All the things to do in New Zealand would sum up to much longer itinerary than you think. What people imagine as a land of fiction and fantasies, New Zealand has an uncanny resemblance to such a land.
This is evident from the fascinating landmarks and surreal views of picturesque landscapes from the superhit trilogy “The Hobbit” and sequels of “Lord of the rings”. New Zealand’s attractions are as beguiling as its location as an island in the middle of the ocean. Apart from being the most liberal country, the harbour of kiwis and sheep, it also boasts variegated geography with 30% forest cover making it a pollution free nation; despite the use of plastic more than the paper.
Best time to visit New Zealand
An escape to the wonderland of New Zealand is undoubtedly one of the best decisions you’ll make! All you need to plan a perfect holiday is a befitting list of what to see in New Zealand and the best time to visit the country. The perfect time to visit New Zealand is during its Fall season. From April to May, you’ll be surprised to see that most of the places in the country look like those ethereal autumn wallpapers or landscapes with southern light sky you have on your desktop screen.
List of top things to do in New Zealand
- Visit Glowworm Grotto and raft through the Waitomo Caves
- Stroll or bodyboard at the 90 Mile Beach
- Sail, surf and stay at the Bay of Islands
- Devote few hours to Te Papa Museum
- Meld into the Maori Culture
- Recreate movie scenes at the Hobbiton set
- Replenish your mind and body in Auckland
- Take wine tours to Central Otago and Martinborough village
- Spend a day or two in Queenstown
- Hop across the beaches of Abel Tasman National Park
- Savour desserts at Gaipo store
- Picnic at Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- Sightseeing at the Milford Sound
- Stargazing at Lake Tekapo
- Walk and dive at Cathedral Cove
Speaking of, what to see in New Zealand and ensuring your visit fits those halcyon days people like to talk about, below is a detailed list of the best things to do in New Zealand. The country rests on two islands; the North Island – comprising of Auckland, Hobbiton set as top tourist destinations and the South Island – boasts of Abel Tasman National Park, Maoreki boulders beach, Milford Sound and many more. The locations and things to do in New Zealand mentioned below will keep your interest growing throughout.
1. Visit Glowworm Grotto and raft through the Waitomo Caves
Waitomo is a trove of underground streams, sinkholes and naturally carved jaw-dropping caves illuminated by a rare species of glowworms, namely, Arachnocampa Luminosa. This native species illuminate the caves of Glowworm Grotto; leaving the tourists jaw-dropping and spellbound by this natural light show.
The name Wai means water and Tomo means hole in Maori language (native language of the country). And as the name suggests, these caves are jam-packed with water activities like swimming and floating in the rivers flowing through the caves on a rubber tube or explore the Grotto through a boat tour. Zip-line or Abseil your way through these stunning cave formations adorned by a galaxy of glowing worms for a surreal experience.
2. Stroll or bodyboard at the 90 Mile Beach
For people who love surfing, left-hand surf breaks and bodyboarding across the white sands of coastline with striking views at your service, the ninety-mile beach is a must-visit for tourists. A long stretch of 88 kilometres gives you an adrenaline rush offering various activities and gets your singing with joy during the fishing competition held during late February or early March.
During low tides, people like to dig for littoral shellfish, Tuatua and when exhausted from a sun-soaked adventure, Aupouri Forest is a green escape occupying this beach as a backdrop.
3. Sail, surf and stay at the Bay of Islands
Best suited to learn about the country’s history and culture, the Bay of Island is one of the top tourist accommodations apart from being New Zealand’s best attractions. It is blessed with breathtaking scenery and panoramic views of 140 unique islands, and hence, the name, Bay of Islands. Power-packed with adventure sports and tourist activities like bungee jumping, sailing, surfing, it also teaches a lot about the country’s past in the form of museums and historical sites.
Known as a perfect location for family adventures and weekend getaways, it also offers best local dishes at restaurants like Daryl’s Dinner Cruise, Vinnie’s Fish and Chips and 35 degrees South Aquarium Restaurant. Besides tourists, for campers or backpackers, snorkelling, kayaking, dolphin spotting cruise and exploring the wilderness inhabited by numerous plant and animal species at the Bay are some of the best things to do in New Zealand.
4. Devote few hours to Te Papa Museum
Opened in 1998, with a record of around 12 million visitors Te Papa Tongarewa becomes the world-famous Museum and one of top New Zealand’s attractions. The timely and worth visiting things of interest in Te Papa Museum located on Wellington waterfront are its exhibitions.
Our space is the prominent and permanent exhibition which displays and conveys the history and diverse culture of New Zealand. The High ride, which is an ariel tour and the Ocean Ride being a journey below the surface of the ocean, are its main features.
Another exhibition – Blood, Earth, Fire, Whenua, Ahika – explains the evolution of Aotearoa landscape and information about the country’s transformation. In case you don’t know, Aotearoa is Maori name of New Zealand meaning “land of the long white cloud.” The Museum also features shops and a kids store to shop for artefacts, books and buy souvenirs to remember this magical land of Aotearoa.
