Does an action-packed itinerary fill you with dread? Or perhaps you’re an adventure seeker needing to slow down? Deliberately de-stress, disconnect and forget about seeing all the sights with our suggestions for some of the most stunning places to do nothing.
Need a little help to relax? It can be tough to disconnect in the first days of a do-nothing break. It’s hard to be hectic at Maruia Hot Springs, where you can lazily languish in mineral-infused geothermal pools surrounded by leafy beech forest and misty mountains, with no pressure to be anywhere or do anything but relax.
This intimate little wellness resort operates off-grid, and it’s the perfect place for you to switch off too. Alternate between the natural hot pools, steam room and sauna, then slip into an even deeper relaxation with a massage in the spa. Top off the day with a tasty organic meal then stroll back to your deluxe glamping pod for a deep slumber.
Is there anything more peaceful than staring out over still waters? There’s a couple of lesser-known West Coast lakes that lend themselves to exactly that.
Lake Brunner, just a short drive from Greymouth and a stop on the TranzAlpine train, is a hidden holiday gem popular with West Coast locals. Surrounded by serrated peaks covered in ancient trees, the pretty little lakeside settlement of Moana is home to just 80 permanent residents. Stay at one of the 300-plus holiday homes, a motor camp, orHotel Lake Brunner — affordable lakeview accommodation within walking distance of a dinner table at its welcoming country pub.
Lake Brunner’s deep clear waters offer world-class trout fishing, kayaking and swimming — but for do-nothing bliss, grab your book, togs and towel and relax on one of the sandy beaches.
Twenty minutes’ drive from Hokitika, lovely Lake Kaniere is another deeply reflective spot, not only for the surrounding mountains mirrored on its surface, but also for those who come here to be still in the stunning natural surroundings (a good spot for a lazy picnic is at Hans Bay).
This one’s tricky — being so close to two of the world’s most accessible glaciers, it’s tough not to get in on the action and fly over the vast icescape, or even hike on the surreal blue ice of Fox or Franz Josef glaciers.
But if doing nothing is the aim of your game, then send any active fellow travellers off on an adventure and retreat to your room at the luxuriously laidback Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef township, where tree-hut style apartments blend into the forest canopy, and private hot tubs help you enjoy the southern dark skies.
A sedate stroll takes you to the nearby Waiho Hot Tubs — private, wood-fired cedar tubs nestled in amongst the native bush, and filled with water from fresh glacial streams.
If you’re in the mood for lounging in situ, splash out on a room at Te Waonui Forest Retreat, a lovely 5-star-eco hotel encircled by forest and ferns with on-site fine dining and spa with all the usual treatments, including a ‘top-to-toe’ relaxing and rejuvenating package.
Doing nothing whilst doing something for the environment is the ultimate holiday hack.
At the luxury, eco-friendly Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki (between Franz Josef and Haast), you're immersed in nature. In fact just steps from Fiordland crested penguins, tiny Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand fur seals — passionate conservationist and lodge owner Gerry McSweeney takes visitors on a guided walk to quietly watch the rare penguins coming and going between the sea and their nests in the coastal rainforest.
For more secluded stays, try Punakaiki’s two cliff-top, off-grid glamping options: Woodpecker Hut (outdoor kitchen but with all the simple luxuries you need, hot tub included) and Indo Kiwi (a Balinese-style one-bedroom hut set in serene sub-tropical gardens).
Upcycled shipping containers get a second life at Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, possibly New Zealand’s funkiest campsite accommodation. The ‘pods’ come with espresso machines, kitchenettes, BBQs and sunset views, just 20 metres from a wild West Coast beach.
It requires a little legwork on behalf of the holidaymaker, but the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is essentially doing nothing in nature. Developed as an antidote to the tech-boom burnout in 1980s Japan, shinrin-yoku involves mindfully “taking in the forest atmosphere” with all your senses.
There is forest everywhere on the West Coast, but in some places it’s more accessible than others (i.e. less effort required). If you can pull your eyes away from the spectacle of the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, the nearby 600-metre Truman Track is a brief blast of huge trunks, entangled vines and dappled green canopy, before popping out at a secluded beach. Also close by, the Pororari River Track leads you through a limestone gorge cloaked in subtropical rainforest, with the added tranquillity of the deep flowing river.
A 30-minute stroll through pristine podocarp forest is rewarded with remarkably blue water at the Hokitika Gorge, which gets its turquoise hues from rocks ground up by glaciers high in the mountains.
Further south, in glacier country, there’s plenty more forests to bathe in, including on the Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk. It’s known for the reflections of New Zealand’s highest mountains in its tannin-rich waters but, if you can put your camera down, there’s plenty of spots to stop and soak up the rainforest atmosphere.