Best Places to Visit in New Zealand: Where to Go and What to See!

New Zealand is an amazing place to visit, with two main islands: North Island and South Island. It’s filled with stunning landscapes, beautiful scenery, and a mix of lakes, mountains, and lush greenery that you have to see to believe.

If you love adventure sports or just want to give them a try, New Zealand is the perfect destination. You can do all sorts of outdoor activities here, like bungee jumping, mountain climbing, skydiving, paragliding, mountain biking, kayaking, canyoning, parachuting, caving, zip-lining, and much more. There are endless options for thrilling experiences in this far-off land.

If you’re into adventure sports, Queenstown is the place to be. It’s nestled among mountains and lakes, providing a stunning backdrop for your adventures. And if you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, you can explore the breathtaking Fiordland, which served as the inspiration for Middle Earth (you can even visit The Shire!).

For a taste of Maori culture, Rotorua is the spot to go. And if you find yourself missing city life, head over to sunny Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the best places to visit in New Zealand.

Best Places to Visit in New Zealand – At a Glance

  1. Queenstown: Renowned for adventure sports, surrounded by stunning mountain and lake scenery.
  2. Auckland: New Zealand’s largest city, home to the iconic Sky Tower, known for its vibrant urban life, beautiful harbors, and rich Māori culture.
  3. Wellington: A beautiful coastal city surrounded by green hills and a sparkling harbor, rich in culture and creativity, and has amazing food.
  4. Christchurch: Known for its English heritage, Avon River boating, and post-earthquake rejuvenation, with beautiful parks and gardens.
  5. Rotorua: Famous for hot springs and a rich Maori culture, offering a unique blend of geothermal wonders and traditional Maori experiences.
  6. Milford Sound / Piopiotahi: A stunning fjord often referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, known for towering cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and unspoiled natural beauty.
  7. Dunedin: A historic city with Scottish roots, often referred to as the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand, home to beautiful architecture and wildlife, including penguins.
  8. Bay of Islands: Famous for its stunning natural beauty, including pristine beaches, turquoise waters, over 140 scenic islands, and a rich Māori heritage.
  9. Wānaka: Famous for hikes such as Roy’s Peak and Diamond Lake Walk, the beautiful Wanaka Lake, and surrounding mountains, as well as amazing restaurants and bars.
  10. Nelson: Famous for its beautiful golden sand beaches, Founder’s Park to enjoy delicious local food, an artistic culture, and a sunny climate.
  11. Fiordland National Park: Known for its stunning fjords and unspoiled wilderness, a haven for adventure seekers, one of the world’s best places for stargazing.
  12. Waitomo Glowworm Caves: Famous for its mesmerizing illumination by thousands of tiny, bioluminescent glowworms, a unique natural phenomenon that creates a starry-sky effect on the cave ceilings, a sight that’s truly magical.

Best Places to Visit in New Zealand – Let’s Explore!

1. Queenstown

If you want an amazing experience like no other, start your journey in Queenstown. Queenstown is a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand’s South Island, surrounded by the stunning Southern Alps.

It’s well-known for exciting adventure sports and offers a great starting point for exploring nearby vineyards and historic mining towns.

You can try bungee jumping from the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge or go for thrilling jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers. In the winter, it becomes a paradise for skiers with access to the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

Sounds like the adventure you are looking for? Explore our guide on top things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand, and let your extraordinary journey begin!

Ready to experience Queenstown’s unique blend of adventure and natural beauty? Explore our guide on top things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand, and let your extraordinary journey begin!

2. Auckland

Auckland, often called the “City of Sails,” is a lively city in New Zealand. It’s famous for its culture, beautiful scenery, and great food.

You can visit the Sky Tower for amazing city views and check out Viaduct Harbour, where you’ll find fancy yachts and cool bars and cafes by the water.

Auckland Domain, which is the city’s oldest park, surrounds an old volcano and has a peaceful place called Wintergardens. It’s like a quiet oasis in the middle of the city.

If you want to go to the beach, you can go to Mission Bay Beach near downtown Auckland. It has a nice walkway by the sea and sandy shores for a relaxing time.

For a peek into New Zealand’s history, there’s the Auckland Museum in Auckland Domain. It has lots of cool things from the Maori and Pacific Islands that teach you about the country’s culture.

Auckland has something for everyone, whether you want to have an adventure, experience different cultures, or just enjoy tasty food with a great view.

