Best places to visit in New Zealand

Take in the world’s most incredible natural sites and visit the adrenaline capital at these must-visit places across New Zealand.

There are few places on Earth as jaw-droppingly beautiful as New Zealand. The natural landscapes here have everything from snow-capped mountains and glaciers to subtropical islands and unforgettable cities. Don’t forget about the unique Maori culture found here and the unique natural places such as the Glowworm caves.

Scrumptious food in Wellington, Lord of the Rings Hobbiton in Rotorua, adventure in Queenstown and national parks across the country will make you want to keep coming back to New Zealand and are just a few of the places you need to visit in this remarkably stunning country.

Best places to visit in New Zealand

1. Queenstown

Queenstown is the star spot on New Zealand’s South Island and is one of the most popular places to visit in the country. This city draws in visitors for its adrenaline-pumping activities, but it’s also known for the nearby wineries, historic mining towns and beautiful views along Wakatipu Lake and the Southern Alps. In the summer visitors go bungee jumping and in the winter they hit the slopes, making Queenstown a year-round destination.

  • Best for: Adventure activities, food and wine, scenic sites
  • Where is it: Located in the Southwest Corner of the South Island, Queenstown can be reached by plane with direct flights from Sydney (three hours), Melbourne (three hours and 15 minutes) and Brisbane (3.5 hours). It is a six-hour drive from Christchurch and buses connect all major areas in the South Island to Queenstown.
  • Top five things to see/do: Jump on a gondola to take in the skyline, go bungee jumping, try skydiving, hit the slopes and jet boat over the Shotover.
  • How long do I need? Three to five days
  • Recommended tour: Take a Queenstown Segway Tour to learn about the historical side of this city, see the top scenic sites and to travel along the stunning Lake Wakatipu.

2. Auckland

Auckland is a major city on the North Island that is surrounded by two large harbours. It’s here that you’ll be able to experience city life by the water with amazing seafood, stunning sites and more. But there’s even more to Auckland than the city with beautiful areas surrounding the city such as Waiheke Island, rainforests and parks.

  • Best for: City life, waterfront views, nature
  • Where is it: Auckland is in the north of the North Island and can be reached with direct flights from Sydney (three hours), Melbourne (3.5 hours) and Brisbane (three hours). From Wellington it’s a one-hour flight or seven hours driving.
  • Top five things to see/do: Check out the zipline on Waiheke Island, spend some time around Viaduct Harbour, visit Hobbiton, take a trip to Rangitoto Island and climb Sky Tower for that cityscape view.
  • How long do I need? Two to five days
  • Recommended tour: Do a Full-Day Auckland Scenic Tour where you can try local wine, visit the city’s main areas and attractions such as the Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge.

3. Milford Sound

Milford Sound is possibly the most famous spot in the country for pictures. This scenic fiord sits not far from Queenstown in the Fiordland National Park. It’s home to wildlife such as fur seals, dolphins and penguins.

Mitre Peak looms over the water and rainforests and waterfalls cascade down from the steep cliffs. Many visit this stunning place by boat tour.

  • Best for: Scenic sites, nature
  • Where is it: Milford Sound is in the southwest of the South Island and is most commonly accessed from Queenstown. If you drive yourself it will take three hours and 45 minutes but buses, coaches and scenic flights are also available, many of which are set up on schedules for day trips.
  • Top five things to see/do: Take a cruise, kayak across the still waters, visit waterfalls such as Stirling and Bowen Falls, take a scenic flight and walk the Full-Day Milford Sound Tour that includes a cruise, stopping at picturesque places on the way for pictures and a barbecue lunch.

4. Christchurch

Christchurch is still a city in recovery after the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, but that shouldn’t stop visitors from visiting the most English city in New Zealand. In Christchurch is where you’ll find the most heritage and innovation in a chaotic yet inspiring city that has an ocean backdrop.

  • Best for: Heritage, city lovers, scenic sites
  • Where is it: On the east coast of the South Island, Christchurch can be reached with flights from Sydney (three hours), Melbourne (three hours 20 minutes) and Brisbane (three hours 25 minutes). Driving from Queenstown will take six hours and buses are available that will take 8.5 hours.
  • Top five things to see/do: Take a day trip to Arthur’s Pass, take in the views from the Christchurch gondola, visit Quake City Christchurch, bungee off Waiau Bridge and see the Pohatu Penguins in Akaroa.
  • How long do I need? Two to three days
  • Recommended tour: Have a Grand Tour of Christchurch on a hop-on hop-off tram which includes the top sites such as the Botanical Gardens, punting on the Avon River and more.

