Known as the ‘adventure capital’ of New Zealand, Queenstown is the top place young travellers should head to. It is where you’ll find some of the most thrilling activities (including the bungy), some of the coolest nightlife, and a ton of attractions to suit all tastes and budgets.
Enveloped by alpine ranges, stunningly clear lakes and a wonderful scenery, the South Island is the ideal spot for a picture-perfect road trip. Highlights include the Haast Pass with its stunning glacial lakes and gorges, and the Great Alpine Highway which traverses the diversified landscapes between Christchurch and Greymouth.
The North Island doesn’t get as much love as the South, but it is a fantastic place to go backpacking. Auckland is a good departure point no matter what direction you want to try: be it the Bay of Islands up north, Gisborne out east, or Taupo and Wellington further south.
For those unfamiliar with the term, WWOOFing stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, a system that allows international travellers to volunteer on organic farms in exchange for food and accommodation. This has become a popular option for young backpackers eager to look beyond the typical New Zealand holiday destinations.
Everyone should try heading ‘off the beaten track’ during their travels. Whether that means spending some time in a hard-to-reach volcanic island or visiting the lesser-known gems dotted around the country, finding an off-grid sanctuary will make your visit that much more memorable.
One of the best ways to experience a piece of New Zealand life is to embrace its national sport. Bonus points if you can get tickets for an All Blacks game, though a regional match at any of the local sports stadiums will make for an awesome night out too.
New Zealand has plenty of vineyards and wineries worth exploring. Waiheke Island is just one of those unique places that has found the perfect harmony between luscious wine tasting sessions and awesome experiences like beach-hopping, hiking, sea kayaking and zip lining.
New Years’ Eve sets the stage for a season of summer festivities. If you want to see the first sunrise of the year, Gisborne’s Rhythm and Vines is the go-to. Rhythm and Alps in Cardrona Valley is a cool South Island alternative, and Northland’s Northern Bass festival is quite popular too.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of New Zealand’s most popular day hikes. It will introduce you to the remarkable forces of nature that earned Tongariro National Park its much-deserved UNESCO World Heritage status. And if you want to take things up a notch, you can always try the multi-day Tongariro Northern Circuit.
Milford Sound is the most famous of Fiordland National Park’s sounds. Visitors from all corners of the world come to bask at its magical composition of mountain ranges, forest clad cliffs, and distinctively dark waters. The Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, is a good way of experiencing this natural beauty.
Whether you choose to visit Fox or Franz Josef Glacier, an icy hike is something that should be on all adventure travellers’ radars. The glacial expedition will expose you to some of the compelling contrasts of the West Coast region.
Because there’s more to New Zealand’s national parks than trekking. Abel Tasman National Park is quite unique in that it incorporates some secret beach spots alongside a blanket of forestry. Walk around the tracks, then hop on a kayak to explore the scenic oceanic horizons.
The Southern Alps is a mountain range that extends most of the length of the South Island. A regular influx of fresh, powdery snow makes this area a skiers’ paradise. Some of its top resorts include Mt Hutt, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, and Treble Cone.
One of Rotorua’s biggest claims to fame is the Zorb: an epic experience that challenges people to get through a downhill obstacle course while they’re confined to a massive plastic ball. You can’t get more unique than that.
Love your cycling? New Zealand has an incredible network of trails to explore, some of which were deservedly dubbed the Great Rides. Highlights include the Great Taste Trail, the Otago Rail Trail and the Alps to Ocean ride.
Eco tourists love Kaikoura because of its wildlife encounters. One of the top local features is definitely the dolphin swim – an experience that allows travellers to get up close and personal to some of New Zealand rarest creatures without disturbing their environment.
Local produce, cool street performances, nightly fanfares and weekend events – wherever you end up, the local markets always make for an interesting community outing that is not to be missed.
The Waitomo Caves actually have something for everyone: caving, abseiling, rafting, and even scenic cruises for the non-adventurous. Another spelunking destination to try is Nelson – there’s a trove of epic cave networks right on its doorstep.
If you’re travelling in summer, freedom camping is a good way to immerse yourself in the country’s beautiful coastlines. Many beaches have designated camping areas especially for this – you just have to be mindful of the rules that might come with your getaway.
There’s more to New Zealand than the North and South Island. Stewart Island, right at the bottom of the country, is a nature lover’s dream come true – with plenty of historic sites, native wildlife and plant life to share with passing travellers.