Amazing Places to Visit in New Zealand
Keen to go travelling, backpacking or explore New Zealand? Although New Zealand looks small on a world map, there are hundreds of places you could add to your itinerary including cities, beaches, towns, fjords, glaciers, moutains, hotsprings and more.
Whether you have a few weeks, months or longer you will be able to see some spectacular places. Be sure to add these places to your New Zealand travel itinerary:
The North Island of New Zealand is known for its volcanic activity, national parks and cosmopolitan cities. Home to about three-quarters of New Zealand’s population, it has the country’s largest city, Auckland. Surrounded by bays and islands, it’s known as the “the City of Sails.” At its southern tips is harbourside capital Wellington, home to the national museum, Te Papa.
Auckland is located on the North island of New Zealand, this city is huge with lots of cafés, bars, shops and also day trips all within close proximity.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and is a great city to spend at least a few days exploring. Auckland became the capital of New Zealand when the British arrived in 1840 but before this it was inhabited by various Maori tribes - you will learn a great deal about this city when based here.
In the city centre you can find lots of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs. There are so many attractions you can check out including the harbour where you can take a boat trip, go up the Sky Tower, visit Rangitoto Island, head to the spectacular Hukani Gulf Islands or see extinct volcanoes which have amazing views over the city.
This city is one of the more expensive places in New Zealand in terms of accommodation and general prices but if you like big cities Auckland will appeal.
From Auckland if you need an excuse to go out of the city you can catch the ferry to Waiheke Island which is a round trip of forty minutes from mainland Auckland.
Waiheke island is a beautiful destinations and famous for its various and numerous vineyards (more than twenty). You can walk around the Western half of the island and go swimming when the weather is good.
You might also like to go to one of the prestigious vineyards like Mudbrick Vineyard ("A must-see when visiting Auckland" says the New York Times). Expect an expensive glass of wine there but you'll probably agree with the American newspaper, it is a beautiful place!
This is a great way to spend an afternoon and you can easily get back to jump on one of the last ferries back to Auckland.
An expedition to the Coromandel Peninsula is recommended, you might want to aim to reach Cathedral Cove and stop for a night in Pauanui. On this route you will get to see a bit of countryside and the wonderful beaches of the East coast of New Zealand. Karekare is a west coast black sand beach very close to Piha which is a really beautiful place too. Everywhere you go in New Zealand you will experience stunning scenery, you'll see stunning landscapes within the one hour range drive from Auckland. Karekare is great for swimming and fishing.
In the North Island you can do so many things and there will be random beautiful scenic stops around every corner. Snells Beach and Scotts Point on the Mahurangi Harbour where you can walk to the beautiful and quiet Casnell Island Reserve is highly recommended if you are looking to get off the beaten track. If you love fishing the whole area is populated by fishes that each time you throw a line in, a fish will bite (all snappers).
The island of Rangitoto is another beautiful and scenic place that you will enjoy. But try to arrive early as you'll have to leave in the afternoon as the last ferry leaves the island at 3:30pm during the week and 4:30pm on weekends. Travelling in this country makes you wonder if there is an area of the New Zealand countryside that isn't beautiful!
Cape Reinga is almost the Northest point of New Zealand and symbolically a very important place in native Maori culture. It is also where the Tasman Sea and the pacific Ocean meet and locals will tell you the impact of the two tremendous forces created a visible vertical line in the sea.
This part is unfortunately not true, but the place is still full of charm. It can take a very long time to reach the Cape by car. You will need to stop a bit over midway Saturday at Paihia right next to the scenic Bay of Islands.
Be sure to book accommodation in advance as you'll find most places fully booked and "No Vacancy" signs welcoming you.
When visiting the Cape you might want to check out the impressive giant sand dunes at Te Paki and also discover the huge Ninety Mile Beach (56 miles in fact and approximatively 90 kilometres, which is still massive). This is a great place to stop for photos and a swim. Further south, Wellington is a great stop on the way to the South Island, it have a vibrant coffee scene and there are lots of great cafes and restaurants.