Are you excited to begin your Auckland adventure? You can start your extraordinary journey by exploring our guide to the best things to do in Auckland, New Zealand.

3. Wellington

Wellington, a small city in New Zealand, is located by the sea in the southern part of the North Island. It’s a lovely place surrounded by green hills and a sparkling harbor. Despite its size, Wellington is bursting with culture and creativity.

This city is both compact and packed with interesting things to do. You can explore world-class museums, enjoy delicious coffee, and savor a wide variety of foods.

It’s a city that perfectly balances the excitement of urban life with the calm beauty of nature. Wellington has a beautiful waterfront walkway, sandy beaches, a busy harbor, and charming houses on the hills.

If you start your adventure at Lambton Quay, you can take a ride on the famous red Wellington Cable Car, which will lead you to the lush Wellington Botanic Gardens.

Just keep in mind, it’s called “Windy Wellington” because strong winds from the Cook Strait often blow through the city.

4. Christchurch

Christchurch, known for its English heritage, sits on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The city’s center features the Avon River, where you can take a peaceful punt ride on flat-bottomed boats.

Even though Christchurch was severely damaged by a series of massive earthquakes between 2010 and 2011, the city has made a remarkable comeback. You can see signs of this rebirth all around, with new buildings and bustling shopping centers.

One of the city’s top attractions is the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Here, you can enjoy leisurely walks along charming paths, visit conservatories, and admire lovely horticultural displays. The gardens are also home to some of New Zealand’s oldest, tallest, and largest trees.

Along the riverbanks, you’ll find cycling paths, the green expanse of Hagley Park, and the delightful Christchurch Botanic Gardens. For a complete experience of both modern and traditional Christchurch, hop on the gondola for a scenic ride up Mt. Cavendish via a cable car.

5. Rotorua

Rotorua is a beautiful town in New Zealand’s North Island, located by a lake with the same name. It’s famous for its hot springs and the Maori culture. If you want to learn about Maori traditions, you can visit a traditional Maori village like Tamaki.

But that’s not all – Rotorua is also known for its hot spring attractions. You can see bubbling mud pools, geysers shooting out the hot water, and steamy rivers. And if you want, you can take a nice, relaxing soak in a mud bath.

One special place in Rotorua is Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Valley. There, you can see mud pools and a tall geyser that shoots water high into the air many times each day.

You can also visit a real Maori village and a school where people learn how to do traditional Maori wood carving and weaving. It’s a great place to experience the Maori culture.

6. Milford Sound / Piopiotahi

Milford Sound is like a natural wonderland in New Zealand, often called the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’ It’s surrounded by stunning glaciers, making it one of the best places to visit in New Zealand.

Found in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island, Milford Sound is truly a hidden gem, and you’re in for a treat.

The best way to explore this magical place? Hop on a boat tour! These tours let you see beautiful waterfalls and fascinating wildlife. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can even go kayaking.

And here’s the exciting part: If you’ve ever wondered what’s under the water, you can’t miss the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory. It’s the only one in New Zealand, and you can go 30 feet underwater to see everything around you.

But the adventure doesn’t stop there! Milford Sound is also a fantastic place for hiking. Imagine a four-day hike covering about 53 kilometers through some of the most breathtaking valleys. It’s the perfect spot for a weekend camping trip with friends.

7. Dunedin

Dunedin, known as the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand, is a city that celebrates its history, stunning natural beauty, and remarkable wildlife.

Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, Dunedin has something for everyone. The Otago Peninsula boasts rugged coastlines and diverse wildlife, making it a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

You can spot rare creatures like yellow-eyed penguins, sea lions, and mainland albatross colonies in their natural habitats.

Dunedin’s architectural charm shines through its well-preserved historic buildings, including the iconic Dunedin Railway Station. It’s often called the “Edinburgh of the South” for its architectural resemblance to the Scottish city.

The city also buzzes with an arts and culture scene, featuring galleries, theaters, and museums. The presence of New Zealand’s oldest university, the University of Otago, adds youthful energy to the city’s cultural tapestry.

Foodies will love Dunedin’s diverse culinary scene, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Seafood lovers can savor delicious catches, and there’s a selection of craft beers from local breweries to enjoy.

Dunedin is where you’ll find a perfect blend of nature, culture, and delectable cuisine for an unforgettable experience.

8. Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is famous for its stunning natural beauty, with more than 140 beautiful islands, clear blue waters, and lush green landscapes that you won’t find anywhere else on the coast.

