New Zealand is truly a magical place with so much to offer holidaymakers. We take a look at a few of the best places to visit when you are traveling or taking a vacation in Aotearoa, the Land of the White Cloud.
The New Zealand Covid strategy, argued to be one of the most successful in the world, has been relaxed after two years and the country is now opening up to tourists. One of the big advantages of living in New Zealand is the many exciting travel opportunities that are within easy reach. There is certainly no sense in missing out by holidaying at home, because New Zealand has plenty to rival any international destination.
New Zealand is an incredible destination, and one on bucket lists, so how do you work out where to go and what to see? As a country, New Zealand is smaller than many people realise and whilst the terrain is highly varied with mountainous and hilly areas it is still relatively easy to get around. The comprehensive public transport system accesses most places, although some are harder to get to than others. Careful planning is a must as some destinations are limited to one type of public transport per day. Good ferry links exist between the North and South Islands that make up the country.
New Zealand is not as big as nearby Australia but manages to cram an incredibly diverse range of terrains into a relatively small space; from the glaciers in the Southern Mountains on the Southern Island to the 15,000km of incredible coastline, there really is something for everyone.
For anyone who is contemplating a move to New Zealand, the stunning landscapes and rugged terrain are a huge attraction. Coastal walks and water activities are all popular options for those considering a holiday in New Zealand.
So whether you are just planning that bucket list trip or are already looking to book your next trip, here is our list of the 21 things that really should be on your list for a holiday in New Zealand.
1. Take in Auckland and admire the views from the top of the Sky Tower
No matter where you are in New Zealand, at some point you’ll want to take a weekend break in the largest city. Although with just 1.6 million people it is a small village compared to the largest cities in most countries.
The most prominent landmark in Auckland, the Sky Tower stands 328 meters high and offers a spectacular view of 50 miles in each direction; what better way to start our list. With viewing platforms and a restaurant, there are plenty of opportunities to drink in the Auckland skyline. For the fearless of heart, it is possible to take a Sky Jump from around 194 meters up the tower, attached to a cable.
Of course, this isn’t all that Auckland has to offer, so why not take the opportunity to go shopping, visit museums, art galleries and partake in city life. There’s also a vast array of outdoor activities and nature on your doorstep, including the opportunity to climb a volcano! There are 48 volcanic cones dotting the Auckland landscape – don’t worry though, they are all dormant.
2. Wellington and one of the most interactive museums in the world
The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington is a thriving hub of a city offering plenty for the curious tourist, with museums, art galleries and plenty of shops to keep you busy.
A fantastic way to really get a view of the city is to take the Wellington Cable Car, offering easy access to the botanical gardens and the cable car museum. This is an activity the whole family will enjoy.
Head down to the Wellington waterfront for a visit to Te Papa (meaning “our place”), the National Museum of New Zealand, arguably one of the most impressive interactive museums you will find anywhere in the world.
3. Bungee jumping, canyon swinging, horse trekking and outdoor adventures in Queenstown
For those with a love of adrenaline, Queenstown offers a veritable smorgasbord of activities all year round. Winter through to spring you will find skiing a popular activity and canyon swinging, bungy jumping, river rafting, and horse trekking are available all year round. It’s not known as the world’s adventure capital for nothing!
Fear not if you prefer your holiday activities with a little less of an adrenaline rush, the spectacular landscape is perfect for walking, and if relaxation is your thing, then indulge yourself with a spa treatment and some shopping.
4. Explore the beauty of Fiordland from a helicopter or kayak
Sometimes there is no better way to really see the stunning beauty of somewhere than from the air, so why not consider a helicopter ride. Make sure your tour takes in Sound/Tamatea and Doubtful Sound/Patea,. The Sound is the most spectacular and largest of the fiords, so take in everything, including the solitude, that this incredible location has to offer.
For those who love their outdoor activities, then kayaking will not only allow you to explore but also to get closer to some of the incredible rare wildlife of Fiordland. Whether you opt for a couple of hours in a kayak or something that combines overnight camping, there is no better way to really get back to nature and explore.
