11 Unusual Places to Visit in New Zealand

Unusual places to visit in New ZealandDespite, or in spite of, its reputation as a beautiful country, there are some unusual places to visit in New Zealand!

From the broken city of Christchurch to the otherworldly Moeraki Boulders, there are many strange places in New Zealand.

These places are great reasons to visit New Zealand, as they highlight the weird and wonderful part of the country. I will never forget my first time walking around Christchurch, a city ravaged by earthquakes.

I felt like I was in a warzone such was the devastation! Seeing Hobbiton up close and personal was strange, due to seeing this place on the numerous Lord of the Rings films!

New Zealand is a country that possesses some of the most beautiful locations in the world. However, there are also a number of unusual places to visit in New Zealand, which you should include on your trip. Travelling to New Zealand without visiting these places would be a huge shame!

Unusual places to visit in New Zealand

Baldwin Street in Dunedin

You may be wondering what a street in Dunedin is doing on a list of strange places to visit in New Zealand. Well, this is not any ordinary street. Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world! It has an average gradient of 25% The maximum gradient is a whopping 35%!

I didn’t visit Baldwin Street, unfortunately. It would be high on my list of places to visit if I did return. The street makes for a great photo opportunity, due to the severe slope. You can tilt the camera, so it looks as if the houses are built at an angle!

Baldwin Street is a unique place to visit in New Zealand. There are not many residential streets around the world, with such a steep slope. Visiting here will give you a workout as a minimum if nothing else!

Baldwin Street one of the unusual places to visit in New Zealand

Photo credit: Bjarte Sorensen

Christchurch

You’re probably wondering why I included Christchurch on this list. Well, the city has had a rough time of it recently. A series of earthquakes devastated the city between 2010 and 2011, which Christchurch is slowly recovering from.

When I first arrived in early 2014, it was more like a war zone than an actual city, such was the devastation! However, travelling to Christchurch is a must!

Slowly, the city has got back on its feet, and a number of buildings have started to g up. It’s a slow process, as I can attest to, having worked on the rebuild for 10 months! However, progress is being made! As a result of the earthquakes, Christchurch came up with some innovative ideas.

The destroyed mall has been replaced by a mall that consists of shipping containers. While, the old cathedral, has been replaced by a temporary one that is made out of cardboard!

The city is a mix of a building site, innovative design, and the old architecture that still remains. It is certainly one of the more interesting places to visit in New Zealand!

ReStart Mall in Christchurch

Hobbiton

Hobbiton is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand, especially if you love the Lord of the Rings! It isn’t exactly an unusual place, but it’s not every day, you get to visit a perfectly preserved film set!

The set was actually rebuilt for The Hobbit films! The set was burnt to the ground in the Lord of the Rings, an event that actually happened.

This is an unusual quirk of Hobbiton, and it was almost perfectly rebuilt for The Hobbit films. You will be in heaven if you are a fan of the series, as you get close to all the houses.

Bilbo’s house is the only one you are not allowed to enter. However, you do get a free pint at the end of the tour, so it’s not all bad!

Hobbiton is unusual as you don’t often get the chance to visit the set of films. This is incentive enough to visit, as well as the incredible views of the shire!

Hobitton in New Zealand

Hot Water Beach

Yes, you have read that correctly! There is a place in New Zealand called Hot Water Beach, and yes the water is hot! However, there is more to this than meets the eye. If you went into the ocean at this beach, the water definitely wouldn’t be hot. So, where does the hot water come from!?

Well, it is all to do with the geothermal activity in Waikato. If you dig a hole two hours either side of low tide, hot water rushes to the surface. It comes from underground fissures under the beach! This phenomenon occurs near the off-shore rocks on the beach.

Hot Water Beach is certainly one of the more unusual places to visit in New Zealand. Experiencing should be high on your New Zealand backpacking itinerary!

