A trip to New Zealand offers adventure across varied landscapes, from rugged mountains to the subtropical north. While the North and South Islands are the largest, more than 700 smaller islands make up the island nation.
With so much ground to cover, it can be hard to decide the best places to visit in New Zealand. Luckily, we’ve custom-curated a comprehensive list of recommendations, just for you. Read on to see our picks!
16 of the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand
You’ll find cities, mountains, sprawling national parks, and seaside locations on this list of the best places to visit in New Zealand! Whether you want to spend time exploring the capital or scaling mountains, we have suggestions for the best New Zealand destinations.
The variety of activities and landscapes aren’t the only draw here. New Zealand’s reputation as a sustainable country making strides in green energy has made it a hotspot for ecotourism.
This idea isn’t a modern concept. The indigenous Māori people practice Kaitiakitanga, a long-standing practice of protecting the natural environment.
Visit the pristine island nation to enjoy the carefully preserved landscape and cinematic mountain peaks while learning more about the Māori people. Take some time to learn about the rich cultural practices of the group and their connection with this beautiful country.
1. Abel Tasman National Park
On the northern section of the South Island, visitors head to Abel Tasman National Park for relaxation and adventure. Birdwatch for rare species, stroll along the sandy beaches, or take a scenic drive for a more easygoing trip.
Those looking for a more thrilling journey to the park can scale mountains, hit the trails on mountain bikes, or raft the whitewater rivers.
Head to Auckland, the most populous city in New Zealand, for various activities ranging from museum hopping and shopping to checking out the highest point in the city, Maungawhau.
The dormant volcanic cone, also known as Mount Eden, is considered an ancestral mountain. Auckland showcases the best of the country’s natural features in an urban landscape.
3. Bay of Islands
Tourists and locals journey to the Bay of Islands to spend time on the country’s subtropical northern edge. Beaches are prevalent, and water activities are among the popular things to do.
Many people enjoy fishing in this area for the variety of big game fish. Others enjoy the historic settlements around the bay. The Bay of Islands was the arrival point for the Māori and European explorers centuries later.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and while it has the amenities and draws of a large city, one of the biggest reasons people visit is Antarctic exploration.
Many famous expeditions have set off from this city, including Ernest Shackleton. Check out artifacts from the Antarctic at the Canterbury Museum.
5. Fiordland National Park
Explore dramatic fiords carved out of the land from retreating glaciers. The sheer cliffed valleys contrast with the tower peaks of mountains within the park.
One of the best features to visit in the park is Milford Sound, a stunning inlet perfect for panoramic photos. The park and four others are part of the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Site.
6. Lake Tekapo
Many lakes dot the landscape of New Zealand, but Lake Tekapo is renowned for its brilliant turquoise color. Motuariki Island sits in the middle of the lake and has great significance in Māori culture.
The lake’s secluded location led to being named one of the best spots to stargaze. Beautiful displays of blooming lupins draw visitors to the lake in summer for spectacular daytime views.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy brought more tourists to New Zealand than ever. Production filmed throughout the country, and some fans plan their itineraries around these locations!
The most popular spot is in Matamata, where the town of Hobbiton was built, drawing tourists to the small town with plenty of charm. The farming community offers tours of orchards and a large farming museum.
Like other New Zealand regions, Marlborough has a lot to offer in the way of diverse activities. Tourists and locals come to the region for hiking and boating, but the real appeal of Marlborough is the food and wine scene.
Many wineries operate in the region, crafting libations perfect for enjoying alongside the area’s fresh seafood. Visit the vineyards on foot or by bike, or spend the day kayaking the area’s pristine rivers.
A popular city on the North Island, people smell Rotorua before they reach it. Geothermal areas in the city and surrounding areas create the distinct scent of sulfur.
Local and domestic tourists also enjoy mountain biking and the lakes near the city.Nearby Whakarewarewa is one of the most popular places to visit and has special significance to the Māori people.
Despite the geothermal activity, they have inhabited the area for hundreds of years. The valley is home to stunning features like boiling mud, geysers, and hot pools.
The town of Taupō sits at the convergence of many of New Zealand’s most impressive elements. The nation’s largest lake formed in the caldera of the Taupō Volcano. You’ll find geothermal features, including hot springs, nearby.
Mountain bikers head to the area for thrilling rides, and many popular sporting events occur there. The town hosts the Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge, Ironman New Zealand, and many others!
