Whenever you’re planning a getaway vacation and New Zealand is the destination of choice, the next steps include deciding which cities to visit, where to stay once you arrive, and what to do for entertainment.
These decisions can be challenging because the country offers a menu of enticing places to stay and attractions to sample. But don’t worry — we’ve done the hard work for you.
We’ll show you the best areas of New Zealand, why we love each one, where to eat and what to do when you arrive, and more. Let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit New Zealand in 2023
There are more than a few good reasons why New Zealand is a “must-see and must-do” destination.
Whether you’re looking for a vacation full of adventure, a quiet oasis to relax and unwind, or places off the beaten track you’d like to explore, New Zealand aims to please every traveler’s palate.
Wherever you choose to travel, cities in New Zealand have plenty to do. There are historical sites, museums, art galleries, trails to hike, interesting wildlife preserves, and unlimited scenery to enjoy for land adventures.
Surfing, sailing, fishing, rafting, kayaking, canyoning, snorkeling, diving, and paddle boarding are sure to satisfy water enthusiasts. For an over-the-top breathtaking activity, consider bungee jumping in Nevis Canyon, which has the distinction of being the world’s third-highest jump.
New Zealand is also known for its diverse menus, featuring traditional cuisine from around the world as well as authentic dishes focusing on New Zealand favorites.
Add to your dining pleasure some of the best wine from local wineries found throughout the North and South Islands. One of the most entertaining attractions for kids is a visit to Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed.
A guide conducts a tour of the fantasy world where you’ll see movie props and sets. All in all, New Zealand is a complete vacation destination with something of interest to see and do for all ages.
The 5 Best Parts of New Zealand
- Auckland – The city of volcanoes
- Christchurch – Considered the Garden City
- Queenstown – Has the reputation as New Zealand’s adventure capital
- Gisborne – The smallest of New Zealand’s cities
- Raglan – Known as one of the best surfing destinations in New Zealand
Where to Stay in New Zealand
New Zealand offers a smorgasbord of things to do, places to explore, and exciting adventures. Knowing what you’d like to do on your vacation can help narrow down which city to make your base of operations.
If the excitement of the big city is your preference, Auckland and Christchurch will keep you busy. For the adventurer, make your way to Queenstown.
If a more serene destination is where you’d like to spend your time, consider Gisborne for a mellow and tranquil vacation experience. Of course, surfers head to New Zealand as a hot spot to be challenged by the waves and show off their skills.
Other water activities are available for a more relaxing time, from sunset cruises to harbour tours. There are also trails to hike, ski the slopes, tour the rivers, and observe wildlife.
Auckland is New Zealand’s oldest city, which means there’s an impressive list of activities to complement the history and culture of the city.
It is also a large and busy metropolitan city on the North Island and known for its spectacular skyline, scenic waterfront, and numerous beaches, such as Takapuna and Kohimarama.
If shopping at designer boutiques is part of your vacation itinerary, you’ll find plenty to choose from. The city is known for its multicultural atmosphere, which also includes the arts, cuisine, and music.
Things to Do
- Take a walk along the seaside on the promenade at Mission Bay Beach.
- Get a bird’s eye view of miles and miles of beautiful scenery from atop the Sky Tower.
- Take a leisurely stroll through the formal Wintergardens at Auckland Domain, the oldest park in the city.
- Get up close to assorted wildlife at the Auckland Zoo.
- Les Bistro Dees Gourmets offers a fine French experience serving a menu of traditional French cuisine accompanied by excellent wines. The restaurant has wine tastings every month.
- Hello Beasty brings New Zealand cuisine to the forefront in its fusion restaurant situated along Viaduct Harbour.
- Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co. has a flavorful menu to savor while enjoying the impressive views from the rooftop setting.
- The Shucker Brothers know how to bring the freshest seafood to the table at their waterfront raw bar restaurant.
Auckland Budget Hotels
- Ibis Budget Auckland Airport offers modern and upbeat rooms. Standard and family rooms are available, with each exuding an inviting atmosphere. Stop by the restaurant to fuel your energy reserves, enjoy a cooked-to-order breakfast, use the business services, play a game in the arcade room, and take care of laundry without leaving the hotel. Guests can also take advantage of free on-site self-parking and the 24-hour airport shuttle.
- Ramada Suites Victoria Street West, located in the business district, offers several options, from a standard room or one-bedroom suite, to a deluxe or executive studio with a kitchenette. The high-rise hotel provides concierge services, bicycle rentals, flat-screen TV, free toiletries, coffee/tea maker, free Wi-Fi, parking, and children stay for free.
