Best Things to do in New Zealand

Best Things to do in New Zealand

Best Things to Do in New Zealand - Activities and Attractions

Kevin Andrew Ordoñez
PUBLISHED ONDecember 29, 2023

So, you're planning to visit New Zealand and wondering what the Kiwi country has to offer? Prepare yourself for an adventure packed with stunning views, white sand beaches, and natural wonders that will take your breath away.

New Zealand is a treasure trove of beauty, perfect for road trips that will etch into your memory unforgettable landscapes. You might be a wine lover eager to explore world-renowned vineyards, or perhaps you're someone who cherishes day trips to places where the scenery changes with every road turn.

Buckle up and get ready to be amazed by the wonders New Zealand has to offer!

Adventure Sports and Outdoor Activities

From national parks with incredible views to glaciers with turquoise lakes, New Zealand has something for everyone. If you love the thrill of adventure, take a leap from the Kawarau Bridge, the world's first bungee site.

You'll jump from a height of 43 meters and experience a few heart-pounding seconds of free fall. If you want something even more thrilling, try skydiving in Taupo. Imagine free-falling over the blue lake and green fields, what a sight!

For a fast-paced adventure on water, don't miss jet boating on the Shotover River. As you zoom past the rocky cliffs and feel the spray of water, you'll understand why it's a must-try.

Hiking and Scenic Trails

If you are someone who enjoys getting up close to nature, New Zealand is the perfect playground for you. The country boasts a range of parks and trails that provide an intimate experience with nature itself.

Here's what you should add to your itinerary:

  • Milford Sound: Famous for its spectacular views, Milford Sound offers an unforgettable journey through towering peaks, dark-blue waters, and stunning waterfalls.
  • Franz Josef Glacier: This glacier walk is a famous spot among tourists. You can walk or take a helicopter to the top for a different perspective.
  • Hiking Trails: New Zealand is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. From coastal tracks like the Abel Tasman Coast Track to forest walks such as the Lake Waikaremoana Track, there's something for everyone.
  • Tongariro National Park: Home to the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the park boasts some of the most impressive landscapes in the country.
  • Mount Cook National Park: This park offers 360-degree views of snow-capped peaks, clear blue lakes, and beautiful valleys.
  • Abel Tasman National Park: Known for its golden beaches and crystal-clear waters, this park is a great spot for kayaking, swimming, and hiking.
  • Fiordland National Park: One of the country's largest parks, Fiordland offers a range of activities from boat tours of the fjords to exploring the underwater observatory at Milford Sound.

Maori Culture and Indigenous Experiences

New Zealand is not only about the breathtaking landscapes but also the rich culture of the Maori people. Their history and customs are deeply rooted in the land, and you feel their spirit in every corner of the country.

You may have seen the powerful Haka performed by the All Blacks before each rugby match. But did you know that these ritual Hakas are a part of Maori culture?

They were traditionally performed by Maori chiefs and warriors before going to war. Today, you can witness these performances and traditional ceremonies firsthand.

There are many places where you can immerse yourself in the indigenous experiences. Visit a Maori heritage site or museum to learn about their history, art, and mythology. Experience the warmth and hospitality of the Maori people, taste their traditional food and listen to their ancient tales.

This trip to New Zealand will be more than just sightseeing, it will be a journey into the heart of the indigenous people.

Lord of the Rings Film Locations

You wouldn't want to miss the chance to step into Middle Earth if you're a fan of the "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies. These epic films were shot entirely in New Zealand, showcasing the country's stunning natural history and landscapes.

Explore iconic filming locations like Hobbiton, the rolling hills of the Shire, or the eerie Dimrill Dale. Guided tours offer movie buffs an inside look into the making of these cinematic masterpieces, often led by guides with fun behind-the-scenes stories and insights.

However, if you prefer to adventure independently, there are also self-guided routes available that can lead you to the very spots where key scenes were filmed. This unique experience gives fans a whole new perspective on their favorite films while also enabling them to appreciate New Zealand's natural beauty.

Wildlife Encounters

Want to step out of the major city and dive into nature? Just a few miles to city center, you'll find yourself surrounded by New Zealand's unique wildlife, with over 200 different bird species at every corner.

Tiritiri Matangi Island and Stewart Island are two of the many locations where you can enjoy this experience. Imagine waking up to the song of a Tui or catching a glimpse of a Kiwi, a nocturnal bird unique to this country.

  • Tiritiri Matangi Island: This wildlife sanctuary offers a home to plenty of birds, including several endangered species. Here, you can listen to the dawn chorus of birdsong, spot a rare takahe, or even see a little blue penguin.
  • Stewart Island: Over 85% of this island is National Park, making it a haven for wildlife. In the evening, visit Ocean Beach and watch as the nocturnal Little Blue Penguins come ashore. During the day, watch as seals bask on the rocks at the water's edge.

New Zealand also offers a chance to see other fascinating creatures. You might spot a cheeky Kea in the mountainous South Island, or perhaps a Yellow-eyed Penguin in the Catlins.

From the playful dolphins of Bay of Islands to the fur seals of Kaikoura, New Zealand's unique wildlife is sure to captivate your heart.

Wine Tasting and Culinary Delights

A visit to New Zealand won't be complete without exploring the bountiful wine regions and savoring the diverse cuisine. Waiheke Island, Hawke's Bay, and Nelson are among the best places to visit in New Zealand to try exquisite wines.

