37 Amazing Things to do in New Zealand
New Zealand is divided by two major islands, North Island and South Island. Both beautiful, both unique in their own way, but both offering something completely different for the traveller. Whilst North Island is known for its bustling cosmopolitan cities, its great beach culture and its many volcanoes, the South is full of dramatic mountain scenery, snow-capped ranges and beautiful national parks with giant lakes. Together they form one of the most incredible destinations in the world, with so much to do for people of all ages. Here are 37 amazing things to do to help you get the full Kiwi experience in NZ!
Things to do on the North Island
1. Taupo Volcano Tours
Take a tour of the incredible volcanoes in the Taupo Volcanic Zone; this area is extremely active on a world scale and it includes three frequently active cone volcanoes, which are Ruapehu, Tongariro and Whakaari. The Taupo Volcanic Zone is also home to two of the most productive craters in the world. Take a tour and get up close to the bubbling calderas and steam vents. A spectacular sight and safe for all age groups.
2. Ride the Wellington Cable Car
Get a great view of New Zealand’s capital city by riding the cable car from the main shopping street of Lambton Quay all the way to the hilltop suburb of Kelburn. Experience Wellington’s history and scenery on the city’s only funicular railway. It’s so much fun and a must-do for all visitors.
3. Visit Wellington Botanical Garden
Get away from the hustle and bustle and take a moment to relax in the capital’s beautiful Botanical Garden, featuring 25 acres of unique landscape and including a children’s garden too. A great day out for the whole family.
4. Go to Wellington Zoo
Home to cheetahs, red pandas, giraffes and lions, Wellington Zoo is a wonderful place to see amazing and rare wildlife. The zoo offers a ‘Close Encounters’ experience for children and adults to get up close to the animals and spend some time shadowing the zoo keeper. Great fun for all!
5. See the Sky Tower in Auckland
One of the most iconic sights in the city of Auckland is the Auckland Sky Tower. Go to the top to get the most spectacular views of the city below or join the Kiwis in their adventurous spirit and sign yourself up for a bungee jump.
6. Visit Auckland Art Gallery
This incredible art gallery features works dating back from the 11th Century right up to the present day. A must visit for art lovers and culture vultures.
7. Stroll Along Waitemata Harbour
Whilst in Auckland, make sure you spend some time checking out the awesome harbour area. Waitemata Harbour offers fantastic views of the ocean and is a great place for both sailing and fishing, plus there are regular tours leaving this area on a daily basis.
8. Take a Trip to Waiheke Island
Located around 17km from Auckland, Waiheke Island is the second largest island in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf. It’s an awesome place to stay if you want an island retreat or beach break – it’s a top place for whale watching too!
9. Auckland Harbour Bridge
The Auckland Harbour Bridge is not to be missed if you’re in the city. It’s one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and it lights up beautifully at night. Make sure you’re there to capture the sunset too – bring a good camera.
10. Aotea Square Market
Want to rub shoulders with the locals? Then make sure you stick around for the weekend market at Aotea Square. This beautiful main square in Auckland is a hub of shops, cafés and great places to eat. It features beautiful art and the market is open every Friday and Saturday.
11. Go Golfing at Cape Kidnappers Golf Course
Ranked number 16 in the entire world, this picturesque golf course near Auckland is the pro and amateur golfer’s dream. Expect mind-blowing scenery and a challenging 18 hole 72 par cause designed by renowned architect Tom Doak. This is a golfing experience to remember.
12. Hike the Tongariro Crossing
Take a self-guided hike or join a day tour to experience the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park. This tramping track crosses volcanic terrain, with views of Mount Taranaki, Mount Ngauruhoe, the Kaimanawa Ranges and Lake Taupo.
13. Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
Truly breath-taking for all ages. The Waitomo Glow Worm Caves are a must visit if you’re in North Island. The caves maintain the same temperature all year round so you can visit no matter the weather.
14. Tour the Hobbiton Movie Set
Fans of Lord of the Rings simply cannot miss this rare and wonderful opportunity to visit the movie set of Hobbiton (near Hamilton and Cambridge). Experience Middle Earth on this bucolic setting for The Shire.
15. Cruise to the Hole in the Rock
Take a cruise to the Hole in the Rock in the Bay of Islands and spend the day dolphin spotting. The departure point for this tour is Russell Wharf and trips can be booked in advance online.
16. Cycle the Timber Trail
Hire a bike and cycle the Timber Trail, an 87km journey which winds through ancient forests and takes you across thrilling suspension bridges. Awesome views and easy to intermediate in terms of difficulty.
17. Explore the Art Deco World of Napier
Visit the town of Napier and take a tour of the incredible art deco architecture. The Art Deco Trust has dedicated its resources to preserve the area’s beautiful 1930s streetscape. This is a place where history comes alive – a great place to hang out for history buffs and culture vultures alike and plenty of events and festivals happening all year round.
18. Experience Tamaki Village
Go to Tamaki Village in Rotorua to learn more about the fascinating Maori culture. Enjoy an evening experience or an overnight stay in this authentically styled Maori village where you can enjoy storytelling around a fire pit and an exclusive guided tour.
