From craggy mountains to pristine beaches, stunning valleys to native bush, New Zealand is like no other place on earth. In fact, it’s one of the only places where you can go surfing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon!
It would be impossible to narrow all of New Zealand’s hotspots into one list, but here’s my pick of the very best “must-do” places and activities in our beautiful country!
- Be Mesmerised by the Milford Sound
One of New Zealand’s best postcard images, Milford Sound is like stepping into another world. This breath-taking valley of mountain peaks and waterfalls is best enjoyed from a scenic flight or a boat cruise. Or for the more adventurous, try sea kayaking, trekking or diving. And don’t forget equally beautiful Dusky Sound and Doubtful Sound nearby!
- Cruise the Bay of Islands
Dolphins, sunfish and whales – have your camera close to hand, because you never know where they’ll pop up in the Bay of Islands! Hop on a catamaran for a day cruise around the bay and glide through the amazing Hole in the Rock cave – it’s good luck if droplets from the cave roof fall on you!
- Dive into Kaikoura
Few people can say they’ve swum with dolphins – but in Kaikoura it can happen any day! Home to sperm whales, fur seals and dolphins, it’s an exciting opportunity to get up close to the mammals you’ve only seen in photos before. And don’t miss sampling Kaikoura’s specialty dish – crayfish!
- Take the Bungee Plunge!
Love adrenaline? Throw yourself off a bridge! AJ Hackett’s world-famous bungee jump at the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown should be on every thrill-seekers bucket list. Or try the slightly shorter bungee in Taupo first – just to get warmed up.
- Hang About in Hamilton
Winner of the 2014 International Garden of the Year, Hamilton Gardens is pleasant paradise to take the family or your special someone. Take a picnic and explore the themed gardens or just admire the beautiful Waikato River from the river path.
- Hop into a Hobbit Hole
Lord of the Rings fans can’t miss a trip to Hobbiton! The original set is still on site in Matamata, and the guided tour is a fascinating insight into the blockbuster film series. Pose for a photo beneath the “party tree” and peer through the windows of a real Hobbit house!
- Soak Yourself Anew in Hamner
Springs is the perfect antidote to the road-weary traveller. Spend the day relaxing in the huge variety of natural hot pools: thermal, sulphur and freshwater. And when you’re done, explore the charming alpine village and its many restaurants.
- A-Camping We Will Go
The best way to really experience New Zealand’s outdoors is by pitching a tent! Take the family camping and, if the weather’s right, have a barbecue dinner and spend the rest of the evening gazing at an incredibly clear starry sky.
- Gaze at the Glaciers
These two rivers of ice must be seen to be believed. Fox Glacier is a 13-kilometre maritime glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, whilst Franz Josef is just 20 minutes from Franz Josef township. A photographer’s dream.
- Snow Time!
Skiing, snowboarding or just sliding around? Anyone can hit the slopes at Ruapehu in the North Island or Queenstown in the South!
- Trek Tongariro
Tongariro Crossing is an adventure through incredible volcanic landscape. The views will take your breath away – and so will the climb!
- Be Wowed at Waitomo
Imagine staring up at the roof of a cave lit by a million tiny glow-worms. Waitomo Caves’ world-famous boat tour takes you right through these incredible caves which are steeped in historic and cultural significance. It’s also the only place in New Zealand to try black-water rafting!
- Wind Your Way Down the West Coast
Rated as one of the best drives in the world, the South Island’s West Coast is an unforgettable journey through wild peaks and green valleys. You’ll find yourself stopping every few minutes to snap photos of the jaw-dropping scenery!
- Amble Down the Otago Rail Trail
This scenic 150-kilometre track through the South Island caters for walkers, cyclists, runners and horse-riders alike. Choose a section as a day trip, or take your pack and traverse the whole trail – there’s no better way to get off the beaten track.
- Marvel at Marine Volcanoes
Ever seen a volcano erupt right before your eyes? White Island features New Zealand’s most active volcanoes – hence the name. Fly over the island and experience this unique landmass of geothermal steam vents, mud pools and stunning marine life.
- Go Wild on Stewart Island
Although it’s at the very bottom of New Zealand, Stewart Island should be at the top of every nature lover’s list! With just 28km of road and a population of 400, Stewart Island is a wild paradise abundant in native birdlife – including the rarely-seen kiwi!
