New Zealand is the place to admire unspoiled natural landscapes, compelling manmade 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.
Abel Tasman National Park
Home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Abel Tasman National Park glistens 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.
The Bay of Islands
Within a three hour drive from Auckland lies the beautiful Bay of Islands region. Key attractions to marvel at include island trails, secluded coves, plenty of marine life, and exquisite rock formations. Popular stopovers along the way include Cape Brett, Paihia, and Russell.
A ferry ride from downtown Auckland is all it takes to reach this epic island destination. Stunning beaches, remarkable vineyards, and plenty of lush forestry line Waiheke’s generous shores. The island is bigger than it seems, but there are plenty of attractions to try out on a single day trip.
Auckland Sky Tower
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.
Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty
One of New Zealand’s most popular beaches is definitely worth visiting if you’re passing through the Bay of Plenty region. Choose between walking around Mount Maunganui, or right to the top; the latter will reward you with incredibly panoramic views of Tauranga Harbour.
The Hobbiton Movie Set
Middle-earth comes to life at the Hobbiton movie set. A one-hour drive from Auckland will enable you to see the 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.
Rotorua’s Geothermal Springs
New Zealand has plenty of geothermal treasures to be discovered, but Rotorua takes the cake for housing some of the country’s finest. Spouting geysers, mud pools, and lake waters coloured with interesting hues are some of the main attractions among the area’s thermal parks.
Right in the middle of the North Island, you’ll encounter the country’s largest lake. This prominent gem, better known as Lake Taupo, is a popular stopover for adventure travellers and sightseers alike. The lake’s Huka Falls are also worth seeing if you’re passing through.
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown
A sparkling blue glacial lake that practically envelops New Zealand’s most popular tourist destination. 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, and its waters have a remarkable turquoise tinge to it that you won’t get to see elsewhere. Walk around the gorge to marvel at the natural beauty melded and painted by a concoction of glacial waters, rock stilt and plankton.
Tunnel Beach, Otago
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.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
New Zealand’s most famous glaciers continue to amaze visitors from the world over. Hike up the ice floes to bask at Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers’ majestic beauty. Fox Glacier is the longest and fastest-moving of the two, while Franz Josef is the steepest.
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula’s movie-worthy Cathedral Cove gets plenty of love, but the jaw-dropping Hot Water Beach is a local treasure worth cherishing too. This deserted coastline with golden sands and bubbling waters is one of the best beaches to visit if you’re wanting to explore the North Island’s prized attractions.
The Hamilton Gardens
What makes the Hamilton Gardens unique from others is that, unlike the ones in Queenstown, Wellington or Auckland, it is technically not a botanical garden. Rather, the 54-hectare (133.4-acre) park is a showcase of 21 gardens that symbolise the art and traditions of different civilisations.
Te Papa Museum, Wellington
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.
Famed for its glowworms, the Waitomo Caves are a must-see for all travellers. The chilled out crowds will get to immerse themselves in a light show on an underground tour, while the adrenaline junkies will get to play around the caves, gorges and white water rafts.
The Southern Alps
Extending almost the entire length of the South Island, the Southern Alps mountain range is the highest in Australasia. It is home to Milford Sound, Mount Cook, Mitre Peak, Mount Tutoko, and various glacial lakes and forested wonders.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
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.
The gateway to New Zealand’s largest vineyards and wineries, as well as the popular Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds is a great place to soak up the native plant life, stunning sea-drowned valleys, and extensive coastal vistas.
Head two hours outside of Wellington to soak up this coastal gem. Seals love lounging around Cape Palliser’s rugged 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.