Hot Water Beach

Photo credit: Steve & Jem Copley

Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are certainly one of the weirder places to see in New Zealand. Located on the Koekohe beach between Moeraki and Hampden in the South Island, these giant boulders look otherworldly! They certainly do not look like they are the result of millions of years of erosion!

The almost perfect spherical nature of the boulders only adds to the strangeness about them. They are scattered across the beach, many are in perfect shape, while some have holes in them. This makes them ideal for an interesting photo opportunity, as you can see below!

This is one of the weirder places I have visited, just because there are giant boulders on a beach! They are completely out of place, and really do look like they are a practical joke by an advanced alien civilisation! The Moeraki Boulders are definitely one of the most interesting places in New Zealand!

Moeraki boulders

Pancake Rocks

The Pancakes Rocks in the South Island are certainly one of the unusual places to visit in New Zealand. These rocks have the appearance of being layers upon layers of pancakes, due to millions of years of erosion.

The Pancake Rocks can get quite busy, as it is one of the most places to visit on the West Coast of New Zealand. This doesn’t detract from the beauty of the place, though, as the rocks are an incredible sight!

I’m not sure if there’s a best time to go to New Zealand, but the rocks are amazing all year round. They’re probably quieter in winter too!

This is one of the most beautiful and unique spots in New Zealand, so you should definitely include it on a West Coast Road Trip. If you love weird geographical features, this is the place for you!

Pancake rocks

Photo Credit: Emily Rudderham

Puzzling World

As you can probably guess from the name, Puzzling World is dedicated to puzzles and illusions! It is located in Wanaka in the South Island and is a place that has lots of strange and unusual sights inside.

A giant tap seemingly floats by itself in the sculpture room. The Leaning Tower of Wanaka, which is balanced on one corner, and to top it off there is a fiendishly difficult maze to navigate as well! There are so many things to do at Puzzling World, you could spend hours here doing them all!

The exhibits and sights instead are very unusual, even the buildings itself are strange. Puzzling World is a unique and interesting place to visit in New Zealand. If you love illusions and puzzles, then this is definitely the place for you!

Puzzling world

Photo credit: Yogi de

Queenstown

You’re probably wondering what Queenstown is doing on a list of unusual places to visit in New Zealand. Well, let me explain:

Despite being one of the most famous places in New Zealand, Queenstown is unusual because you can do so many adrenaline sports in one tiny town.

Everything from bungee-jumping, skydiving and jet boating are available in this crazy place. Another thing that was unusual for me was the complete lack of kiwis. Virtually everyone I met there seemed to be a backpacker. I’m not sure if there would be anyone left if all the backpackers left!

It’s also one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand if the adrenaline sports do not grab your attention! You should definitely visit Queenstown if you want to do unusual and exciting activities, just don’t expect to meet many kiwis!

View of the lake in Queenstown

Rotorua

What makes Rotorua one of the most unusual places in New Zealand is the smell. You may be sitting there and thinking “What the smell!? What does he mean!? Let me explain:

The smell in Rotorua is that of sulphur, due to the hydrogen sulphide emissions. This is because Rotorua is close to sulphur springs, so the smell of rotten eggs is prevalent. I’m not going to lie, the smell is not pleasant, but as there are many great things to do in Rotorua, you can forgive it for this!

The thing that really bothered me was what the residents thought of the smell. Or had they become accustomed to it after living there for so long? So many questions!

View of lake rotorua

Slope Point

Slope Point is the southernmost point of the South Island. This was one that I really wanted to visit, unfortunately, I was unable to do so, during my time in New Zealand. The reason I wanted to visit so badly, was because of a post I had seen before I did my New Zealand Working Holiday.

The images of trees bent over, due to the ferocity of the wind intrigued me! As Slope Point is right at the bottom of New Zealand, the fact that I would almost be at the end of the Earth intrigued me as well!

It’s a long way to reach Slope Point, but it’s worth it if you want to see somewhere a bit different in New Zealand!