11. Tongariro National Park
Another famous New Zealand destination for biking, Tongariro National Park, offers some of the best and most challenging. Whether cycling or hiking, the trails in this park take you through ancient forests and lava flows.
Rivers, wetlands, and lakes in the park provide the perfect setting for all sorts of water activities. Take a relaxing canoe ride or test your skills with a trip down fast-moving waters.
12. Waitomo Caves
On the North Island, head tourists love the Waitomo Caves. The extensive cave system here is fun to explore, with several options to do so. Each of the three main caves has something different to offer. Two are filled with glow worms, one of which you can take a boat ride through!
Head to New Zealand’s capital on the North Island for urban exploration. Observe the architecture and wander museums, like Te Papa, the country’s national museum.
Restaurants are another draw to this happening city, while others visit to experience the architecture in the city, with examples spanning over 150 years!
14. West Coast Glaciers
On the West Coast of the South Island, vast glaciers stretch out from the mountains. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers sit in the parameters of Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
While the glaciers are stunning, there are also areas of lowland rainforest, grasslands, and coast. Explore the area by kayaking or hiking the many trails in the park ranging from easy to difficult.
Aoraki, or Mount Cook, towers over the other 19 peaks in the National Park and is New Zealand’s tallest mountain. The peak and park sit far away from cities and large towns, making this area excellent for stargazing.
Experienced climbers scale peaks at the park, but if you’re not a skilled expert, there are still plenty of trails for hiking.
The Waitaki region on the South Island has a diverse area to explore, stretching from the Waitaki River to the Moeraki Boulders lining the coastline.
Visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony to see these adorable flightless birds, or head to the snowfields for winter sports. Head to the small town Ōmarama in the region to soak in the popular hot tubs with beautiful views!
Things to Consider
One of the most important things to consider when planning a trip to New Zealand is what to pack. While this depends on where you plan to visit, you’ll need to pack different outfits if you’re touring the country.
Pack clothes that you can layer and be prepared for the different climates in the country. From warm subtropical temperatures in the north to chillier conditions near the mountains and southern areas, you experience lots of different weather in New Zealand.
When packing your bag, there are some items that you shouldn’t include. In an effort to preserve the country’s natural beauty, Zealand asks you to refrain from bringing certain things that could be detrimental to the environment
- Animals & Insects
- Plants & Flowers
- Traditional & Herbal Medicines
- Fresh Foods & Certain Processed Foods
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of our most frequently asked questions about the best places to visit in New Zealand and their answers:
Which month is best to visit New Zealand?
The best month to visit New Zealand depends on what you want to experience while visiting the country. December through February provides the warmest temperatures.
And travel during the fall and spring still has good weather with fewer crowds. There are plenty of reasons to visit New Zealand any time of year.
How many days are enough for New Zealand?
Most people plan around two weeks for a New Zealand vacation. Slightly shorter or longer trips are also popular. Just be sure to factor in how long it takes to travel to the country since you’ll probably need to budget a few days for travel in your itinerary. A two-week vacation allows you to see the best of both islands!
What is the cheapest time to go to New Zealand?
Because of New Zealand’s location in the Southern Hemisphere, they experience winter from June through August. Travel is still popular during this time and just as expensive since winter activities like skiing are well-liked.
Tourist attractions not offering winter sports do lower prices to encourage tourists during this time. The end of the summer season usually provides the best airfare prices. Check for discounted rates starting in February for the best chance of getting a good deal.
Which is better to visit, New Zealand or Australia?
Determining whether you should visit New Zealand or Australia comes down to personal taste. Both countries offer exciting travels in rugged terrains, but each has its advantages.
If sandy beaches and large cities are more your style, Australia might be your best bet. New Zealand is the best choice if you want a more secluded vacation in nature.
What is safer, Australia or New Zealand?
According to the New Zealand Herald, using results from the Global Peace Index, New Zealand is the second safest country in the world.
Factors like the rate of homicides and other crimes were considered when determining the safest countries. Australia, in comparison, didn’t rank among the top ten countries, though it is still a very safe place to visit.
So, What Are the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand?
The best places to visit in New Zealand are the ones that interest you the most! This country has tons of things to see and do while exploring the unique landscape. Itineraries range from biking through wine country to strenuous climbs through mountain ranges!
Use this list as a starting point but remember that there’s more to see in this fantastic country. With so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to New Zealand today!