Often hidden away from the maps of the world – New Zealand is cherished as one of the best countries in the world, with one of the highest scores in quality of life and overall wellbeing indexes. However, New Zealand is also known for its amazing tourism. With many amazing sites, from cityscapes to rural adventures – New Zealand is a significantly underrated country with tons to offer. Today, you’ll uncover some of the best spots in the amazing country of New Zealand, or Aotearoa.
Fjordland National Park & Milford Sound (Piopiotahi)
Located in the southwest of the South Island of the country, Fjordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a natural wonder. Home to majestic fjords, towering waterfalls, and lush rainforests, the park’s crown jewel and most known attraction is, of course – Milford Sound, which is often regarded as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Cruising through the deep waters of Milford Sound, surrounded by sheer cliffs and cascading waterfalls, is an experience that will leave you in awe of Mother Nature’s artistic craftsmanship.
As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is a bustling metropolis surrounded by two beautiful harbors. Known as the “City of Sails,” it offers a plethora of activities for locals and visitors alike. Begin your exploration at the iconic Sky Tower, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and even bungee jump from the top. Stroll through the Viaduct Harbour, a lively area dotted with restaurants and bars, and take a ferry to Waiheke Island to explore its vineyards and beaches. Don’t miss visiting the Auckland Museum to learn about the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Despite facing significant challenges after the 2011 earthquake, Christchurch has risen like a phoenix to become a city that seamlessly blends old-world charm with modern innovation. Admire the innovative architecture of the Cardboard Cathedral and take a peaceful punt ride along the Avon River. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a must-visit, offering a serene escape in the heart of the city. Don’t miss the bustling Re:START Mall, built from shipping containers, which exemplifies the city’s spirit of regeneration.
Tongariro National Park
Situated in the central North Island, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park’s most known highlight is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is a challenging hike that takes you through otherworldly landscapes, including the famous Emerald Lakes and the active volcano Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy). This 19.4 km trek offers a surreal journey through geothermal wonders and volcanic terrains.
As the southernmost city in New Zealand, Invercargill offers a unique experience with its Scottish heritage and proximity to natural wonders. Visit the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, home to a Tuatara, a rare reptile native to New Zealand. Explore the Queens Park, a sprawling public park with beautiful gardens, playgrounds, and a golf course. Invercargill is also a great starting point for exploring the stunning landscapes of the Southland region.
Known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” Queenstown, located on the South Island, is a haven for adrenaline junkies. From bungee jumping off the iconic Kawarau Bridge to jet boating on the Shotover River, this picturesque town offers an array of thrilling activities, from bungee jumping to parasailing to much, much more. Besides adventure, Queenstown boasts stunning lakeside vistas and is an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions like Fjordland (see above) and Glenorchy.
Famous for its geothermal activity, Rotorua is a city on the North Island that will immerse you in the wonderful Maori culture and natural wonders. Witness boiling mud pools, erupting geysers, and soothing hot springs, such as the renowned Polynesian Spa. Explore the geothermal parks like Wai-O-Tapu and Te Puia, where the Pohutu Geyser erupts magnificently. Embrace Maori traditions through performances and traditional hangi feasts, making your visit to Rotorua an enriching cultural experience.
Whanganui, situated on the west coast of the North Island, is a city with a deep connection to its namesake river. Take a historic paddle steamer ride along the Whanganui River or explore the picturesque Whanganui National Park. The city is known for its vibrant arts community, and you can visit numerous galleries and studios. Don’t miss the iconic Durie Hill Elevator, which takes you to a viewing platform for panoramic views of the city and river.
Nestled between rolling hills and a picturesque harbor, Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and is often referred to as the “Coolest Little Capital in the World.” Explore the vibrant Cuba Street, known for its bohemian atmosphere, boutique shops, and eclectic cafes. Ride the iconic Cable Car to the Botanic Garden, offering stunning views of the city. Don’t forget to visit Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum, where you can delve into New Zealand’s history, art, and culture.