5. Waitomo

Waitomo is a village on the North Island most renowned for the underground caves that are home to thousands of glow worms that light up the caves. Inside other caves you’ll find more spectacular natural phenomenon from waterfalls to limestone formations. Just north of the town you’ll find a spot where a number of species of the rare native kiwi bird live.

  • Best for: Nature
  • Where is it: Waitomo is in central North Island and can be reached by bus, coach or car from Rotorua (two hours), Auckland (two hours and 45 minutes) and Wellington (five hours and 45 minutes).
  • Top five things to see/do: Visit the Glowworm Caves, try black water rafting, check out the Otorohanga Kiwi House, tramp the Waitomo Walkway and see Marokopa Falls.
  • How long do I need? One to two days
  • Recommended tour: Take a Waitomo Glowworm Caves Guided Tour to learn the science behind this natural site and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

6. Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Visit this national park to be truly amazed by nature as mountains tower above you. Westland Tai Poutini National Park is made up of mountains, forests and glaciers that will make you feel tiny next to their magnificent size.

Running down the west coast of the South Island to the Southern Alps, these glaciers grow close to the ocean. Franz Josef and Fox are the two most famous and easily-accessed glaciers out of 60 in the park.

  • Best for: Scenic sites, outdoor lovers, nature
  • Where is it: On the west coast of the South Island visitors can get here by driving or taking a tour. Driving will take 4.5 hours from both Queenstown and Christchurch.
  • Top five things to see/do: Heli-hike Franz Josef Glacier, visit the park's main hub Hokitika, see Fox Glacier up close, ride the Trans Alpine Railway and take in the site of Lake Matheson.
  • How long do I need? Two days
  • Recommended tour: Book yourself on a glacier helicopter tour so you can see the site, beauty and picturesque views up close.

7. Rotorua

Rotorua is best known for its geothermal activity, so much so that it’s nicknamed "Sulphur City". Here you can watch geysers erupt multiple times a day and see mud pools.

But the natural attractions aren’t the only thing that draw visitors here. This town also has a Maori village which makes up 34% of the town’s population with cultural activities and traditional crafts.


8. Tongariro National Park

Visiting New Zealand’s first national park is a must on any trip to this stunning country. Three volcanoes rise above the horizon making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Maori culture is deeply rooted here and you can explore the landscapes by walking or riding down these mountains, or while skiing or snowboarding.

  • Best for: Active travellers, outdoor lovers
  • Where is it: Located in the central North Island, Tongariro National Park can be accessed by shuttle buses and bus operators from various points such as Taumarunui, National Park Village, Ohakune and Turangi. It is a 4.5 hour drive from both Auckland and Wellington.
  • Top five things to see/do: Hike the Tongariro Crossing in time for sunset, hit the slopes of an active volcano, go whitewater rafting, try stand up paddle boarding and bike Old Coach Road.
  • How long do I need? Two to five days
  • Recommended tour: Enjoy the Full-Day Tongariro Alpine Crossing Hike to witness the volcanic landscape and coloured lakes.

9. Wanaka

Described as Queenstown’s younger sibling, Wanaka is another mountain and adventure town with snow-capped mountains and plenty of adrenaline pumping activities. Here the lakefront is less developed, giving off a more relaxed feel than Queenstown. It’s also the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and the Southern Alps.


10. Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is the summertime place to be for locals and tourists alike. Made up of 150 undeveloped islands, visitors are spoiled with turquoise waters and ocean-based activities. It also has great historical significance from when the Maori first settled here followed by the first permanent British settlement.


11. Wellington

New Zealand’s capital city is compact, windy and sits along the water. It’s a must-visit where the city scene is all about art, craft beer and coffee. Take in the sites of the colourful Victorian architecture and roam the city streets, along the waterfront and to the sandy beaches.

  • Best for: City sites, food, coffee, beer and art lovers
  • Where is it: In the most southern part of the North Island, Wellington is easily accessed by flights from Sydney (three hours and 15 minutes), Melbourne (three hours and 45 minutes) and Brisbane (three hours and 25 minutes). The ferry from the South Island stops in Wellington and domestic flights are one hour from major cities.
  • Top five things to see/do: Take in the city from Mount Victoria Lookout, ride the Wellington Cable Car to the Botanic Garden, drink your way around the city's best craft beers, visit Zealandia ecosanctuary and learn about Weta Cave.
  • How long do I need? Two to three days
  • Recommended tour: The Wellington Hop on and Off bus take you to historic sites and to panoramic views such as Mount Victoria Lookout.

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