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5 of New Zealand’s Best Regional Parks

Destinations

New Zealand is not short on parks. National, regional, local – every town and city in the country has its own little bit of green space that attracts locals and tourists alike. From the BBQers to the cricketers, Frisbee throwers to the dog walkers, we love our green space here in New Zealand.

Our National Parks tend to grab a lot of the headlines. We do have some crackers to be fair. From the stunning Abel Tasman and its golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters to the Tongariro National Park with its volcanoes and amazing tramping opportunities – our National Parks are both spectacular and diverse.

Sliding under the radars are our awesome Regional Parks. Not quite as grandiose as the National Parks but no less beautiful, there are some amazing Regional Parks that are just waiting to be discovered.

Auckland is pretty spoilt when it comes to regional parks with 35 spread across the whole region. From coastal to forest and everything in between, Regional Parks are great places to explore.

Here are 5 of New Zealand’s best Regional Parks – make sure you check them out!

1.      Queen Elizabeth Park – Kapiti Coast, Wellington

The sunsets over the Kapita Coast

The sun sets over Queen Elizabeth Park on the Kapiti Coast

This is definitely one of our favourites. The Kapiti Coast down in Wellington is a stunning place. The park contains the last area of natural dunes on the Kapiti Coast and is steeped in history. During World War II, the park was the location for two US Army and Marine bases. Opened in 1953 during a Royal Visit, the park was named after Queen Elizabeth II. If you are looking for a spectacular place to camp, then this ticks all the boxes. The park also has great picnic areas, walking, cycling and horse riding trails and is home to the Tramway Museum. The park also plays host to the annual Coastella Music Festival held during the summer. Read more.

2.      Awhitu Regional Park – Auckland

Manukau Heads Lighthouse is one of the big attractions in the Awhitu Regional Park

Manukau Heads Lighthouse is one of the big attractions in the Awhitu Regional Park. Credit: Russell Street Flickr – http://bit.ly/2heVrBz

It’s tricky to pick our favourites in Auckland with so many to choose from but Awhitu is the perfect place to get away from it all this summer. Located around 95kms south and west of the city, it’s a bit of a drive to get out here but once you arrive you will be glad you made the trip. Opened in 1975, the park continues to operate as a working farm and features parkland pastures, wetlands, peaceful sandy beaches and some great picnic and BBQ areas. There are camping facilities as well as a lodge so it’s a great place for a weekend getaway. Read more.

3.      Queen’s Park – Invercargill, Southland

The main gates - Queen's Park, Inercargill

A warm welcome awaits all visitors to Queen’s Park in Invercargill

One of two regional parks located in Southland, Queen’s Park is an absolute gem. The 81ha park is located right in the centre of Invercargill and is recognised as one of the most important parks in NZ. You can safely put aside a few hours to explore everything the park has to offer. The 4km fitness trail is popular with locals and tourists alike and is a great place to get your daily exercise fix. There is also an 18 hole golf course situated within the park if that’s your bag. There are beautiful gardens to explore, a great playground for the kids and plenty of wildlife. Read more.

4.      Waimakariri River Regional Park – Canterbury

The beautiful Waimakariri Regional Park in the summer

The beautiful Waimakariri Regional Park in the summer

Canterbury’s first every Regional Park, Waimakariri River Regional Park covers 15,000ha of river and river’s edge land and is packed full of activities for the adventurous including mountain biking, horse riding, walking, fishing and more. There is also gamebird hunting opportunities at specific times of the year. The park encompasses lots of different areas to explore. McLeans Park is popular with mountain bikers and walkers, Kaiapoi Island is where you will find the motocross riders and kayakers, Banyons Brake is great for horse riding and Templars Island is great for the nature lovers. There is plenty to keep you busy in Canterbury’s largest Regional Park. Read more.

5.      Waitakere Ranges – Auckland

Waitakere Ranges Regional Park from the Arataki Visitor Centre

Waitakere Ranges Regional Park from the Arataki Visitor Centre

The final Regional Park in our top 5 is Waitakere Ranges. Another tough pick with 35 to choose from but this park has it all. Covering 16,000ha of native forest and coastline, this is a truly diverse Regional Park. With 250kms of walking and tramping tracks, it is a haven for those who enjoy getting out and exploring.  There are lots of activities you can get involved with including surfing, horse riding, swimming, bird watching and more. The park also offers up some spectacular vistas both out towards the coast and back towards the city skyline. It’s a stunning park to explore and there are some great camping options as well as bachs and lodges where you can stay over and make a weekend of it. Read more.

Exploring our Regional Parks this summer

New Zealand has around 50 Regional Parks spread throughout the country so you have no excuse this summer not to get out and explore. We would love to hear from our GO Explorers and find out more about your favourite parks to visit throughout New Zealand. Send us in your best pics and tell us what you love about your favourite Regional or National Park.

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