- Pancakes at Punakaiki
That’s right – rocks shaped like pancakes! Take a 20-minute loop walk around Punakaiki’s incredible limestone landscape and be amazed by the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, formed 30 million years ago from the remains of marine creatures and plants.
- Touch the Tip at Cape Reinga
Stand at the northernmost tip of the Aupouri Peninsula and see the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide. According to Maori legend, the spirits of the deceased leap from the 800-year-old pohutakawa tree growing here and into the sea.
- Wine and Dine on Waiheke
Just a short trip from Auckland, Waiheke Island combines picture-perfect beaches and elegant dining. Don’t forget the vineyards! Great for a weekend away.
- Go Fish!
We Kiwis love to fish – and no matter where you are, you won’t be far from a good fishing spot. From big game sea fishing to lakeside trout fishing or just catching a few sprats off the wharf, there’s every reason to try your luck. And who knows – you may catch your own dinner!
- Be Amazed at Akaroa
Whether you’re into heritage buildings and colonial history or arts and crafts, Akaroa has something for everyone. There’s a nearby penguin colony and the chance to see rare Hector’s dolphin. And a rather popular fish and chip shop!
- Crack into Queenstown
No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the Adventure Capital! Everything is on offer here – snowboarding, skiing, shopping, jet-boating, bungee-jumping or just admiring the stunning mountain scenery with a glass of local wine. Spend a weekend or a whole week – Queenstown will satisfy your every whim.
- Say Hi to Tane Mahuta
If you want to see how big a kauri tree can get, head to Hokianga. Here you’ll find kauri trees over five metres in diameter – including the God of the Forest, Tane Mahuta.
- Stretch your legs at Lake Waikaremoana
Escape from civilisation for a few days to experience the splendour of Te Urewera National Park. Known as ‘the sea of rippling waters’, Lake Waikaremoana is a 3-4 day adventure featuring remote beaches, hidden waterfalls and vibrant wildlife.
- See (and smell!) it all at Rotorua
World-famous Rotorua is packed with activities and sights. Check out the geothermal activity at Whakarewarewa, see a traditional Maori haka (war dance), zoom down the slopes in the luge or explore the fascinating Buried Village. Don’t be put off by the sulphuric smell – it’s what makes Rotorua famous!
- Walk A Great Walk
Head off on one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks and you’ll soon realise what makes them “great”! These spectacular walking tracks can be covered in anything from 3-6 days and are well-marked along the way. Accommodation ranges from basic huts to luxury villas.
- Pan for Gold in Arrowtown
This former gold rush town is where you can get a glimpse of life as a goldminer in New Zealand’s early days. It’s also a mecca for history enthusiasts, walkers, shoppers, golfers and café cruisers!
- Moon Walk at Orakei Korako
Perhaps you’ll never walk on the moon, but you can walk the Craters of the Moon at Orakei Korako. This volcanic wonderland of geysers, mud pools and silica terraces will put the heat into your trip.
- Climb the World’s Steepest Street
So steep it’s almost vertical! Baldwin Street in Dunedin is on 35-degree slope, which means the houses are all on an angle. Climbing to the top is no mean feat – but don’t try to drive up it!
- Beaching at Mt Maunganui
Holiday paradise! Sun yourself on Mt Maunganui’s popular surf beach or stroll to the magnificent blowhole. And if the sea isn’t your thing, try your hand at golf or simply laze about in one of the many cafes.
- Gasp at the Gorge
Whether you’re a walker or a biker, Karangahake Gorge is the place to combine walking with wondrous scenery. Rich in the relics of its gold mining history, this natural gorge follows an old railway line through to Waikino Station.
- Hole Up at Hot Water Beach
Ever wanted your own beachfront spa pool? The natural underground hot springs at Hot Water Beach means you can dig a hole in the sand at low tide and relax in your own hot pool! Bring a bucket and spade and soak your cares away.
- Find Auckland’s Wild Side
Beaches aren’t usually what springs to mind when one thinks of Auckland, but that’s what makes Auckland’s West Coast beaches all the more enchanting. Piha’s incredible views will keep you snapping photos for hours, while Muriwai’s endless stretch of black sand is perfect for a long leisurely stroll.
