The remarkable diversity of New Zealand ensures everyone can find activities suited to their personal preferences. Adventure lovers can take advantage of this region’s impressive topography and partake in hiking, skydiving, mountain biking, water rafting, and many other adrenaline-boosting activities.
Others can find calm in picturesque landscapes, explore the rich countryside and immerse themselves in small cities filled with incredible cultural heritage and numerous hospitable cafes and restaurants.
If you want to explore the wonders of this country but need help deciding what places to visit, check out our travel guide to top New Zealand tourist destinations to get some ideas.
New Zealand 101
Before you visit this fantastic country, familiarize yourself with some crucial facts about it to make to most out of your trip:
- The official currency is the New Zealand dollar. Managing your money while abroad can be a tricky task, so make sure to learn more about New Zealand’s currency and ensure the safety of your financial resources while you travel and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- New Zealand is a small southwestern Pacific Ocean country with a population of about five million people.
- It consists of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, and many smaller ones.
- New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, is located on the North Island, with an urban population of about 200,000 residents.
- The country has a temperate climate with lots of rain and snow in winter. The rich scenery of this land includes natural wonders such as geysers, volcanoes, and fjords.
- Due to its secluded location, New Zealand is home to many unusual wildlife animals only found there, such as kiwi birds and tuatara lizards. Many consider the Kiwi bird a trademark of this country, and New Zealanders colloquially refer to themselves as Kiwis.
- Most of the country’s residents come from European ethnic backgrounds.
- Maori culture is alive and vibrant in New Zealand; visitors can experience it through traditional performances, arts and crafts, food, and more.
Top 10 Tourist Attractions in New Zealand
Now that we covered the basics, it’s time to move on to the attractions!
Kaikoura is a small coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand. It is well known for its natural environment, marine life, and native bird species. Kaikoura has a rich history and was once home to some of the world’s largest whaling stations.
The town’s coastline has been shaped by the forces of nature over thousands of years, with many coves, bays, and beaches to explore.
This lovely town is filled with activities to keep you occupied. Go on a cruise or a scuba dive to spot whales, dolphins, and other exotic mammal species inhabiting Kaikoura’s vibrantly blue waters.
2. Glacier Country, Westland National Park
Glacier Country is located on the Western Coast of South Island, and it is the prime attraction of the Westland National Park. Here, you’ll get the chance to see two of the most spectacular glaciers: Fox Glacier and Frank Joseph Glacier.
Frank Joseph Glacier is often described as the most accessible glacier in the world. You can walk up to it and even stroll through the glacier valley. Guided tours will give you a closer look at the expanding glaciers. You can also take helicopter tours to see this show-stopping wonder of nature from above. After an exhausting day of hiking, you can relax by bathing in the glacier-hot pools.
3. Hawk’s Bay
Countryside lovers relish exploring the beauties of the Hawk Bay area. This region is famous for having some of the world’s best vineyards and wines, with more than 200 vineyards, 70+ wineries, and 30+ cellar doors. You can walk the famous Wine Trails or bike through the vineyards.
The lovely coastal city of Napier resides in the heart of this amazing region. Napier is a charming town where you can wind down and blend with the locals. It is famous for art-deco-style buildings, classy restaurants, and atmospheric cafes. It also has several pristine beaches and beautiful aquariums to explore.
Rotorua is yet another delightful New Zealand town located in a volcanic zone. It is famous for its plentiful breathtaking hot springs and geysers and has been called “New Zealand’s most famous thermal city.”
A sizable Maori population inhabits this town, enriching it with its art, culture, and history. Tourists in Rotorua can explore the crater lake, natural mud pools, hot water pools, and thermal foot baths.
5. Tongariro National Park
The oldest national park in New Zealand, Tongariro is home to a diverse natural landscape. The volcanic activity has done wonders in this area, filling it with emerald lakes, smoking craters, and lava flops.
With many Maori religious sites also located within this park, this national park is often described as a great mix of nature and culture.
6. Mount Cook
Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, sitting in The Southern Alps, a mountain range that spans the entire west coast of the South Island. With many glaciers and alpine lakes enriching it, it truly is a sight to behold. The lengthy history of mountaineering activities at Mount Cook makes it the ideal location for courageous climbers.
Fun fact: This location was used to recreate Mount Caradhras in the first Lord of The Rings movie.
7. Milford Sound
Milford Sound is a fjord located on the southwest of South Island. It is most famous for its rich rainforests and two glorious waterfalls: Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. When it rains, the cascades of waterfalls multiply and produce a magnificent effect. You can explore the place by boat, kayaking, diving, or helicopter tour.
This fjord is also home to fur seal colonies, penguins, and dolphins. Tourists can visit the view of rare black coral and other marine life at the Underwater Observatory and Milford Discovery Centre. To discover the beautiful landscape of this region, boat cruises are also very popular.
8. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Geology nerds shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Majestic stalactites and stalagmites cover their inside walls. They are also home to galaxies of native fireflies that provide pleasant atmospheric lighting and make the whole place seem magical.
You can explore this place by taking walking tours or boat tours. Adventurous tourists can also try water rafting, repelling, and ziplining through the caves.
9. Coromandel Peninsula
This area was formerly known as the center of New Zealand’s gold-mining industry but is now famous as a tourist attraction. This North Island peninsula is renowned for its white and golden sand beaches and wondrous coastal scenery with forests in the background. Fun tourist activities include relaxing on the beaches, kayaking around the offshore islands, and skydiving.
With the small but picturesque city of Thames nearby, there are opportunities for visiting various galleries and art studios. At Hot Water Beach, visitors can dig their own pools from the springs under the sands and end a busy day of sightseeing with a relaxing, warm bath.
10. Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata
If you’re a huge Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fan, you don’t want to miss out on the town of Matamata, near which The Hobbiton movie set resides. You can emerge on a guided tour of 44 unique hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, Hobbiton Mill, the Double Arch Bridge, and the famous Party Tree.
Even if you’re not a Tolkien buff, you can still admire the beauty of the place. Visit atmospheric cafes scattered across town, or go lodging and enjoy the pastoral atmosphere, rustic scenery, and interesting farm tools.
Satisfy Your Wanderlust by Visiting These Memorable Places
Now that you’re aware of some of the best places to visit in New Zealand, you can explore planet Earth’s most intact, rich, and dreamy wilderness.
Have fun on your trip!