12 of New Zealand’s most beautiful places

CNN  — 

You’ve seen your friends’ photos, you’ve watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and you’re desperate to experience New Zealand for yourself. But considering that the Land of the Long White Cloud is about the same size as the UK, how will you decide what to see?

Here’s our insider’s guide to Aotearoa’s must-see destinations, including some off-the-beaten track gems.


Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is the end of the road when it comes to the North Island – the only place further north is North Cape, which isn’t open to the public.

Stand beside the iconic Te Rerenga Wairua lighthouse on this rocky, windswept point and you’ll see where the Tasman Sea (between New Zealand and Australia) and the Pacific Ocean meet.

You’ll also be bearing witness to a sacred place in Maori culture. An 800-year-old pohutukawa tree at Cape Reinga is believed to be the last leaving place for spirits of dead Maori.

Legend has it that they leap from this tree into the ocean to begin their journey back to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.