- Be Captivated by Cathedral Cove
A hidden gem! Cathedral Cove is a natural rock arch on one of the most beautiful bays in the Coromandel. The walk through native bush to get there is all part of the experience. You’ll never want to leave.
- Take a Punt on the Avon
What better way to admire Christchurch’s gardens than from the river? Relax in a handcrafted Edwardian boat as an expert punter guides you along the tranquil Avon.
- Master Mount Tarawera
When Mt Tarawera erupted in 1886, it destroyed a Maori village and the famous Pink and White Terraces. Now the empty crater is a sight to behold. Walk it, drive it, or fly over it – it’s the most impressive “hole” you’ll ever see!
- Experience It all at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum
Our national museum and art gallery at Te Papa Tongarewa is the place to learn all about New Zealand’s history, culture and art. It’s crammed with new and exciting exhibits as well as awe-inspiring scientific and historic collections. Best of all, it’s free!
- Wine-Tasting: Enough Said!
Hawke’s Bay is our premier wine region – and you’ll soon see why! Learn the difference between pinot noir and pinot gris and sample some of New Zealand’s finest wines – all in the magical setting of Hawkes Bay’s vineyards.
- Fall in Love with The Forgotten World
Driving the “Forgotten World Highway” between Taumaranui and Stratford is a roadtrip you won’t forget. Scenic walks, craggy mountains and breath-taking gorges remind you why you came to New Zealand in the first place!
- Bowl Along to Moeraki Boulders
Are they rocks or vegetables? Head to Koekohi Beach and decide for yourself! Maori believe the strange spherical boulders scattered along the beach are gourds washed ashore from an ancient canoe wreck.
- Ride the Waves at Raglan
Raglan’s not just a beach – it’s a lifestyle. The warm, hippie vibe of this small surfer town is like stepping back into the ‘70s!
- Ride the Rere Rock Slide
Not for the faint-hearted! This high-speed slide down 60 metres of rock and running water will leave you gasping – possibly for more! Grab a boogie board or inner tube and make it a ride to remember.
- See Auckland from the Sky
Auckland’s Sky Tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere and the 25th tallest tower in the world. Dine at the revolving restaurant and enjoy incredible 360-degree views of entire city, or peer down at the streets below from the glass SkyWalk. And if that’s not adrenaline-pumping enough for you, strap on a harness and do the Sky Jump!
- Cruisin’ on The Interislander
Crossing the Cook Strait isn’t just a boat ride from A to B. Hailed as one of the most beautiful ferry crossings in the world, this three-hour voyage between the North and South Islands is a chance to wine and dine in a spectacular setting.
- Buzz Into the Beehive
No other country in the world is run by a beehive! History buffs and architects alike will be fascinated by our capital city’s unique Parliament buildings. Learn all about New Zealand’s political history and then
- See Wellington from the Cable Car
The ride in Wellington’s iconic cable car may be brief but it’s great fun! It’s also the most scenic (and practical) way to get between the Lambton Quay shopping area to the beautiful Botanic Gardens.
- Time Out at Te Waihou Blue Springs
Shhh…. this is New Zealand’s best-kept secret! Many tourists are yet to discover this incredible corner of the Waikato where the river water is as blue as the sky. Te Waihou’s 4km loop track takes you along these pristine waters through farmland and native bush. Perfect for every level of fitness. Your photos will draw gasps back home!
- Ace The Abel Tasman
Want to see penguins and fur seals in their natural environment? Of course you do! Abel Tasman Coast Track gets you up and close and personal with these wonderful marine creatures surrounded by birds, forests and coastal cliffs. Put on your hiking boots and set out on a three-day trek.
- Wander Wanaka
Snow-capped peaks are even more beautiful when reflected in Lake Wanaka. Relax in this stunning resort town before heading on to the Southern Alps Mount Aspiring National Park.
- Dive Out Of The Sky!
Seal your New Zealand adventure by jumping out of a plane 12,000 feet above the ground! Not only will you have a fantastic birds-eye view of our amazing landscape, you’ll experience a rush that you’ll still be talking about in years to come. Tandem skydiving is available in Taupo, Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka and many other hotspots throughout NZ.