Auckland Mid-Range Hotels
- Four Points by Sheraton Auckland has an onsite breakfast plus a daily breakfast buffet, a coffee shop, two restaurants, and a bar/lounge. Amenities are plentiful for guest convenience, including laundry facilities, business services, room service, a 24/7 front desk, and free wired internet or Wi-Fi.
- CityLife Auckland offers guests a choice of deluxe or superior rooms with a queen or king bed, or twin beds is an option. The hotel offers in-room childcare, connecting rooms, business services, a gym, a pool, and assorted amenities, such as a refrigerator, TV, coffee/tea maker, an in-room safe, and free Wi-Fi.
Auckland Luxury Hotels
- JW Marriott Auckland offers deluxe and premium rooms with double or king beds in spacious and beautifully designed surroundings. Guests enjoy free Wi-Fi, LED TV, free newspaper, minibar, fridge, and more, depending on room choice. The hotel has a gym, pool, hot tub, and restaurant, and is within walking distance of Spark Arena, Auckland Ferry Terminal, and Sky Tower.
- The Grand by SkyCity is luxury personified whether you choose a Grand or Grand Deluxe suite. The hotel has a spa, gym, pool, and restaurant for guest comfort, and for guest convenience, Sky Tower and Auckland Ferry Terminal are a short walk away, and Spark Arena is just a five-minute drive. The airport is less than 30 minutes from the hotel.
Christchurch is considered to be one of New Zealand’s most beautiful cities. It is also the South Island’s largest city and a place that offers many activities year-round.
Founded in 1856, the city seamlessly blends its history, heritage, and culture with modern innovations and urbanization.
Located on the South Island, you can plan a day trip to visit and explore the Canterbury region and the majestic Southern Alps.
Things to Do
- Put the Christchurch Botanic Gardens at the top of your “must-see” list of things to do to relax and enjoy a serene and peaceful setting.
- Absorb the history and culture of New Zealand with a visit to the Canterbury Museum.
- Observe wildlife at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Orana Wildlife Park.
- See spectacular views with a ride on the Christchurch Gondola.
- Military enthusiasts will enjoy the sights at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand.
- The King of Snake serves Euro-Asian inspired dishes served using the freshest ingredients to create inspired dishes served in a modern and upscale 5-star environment.
- Fiddlesticks for ambiance, atmosphere, and attitude in the Arts Precinct. Enjoy the outdoor fire, good food, and fine wine and cocktails.
Christchurch Budget Hotels
- The Riccarton Hotel keeps things simple and budget-friendly. Rooms include free Wi-Fi, a tea/coffee maker, a TV, free toiletries, and free parking. The hotel is 15 minutes from the airport and within five minutes of several restaurants.
- BreakFree on Cashel is centrally located near shopping, dining, the stadium, and the convention center. Rooms include LCD TV, movies, a refrigerator, and free Wi-Fi. Hotel amenities include a restaurant, fitness center, bar, and a 24/7 front desk.
Christchurch Mid-Range Hotels
- Get cozy in a room or suite at Heritage Christchurch. Each room is spacious and beautifully detailed. Hotel amenities include a pool, gym, hot tub, laundry facilities, babysitting, microwave, and free internet.
- Crowne Plaza Christchurch puts guests near all the action. The hotel is less than 7 minutes from Cathedral Square and Christchurch Casino. Enjoy a standard room with city views, an onsite restaurant, bar, gym, laundry facilities, and business services, plus free Wi-Fi, and a daily breakfast buffet.
Christchurch Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Montreal has a long-standing reputation for 5-star rooms, exemplary dining at the Montreal Bar & Restaurant, and guest-focused personnel.
- Eliza’s Manor is near Christchurch Casino and Christchurch Town Hall. Established in 1861, guests enjoy a historical vibe in beautifully designed rooms. Amenities include a complimentary minibar, fully-cooked breakfast, and nightly turndown service.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s largest cities, so, it’s no wonder it’s also considered the place to go for the world’s best adventures. Located in the South Island region, the area is known for its beautiful setting along Lake Wakatipu with mountain ranges including the Southern Alps and The Remarkables as the backdrop.
Along with its stunning landscape, Queenstown is also known as the adventure capital for those who like to add more than a little excitement to their stay. Choose from a variety of activities from ground level to high in the sky.
Choose from many activities to fill each day with fun and excitement. Whatever your pleasure, Queenstown is sure to have the perfect fit.
Things to Do
- Bungee jump from Kawarau Bridge.