Slope Point

Twizel

Twizel is a small town in the South Island, with unusual beginnings. It was originally built to house workers for the Upper Waitaki Hydroelectricity Scheme. The intention was for the town to be turned back to farmland once the project was finished.

To make this easier, no kerbing, channels or footpaths were built. Most of the town’s telephone lines were strung above ground to avoid digging them up during the revert. Well, Twizel was not reverted to farmland when the project was finished and still stands today!

It is a strange little town, especially as the houses are built in Scandinavian fashion. This is certainly one of the more unusual places to visit in New Zealand, just because of its history!

Twizel

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, New Zealand is not all hobbits and mountains. There are plenty of unusual places to visit in New Zealand, some stranger than others. Do you agree with my choices? Have you been to any of these places yourself? I would love to hear from you in the comments below 🙂

If you’re considering visiting New Zealand and need accommodation, check out the latest deals on Agoda here! If you book accommodation through this link, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you!

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Unusual places to visit in New Zealand

Tom

Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

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26 Responses

  1. Hridya says:

    Wow this IS interesting! NZ is surely on my bucketlist and these places surely make me want to go there soon!!

  2. Alexa says:

    I always think of green rolling hills when I think of New Zealand. How funny, I’ve always just thought of ‘country’ and not city. Great tips.

  3. Cristal says:

    Great list! Even though it was a very sad event, I love what they’ve done in Christchurch. they’ve really made the best of a bad situation.

  4. Vyjay says:

    What an amazing list of places, each seem to be better than the other. I am really intrigued by the hot water beach, thanks for the detailed explanation.

  5. So interesting! I still haven’t been to NZ yet but everybody raves about it, I’ll have to visit soon!

  6. I’ve been to Rotorua. The geysers and fumaroles were really cool to see. I would love to see (and run up) Baldwin Street. And Christchurch is a reminder that the entire country of New Zealand is a seismic and volcanic hotspot that’s part of the Pacific Ring of Fire; I remember learning when I was in Auckland that that city is built on an active volcano field.

  7. Very nice selection! The first Baldwin Street would be my tip! 🙂 However, I am not sure I would like to live there. 🙂 But it can be interesting!

  8. Nathan says:

    I’ve never been to NZ but all of this looks really fun. I would definitely like to check it out if/when I finally make it there!

  9. Karla Strand says:

    These are some unusual places! I would visit them all but as a LOTR fan, Hobbiton would be at the top of the list of course! Thanks for the fun info!

  10. Teodora says:

    My Bew Zealand passion really needs to be sated and soon!

  11. christine says:

    Wow, New Zealand has a lot more to offer than I imagined. I had no idea that you could tour the Hobbit set.

  12. Very unusual yet cool places I might add. I loved your photo in the rock, that is hilarious. I had not heard of many of these locations so thanks for the lesson. 😉

  13. Clare says:

    The only ones I haven’t visited are Moeraki Boulders and Puzzle World (I opted to go for a hike instead!!). New Zealand is such an amazing place 🙂

  14. Wow that’s one steep street! Nice list of places, Tom. I would love to see the Hobbiton, even I’m not a fan of the movie.

  15. Chantal says:

    This is a great list! Although I’ve traveled through NZ for five weeks, I’ve been only to about half of those places. I’ll definitely keep the other ones in mind for my next visit 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Chantal! Five weeks isn’t long enough to travel NZ! I felt a year wasn’t enough for me, I loved it there! Only going to five of the places is all the more reason to go back!

  16. Katie says:

    How fun! Hot water beach is so interesting. I need to make my way to NZ. Thanks for the post!

    • Tom says:

      Hot Water Beach is a very interesting! It’s a surreal feeling sitting in the hole you’ve dug and the water being warm! Very nice though!

  17. LC says:

    I’ve never been to NZ, which is quite bad as I’m Australian. It sure does look like a mad place… in all senses of the word!

  18. Lydia says:

    New Zealand looks like such a fun time! Adding it to my to-travel list for sure! 🙂
    http://littlewanderess.com

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