With oodles of natural beauty and a whole heap of culture to explore, there are so many incredible and best things to do in New Zealand. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hiker, a history buff or just a foodie with a rumbling tummy, New Zealand is a spot for you.
Now, the only thing about having so many stunning and best things to do in New Zealand is that it can be hard to whittle all the spots down. Though, this is almost essential if you’re only visiting New Zealand on a vacation or holiday.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the best things to do in New Zealand on your next trip. The whole country is blessed with some amazing places that I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with.
In order to make your trip that bit easier, I’ve created a little map to highlight some of the key spots. Take a look at the stars which correlate to each point below.
Read more, below, on the best things to do in New Zealand. Have the best trip.
1.) Discover Milford Sound
Head down to the Southwest of South Island, ditch the car, and hop on a boat to see the stunning sights of Milford Sound. It really is one of the best things to do in New Zealand if you’re a nature lover.
Formed by glaciers in the Ice Age, it was described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the eighth wonder of the world.’ With its mountains and waterfalls, and with dolphins streaming through the water which surrounds it, it’s hard to disagree with him. The highlight is the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory, where you can get a 360-degree view of the underwater environment without getting even the slightest bit wet.
The highlight is the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory, where you can get a 360-degree view of the underwater environment without getting even the slightest bit wet.
2.) Visit the adrenaline-fuelled, Queenstown
Also on the Southwest side of South Island is Queenstown. Another city, a totally different experience. Queenstown is the country’s adventure capital, so stop off here to get your adrenaline fix with a skydive or bungee jump.
You can even try the Shotover Canyon Swing, the world’s highest cliff jump. If you visit in winter or spring and you’re not so much of an adrenaline junkie, you can also check out Queenstown’s famous ski scene. It’s a pretty fun place to visit and one of the best things to do in New Zealand if you love thrills!
3.) Wander the stunning Dunedin
Dunedin is a city of mixed Scottish and Maori heritage, sitting on the south-east coast of South Island. This cultural cocktail of a city is definitely worth checking out; its Victorian and Edwardian architecture is stunning, as is its wildlife. Don’t miss the rare yellow-eyed penguins, which are best spotted on a hike or bike ride on the adjacent Otago Peninsula.
Plus, don’t miss the rare yellow-eyed penguins, which are best spotted on a hike or bike ride on the adjacent Otago Peninsula.
4.) See the gorgeous Christchurch
Christchurch has a rich and incredible history (and well worth seeing when visiting the South Island).
Oh, also, make sure you visit the International Antarctic Centre, wander through New Regent Street and grab a bite to eat at The Noisy Lobster which, as you can guess, serves some pretty delicious lobster in the city. Yum!
5.) Trek through Abel Tasman National Park
Now, in the North West of the South Island, you’ll find the beach paradise of Abel Tasman. Believe me, it’s worth getting sand in your car for this place. The beaches are golden, the water is unbelievably blue, and it’s surrounded by lush green vegetation.
Whether you want to hike along the coastal path, go kayaking in search of seals and dolphins, or just relax on the sand, this incredible beauty spot is not to be missed.
6.) Watch the sunrise at Hawke’s Bay
Three words: bicycle wine tours… Did I catch your attention? 🤣 If you like wine and you like cycling, Hawke’s Bay might be your favourite stop on the whole trip; especially as this region is famous for both.
Unwind with a glass of red after exploring the farmers market, or take a hike along the forest trails of the Ruahine or Kaweka Forest Park. Hawke’s Bay is the place to enjoy some of the finer things in life. Just make sure to assign a designated driver, no one likes a drunk driver!
Plus, if you’re looking for a gorgeous sunrise, head to the top of Te Mata Peak.
7.) See the volcano at White Island, Whakaari
Part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, White Island (or Whakaari) is one of New Zealand’s most iconic, active, volcanoes that you can visit by boat. Just off the east coast of North Island, White Island is a fascinating place to visit; you can even see volcanologists monitoring the volcano’s activity.
For a totally extra unique experience, you can also scuba dive in the waters surrounding the volcano to see what’s going on beneath the surface.
8.) Discover Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley
If you’re passing through Rotorua on your travels, you cannot miss the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. It’s home to Pohutu, the biggest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, as well as boiling mood pools.
Also, you can also drop into the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute for a taste of Maori culture, including a welcome ceremony complete with traditional song and dance. It really is one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
9.) Spot the quaint, Hobbiton
Trust me, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, this is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
Truth be told, any Lord of the Rings fan will have fantasised about walking around The Shire, and if you’re road-tripping around New Zealand, you can! Take a break from the road in the quaintest location in Middle Earth; you can even stop in at The Green Dragon Inn for a beer.
Even if you’re not a Tolkien fan, this trip has great novelty value that is surprisingly picturesque and quaint.
10.) Experience the unique Glowworm Caves
Perched on the North Island near Waitomo, the Glowworm Caves are a stunning sight to see. Within the Waitomo Cave system is millions of little glowworms that are unique to New Zealand. Take one of the organised boat rides and see this unique and beautiful place.
11.) Explore vibrant Auckland
Road trips are great for getting off the beaten track, but sometimes it’s nice to get back onto that well-trodden path of city life.
Auckland is regularly voted one of the best cities in the world for us travellers to visit, so it’s worth seeing what makes New Zealand’s biggest city so great. From multicultural dining to a host of museums and even a bungee jump, it’s got something to satisfy every visitor.
For a yummy, if not a little pricey bite to eat, head over to SidArt which serves some of the most original food in the city. It really is delicious.
12.) Find Lion’s Rock at Piha Beach
New Zealand has some of the best beaches in the Southern Hemisphere, with Piha being no exception.
Now, grab your sunblock, your swimming trunks and explore this iconic coast. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Lion’s rock, too.
Last but not least: Visit The Bay of Islands
So, the Bay of Islands is a collection of 144 islands scattered between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula (around a three-hour drive from Auckland).
The islands are the perfect place to get a taste of New Zealand’s water sports scene and you and even swim with wild dolphins that you might be lucky enough to see within the ocean. If water sports aren’t your cup of tea, you can take a relaxing fishing trip or just unwind on the beach (you’ll have a fair few to choose from!).
If water sports aren’t your cup of tea, you can take a relaxing fishing trip or just unwind on the beach.