Keen to avoid the crowds? Here are the top 10 most underrated summer spots

Here are some locations you can explore.
Here are some locations you can explore. Photo credit: Getty Images

Summer is here and Kiwis are flocking to Aotearoa's most sought-after tourism spots, but if you like to keep it lowkey and avoid the crowds Newshub has got you covered. 

General manager of AA Travel and Tourism Greig Leighton has shared his top 10 most under-rated locations across the motu - which are likely to be pretty quiet over the holiday period.

Koutu Boulders

Otago's Moeraki Boulders may sound familiar to many, but the Koutu Boulders in the far north are bigger and without drawing large crowds, some may say even better.

Leighton told Newshub the estimated five million-year-old spherical sandstone concretions are best to view two hours on either side of tides to avoid slippery rocks. 

Karioitahi Beach

The black sand beach isolated on the west coast of Auckland offers windswept landscapes and a Surf Lifesaving Club with toilets.

With no shops or cafes nearby, a chilly bin full of snacks to get through a day of fun is recommended.

Leighton said Karioitahi Beach is suitable for "all sorts of invigorating activities" and added much of what you'll see is what was there thousands of years ago.

Kāwhia Hot Water Beach 

When you think of a hot water beach Coromandel might come to mind. But Kāwhia Hot Water Beach is on the west coast of the all-mighty Waikato.

A short walk from Ocean Beach Rd over the sand dunes will take you to what Leighton described as "rustic bathing" in black sand, with a BYO (bring your own) spade policy.

Leighton did advise to "be careful" of the thermal temperature, it all depends on your digging spot. 

"The ideal time to bathe is around sunset when the tide is right."

Lake Waikareiti - 'little rippling water'

Waikareiti, which translates to "little rippling water" in Te Reo, is best known for its "incredible" water clarity.

Leighton said the small lake in Te Urewera is found on an hour-long walk through "gorgeous red and silver beech forest" home to native kākā and kākāriki.

He told Newshub the lake was formed by a large landslide more than 1800 years ago.

"The lake is crystalline, with a pale sandy bottom and is popular for trout fishing."

D'Urville Island - Rangitoto ki te Tonga 

Leighton said D'Urville is "remote to say the least" and takes quite the adventure to get there.

Accessible from French Pass and a "very exhilarating" boat ride across a "notoriously wild piece of water".

But after the wild ride to D'Urville Island, Leighton said it's "magic", he added a car ferry is available and recommends taking a vehicle.

"It's quite a big island and worth exploring all corners."

D'Urville Island offers walking tracks, "lovely" beaches, camping spots and fishing opportunities. He said a lodge at Catherine Bay is great too and not too expensive.

"There’s history, community, ecology and more to learn about whilst visiting D’Urville Island, or you could relax in its isolated splendour and ignore the world’s worries for a while."

Aorere Goldfields Conservation Area 

The Aorere Goldfields Conservation Area has its own ballroom, The Ballroom Cave, which came after miners used it as a venue for dances in the 1800s.

Leighton said the Aorere Goldfields track is a three-hour loop that showcases "all the best bits".

"Pass through Druggans Flat to reach the first of two caves, Stafford’s Cave, which was formed more than 500,000 years ago and has stalactites descending from a large overhang."

He said Ballroom Cave is further along and will require a torch to explore.

Chrystalls Beach

Along Otago's southern coast is what Leighton describes as the region's most "stunning beaches".

Swept with golden sand and wild waves, Chrystalls Beach is one Leighton said you'll "more than likely" have to yourself.

He said while the waves might look enticing, the beach is known for its dangerous rips - swimming isn't recommended.

Leighton said Cook's Head Rock provides the perfect vantage point to take in the endless blue ocean. He said to keep an eye out for locals too - sea lions often hang out on Chrystalls Beach.

Mount Crichton loop track 

Mount Crichton loop tack is a spot that won't be drawing in crowds, instead gold-mining relics, native bush and a "pretty" waterfall for you to take in.

The 6.4km track will lead you alongside Twelve Mile Creek through red beech and mānuka forest "with views across to the pretty Lake Dispute".

He said a short diversion will take you to the historic Sam Summers Hut, built by gold prospector Sam Summers in the 1930s.

Lake Hauroko - "the sounds of the wind"

Aotearoa's deepest lake, Lake Hauroko is remote and covers an area of 63 square kilometres.

"[It] is a mind-bending 462 metres deep."

Leighton said the Lake Hauroko lookout track is a four-hour return walk via the same track that "climbs steeply" from the lake edge to a lookout across to Foveaux Strait.

Leighton's top tip: "Pack plenty of insect repellent. The sandflies are vicious here!"

Ship Creek - Tauparikaka 

The "wild" coastal location is 20km north of Haast with pale sand and "windswept dunes".

Leighton told Newshub Ship Creek shares a glimpse of what the West Coast would have looked like before human settlement.

"[It] has a stand of ancient kahikatea swamp forest."

He said two short walking tracks will allow you to explore two "distinct aspects of this unique area".

"The creek-side Kahikatea Swamp Walk loops through dense forest studded with kahikatea, New Zealand’s tallest tree. 

"The Dune Lake Walk winds amongst the sand dunes and has sweeping views down the coast to Jackson Head, which marks the transition between the West Coast and the wilds of Fiordland."