New Zealand is the place to admire unspoiled natural landscapes, compelling man-made landmarks, and epic adventure-filled destinations. With so many choices at your fingertips, it might be hard to decide what to check out first. But we’re here to help you with that: just take a look at our picks of the country’s top 20 must-visit attractions.
Home to the iconic Abel Tasman Coast Track (one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks), Abel Tasman National Park sits right at the northwestern tip of the South Island. Hiking is just one of the must-dos in the area: you can also kayak the beautiful blue waters and its surrounding coves — if you’re lucky, you might even spot some dolphins and swimming next to you.
Within a three-hour drive from Auckland lies the beautiful Bay of Islands region. Island trails, secluded coves, an abundance of marine life, and exquisite rock formations are some of the key highlights its visitors can look forward to. Some of the area’s most popular destinations include Cape Brett, the Poor Knights Islands, as well as the towns of Paihia and Russell.
A ferry ride from downtown Auckland is all it takes to reach this incredibly popular island destination. Stunning beaches, remarkable vineyards, and plenty of lush forestry adorn Waiheke’s picturesque shores. The island is bigger than it seems, but there are plenty of activities to try out on a single day trip.
Where else will you find a landmark that brings fine dining and adventure activities into a single location? Auckland’s Sky Tower is the highest man-made monument in the Southern Hemisphere, and is also renowned for its remarkable views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Home to one of New Zealand’s most popular beaches, Mount Maunganui is definitely worth visiting if you’re passing through the Bay of Plenty region. Choose between walking around its namesake mountain, or right to the top; the latter will reward you with wonderful panoramas of the Tauranga Harbour.
Middle-earth comes to life at the Hobbiton movie set. A one-hour drive from Auckland will enable you to see the original hobbit holes and several film sites from up close — it’ll almost feel like you’ve stepped into a Tolkien-esque world of your own.
New Zealand has plenty of geothermal treasures to be discovered, and Rotorua is where you’ll find some of the very best. Among its stunning spouting geysers, mud pools and volcanic lakes you’ll find the iconic Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, a place that’s famous for its awe-inspiring forces of nature and uniquely coloured thermal waters.
Head to the middle of the North Island to encounter the country’s largest lake. This prominent gem, better known as Lake Taupo, is a popular stopover for water sports enthusiasts and adventurous travellers eager to try the lake’s water-touch bungy jumps. The lake’s Huka Falls are also worth seeing if you’re passing through.
A sparkling blue glacial lake that practically envelops New Zealand’s most popular tourist town. Queenstown is filled with wonderful sights and activities, and Lake Wakatipu seems to be right at the forefront of many of these — it’s a popular place for walking, cycling and even picnicking.
Here’s an underrated treat for you. Hokitika Gorge is located in the South Island’s West Coast region, and its waters have a remarkable turquoise tinge that you won’t get to see elsewhere. Walk around the gorge to marvel at a concoction of breathtaking glacial waters, rock stilt and plankton.
Tucked away just south of Dunedin, Tunnel Beach is famed for its secluded coastlines, incredible rock formations, and compelling excavated tunnels. A short walk along a fenced, downhill track is all it takes to reach this hidden treasure.
Glacier hiking is on top of many New Zealand visitors’ bucket lists. One of the country’s best-known glaciers, Franz Josef is highly desired by those wanting to get on the ice. While you’re in the region, definitely consider taking the time to visit its other famous neighbour, Fox Glacier. While Franz Josef is the steepest of the two, Fox Glacier is noteworthy for being the longest and fastest moving.
The Coromandel Peninsula’s movie-worthy Cathedral Cove gets plenty of love, but Hot Water Beach is a local treasure worth cherishing too. With its golden sands and bubbling hot waters, this deserted piece of coastline is sure to enthral all travellers who spending some time familiarising themselves with the North Island’s natural beauty. Don’t forget to bring a shovel so you can scoop out your own thermal mineral water spring to dip into.
The Hamilton Gardens is unique from any other you’ll find in New Zealand: unlike the ones in Queenstown, Wellington or Auckland, it is not a botanical garden in the strictest of terms. Rather, the 54-hectare (133.4-acre) park is a showcase of 21 gardens that symbolise the art and traditions of different civilisations, from Maori to European and Southeast Asian too.
A visit to Wellington is not complete without dropping by Te Papa Museum. This is the place to familiarise yourself with local history, Maori culture, and many other important aspects of New Zealand society. The regular lineup of exhibitions also make this a great place to keep coming back to.
Visitors from the world over head to the Waitomo Caves to catch a glimpse of the native glowworms that light up its subterranean limestone walls. You can immerse yourself in this natural luminescent showcase through a leisurely underground tour, or you can take the adrenaline route by caving, hiking or heading on a rafting expedition.
Extending to almost the entire length of the South Island, the Southern Alps mountain range is the highest in Australasia. It is home to Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mt Aspiring, Mount Tutoko, along with various other mountains, glacial lakes and forested wonders.
Located on New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, Tiritiri Matangi Island is an incredible wildlife sanctuary that’s home to various native and coastal birds. It is a predator-free island, where a number of threatened and endangered species have been introduced and protected from extinction.
Right at the tip of the South Island you’ll find the Marlborough region. Along with comprising New Zealand’s largest vineyards and wineries, the area is loved for the stunning river-drowned valleys that make up the iconic Marlborough Sounds, as well as the epic hiking and cycling opportunities one can find along the Queen Charlotte Track. An inter-island ferry trip from Wellington is all it takes to reach this wonderful destination.
Head two hours outside of Wellington to soak up this coastal gem. Wildlife lovers should keep an eye out for the seals that lounge around Cape Palliser’s rocky beaches. If you want to get your heart racing, hike up the stone steps that lead to the lighthouse – the breathtaking views are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.