- See the sights from high above on the Queenstown Gondola.
- Enjoy Alpine views along the Ben Lomond Walkway.
- Go cycling and mountain biking along one of the many Queenstown Trails.
- Jervois Steak House provides excellent service and outstanding steaks. Upbeat and upscale, the restaurant has an impressive menu that includes not only prime-cut steaks, but also lamb, duck, and fresh seafood.
- The Bunker Restaurant features an intriguing and cozy atmosphere highlighted by fireside seating. Located in a back alley, the restaurant is a true hidden gem not to be missed. Enjoy flavorful cuisine and/or your favorite libation at the Upstairs Cocktail Bar and rooftop deck.
- Chur Fish and Chips satisfy the craving for fresh seafood cooked to order. From prawns to scallops, and everything in-between, the restaurant aims to please the palate. Check the menu for the daily “catch of the day” and specials. Great food and reasonably priced.
Queenstown Budget Hotels
- Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak keeps you comfortable and connected in a spacious room with a refrigerator, TV, coffee, and tea facilities, clock radio, telephone, and free Wi-Fi.
- Melbourne Lodge keeps guests connected and secure with free Wi-Fi and free parking. Each room has a private balcony and coffee/tea-making facilities. A few of the amenities include a self-service laundry service, playground, shuttle service, and concierge.
- Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa has everything you need for an enjoyable vacation in a well-appointed guest room or suite. Located on Lake Wakatip, the resort is near the airport, and provides a water taxi to cross the lake. Amenities include a fitness center, spa, indoor heated pool, on-site dining, and room service.
Queenstown Mid-Range Hotels
- Wyndham Garden Queenstown keeps guests comfortable in standard twin or double rooms, studios with kitchenettes, or one-bedroom apartments, each with mountain views. Amenities include a gym, breakfast is available, a bar, housekeeping, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel is five minutes from the Remarkables Park Town Centre, and less than 20 minutes’ walking time from Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown International.
- At Oaks Queenstown Shores Resort, choose standard or premier rooms. Suites, apartments, and penthouses are also available. Standard and premier rooms include free Wi-Fi, LCD TV, refrigerator, room service, premier bedding, and free toiletries.
Queenstown Luxury Hotels
- Novotel Queenstown Lakeside offers scenic views of Lake Wakatipu from the balcony, fresh mountain air, a buffet breakfast, LCD TV, pay movie options, a work area, and internet. There’s also an on-site spa pool, two fitness gyms, a shuttle, a restaurant, and a bar.
- Matakauri Lodge offers a chic setting and luxury accommodations plus superb dining, a refreshing pool, and a soothing spa experience.
- Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa is in the heart of the city’s entertainment and dining districts with short walks to some of the most tasty and exciting destinations. The posh hotel is known for its sophisticated atmosphere and attention to detail. Rooms, suites, and penthouses are rich in style and accessories. Relax at the Left Bank Bistro or indulge your tastebuds at Le Salon Rouge.
Gisborne has a little bit of everything to discover, explore, and experience, which makes it a fun destination for everyone. Since it is a small city, biking and walking are options for exploring the area.
For history enthusiasts, Gisborne is known as the place Captain Cook first landed when he reached the shores of New Zealand. He named the area Poverty Bay. Gisborne is also known for its ancient Maori culture.
Things to discover while visiting are its flavorful wineries, restaurants serving creative menus, boutique shops, trails to traverse, and waves to surf.
Things to Do
- Tairawhiti Museum’s nine galleries offer an up-close look at Maori art, history, decorative arts, and other exhibits. See Wyllie Cottage, the oldest of Gisborne’s European-style homes.
- Watch the sun as it rises while taking a morning stroll on Wainui Beach.
- Enjoy the diverse palette of colors at Eastwoodhill Arboretum.
- Discover and sample the wineries.
- Portofino, located in the city’s center, brings the taste of Italy to the table with traditional favorites rich in flavor and fresh ingredients.
- USSco Bar & Bistro is the place for late-night dinner, drinks, and tidbits. The bar and restaurant are open Monday to Saturday, starting at 5:00 pm.
Gisborne Budget Hotels
- Captain Cook Motor Lodge keeps the budget intact while providing guests with assorted amenities. The kid-friendly lodge has rooms with a kitchen plus free Wi-Fi, free parking, an onsite restaurant, and access to the beach.
- Tatapouri Bay is a cozy beachfront property offering accommodations with a fully equipped kitchen, coffee and tea maker in every room, a walk-in shower, private bathroom, free parking, and Wi-Fi. There are barbecue facilities, an on-site coffee shop, and a children’s playground.