5. Meld into the Maori culture
Maori culture, tradition and people have become an important part of New Zealand’s identity. They came and settled here approximately 1000 years back from Hawaiki, their mythical Polynesian homeland. The Maori culture and history can be learnt from guides who are the descendants of Maori people. They love to demonstrate weaving or carving techniques, dance and art forms, myths and legends of the Maori tribes. Tangata Whenua is the term to address native Maori people of the country.
The Maori guides passionately offer tours to Marae in Auckland, Rotorua, Northland and Canterbury. These tours to Marae, which is the meeting ground of the tribals, are one of the top things to do in New Zealand. You’ll enjoy speeches and songs along with the freshly cooked feast in earthenware, prepared by amicable locals. It won’t take much of your time but is certain to give you some pleasant moments to add to your good memories.
6. Recreate the movie scenes at Hobbiton set
Nestled as an idyllic dreamland in the Matamata town of Hamilton-Waikato, Hobbiton movie set is just as your eyes ventured through its farmlands in “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogy. You can try your best to resist the temptations for owning one of the hobbit houses gazing through the surreal farmlands of Hobbiton and the magical shire of Middle Earth, but, it’s next to impossible. Although the guided tours are set for two hours, visitors are left spellbound to steal some time from their fixed itineraries. And why not! It is like a vision from some wonderland that’s too good to be true.
Given its vibrant and lush green landscapes, the Middle Earth set is spread across 14 acres of farmland adorned by green rolling hills. Around 44 beautifully designed hobbit holes are dug under those hills. For tourists who are true fans of the movie, Weta Cave in Wellington are a bonus visit, as they host a workshop housing the costumes, props and special effects from these movies. Don’t forget to take pictures at the Bag End and beautiful lake fringed by palm trees at Hobbiton.
Apart from the sprawling crowd of visitors, sheep and kiwi can definitely be seen here melting your heart with cute gestures and doe eye gazes.
7. Replenish your mind and body in Auckland
Most populous city in the country is Auckland, resting on a narrow strip of land occupies two large harbours in the north of North Island. The wonderful sights and extravagant sports activities of Auckland are no secret, and what makes it more appealing to tourists is one can experience all four seasons of New Zealand here in one day. In the centre of this fabled city, lies the iconic Sky Tower. If you wish to overlook the city at a glance, the views from Sky Tower are committing to it.
Roll down or walk into the lush green volcanic cone of Mount Eden, exploring the farmer’s market, cafes, bars, restaurants and rushing to sudden ventures in Auckland are the top things to do in New Zealand.
To keep the magical reverie running through your veins post your Hobbiton set tour, drive towards the Hunua falls on your way to Auckland. Drifting through an ancient volcano, Wairoa river creates a 30-metre high mesmerising sight of Hunua waterfalls in the western region of Hunua Ranges Regional Park and finally merges into the Hauraki Gulf.
8. Take wine tours to Central Otago and Martinborough village
World’s finest wines from southern region come from Central Otago and Martinborough. Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc are the best and award-winning productions of the region. Wanaka Wine tours is an award-winning wine tour of the country, designed for small groups, tourist couples. It includes selected wineries and local vineyards from the valley floors of Central Otago, South Island.
Tourists enjoy the wine delicacies with dreamy landscapes covering snow-capped mountains, deep gorges and turquoise rivers. The tour also exposes you to scenic views during the tour around Bannockburn, Cromwell and Gibbston Valley and Queenstown.
On the other hand, Martinborough is the wine village of the country. Bike tours and cycling are common yet most suitable way to explore the vineyards. It is the heart and soul of Classic New Zealand Wine Trail with over 20 wineries at your display. Martinborough Gourmet Wine tour offers guided tours to the boutique collection of wineries and family-owned vineyards.
9. Spend a day or two in Queenstown
Queenstown is a mosaic of holiday activities apart from world-class housing wineries. These activities include nature walks along the trails, skiing, helicopter flights with fascinating views of the city, fishing and picnic at the famous Lake Wakatipu. The town is an international vantage point close to the South Island. One must not skip the wide range of adventures like skydiving, bungee jumping or mountain biking.
This place is known to give you an adrenaline boost in case you are looking for some action-packed vacation. Once you enter the whirlpool of adventures in Queenstown, you’ll realise why it is called the adventure capital of the country.
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10. Hop across the beaches of Abel Tasman National Park
A small heaven for coastal lovers lies at the Abel Tasman National Park, located at the northern tip of South Island. It is important to note that although it is the smallest National Park in the country, it always reserves its position in the list of best things to do in New Zealand. It offers a myriad of water activities and beach fun ranging from luxurious lodging and relaxation to kayaking, walking the trails of coastal forests, and adventure sports like snorkelling, swimming or hiking the granite cliffs surrounding the beaches.