Dunedin, located on the South Island’s east coast, is a city with a strong Scottish heritage, earning it the nickname “Edinburgh of the South.” Explore the historic Otago University campus, known for its impressive Gothic Revival buildings. Take a guided tour of Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, with beautifully landscaped gardens and panoramic views. For wildlife enthusiasts, the nearby Otago Peninsula offers a chance to spot albatross, penguins, and fur seals in their natural habitats.
Abel Tasman National Park
Nestled at the north end of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal paradise with golden sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and lush forests. You can explore the park on foot via the Abel Tasman Coast Track or take a kayak to discover hidden coves and bays. The park’s mild climate and serene atmosphere make it an excellent spot for relaxation and leisurely activities.
Mount Cook (Aoraki)
Home to New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook, this national park is a captivating wonderland for mountaineers and nature lovers alike. Surrounded by glaciers, ice-capped peaks, and crystal-clear lakes, the Mount Cook National Park offers unparalleled alpine beauty. Take a guided glacier hike or simply revel in the breathtaking vistas from the valley floor.
Just outside Rotorua, the Whakarewarewa Forest, also known as the Redwoods, is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and mountain bikers. Walk or cycle through towering Californian Redwoods and explore a network of well-maintained trails. The Treewalk at night, illuminated by lanterns, offers a magical experience under the forest canopy.
In the Hawke’s Bay region, Hastings is renowned for its orchards and vineyards, earning it the nickname “The Fruit Bowl of New Zealand.” Visit the Farmers’ Market to sample fresh produce and artisanal goods. The nearby Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony, accessible via guided tours. Hastings also features the Hawke’s Bay Opera House and the Splash Planet water park for family-friendly fun.
Stewart Island (Rakiura)
South of the South Island lies Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura, a remote and pristine island renowned for its untouched wilderness. This is an excellent destination for wildlife enthusiasts, as it’s home to the elusive kiwi bird and offers a chance to see other native species in their natural habitat. Take a guided tour or hike the Rakiura Track to experience the island’s untouched beauty.
Situated on the North Island, Hamilton is often referred to as the “City of Gardens” for its extensive parks and green spaces. Visit the Hamilton Gardens, a collection of themed gardens that offer a delightful stroll through various historical garden styles. Don’t miss the Waikato Museum, which showcases New Zealand’s art, history, and culture. For adrenaline seekers, a jet boat ride on the Waikato River provides an exciting experience.
The Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin on the South Island, is a wildlife haven where you can spot rare species, including the Royal Albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, and fur seals. Take a tour of the historic Larnach Castle, enjoy coastal walks, and explore the vibrant city of Dunedin, known for its Scottish heritage and Victorian architecture.
Situated at the top of the South Island, Nelson enjoys the most sunshine hours in New Zealand. The city is a hub for arts and crafts, and you can explore various galleries and studios. Head to Tahunanui Beach for a day of relaxation and water sports, or take a short drive to Abel Tasman National Park for kayaking and hiking adventures. Don’t forget to visit the World of WearableArt (WOW) Museum, where fashion and art merge to create unique masterpieces.
Situated between the mountains and the sea on the South Island’s eastern coast, Kaikoura is a haven for marine life enthusiasts. The town is famous for its whale-watching tours, where you can observe majestic sperm whales, dusky dolphins, and orcas. The region also offers a variety of other outdoor activities, including hiking, seal swimming, and sampling delicious local seafood.
Tauranga, located in the Bay of Plenty region, is a coastal city known for its stunning beaches and warm climate. Relax at the popular Mount Maunganui Beach or hike to the summit of Mount Maunganui for breathtaking views of the surrounding area. If you’re a fan of marine life, take a boat tour to spot dolphins and whales in the bay. Tauranga is also a great base for exploring nearby attractions such as Rotorua and the Coromandel Peninsula.
New Zealand is a country of unparalleled natural beauty, where every corner is a picturesque masterpiece. From snow-capped mountains to pristine beaches and everything in between, from the bustling cities and the amazing cultures, this island nation offers an array of amazing places to explore. Whether you seek adrenaline-pumping adventures, cultural immersion, or simply wish to unwind in breathtaking landscapes, New Zealand has something to offer everyone. So, pack your bags and embark on an unforgettable journey to experience the wonders of this mesmerizing country, where every day feels like a new adventure.