An overnight boat cruise is an altogether more sophisticated option and allows you to travel deeper into Doubtful Sound or Milford. You may even spot penguins, fur seals and bottle-nosed dolphins as you cruise.
If you love winter skiing and snowboarding, New Zealand is perfect for you. The famous winter skiing resorts include the Treble Cone Ski Area which is highly rated and one of the largest ski and snowboarding resorts in New Zealand. You can receive private lessons and improve your skills as well.
Other notable resorts include CARDRONA, the Remarkables and Mount Hutt on South Island, and on North Island there is Whakapapa and Turoa which has the longest vertical drop in Australasia.
Why not have a full day of skiing with your family and friends while in New Zealand and experience the different ski resorts that New Zealand has to offer!
It has taken the force of the river more than 12,000 years to carve out this incredible magical place. The Glowworm Caves, which are located on the western shore of Lake Te Anau make a great visit for all ages and abilities.
Begin with a scenic boat cruise across the lake, before heading into the caves where you will be greeted with whirlpools, sculpted limestone and roaring subterranean waterfalls. Venture a little further into the caves and you will see the most incredible sight overhead of thousands of glittering glow-worms.
7. Take to the open roads with a campervan
Many will argue that the best way to see New Zealand is by campervan or motorhome, so much so that it’s become an iconic part of Kiwi culture.
When it comes to stunning locations, it really is difficult to imagine a better country than New Zealand for camping out under the stars. The joy of travelling with a campervan is that setting up and packing away is easy, and this means it’s an ideal choice for taking a road trip that lets you visit as many places as possible.
From beachside locations to those nestled right on the banks of a lake, no two camping grounds will be exactly the same. You may even want to check out some of the many freedom camping locations dotted around New Zealand – but make sure you do your homework first because not all locations are cleared for freedom camping.
8. Set sail and relax in the paradise that is the Bay of Islands
At the tip of the North Island lies the Bay of Islands, a subtropical micro-region, famed for its history and stunning beauty. Whilst many visit for the water activities and beaches, and rightly so, the area also has a rich cultural heritage that is worth exploring.
If you don’t fancy sitting on the beach, then why not embark on a little adventure and follow one of the river or seaside walking tracks that you will find here?
A trip on one of the daily cruises will take in the abundant wildlife off the coast – including dolphins, marlins, penguins, whales, gannets and more.
9.Visit Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the most important historic site in the country
Bay of Islands is also home to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the site where the founding documents of New Zealand were signed in 1840. A day trip that is suitable for everyone, there are two museums on the treaty grounds.
Why not watch a Māori cultural performance in an authentic meeting house, visit the native gardens and forest, the carving studio and many more – all nestled in the perfect location with stunning views out over the bay.
The Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley in Rotorua is a volcanic landscape that features incredible geothermal attractions and incredible landscapes. The area is filled with rare flora and fauna and is steeped in rich Māori folklore and history.
Here you will find one of the most active geothermal fields anywhere in the world. In Te Puia, you will find the Pohutu Geyser which can erupt up to 20 times a day to a height of 30 metres. The air is filled with the unmistakable odour of sulphur mixed with clouds of steam.
Relax in a simple mud bath and let the rich minerals soothe your body or take a dip in one of the natural hot streams.
11. Get a birds-eye view of the forest as you zip through the trees
The prehistoric native forests in Rotorua are the perfect place to take a trip in the tree canopies. Ziplines allow you to weave your way through the trees, crossing suspension bridges that are 20 metres above the forest floor.
If you like the forest during the daytime, then you will love it at night time. The Redwoods Treewalk is the perfect way for the entire family to enjoy the light and colour of the forest at night. This is an experience you will not want to miss.
12. Hike the spine of The Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula offers some of the most breathtaking views you will find anywhere in the world.
Explore the jagged forested ranges of The Pinnacles on foot on a guided tour that will allow you to take the journey of a lifetime. From the top you will feel like you are standing on top of the world, glancing down through the clouds onto the foothills below.