Wildlife of the region adds its beauty. Fur seals can be spotted lazing at the Tonga island, shags, penguins diving, bellbird songs are an amusement to the tourists which eludes them from leaving this island.
11. Savour desserts at Giapo store
Visit to this spectacular North island is not complete without a gourmet ice cream treat for your tastebuds. Giapo ice cream store in Auckland is a cornucopia of best desserts and dairy delicacies. All imaginable flavours can be found here, suited to the customer’s taste and needs. The colossal squid which has become an icon of New Zealand and has become a special edible piece of art at Giapo.
The locals and tourists at Giapo have some say in terms of quality that every ice cream tells a different story. The colours and designs make people drool with a subtle curiosity regarding the taste. So, a visit to Giapo is one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
12. Picnic at Waimangu Volcanic valley
One of the most celebrated destinations among New Zealand’s attractions is Waimangu Volcanic Valley, 20 km from Rotorua. The place is rich in different shades of geothermal marvels like hot water springs and thermal lakes with rings of different colours occurring naturally due to the presence of gold, arsenic, silica deposits and other minerals. It is interesting to learn that the colours of these geothermal wonders occur naturally; there’s nothing artificial about them. It makes up for an idyllic escape from reality with regenerating forests.
Enjoy the power of nature in Waimangu Volcanic Valley, relax in natural hot pools and take mineral-rich mud bath which has rejuvenating and soothing properties. Add this to your list of best things to do in New Zealand. Take your snacks and put on your hiking shoes to get around the Inferno Crater, Marble Terrace and other geothermal features like Frying Pan Lake are worth a visit.
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13. Sightseeing at the Milford Sound
Milford Sound on the west coast of South Island was described as the Eighth wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling. It stands true to this title because of its picturesque views from every point. The Sound is a motley of 1000 metres high waterfalls, sky-scraping mountain peaks, glacial valleys, dark waters and marine life.
Boat cruise and serene kayaks through the riverine followed by flightseeing or sightseeing through the Milford valleys in the coach are the best things to do in New Zealand. An underwater observatory is designated to acknowledge you about the marine life at Harrison Cove which features 11-legged sea stars and black corals. Trekking and walking through Milford track is a backpacker’s delight.
14. Stargazing at Tekapo
Lake Tekapo situated in the Mackenzie basin is three hours away from Christchurch, Canterbury. Unmatched and dazzling nights at Lake Tekapo create a perfect sight for stargazing. Groups of tourists and couples like to converse and spend time by the lake during their trip to South Island.
It is a part of UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve which makes it obvious that stargazing at Lake Tekapo is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. Walking tracks, Church of the Good Shepherd are other New Zealand’s attractions here for tourists during their journey.
15. Walk and dive at Cathedral Cove
The infamous Cathedral Cove is one of the best tourist attractions at the Coromandel Coast of New Zealand. It is an isolated recreational spot in the North Island. Walking to the Gemstone and Stingray Bay, kayaking, swimming and picnic under cathedral-arch cove are the top things to do in New Zealand. The grandeur of clifftops, Pohutukawa trees at sandy beaches fronted by pristine water creates a photogenic scenery, overlooking the Southern Alps.
What to see in New Zealand
Watching the Royal Albatross (the largest seabirds) laying eggs, courting and socialising during October in Dunedin (the world’s only breeding mainland) is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. Moeraki boulders beach is a getaway for tourists who love spending time at stranded locations and have a penchant for seafood. Akaroa harbour on the Banks Peninsula is home to the smallest dolphins and is an ideal spot for watching Hector’s dolphin taking dives. It is also known for palatable seafood and wines.
Walks at Castle Hill and hiking at Arthur’s Pass are a bonus to feed your adventure bugs on your way to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch. Sweeping views with snow-capped mountains make trekking and hiking pleasant at Roy’s Peak in Wanaka region of South Island. The capital, Wellington, North Island, also known as “The Windy City” is a thriving location for the film industry in the country while Auckland enjoys its position as the most visited tourist city of the country.
Some of the best tourist attractions in New Zealand’s North Island are found in Auckland – best restaurants, museums or skyscrapers, Rotorua, Reglan and Waitomo while other attractions are the natural landmarks of South Island – Milford Sound, Moeraki boulders beach, Central Otago, whale watching at Kaikoura and sights of dolphins, Kiwis at Waipoua Forest and Stewart Island and pleasant sights of playful penguins at Oamaru and Dunedin are top things to do in New Zealand. What makes the country more interesting and desirable for both locals and tourists is that the country is one of the safest and most liberal places with much less population than other countries in the world.
The population of sheep is more than humans. There are all sorts of surprising and fun facts about the country which adds curiosity to its natural beauty like there are no snakes or harmful predators and for yacht lovers, the country is a bliss. When you can seize your imagination with a visit to this wonderland for vacations, don’t think twice; just book a flight to New Zealand, escape from your mundane life and leave the rest to this list of top things to do in New Zealand.