A popular stop off on any New Zealand itinerary, Rotorua is located in the North Island of New Zealand. This city has a really really strong smell due to the thermal hotspings. You will soon get used to the sulpher smell though and we recommend relaxing in a hot spa and getting pictures close to the misty hot springs. Don't touch the water thought its literally boiling!
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and has the parliament and also a great cable car ride with views over the city.
The South Island of New Zealand is famous for its mountains, lakes and glaciers and a very popular with international visitors. There are lots of sights, stunning scenery, amazing cities and some of the best ski slopes in the world here.
Here is where to see in the South Island:
Christchurch is a very relaxed back city, you could watch a local rugby game, visit the museum or go shopping. There is also a beach not too far from the city centre.
One of the most popular destinations with international visitors and a really lively city. You can take part in adventure sports, admire the spectacular views or just party the night away.
From Wanaka you can travel South to the more touristy and bigger, but just as scenic, neighbor town Queenstown, right by Lake Wakatipu. On arrival you can get a good idea of the place which is such a spectacular location. Both cities are extremely busy during the heart of the ski season and both are a lot of fun with lots of bars, cafes and places to eat.
We recommend taking the Tranzalpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth through the New Zealand's Alps which is truely spectacular and a good introduction to the South Island.
Wanaka is a popular stop off near Queenstown with mountains, scenery, skiing and a nice atmosphere. Wanaka is an extremely charming small town right by the beautiful homonymously named Lake Wanaka where the visitor knows at once that time will take another value.
In Wasnaka you can go skiing or snowboarding at nearby Cardrona mountain range for one full day or just go walking around the city and its immediate surroundings. The hours, even the minutes spent in such a great location indeed really are precious!
Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand because of its Scottish heritage, Dunedin is a city that has well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture as well as one-of-a-kind wildlife habitats. The rarest penguins in the world are nearby as is the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world. The Larnach Castle is the only castle in New Zealand and is perched on a hill overlooking the Otago Harbour. Dunedin also has Cadbury World a chocolate factory with chocolate shop.
There is no end to the activities in this part of South Island. Thrill seekers will be happy to never leave with bungy jumping, white water rafting, surfing and skiing all on the same day. The highest peak in the country, Aoraki Mount Cook as well as Arthur’s Pass National Park, both have excellent hiking activities. For a relaxing meal in a first class restaurant, visitors go to Christchurch - the Garden City. The buildings in the centre of the city were partially destroyed in an earthquake in 2011, but the welcoming locals and excellent city vibe has not been touched.
The home of New Zealand’s famous Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough is on the northern tip of South Island. There are over 40 vineyards to visit. Visitors can also explore the Marlborough Sounds by kayak, charter cruises or luxury yacht.
Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier and walk over its impressive glacier or if you in search of adventure you can also go sky diving.
Enjoy breathtaking scenery in Fiordland, visitors can sail through the steep mountains in chartered boats or kayaks or hike along the trails among the thousands of waterfalls or, best of all, fly over the granite peaks and dark, deep water.
Waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into the deep water and dolphins are incredible to see for kayakers. Fiordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and includes Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling called the eighth wonder of the world.
Hiking is the best way to see more of the scenery and the area has three of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Hikers can go to Sutherland Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in the country.
There are two fiords in New Zealand - Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound which are accessible by land in this part of the island and its recommended to see both of them. Both places are not easy to access unless on an organised tour, the splendid drive to Milford is quite long and icy during winter and further South, in order to go to Doubtful Sound, you even have to cross a lake first (beautiful Lake Manapouri).
As the days are much shorter during winter and the number of visitors less important, there are even less boats doing the visits and the overnight cruises are cancelled until the better months. The main cruise company Real Journeys runs services on Milford Sound.
Try to catch the special deals which are often offered by the cruise / travel companies. Doubtful and Milford Sounds are quite distant from each other and very different. Seeing both if possible is really a treat but please note in winter bad weather conditions can mean no departures are available.
Doubtful Sound is the longest of the only two fiords and it will leave you awestruck. You'll be able to get spectacular photos in this beautiful area.
Everything you will have heard about how scenic New Zealand is will end up being true and you really have to experience this country for yourself.