The best places to explore in New Zealand
New Zealand is jam packed with scenic delights! There are so many places to visit and it is hard to know where to start. Fortunately our talented Travel Advisors are here to help you; from local secrets to tourist hotspots, we will find the best places and things to do in both the North and South Islands.
Let’s unpack the top eight places we think you should visit when you next travel to New Zealand.
New Zealand’s South Island hosts the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience. From wildlife to wineries to glacial valleys to star-filled skies, the South Island offers adventure in all its forms. No matter which destinations you choose to explore on this long, mountainous island, you’ll constantly be mesmerised by the incredible scenery.
One of New Zealand’s most exciting destinations, Queenstown is surrounded by towering mountains, positioned on the edge of a lake and is a hub of adventure, thrumming with adrenaline and an omnipresent sense of fun.
With a smorgasbord of outdoor activities, Queenstown is the home of the ultimate adventure bucket list. There’s skiing from winter right through to spring, and activities such as bungy jumping, sky diving, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking and river rafting all year round. It is also a renowned cycling destination, providing everything from easy scenic tracks to back-country trails, road rides to heli-biking and the Southern Hemisphere’s only gondola accessed downhill mountain biking.
Whether you like to indulge your inner explorer or simply relax and enjoy the finer things in life, we’ll be able to craft your perfect itinerary from Queenstown, the perfect base for exploring the area.
Situated on the west coast of the South Island, hours from the nearest town, Milford Sound is where plunging cliffs and raging waterfalls meet inky dark waters. This is New Zealand’s wild side at its absolute best.
Breathtaking in any weather, the fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards from as high as 1000 metres. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect.
This is a great destination for a boat cruise, during the day or overnight, it’s an excellent way to experience the Sound. Adventurous types might also like to head out sea kayaking, diving or flightseeing. To learn more about the local marine life, visit the underwater observatory at Harrison Cove and marvel at the black coral, 11-legged sea stars and delicate anemones.
The picturesque coastal town of Kaikōura is the perfect place for marine life encounters – whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day and the local seal colony is always entertaining. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops to explore and scenic coastal walks to enjoy.
Kaikōura’s environment is truly spectacular – the village is caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikōura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape.
An easy two-hour drive north of Christchurch, Kaikōura makes for a great day trip or a fun stop on your way to Marlborough.
Marlborough is about world famous Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s largest winegrowing region, and the soils and enviable climate that create it. It’s about fresh seafood sought by the world’s finest chefs. It’s about diverse landscapes, from valleys of vines to sheltered waterways of the Marlborough Sounds.
Join a guided tour or hire a bike, and choose from more than 30 cellar doors, tasting award winning wines along the way. Indulge in a leisurely lunch at a vineyard restaurant, and pair the wine with local produce to create the ultimate match made in Marlborough.
New Zealand’s North Island offers island sanctuaries and lively cities with a large helping of culture and history for a truly diverse holiday experience. From the far north where New Zealand’s political history began, journey through landscapes that blend magnificent coasts and beaches, sprawling farmlands and geothermal wonders. Māori culture is rich and ever-present in many parts of the North Island.
Auckland is New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture. It sprawls over volcanic hills and around twin harbours, offering an exhilarating mix of natural wonders and urban adventures.
More than just a city, Auckland is a whole region full of things to see and do. With so many experiences close by it’s easy to hop from one adventure to the next.
Auckland’s diverse landscapes provide countless opportunities to be immersed in nature. In the west, lush native rainforest plunges down the hills to meet the sea on dramatic black sand beaches, while the east’s sheltered golden sand beaches are fringed with red-flowering pohutukawa trees. To the north, the rolling hills of wine country meet stunning coastlines. In the south, you’ll find picturesque country gardens, unspoilt forest and tranquil bays to explore.
From crystal-clear streams and magical forests, to epic biking trails and explosive geysers, Rotorua has it all. The city offers a raft of attractions and experiences for everyone from adventure-seekers to those just looking to unwind.
Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with bubbling mud pools, clouds of steam, and natural hot springs perfect for bathing and relaxing in. After marvelling at the distinctive landscapes and volcanic activity within a geothermal park, enjoy a simple soak in a natural hot stream or indulge in a wellness getaway at a luxurious spa.
Rotorua is also one of the best places in New Zealand to experience Māori culture. Here you will experience cultural performances and taste traditional foods. The long history of Māori in the area means there is a rich depth of culture for visitors to start to understand.
An ancient subterranean world in the heart of New Zealand’s central North Island, the Waitomo Cave system is a series of fascinating and dramatic natural wonders. The glow-worm grotto is one of the most popular attractions where visitors travel by boat into the spectacular cave guided by the light of thousands of unique New Zealand glow worms.
The easiest way to see the Waitomo Caves is with a walking or boat tour. If you’re into adventure, try the unique experience of Black Water Rafting – you’ll crawl, swim and float through the caves on a rubber tube. Or you could abseil or zip-line through the darkness. However you choose to explore Waitomo Caves, you’re bound to agree they’re a wonder of nature.
This is definitely a family favourite. Dig your own hot pool metres from the Pacific Ocean at world-famous Hot Water Beach.
Naturally heated mineral water bubbles up from deep within the earth to emerge through golden sand at the appropriately named Hot Water Beach. Near the rocks at the southern end of the beach you can dig your own spa pool in the sand. Dig up to two hours either side of low tide – that’s when the tide is low enough to expose the area of sand with hot water underneath. It’s a strange but very pleasant feeling to be lying in a pool of hot water just metres from the refreshing sea.
From the hot water area, the long sandy beach stretches north and curves east under a headland. Here you’ll find sheltered and secluded spots for quiet, sleepy sunbathing. Also great for surf, cafes and art galleries add to this very Kiwi experience.