4 Off the Beaten Path Places To Visit While Studying in New Zealand

by Mark Nolan

From the very tip of New Zealand (Cape Reinga) to the Southernmost point (Slope Point), there are many off the beaten trail spots that students studying abroad in New Zealand shouldn’t miss. From the North to the South here are four top recommendations.

Mark and his friends at Cape Reinga  the tip of the North Island and the start of the 2-month cycling tour
Mark and his friends at Cape Reinga – the tip of the North Island and the start of the 2-month cycling tour. Photo credit to Mark Nolan

North Island

If you’re studying abroad on the North Island, start with Northland. This area of New Zealand may actually offer some of the best scenery in the country. From its rolling hills, large farmlands, to its long stretches of beaches, the Northland region is a destination to surely check out.

Whangaroa Bay

Often overlooked for the more famous "Bay of Islands" to the South, Whangaroa (pronounced Fon-ga-ro-a) Bay, offers up some absolutely stunning views of aqua bright blue waters for as far as the eyes can see. Traveling by boat, or better yet kayak, you can get into remote inlets that most people don't get to experience during study abroad in New Zealand. Park your kayak and go for a stroll through the lands that offer up cascading waterfalls and fresh water pools. Troll for fish or swim, there are many options out here. Wind down with dinner in the marina at the end of the day, or if adventure is what you seek, climb to the top of St. Paul’s rock to get an even more unreal view. You will not experience the party culture of the Bay of Islands here, but the scenery rivals anywhere else in the country.


Another can't miss opportunity would be to grab your best mate, get in a canoe, and head down the Whanganui. This river is found just outside the National Park and can be accessed after climbing "Mt Doom" in the town of Whakahoro. From here, it’s an 88 kilometer down river excursion that will provide the thrill of your life. Stop anywhere you want while exploring the Whanganui National Park.  Cascade down the rapids viewing cave formations and looking up at the 200 foot canyon walls. You can even camp at designated campsites on this Great Walk. Yes, this is the only Great Walk that is not actually a walk, but a canoe trip through the spectacular Whanganui National Park. Make sure to visit and hike "The bridge to nowhere" and stop by the Maori lands for a better understanding of their old culture.

South Island

Golden Bay

Crossing over to the South Island, a must visit sublime beauty and hippie culture is Golden Bay. This place will shock you with a nice little surprise. If you get lucky, you may just be there when one of the great music festivals finds its way into this Abel Tasman National Park town. Seeing groups of 20 somethings from all over the world, hanging around in hippie circles singing songs with the ukulele, and drinking New Zealand microbrews is a solid way to wind down after all your adventures through the park. This will get you off the beaten path from the crowds of tourists in the Abel Tasmen National Park

The Catlins National Park

If you have the time and can make it all the way down South during your study abroad program, The Catlins National Park will put a smile on your face. It's a great way to end your time studying abroad in New Zealand. On the opposite East side of the islands, the Catlins offers up some beautiful secluded beaches, penguins, and a little place called Cathedral Rocks. This is a wild little cave right at the edge of the ocean, so make sure you are not there during high tide. One can walk through and get deep into the caves and see what the ocean has left behind for you. There is an entrance fee of a few dollars and it is only open during low tide, but it is well worth it.  

While New Zealand offers up literally tons of options for study abroad students, these are some that will definitely be unforgettable! Here are some more options if you’re looking for more adventures in the land of the Kiwi too.