Travelling around New Zealand is something you’ll never forget. The rolling fields, ominous mountains, mirror like lakes and jagged coastline are packed full of beauty. No matter what type of traveller you are New Zealand offers heaps of awesome things to see and do - whether you want to get your adrenaline pumping with some bungee jumping and skydiving or relax with a sea kayaking tour or Maori homestay.
Despite its relatively small size in comparison with its neighbour Australia, there’s still a huge variety of places to stop off in the land of the long white cloud. And because there’s so much to do, if you want to make the most of your travels here it’ll take a bit of planning. Luckily we’ve spent a lot of time travelling New Zealand and we’ve decided to help make your planning easier by sharing our Top 10 Places To Visit In New Zealand.
Image thanks to Queenstown NZ
This is the adrenaline capital of New Zealand with more activities than you could shake a stick at! From white water rafting and jet boating, through to snowboarding, skydiving and bungee jumping! Not only that but Queenstown is a beautiful place to kick back and relax with wanders around the lake, scenic viewpoints at Skyline and a beautiful mountain backdrop to boot. It’s also incredibly central to some of New Zealand’s best natural locations such as Milford Sound, Cardrona and Coronet Peak.
New Zealand's largest city (but not it’s capital!) is where most people will either start or finish their Kiwi Adventure. With art galleries, cafes, restaurants and all the excitement of city living it’s the ideal place to start. Sip cocktails by the waterfront or enjoy the views from the Skytower or jump on a ferry and relax in the Waiheke wine region.
Image thanks to Audley Travel
Rotorua is the geothermic hub of NZ and as a result it smells a bit funky. But don't let the smell of rotten eggs put you off, it’s an amazing stop off in New Zealand with a lot to see and do! Wai-O-Tapu is famous for being a geothermal wonderland, featuring Lady Knox Geyser, geothermal systems spanning over 18km², and bubbling mud pools that rack up temperatures of over 100°C. If you’re after a mud bath that won’t leave you as poached as an eggs benedict then head over to Hells Gate where you can relax in bubbling mud spas that are apparently incredible good for you.
If you’re looking for something more extreme why not tackle the world's highest commercial rafting waterfall at Kaituna rapids and drop 7 meters into raging waters. You can even try something different and go rolling down hills inside a giant ball with the guys from Ogo who invented zorbing back in 1994. If you want a cultural experience why not spend the night at a traditional Maori Homestay? There’s so much to do in Rotorua making it well worth spending a few days here to make the most of what's on offer!
Image thanks to Fairbairn House
With its magnificent lake Taupo is sure to impress from the word go! Jump out of a plane for cheap (seriously, it's one of the cheapest skydives in New Zealand!) and take in the stunning views of the lake while you fall at terminal velocity. Tackle Huka Falls on a jet boat and speed along the Waikato River doing 360° spins. If you want to relax head to the lake itself for some kayaking or test your balance with Stand Up Paddleboarding - it’s your call! Taupo is also the perfect base to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the best day hikes in New Zealand with Lord of the Rings level scenery that makes it well worth it!
Image thanks to Hobbiton Tours
While it’s not really a stopover in New Zealand, the Hobbiton set just outside of the North Islands Matamata is a highlight for any Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans! The place is truly beautiful with rolling green hills and little hobbit holes that make you feel like you’re in The Shire. They even have their own pub called the Green Dragon Inn which features local brews inspired by the best beers of Middle Earth. Even if you aren't a huge fan of the movies it’s still a pretty awesome place to explore and update your Facebook with a Hobbit Hole selfie!
Image thanks to New Zealand Tourism
This sleepy little town on the West Coast of the South Island is a hub for backpackers due to the access to the glaciers in the area. You can hike to the base for free and see how impressive this place is, but if you want to go a bit further onto the glacier (which you should) you can go on a dedicated glacier hike and explore the caves and icy landscape of this beautiful location. If you’re feeling like splurging you can also can go all out and take a helicopter trip, land on the glacier and then explore parts of it most people don't get a chance to see! If you can’t get enough of extreme activities you can also skydive over Franz Josef from up to 20,000 ft and freefall at ~200km/h while looking out at the stunning World Heritage Listed location.
Image Thanks to Base Backpackers
You can’t head to New Zealand without exploring the capital Wellington. Known as “Windy Wellington” due to it being the windiest city on the planet but don't let the name put you off, the city itself is worth visiting. Head up to the botanical gardens, take the cable car to the viewpoints or visit the world famous Te Papa Museum. Wellington is also home to Zealandia, an enormous wildlife sanctuary with a 500 year mission to restore Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as close as possible to their pre-human state. If you’re a craft beer lover you’re also in luck as Wellington is New Zealand’s craft beer capital and hosts some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best beers. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area during August, make sure to check out Beervana, a giant craft beer festival with loads of craft breweries, local food and things to do. Wellington is also the gateway to the South Island too with the Inter Island Ferry service departing from the port.
Image thanks to Waikato District Council
This laid back hippy town a few hours south of Auckland is beautiful, so beautiful in fact that it was voted most beautiful small town back in 2018. Raglan is the place to head if you’re in search of a slower pace of life (yes even slower than the normal Kiwi pace!) and more importantly some amazing surf. The left hand point breaks here are a goofy footers dream, made famous by the Endless Summer 2. Don't worry if you’re not already a confident surfer, there’s some great surf schools in the area who will bring you from absolute kook to pro surfer!
Image thanks to Auckland & Beyond Tours
Right towards the tip of the North Island - about 3 hours drive from Auckland - is the stunning Bay Of Islands. Spots like Paihia, Cape Regina and Russell offer up everything from dolphin watching and sand boarding to surfing, to scenic look outs and of course heaps of island hopping goodness. Featuring 144 islands, each island offers something different but every one of them is worth visiting. If you’ve only got time for one island we recommend checking out Paihia which features amazing natural locations like the Hole in the Rock (which is way more impressive than it sounds) as well as Haruru Falls. There’s also plenty of opportunities to snorkel or scuba all around the islands. If you’re a skilled scuba diver then you can go cave diving and see plenty of weird and wonderful marine-life.
Image thanks to Real Journeys
At the total opposite end of NZ from the Bay of Islands in the bottom of the South Island is the famed Milford Sound. The sound (which is actually a fjord) is a favourite with travellers either as a day trip from Queenstown or a more leisurely few days of calm and nature. Photograph the spectacular mirrored lakes, take a cruise around the Fiordland National Park or kayak around the many coves. Milford Sound is a brilliant place to really immerse yourself in the amazing landscape and nature that New Zealand has to offer and a welcome change of pace from some of the more high adrenaline activities on offer throughout the country!
New Zealand truly is an amazing place. With one of a kind scenery that feels like it’s out of a film (mostly because it is), a diverse spread of multicultural cities, rich culture and plenty of varying activities, it’s got something for just about anyone. If you’re looking for an adrenaline hit from something extreme or if you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe with stunning scenery, the country has it all. Who said size matters? For such a small place with so much to offer, New Zealand packs a punch worthy of a heavyweight champion.