beaches facing nothing but the wide ocean.

Also read: 20 Incredible Experiences You Must Have in New Zealand

10. Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

little towns new zealandImage credit: Philip Morton

One of the bigger towns on the list, Tauranga distinguishes itself from any other with the fascinating Mount Maunganui (also known as “The Mount”) towering in the city. The Mount is literally a huge hill surrounded by flat land. Besides enjoying the kilometre-long white sand beaches and a striving café culture in the town, you can also walk to Moturiki Island when the tide is low. Tauranga is an easy choice if you want to hang out for a week.

Also Read: 23 Things Every First-Time Traveller in New Zealand Should Know

Any other small towns in New Zealand that deserve to be on this list? Let me know in the comment box below!

About Author

Peter Schimke
Peter Schimke

Peter is a freelance writer and author of the novel ‘Beyond Blue’. He has travelled extensively over the past decade and for some reason ends up where there are no tourists to be found. Cocktail bars, bookstores and skate parks are the places you might run into him. He currently calls Singapore his home, as he his banned from Shinjuku, Tokyo (after publishing his book).


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