25 of the Best Things to Do in New Zealand
Windswept alpine crossings, towering mountains peppered with snow, deep fjords, secluded stretches of golden sands, volcanically charged geothermal zones, primal forests and a unique culture. You’d be forgiven for thinking this blissful description doesn’t fit just one country. Add onto this active volcanoes and vast glaciers, and New Zealand has it all – a country so spectacularly diverse, it’s rare for a person to leave without falling in love with the place. Read on to pique your wanderlust with 25 of the best things to do in New Zealand.
1. White-Water Rafting on the Rangitikei
Widely considered the adventure capital of the world, there’s no shortage of thrilling activities to undertake in New Zealand. However, white-water rafting on the Rangitikei River on North Island is no doubt one of the best. Grade 5 rapids await, some of the most intense in the world. Trips down grade 2 rapids are available for a more relaxing time, and you can also complete overnight or four-day trips. All of the routes take you through spectacular scenery.
2. Waitomo Glow-Worm Caves
Located around two and a half hours south of Auckland on North Island are the world famous Waitomo glow-worm caves. Glide through silent waters on a guided boat tour into the caves and marvel at the thousands of luminescent lights emitting from the glow-worms. Unique to New Zealand, the silent caves lit by a dazzling display courtesy of Mother Nature creates a truly magical experience.
3. Get Wild in Queenstown
Queenstown on South Island offers all the extreme activities you can do around the entire country, in one handy location. Built in some of the most beautiful surroundings in New Zealand, you can do any number of wild adventure activities here, from skydiving and bungee jumping to rope swings and white-water rafting. This is a paradise for adventure-seekers.
4. Milford Sound
One of New Zealand’s most famous sights, Milford Sound is a fjord in the southwest of the country. There are a number of different options for exploring the fantastic scenery, with beautiful mountains, waterfalls and deep blue waters. Take a helicopter tour for a view from above or, for something extra special, book a night on a luxury cruise with a glass bottom in the lounge to admire the sea life underneath the calm waters.
5. Helicopter Tour from Queenstown
If adventure activities don’t appeal, you can still appreciate the beauty of the surrounding alpine region of Queenstown from the lofty heights of a helicopter. The Remarkables Mountain range juts up from the shores of Lake Wakatipu, which the city borders. In a helicopter you can be admiring their craggy mountain faces in no time.
6. Visit Lake Wanaka
For a more relaxed version of Queenstown, head to the clear blue waters of Lake Wanaka. During the winter, the towns in this region turn into hubs for adventurous skiers and snowboarders, but the region is definitely more than a snow sports hot spot, with activities year round. The region is gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, where acclaimed tramping awaits. And don’t forget to take your picture of the famous Lake Wanaka tree!
7. Heli-hike the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
New Zealand has a number of impressive glaciers, including the famous Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the west coast of South Island. One way of getting up close and personal with these wild glaciers is via a heli-hike tour. After an electrifying helicopter ride you’ll be taken on a guided hike on top of the glacier, dodging pinnacles and admiring the unique ice formations in the brilliantly blue landscape.
8. Bay of Islands
New Zealand’s Bay of Islands encompasses a number of islands located just off the east coast of North Island. The area is well known for its remote and unpopulated beaches, Maori artefacts, great fishing and even better diving. A fantastic way to explore the beauty of this area is via a day cruise or even by chartering your own private yacht. Other activities include snorkelling and cycling.
9. Tamaki Maori Village
If your curiosity has been piqued about the Maori culture – and it should have been – then look no further than traditional Maori village, Tamaki. Located in Rotorua, you can travel back in time and learn about the 800-year-old Maori culture, experiencing cultural rites, feasts, and performances. There is accommodation on site, so staying overnight is an option and will only serve to add to the experience.
Also near Rotorua is the striking Wai-O-Tapu, located in New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone. Full of chaotic volcanic landscapes, bubbling mud pots, steaming geysers and expansive volcanic craters, the entire area feels like a different planet. There are a number of different walks taking you through the surreal surroundings, ranging between 30 minutes to over an hour.
11. Play a Round of Golf at Kauri Cliffs
For a world-class round of golf, head to the Kauri Cliffs golf course overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the tip of North Island. The course follows the coastline next to towering cliffs that plunge down into the ocean, while some holes in the course meander through marshlands, forests and farmland. Located a 3-hour 45-minute drive north of Auckland, a stylish way to arrive is to organise a chartered helicopter from Auckland airport. An hour-long flight up the coastline will afford you stunning birds-eye vistas before teeing off on the world-famous course.
12. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Commonly described as the best day hike or tramp in New Zealand and possibly the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts. Situated in the centre of North Island in Tongariro National Park, the day trek takes you through terrain moulded by three active volcanoes. Ancient lava flows, tumultuous geological formations, and lakes of emerald blue provide no end to the scenic delights on the 19km trek.