Gisborne Mid-Range Hotels
- Portside Hotel provides lovely, well-accessorized rooms for guest comfort plus amenities to stay entertained and connected. All rooms include cable, complimentary high-speed internet, and optional pay-per-view movies.
- Senator Motor Inn is situated in the heart of the city near the harbour. Its location is just two minutes from restaurants, cafes, nightlife, and shopping venues. The self-contained suite has its own terrace overlooking the harbour.
- Waikanae Beach Motel puts you right across the street from Waikanae Beach where you can surf, swim, and stroll along the boardwalk.
Gisborne Luxury Hotels
- Emerald Hotel Gisborne has comfortable and well-designed rooms. After a meal at the onsite restaurant, enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool.
- Whispering Sands Beachfront Motel puts you just 10 minutes from the center of the city. Rooms are outstanding in design and accessories, plus scenic views of the water. Whispering Sands is also located on Waikanae Beach, where the boardwalk beckons for a leisurely stroll.
For the new surfer or those who’ve been “hanging ten” for a while, Raglan, just west of Hamilton, is a surfing mecca not to be ignored. If you’re new to the sport or just starting out, lessons are available to help hone your skills.
The scenic landscape of the small beachside town on the West Coast of the North Island is an oasis of turquoise waters bordered by black sandy beaches. Enjoy strolls on the beach, watching the sunset, taking a nature cruise of Raglan Harbour, and signing up for a glowworm experience.
Along with surfing, Raglan is known for its restaurants and cafes, fashion boutiques, and its arts and crafts community.
Things to Do
- Take surfing lessons from a local pro.
- Bridal Veil Falls is the ideal place for photo opportunities.
- Bring your sunglasses and peer off into the endless horizon at Te Toto Gorge Lookout.
- Private, pretty, and peaceful describe Ngarunui Beach.
- Adventurers can get their adrenalin pumping with a canyoning experience.
- The Shack serves a diverse menu from fried chicken and shrooms to brews and sparkling wines.
- The Wharf Kitchen and Bar offers waterfront views with its assortment of fresh and creative cuisine served in a bistro environment. Take advantage of kid specials, birthday specials, drink specials, and tantalizing desserts to accompany your meal.
- Orca Eatery & Bar is the place to go for lunch, brunch, or dinner for steaks, seafood, and casual fare. Relax in the casual atmosphere with waterfront dining and a full bar to please the palate.
- ISO Raglan is a cozy bistro and cocktail lounge perfect for getting together for burger specials, weekly specials, live music, refreshing cocktails, and decadent creations, such as dates soaked in Kahlua and coffee cream.
Raglan Budget Hotels
- Raglan Harbour View Hotel keeps the prices low and the comfort high. Enjoy cozy rooms with free Wi-Fi plus an onsite restaurant and bar.
- Koru Lodge features split-level two-bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchens, a spa pool, and a private deck. Enjoy views of the Tasman Sea and Mt. Karioi. Guests are minutes away from Manu Bay and Whale Bay for surfing.
Raglan Mid-Range Hotels
- Raglan Street Studios is the perfect place to unwind and relax after a day out-and-about town. Relax with your favorite beverage on the patio and be connected with free Wi-Fi or unwind in the soothing waters of the hot tub.
Raglan Luxury Hotels
- Bow Street Studios, surrounded by lush landscape and harbour views, offers an inviting setting with free Wi-Fi and parking. Some rooms are equipped with a kitchen for guest convenience.
So, Where Should You Stay in New Zealand?
|🎉 Best for a Fun Vibe||Auckland|
|🌳 Best for Nature Lovers||Christchurch|
|🏄♂️ Best for Adventure||Queensland|
|🗺️ Best Small City||Gisborne|
|🤿 Best for Watersports||Raglan|
Deciding where to stay when planning your trip to New Zealand is part of the fun of discovering the places and things to do that the multi-faceted country has to offer.
With its many landscapes to traverse, each day can provide another opportunity to absorb history, culture, attractions, and the off-the-beaten-path locations that are hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Whether you want to ride the waves on a surfboard at Raglan, enjoy the day and nighttime activities that make up Auckland’s big city vibe, or participate in the jam-packed activities of small-town Gisborne, those are some of the destinations to fill your vacation itinerary.
Whatever your reason for choosing New Zealand for your next vacation, be assured there is an adventure to be found throughout the country’s tourist-friendly destinations. Happy travels!