For those early risers who truly want to be at one with nature, make the climb first thing in the morning and gaze in awe at the sun rising over the views stretching to The Coromandel and beyond.
The cathedral-like tunnel that separates two white sand beaches at Coromandel has given Cathedral Cove its name. Exploring by kayak is just one of the ways to appreciate this natural wonder and get close to the wildlife that fills the crystal clear waters.
If you are looking for a wonderful spot for pictures and great scenery, we recommend you visit the Cathedral Cove.
14. Dig your own hot pool
Hot Water Beach, so-called because of the natural spring running under it, is the perfect place to create your own spa pool.
All you need is a spade and a bit of hard work, and you can dig your own hot pool in the sand just a few meters from the ocean.
15. Take a vineyard tour
The landscape of the country offers the perfect growing conditions for both white and red wines, from crisp sauvignon blanc to silky pinot noir. A visit to the wine region and a taste tour of its many vineyards is the perfect way to see exactly what New Zealand wine is all about.
When it comes to wine, New Zealand is a world player, able to hold its own on any wine list in a gourmet restaurant.
16. Sample the local produce
With so many miles of coastline, it isn’t hard to see why New Zealand has a reputation for great seafood. Check out any local food fairs to sample the best fresh seafood, as well as the other local produce that the country has to offer.
17. Live like a Māori
There is no better way to learn about local cultures than to immerse yourself in them. Book a stay in a marae in Rotorua. A marae is more than just a place to stay – the term refers to a complex of interlinked buildings that are used for living, meeting and all kinds of ceremonies and celebrations.
Staying in a marae means living and socialising together with your Māori hosts, watching traditional performances and maybe joining in, even helping with the cooking. The pace of life here is slower whilst being right at the heart of the essence of the country.
18. Release your inner Hobbit
In 2001 New Zealand’s striking scenery enthralled the world when it was used as the backdrop for the filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In total, over 150 different locations on both islands were used for the filming and, in the town of Matamata which was used to portray the site, the village of Hobbiton was built. This was taken down after filming but then rebuilt for the filming of The Hobbit Trilogy and is now a permanent visitor’s attraction.
You could spend an entire holiday exploring the many locations that were used for filming. Some can be visited by car and then on foot, whilst others need to be explored from the air. The LOTR Trilogy has meant big business for New Zealand and there are plenty of tours to choose from.
19. Explore Dunedin’s hidden shores and Tunnel beach
At the southern end of New Zealand, you will find Dunedin, an area of unique landscape and intriguing cultural history.
Just a short drive from the city centre you will find St Clair, a popular beach for surfing although there are also some great beaches for swimming and relaxing.
Tunnel Beach offers some spectacular scenery and a sandstone sea arch that is certainly worth a trip, visit at low tide if you want to see it at its best.
20. Take an exploration cruise to Antarctica in the wake of Scott and Shackleton
If you have always fancied yourself as something of an explorer, then why not take an exploration cruise from New Zealand to Antarctica and follow in the footsteps of the great explorers.
With only one tour per year, make sure that you plan this one well in advance. However, it will certainly be an experience worth waiting for.
21. Let your hair down and dance to the music
New Zealand has a thriving live music scene and is host to a wide range of festivals and concerts throughout the year.
It is home to One Love, the biggest reggae and roots music festival in the world, WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) – an international festival that brings together international artists to celebrate every aspect of arts, dance and music, and the Pasifika Festival, to name just a few.
With the more traditional Māori music, and modern groups playing smaller live events all over the country, this is a great place to visit as a music lover.
Where will you choose for your holiday in New Zealand?
New Zealand offers a really diverse wealth of different things for anyone looking to book a holiday. From adrenaline-pumping outdoor pursuits to walking tours, wildlife, shopping, and significant cultural history to explore, a holiday here could be more than you have ever imagined.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach break, a holiday that lets you imagine life as a Hobbit in the Shire or something that immerses you in the traditions of the Māori culture, you will find it all in New Zealand.
Once you have started exploring New Zealand you simply won’t want to stop! And if you are considering making a permanent move to New Zealand then you will be able to plan as many trips all over the country as you want.