13. Wine Tasting on Waiheke Island
A mere 40-minute ferry ride across the bay from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a natural paradise full of pristine beaches and world-class wineries. You can easily while away a few days on this island, staying in any number of luxurious homes for rent, beachside cottages or even family friendly resorts. For the adventure seekers, mountain biking, surfing, fishing and sea kayaking are plentiful.
14. Helicopter Fly-Fishing Tour
Be whisked away into remote countryside to experience some of the best fly-fishing in the world. Taking a helicopter saves a lot of time walking, which means you’ll have more time to catch some of the large trout populating New Zealand’s rivers. Be picked up at the end of the day and fly back to civilisation in your own private heli-taxi. Don’t forget to enjoy the views of the wild landscape from above.
15. Museum of New Zealand
No trip to New Zealand is complete without learning about the country. The best place to do this is at the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, where through interactive and innovative displays spread over six floors you can learn about the country’s unique natural surroundings, its Maori heritage, its fascinating history, and see some of the country’s most important works of art.
16. Visit Hobbiton
New Zealand was brought to the attention of the world as the filming location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as The Hobbit more recently. South of Auckland lies the movie set of Hobbiton, where you can wander around and search for our furry-footed friends. You can even have a pint of ale at the Green Dragon Inn. Besides Hobbiton, Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were filmed at locations all over the country – so as you travel throughout New Zealand, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into Middle Earth!
17. Wine Road Trip from Hawkes Bay to Marlborough
For a fun combination of a road trip through awesome countryside, while enjoying world-class wineries, experience New Zealand’s most famous wine route from Hawke’s Bay on North Island all the way down to Marlborough on the tip of South Island, the country’s largest wine-growing area. Incorporating three different wine regions, there are more than 120 cellar doors for you to taste local wines. Up north, Hawke’s Bay is famed for its Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Syrahs. Further south in Wairarapa, Pinot Noir is the main star, before finally reaching Marlborough where they serve stunning Sauvignon Blanc.
18. Star Gaze in Mt Cook National Park
The entire South Island of New Zealand has been classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve, meaning that low light pollution makes it one of the best stargazing sights in the world. There are a few different organisations in the park offering the use of telescopes and even taking you on a guided tour. Either way, the constellations will never have seemed closer to earth than here. It might be hard to leave – like most of New Zealand.
19. Moeraki Boulders
These unusually large and spherical boulders are a sight to behold, found along the Koekohe Beach on the eastern coast of South Island. One of the most popular attractions in the south, the boulders were formed by ancient sea sediments some 60 million years ago, exposed through coastal erosions of the mudstone that enclosed them.
20. Abel Tasman Coast Track
Tramp your way through beautiful coastal bush and exotic rainforest along the Abel Tasman coastal track, taking you past remote golden beaches, sometimes full of fur seals. The full tramp is 60km and usually takes between 3-5 days to complete, depending on your fitness level. There are a number of huts along the way providing accommodation, though note all need to be pre-booked. Other than that, entry into Abel Tasman National Park is free. If you fancy the beaches without the tramping, take a cruise around the area or hire a kayak so you can find your own private bit of beach.
21. Relax in the Comfort of a Luxury Lodge
What better way to spend a few weeks in New Zealand than from the comfort of one of the many luxury lodges dotted around the islands? Stay in gorgeous houses on sheep farms, or take in the view of the mountains from the warmth of your private hot tub. Check out our range of luxury lodges for inspiration.
22. Spot Whales, Fur Seals and Dolphins in Kaikoura
One of the most breathtaking experiences in life is seeing a whale in its natural habitat. Head to the town of Kaikoura, where whale sightseeing tours are a speciality. Taking you out into the Pacific Ocean, you’ll be able to see sperm whales, blue whales, humpbacks and minke whales, as well as other ocean creatures. Just off the coast is the Kaikoura Canyon, reaching depths of up to 1,200 metres. The cold water that flows through this canyon brings rich nutrients towards the surface, sustaining the brilliant diversity of sea life that can be found in these waters – so you’ll likely see dolphins and fur seals as well.
If you’ve ever dreamed of rolling down a hill inside a giant plastic bubble, zorbing is the activity for you. Head to Rotorua where you can partake in this unique adventure that gets your blood pumping.
24. Christchurch Botanical Gardens
The heart of the garden city, Christchurch Botanical Gardens are a beautiful destination to visit for locals and visitors. Spread over 21 hectares in the middle of a city that’s often rocked by earthquakes, it’s a fragrant and colourful reminder that Mother Nature can also be very peaceful.
25. Cathedral Cove
Naturally formed archways adorn beautiful white sands at Cathedral Cove, in what is arguably one of the prettiest spots on the Coromandel Peninsula on North Island. There’s an hour-long walking trail that leads you along the cliffs before descending towards the cove, where you’ll be in awe of the enormous arched passes that lead through the rocks to hidden beaches, ideal for swimming.
Are you ready to explore the luxurious side of New Zealand? Get in touch today to speak with our travel experts, who can help plan your dream trip to New Zealand.
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