19. Try your luck at SkyCity
If you’re looking for a night out with some gambling, head to SkyCity Casino in Hamilton. This huge entertainment complex is situated in the Central Business District and overlooks the Waikato River.
20. Paddle a Waka Taua Canoe
Give traditional canoeing a go and paddle a 40ft Waka Taua (Maori canoe) in the Bay of Islands with a guided tour.
21. Soak Up Maori History at Waitangi
Want to learn more about Mauri culture? Then don’t miss Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, home to the famous Waitangi Treaty Grounds is where a treaty was signed between the Maori and the Europeans.
South Island things to do
22. Enjoy a Night Out in Queenstown
Hit the tiles and enjoy great drink and food in South Island’s exciting city of Queenstown. Some of the city’s best bars and nightclubs include the legendary World Bar, Below Zero Ice Bar, the cool and quirky Little Blackwood and the popular Rhino’s Ski Shack.
23. Go to the Bluff Oyster Festival
Bluff oysters are the best. There’s even a whole festival dedicated to these delicious saltwater clams. Open once a year, this festival is an aphrodisiacal treat for anyone who considers themselves to be a foodie and if you’ve missed the event, not to worry. There are plenty of Bluff oysters available in Queenstown restaurants!
24. Visit Milford Sound
Perhaps one of the most iconic natural landmarks of South Island. This fiord located within Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site is a must visit for anyone who wants mind-blowing panoramas.
25. Go Panning for Gold in Arrowtown
Head to the traditional mining town of Arrowtown and spend the day panning for gold in the Arrow River. A great short visit activity for all ages with guaranteed gold.
26. Hike the Coast at Abel Tasman National Park
Tackle one of the coastal hikes in Abel Tasman National Park, a vast protected area located between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay at the north end of the South Island. A great place for kayaking and water sports, camping and beaches.
27. Check Out Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Enjoy traditional Maori food, the delicious Hangi meal which is cooked in the underground “earth oven” whilst watching a fantastic cultural performance in South Island’s only Maori village. This is a superb experience for those who want to learn more about New Zealand’s rich Maori history.
28. Bungee Jump at Kawerau Bridge
When it comes to adventure sports and adrenaline activities, Kiwis know best. And Queenstown really is the place to be. They love a good bungee so if you’re here to live like a local, brave the drop and give it a go! Test your nerves with the famous 134 metre Nevis Bungy Jump located off Kawerau Bridge.
29. Capture the Views with Skyline Queenstown
Take the Skyline gondola to the top of v and spend the day exploring the hilltop Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, the Skyline Luge, the Skyline Mountain Bike Track or book yourself in for a stargazing experience after the sun goes down. This is an iconic part of the city that you won’t want to miss.
30. Picnic at Lake Wakatipu
Soak up the scenery in Queenstown and take a romantic stroll around the beautiful lake. Pack a picnic and find a quiet spot to enjoy some afternoon refreshments. Other great places to bring your picnic basket include St Omer Park and Queenstown Gardens.
31. Guzzle Your Favourite Tipple at Gibbston Valley
Winos need to spend an afternoon checking out the Gibbston Valley Vineyard. The local Pinot Noir is award-winning and other varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Known as the Valley of the Vines, Gibbston Valley is one of the most scenic wine-growing areas in the world. So even if you’re not much of a wine drinker, you can still enjoy the views of the rugged schist mountains and the Kawarau River gorge.
32. Enjoy a Lake Cruise in Queenstown
Sit back, relax and enjoy some great food and wine on a luxury cruise on Lake Wakatipu. There are cruises and lake tours leaving daily with prices starting at just $59.00 for adults and $22.00 for children. A fantastic way to experience Queenstown’s main natural attraction.
33. Sightsee in Christchurch
Christchurch is one of our South Island campervan pick-up points and we definitely recommending spending a day here to check out the great food, shopping and wonderful sights. Don’t miss the International Antarctic Centre where you can see the penguins, Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Christchurch Arts Centre, Church of St Michael and All Angels, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and Canterbury Museum.
34. Fly Over the Franz Josef Glacier
Take a scenic heli-flight across the Franz Josef Glacier and enjoy hiking across the hiking across the ice. Be sure to book with a guide – all equipment is usually provided so just make sure you bring some warm clothing.
35. Wind Down at Hanmer Springs
Hit the Hanmer Springs thermal pools for a spa experience like no other. These thermal pools maintain a balmy temperature all year round and the complex includes sauna and steam room access as well as fun waterslides for families travelling with children.
36. Travel to “Isengard” and “Lothlórien” at Glenorchy
Not to be missed if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan. Make tracks for Glenorchy and you’ll be able to visit the fictional locations of Isengard, Lothlórien and Amon Hen. This is a guided tour led by a family-run company and they will make sure you get all the photo opps you could dream of – so make sure you bring a good camera!
37. Taste the Famous Gibbston Valley Cheese
Just 20 minutes outside of Queenstown is Gibbston Valley Cheese, a fantastic cheese shop specialising in premium artisan cheeses which are made in the local area. A great place for foodies to come and sample the local goods.