Nelson Tasman - easily beats Queenstown and Wanaka. And, fortunately, it is still overlooked by most travellers who focus on the bottom of the Island.
The impressive blue sea, sandy beaches and some of the best coastal walks, hills and mountains for all levels of experience and expectation, blue mountain tarns and lakes - all in a compact package minus hordes of rowdy hippie tourists and buses packed with Chinese tourists. It is really hard to find a better place in NZ.
But, looking how tourism in NZ develops, it is probably the last chance to enjoy the place before it becomes another Queenstown.
Cable Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, Mount Stoke. Abel Tasman. You name it.
All offer some serious views that make you envy the locals :)
And, if you feel like you need a shot of real Lord of the Rings (not the fake stuff in Waikato), you only need a short drive on an unsealed road and a short walk through what at the first sight seem to be an indistinctive forest to be surrounded by moss-covered forest filled with blackened trees, weird and spooky rock formation and paths that seem to lead you to Narania or Fangorn Forest. The only thing we missed on that day were Haribo Bears or Percy Pigs to place in that gate-like rock in the middle of the path or on the Miniature Mountains...
Then come what can only be described as Miniature Mountains.
The Harwoods Hole Track, especially after rain, is magical, especially the top culmination of the walk: an outcrop of razor-sharp ridges and valleys. A Haribo-Bear high mountain challenge...
But the real real real views really come with some serious effort. Five, six, eight hours of hauling a bag full of pesto, pasta and wine (priorities, right?)
Blisters, nasty sandfly bites* and that nagging voice in your head 'why the fuck I keep doing that shit???'
And then, half way through, you know why...
* sandflies? Why oh why? I mean mosquitos are nasty enough - why invent something that stupidly nastily unpleasant?