Explore New Zealand

Top 10 things to do in New Zealand

New Zealand is an otherworldly country with unique contradictory extremes. It has one of the most spectacular landscapes of the world, containing dense forests, mountains, beaches glaciers, thermal regions and fjords.

New Zealand is a place where traditional Maori culture mixes with modern conveniences, charming villages and untouched wilderness. The country offers all sorts of activities for everyone to enjoy.

Out of all the limitless things to do and see in New Zealand these are our top 10 suggestions.

10 Coromandel Peninsula

The north-east of New Zealand is known for its pristine beaches, native forest and laid back vibe. Make sure to visit the small but picturesque village Thames. Its rich history of gold mining,  the galleries of the many artists and craftsmen, together with the beautiful view make this village worth seeing.

The area of Coromandel Peninsula has everything a big city doesn’t. The forest provides untouched nature and exciting adventures, while the beach offers great relaxation and a beautiful view. At the Hot Water Beach you can dig your own hot pool from the springs under the sands.  

9 National parks

When in New Zealand it is highly recommended that you visit at least three of the 14 national parks. At all of the parks, visitors can get in touch with the natural heritage of New Zealand, as well as various native animal species, such as blue penguins, wekas, oystercatchers, wood pigeons and Kiwi birds, that have defined the country.

Franz Josef Glacier new zealand

Franz Josef Glacier by Jesse Palmer  (Flickr)

The first national park of New Zealand was Tongariro, known for its surprises and extremes. The park has a strangely diverse range of ecosystems which includes tranquil lakes, active volcanoes, herb fields, untamed forests and desert-like plateaus.

The best way to explore the park is to take a hike starting from the Whakapapa Visitor Center. From here its just a three hour hike to the stunning Taranaki Falls. This short hike will take you further through scrubland and forest and across the lava line of volcanic eruptions from hundreds of years ago.

Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman National Park, located at the north end of the South Island, is one of the smallest national parks in New Zealand, but also one of the most spectacular.

It is a coastal paradise that you can walk through or explore by cruise boat, sailing catamaran, water taxi or sea kayak.

The Franz Josef Glacier

The Franz Josef Glacier, located within Westland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand, is one of the world’s most accessible glaciers. Visitors can walk right up to the foot of this massive glacier to enjoy the spectacular view and hear the grinding, crushing sounds of the ancient ice forcing itself down the valley.

The Franz Josef Glacier moves up to four meters every day, which in the glacier world is uncommonly rapid.

8 Sky Tower

In the city of Auckland, the Sky Tower with a height of 328 meters (1,076 ft) is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The Tower serves as an observation and telecommunications tower and has become an icon in on the Auckland skyline. Going up in the tower will provide you with a view up to 80 km away while you dine could be dining at the Orbit Revolving restaurant.

7 Take a trip to of Wanaka

New Zealand visits are never complete without a trip to Wanaka, located in the Otago region of the South Island. Tourists are guaranteed to be amazed by the sight of the wonderful Wanaka lake together with the general serenity of the town.

In the winter time this is the perfect location to do all sorts of winter sports. From all over the world people will come to Wanaka to go skiing and snowboarding at Cardrona and Treble Cone, do cross-country skiing at Snow Farm and heli-skiing high in the Harris Mountains. 

Wanaka is much more than just a winter destination so those are not the only activities you can do. Fishing, hiking, canyoning, climbing and skydiving are things you can do all year round. Before leaving Wanaka, it’s be worthy worthwhile to take a tour to of the Rippon Vineyard, which is home to some of the wonderful wines available in the Kiwi New Zealand wine market.

6 Visit Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui, or Mauao in Maori, is a dormant volcano in the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. It reaches up to 230 metres above sea level and offers beautiful views of the harbour, beach and Pacific Ocean that makes the effort of hiking totally worthwhile. 

Mount Mauao is an important part of the Maori culture and history. There is a Maori legend that tells of Mauao trying to drag himself into the sea to escape misery of an unrequited love. When the sun came up he couldn't move any further and the result was his lonely position on the edge of the peninsula.
At the foot of the mountain there is a stunning sheltered bay with white sands and clear water as well as a famous surf bay with high waves.

5 Te Papa Tongarewa museum

Those interested in learning more about New Zealand should visit the Te Papa Tongarewa museum. It is New Zealand’s national museum and art gallery and is located in Wellington.

Te Papa (our place) Tongarewa museum is home to all the New Zealand stories and treasures. Here you can learn about the heritage and history of the country and admire the country’s art.

4 Kaikoura

Kaikoura new zealand whale

Tail Shot Rear - Sperm Whale Kaikoura NZ by Strange Ones  (Flickr)

Another very memorable activity would be to visit Kaikoura, a small town which is situated on the east coast of the South Island. Here visitors can come face-to-face with the marine wildlife of New Zealand.

For those fascinated with sperm whales, seabirds, dolphins and seals, this adventure provides the perfect opportunity to interact with these animals in their natural habitat. Some tour operators even provide wetsuits so you can swim with dolphins and seals in the Kaikoura waters. Few other places can offer such natural wonders as Kaikoura.

Other than watching marine animals there are lots of land activities in Kaikoura as well.  Hiking or horse riding through the beautiful countryside, wine tasting or visiting the stunning Maori Leap Cave are just some of the other activities. When having dinner try to taste the crayfish as Kai (food) Koura (crayfish) is known for it.  

3 Rotorua

Rotorua is known as the thermal wonderland of New Zealand. It is a place of fascinating Maori culture, hot springs and boiling mud pools.

This city, in the Bay of Plenty area of the North Island, is located on a volcanic plateau which has some of the world’s most lively geothermal activity. All around the city there are natural eruptions of steam, hot water and mud. Here you can clearly see the turbulent forces that have formed New Zealand.

About 600 years ago the Te Arawa people settled in Rotorua. Their presence provides several cultural experiences, such as taking a tour of an authentic pre-European Maori village or trying a Hangi feast. Hangi is a traditional way of preparing a meal in an oven underground, while making use of the hot steam from the volcanic activity. 

Furthermore you can just enjoy the view of the spectacular and colorful environment or indulge in a hot spring spa treatment. For the more active people amongst you there are some attractions such as skydiving or mountain biking that will get your adrenalin flowing.

2 Explore the real Middle-earth

Lord of the Rings has been one of the most popular films in Hollywood’s history. This exciting trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand. For fans of these movies it is possible to visit the stunning locations and landscapes that starred as Middle-earth.

Some Lord of the Rings locations you can visit are Matamata, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, Mackenzie Country, Southern Lakes and Fiordland. In Matamata you can visit the Shire region of Middle-earth which has been currently rebuild to be used for the filming of The Hobbit trilogy. This area will now remain as a permanent attraction.

Following these locations from the North of New Zealand to the South, will definitely provide you with a tour of the most beautiful and memorable places of New Zealand.

1 Milford Sound

Milford sound new zealand

Milford sound by FarbenfroheWunderwelt  (Flickr)

Described as the “8th Wonder of the World” and voted as the world’s top travel destination in an international TripAdvisor survey in 2008, Milford Sound is number 1 on this list.

 Milford Sound offers some of the world’s most amazing coastal scenery with its dramatic peaks and beautiful dark blue waters. When it rains in Milford Sound, as it often does, waterfalls cascade downwards from the mountains, only multiplying the magnificent effect. 

There are different ways of exploring this memorable attraction. You can explore the lake by kayak or cruise boat while interacting with the marine wildlife. On land you can walk through this hiking mecca.

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