Top 10 Things to do in New Zealand
New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud, is packed with so many things to see and do it can be difficult to decide where to start when you’re planning your New Zealand holiday.
Here are 10 of our favourite things to do in New Zealand (plus a special stop-over bonus…) Use our itinerary ideas or we can tailor make a holiday to suit you.
1. Take an overnight cruise through Doubtful Sound
Magnificent Fiordland is a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern living. The most famous and most visited fiord of New Zealand’s fiords is Milford Sound with its views of the distinctive Mitre Peak, but for a real escape head to the more remote (and therefore even quieter) Doubtful Sound. Enjoy an overnight cruise in this tranquil and jaw-droppingly magnificent landscape to really experience the peace of your natural surroundings.
Itinerary idea: Green Kiwi
2. Get your adrenaline pumping on a jet boat ride
Queenstown is known as New Zealand’s thrill-seeking capital, but if throwing yourself off a bridge attached to a bungee cord, or out of a plane on a skydive isn’t your idea of fun, head to nearby Wanaka. From there you can take a thrilling jet boat ride on the Matukituki River for your adrenaline fix while being enthralled by the amazing landscapes in Mt Aspiring National Park. Alternatively, combine a guided walk through beech forests with a helicopter trip onto the glaciers.
Itinerary idea: South Island Explorer
3. Sip locally produced wines and indulge in gourmet food
New Zealand is famous for its wines, and there’s no doubt that a visit to one of the many wineries to sample the vintages and the locally sourced foods which complement them will be a highlight for gourmands and gourmets. Stay in Blenheim to enjoy the Sauvignon Blanc produced in New Zealand’s most famous wine region Marlborough (South Island). You could also explore Hawke’s Bay on North Island where the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines are particularly fine.
Itinerary idea: Boutique Wine Trail Self-Drive
4. Hike one of the 9 Great Walks
One of the best ways to experience New Zealand’s natural beauties is to get out and explore them on foot. From afternoon strolls to multi-day hikes, New Zealand has a range of walks waiting to knock your hiking socks off. Acknowledged as one of the finest one-day walks in the world, tackle the rust-red craters, black deserts and cobalt blue and jade green lakes of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the company of a local guide. Or recharge your batteries as you walk, cruise or kayak through the sublimely beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.
5. Watch kiwis in the wild on Stewart Island
New Zealand’s hidden gem, Stewart Island, is home to the brown kiwi and is the only place in New Zealand where these timid nocturnal birds can be reliably seen in the wild. Enjoy a guided tour of Ulva Island Nature Reserve during your stay to experience many rare and endangered native birds.
If you don’t have time to include Stewart Island in your itinerary, consider visiting the ‘eco-restoration project’ Zealandia just outside Wellington. You can see many endangered and endemic species there, but the highlight for us is the night time torch-lit tour where you might spot kiwis foraging, tuataras hunting and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost.
Itinerary idea: New Zealand Wildlife Encounters
6. Experience Maori culture
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture is an integral part of the country’s identity, and truly something that’s worth experiencing and learning more about. You’ll really have the chance to delve into this aspect of New Zealand on North Island – from the history-steeped Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Northland (where you can learn about how the country was founded) to a wonderfully authentic Maori welcome at Waimarama, just south of Hastings in the Hawke’s Bay region. This is a great way to experience a powhiri (Maori welcome) and Marae visit.
Itinerary idea: Discover Aotearoa
7. Go glacier heli-hiking
South Island’s south-west is home to the twin-glaciers which plunge down through the rainforest to almost sea level – the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. From above, these rivers of ice cut through the dramatic Southern Alps, but to really appreciate their scale and beauty, you need to see them from the air on a thrilling helicopter flight and then get up close by taking a guided hike on one of the glaciers. As well as clambering around incredible ice formations and learning about the glaciers, there’s also the chance to visit ice caves and other wonderful formations below the upper icefall. For the hike, you’ll need to be fairly fit, and all your equipment can be hired locally.
Itinerary idea: Spectacular North and South self drive
8. Go whale watching from Kaikoura
Kaikoura, on the east coast of South Island, is world-renowned for its whale watching, and there are options aplenty, from boat trips to flightseeing from the air. Towering snow-covered peaks fall to the ocean here and offshore a deep undersea canyon attracts an extraordinary abundance of marine life. Experience the thrill of seeing giant sperm whale fluking, dusky dolphins and Hector’s dolphins at play, and fur seals on the hunt. Or even get into the water and swim with dolphins yourself.
Itinerary idea: Whale & Dolphin Explorer
9. Explore the geothermal heart of New Zealand
The Central Plateau of North Island is the country’s geothermal heartland. Rotorua is well-known for its geothermal activity with hot pots and mud pools providing ample opportunity to relax and soak away the day’s exertions. Around the town are a wealth of geothermal fields to explore including the striking silica terraces at Orakei Korako and Te Puia Thermal Reserve a centre for Maori cultural encounters as well as geothermal wonders. While the coloured mud pools of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland provide some of the most iconic sights in New Zealand’s North Island and is the home of Lady Knox geyser.
Itinerary idea: East Cape Explorer
10. Explore Mt Cook and Mackenzie Country
New Zealand is the perfect country for a self-drive holiday whether you choose to travel by car, 4×4 or motorhome, and there are incredible scenery and open roads all over the country to enjoy and experience at your own pace. One of our favourite areas is the Mackenzie Country – the area of South Island around Mt Cook/Aoraki, New Zealand’s highest mountain. The jagged snowy mountain peaks are interspersed with golden tussock grass meadows, turquoise lakes offer plenty of opportunities for you to get out and walk.