  • Waiheke Island boasts stunning vineyards where you can enjoy wine tasting tours while soaking in picturesque views.
  • Hawkes Bay, another renowned wine region, offers a plethora of vineyards to explore, each with its own unique flavor profiles.
  • Gisborne and Nelson, although smaller in scale, offer equally impressive wine tasting experiences.

Alongside the wines, New Zealand's culinary scene is a fusion of fresh and flavorful dishes. Don't miss the traditional Hangi, a meal slow-cooked in an earth oven, or the delicious Pavlova, a meringue-based dessert named after the famous ballerina.

Geothermal Wonders

Another amazing natural feature that makes New Zealand a standout destination is its geothermal wonders. These hot spots are scattered across the country and offer visitors a unique experience of Mother Nature's power and beauty. Here are some of the must-visit geothermal sites:

  • Te Puia, Rotorua: This geothermal park is renowned for its hot pools and active geysers, including the impressive Pohutu Geyser, which erupts multiple times a day.
  • Hell's Gate mud pools, Rotorua: Here, you can witness bubbling mud pools and take a dip in a naturally heated hot spring.
  • Champagne Pool, Rotorua: Named for its effervescent surface, this hot water pool is a stunning sight with its brilliant orange edge caused by mineral deposits.
  • Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rotorua: This hotspot is home to the world's largest hot spring in a beautiful emerald green color.
  • Craters of the Moon, Lake Taupo: This geothermal walkway, with its steaming craters and bubbling mud pools, offers a lunar-like landscape.

Remember to add Hot Water Beach to your itinerary. At this beach, you can dig your own hot pool in the sand during low tide. It's a unique and fun way to enjoy a natural spa experience. These geothermal wonders add another dimension to the diverse landscapes of New Zealand.

To make the most of these destinations, consider the best time to visit New Zealand. The country's weather is fairly consistent, but summer (December to February) is popular for beach and water activities.

However, spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) offer milder temperatures and smaller crowds, which might be ideal for exploring these geothermal sites.

Beach Escapes and Water Activities

If you are planning a trip during the summer months in New Zealand, then beach hopping should definitely be part of your itinerary. The country is known for its beautiful beaches, with both the North Island and South Island offering distinct experiences.

  • Muriwai Beach, North Island: This is a must-visit location for beach bums and surfers. It is well-known for its black sand beaches stretching over 60 kilometers. It's a perfect place for a beach picnic and a long walk on the sand.
  • Cathedral Cove, North Island: This picturesque spot is only accessible on foot or by boat. The cove itself is a massive arch that gives way to a secluded beach. Take a boat ride here and enjoy the stunning natural structures.
  • Bay of Islands, North Island: With over 144 islands, this is an ideal spot for water activities. Go for a swim in the clear blue waters, or take a boat ride and explore the stunning islands.
  • Cape Reinga, North Island: While not typically considered a beach destination, the views from the lighthouse here are breathtaking. You can see where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.
  • South Island Beaches: The South Island is known for its beautiful beaches. Golden sand, clear waters, and a multitude of wildlife make it a haven for nature lovers and beach bums.

Remember, whether you want to chill on the black sand beaches, take a boat ride to explore the many islands, or simply want to enjoy being a beach bum, New Zealand has it all.

Arts and Museums

For a laid-back and more cultural experience, visiting New Zealand's vibrant art scene is a must. The country is brimming with contemporary art galleries and museums, offering an insight into both traditional and modern artistic expressions.

  • Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the country's largest art institution, boasts a collection of over 15,000 artworks including national and international pieces. The museum admissions are affordable and worth every penny for art enthusiasts.
  • In Wellington, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa offers a unique blend of art, culture, and science exhibits. The entrance fee is free, but donations are appreciated. For those with a penchant for coffee and art, several coffee spots in Wellington double as art galleries.
  • The Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, Greater Wellington, is a free-to-enter cultural hub, showcasing some of the best contemporary art, craft and design.

Remember, many museums have admission fees, so it's advisable to check beforehand.

Notable Mentions

As a bonus, there are several other attractions that should make it onto your New Zealand itinerary:

  • Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier: These glaciers are popular for guided walks and helicopter tours. You can even walk on the glaciers with the help of a guide!
  • Lake Taupo: This is New Zealand's largest lake. Try your hand at fishing or just enjoy the beautiful views.
  • Lake Tekapo: Known for its beautiful blue waters, this lake is a great spot for a picnic.
  • Lake Wanaka: Enjoy water activities or just relax by the shore. The views are stunning!
  • Waitomo Caves: These caves are famous for their glow-worms. Take a boat ride through the caves for an unforgettable experience.
  • Huka Falls: These falls are a must-see. The water is a beautiful blue-green color and the falls are quite powerful.

Closing Thoughts

Don't forget to plan your trip in advance to make the most of all that New Zealand has to offer. Whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation, nature or culture, this beautiful country has something for everyone.

While public transportation is available, renting a car might be the best way to explore all of these amazing destinations. Just make sure to bring your international driving license to avoid any issues. Also, familiarize yourself with the things to know before traveling to New Zealand to enhance your overall experience.

Additionally, make sure to read our Driving Guide New Zealand for more information on road rules and safety. With all of this in mind, start planning your New Zealand adventure today!

Get your International Driving Permit in 8 minutes

Instant approval

Valid for 1-3 years

Worldwide express shipping

Back to Top