If you love water sports, this is the perfect place for you. You can go sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, or take a boat ride to see the clean waters, lots of sea animals, and the famous Hole in the Rock.

The Bay of Islands is a crucial part of New Zealand’s history,  One place you shouldn’t miss is Waitangi, where they signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s very first document.

You can also discover Māori culture in this area. You can watch traditional Māori ceremonies, explore their art, and learn about their history at local meeting places known as marae.

The Bay of Islands played a very important role in New Zealand’s history, and it’s often called the “Cradle of the Nation.” One place you shouldn’t miss is Waitangi, where they signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s very first document.

It’s also a fascinating spot to experience the Māori culture. You can see traditional Māori ceremonies, admire their art, and discover their history at local meeting places called marae.

For those who love adventure, you can do exciting things like skydiving, parasailing, and exploring the amazing Kawiti Glowworm Caves.

The Bay of Islands is also a food lover’s dream. You can enjoy delicious seafood, fresh local produce, and wine from nearby vineyards.

The people here are known for their friendly and welcoming nature, making your visit to the Bay of Islands even more enjoyable.

9. Wānaka

Nestled in the breathtaking Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island, Wanaka is not your average resort town—it’s a decision you’ll cherish.

Tucked away in the stunning Southern Alps, Wanaka offers picturesque views of snow-capped mountains that will leave you in awe.

The town is surrounded by some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking landscapes. The clear waters of Lake Wanaka perfectly reflect the magnificent peaks of the Southern Alps, creating a truly postcard-worthy setting.

This place is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy a variety of activities, from hiking and mountain biking to fishing and water sports on the lake. And don’t forget about the nearby Mount Aspiring National Park, a playground for hikers and nature lovers.

Wanaka is also an adventure seeker’s haven. You can experience the thrill of skydiving, and paragliding, or take a scenic flight over the Southern Alps for a memory you’ll cherish.

For a different kind of adventure, check out Puzzling World, a unique attraction filled with optical illusions, mazes, and brain-teasing puzzles that will entertain your mind for hours.

Wanaka has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. As you explore its streets, you’ll come across art galleries, charming boutique shops, and cozy restaurants and cafes serving up local delights.

No matter when you visit, Wanaka has something to offer. In the warmer months, you can dive into outdoor activities, and when winter comes, it becomes a gateway to nearby ski resorts. So, be prepared for a memorable experience, regardless of the season.

10. Nelson

Up at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, you’ll find Nelson, a place that’s famous for getting more sunshine than anywhere else in the country.

Nelson is all about beautiful golden sand beaches like Tahunanui and Kaiteriteri. The sunny weather here is perfect for sunbathing and all sorts of water activities.

This area is also big on local farming and winemaking. Founder’s Park in the city is a great place to enjoy locally sourced food while soaking up the sun.

Nelson is well-known for its craft beer and wineries, so be sure to take a tasting tour and try the fantastic local beer, wine, and delicious artisanal food.

Art lovers will be right at home in Nelson, with lots of galleries, studios, and public art installations to explore.

Not far away, you’ve got the Abel Tasman National Park, famous for its coastal trails, pristine beaches, and lush forests, making it a haven for hikers, kayakers, and nature enthusiasts.

Nelson offers a wide range of outdoor activities, whether you’re into hiking, mountain biking, or sailing, and the welcoming locals will make you feel right at home in this lovely part of New Zealand.

11. Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park is a natural wonderland, calling to explorers with its rugged beauty and unspoiled wilderness.

Situated in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island, this park is home to world-famous fjords, called sounds here, including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

These fjords are known for their towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and serene waters, creating a landscape of breathtaking grandeur.

The park offers an extensive network of trails, including the well-known Milford Track and Routeburn Track, providing opportunities for hikers and nature lovers to immerse themselves in this pristine wilderness.

The untouched beauty of the rainforests, lakes, and mountains is simply breathtaking, making it a paradise for those seeking a deep connection with nature.

Near Fiordland National Park, you’ll find sanctuaries for native New Zealand wildlife, providing a chance to encounter seals, dolphins, penguins, and even the rare flightless takahe while exploring the region.

This park is officially designated as a Dark Sky Reserve, making it one of the world’s best places for stargazing. The clear night skies provide a mesmerizing view of the stars and galaxies.

For adventure enthusiasts, Fiordland National Park offers kayaking, scenic flights, and underwater explorations to experience its natural wonders from different perspectives.

Fiordland National Park destination for nature enthusiasts, hikers, adventure seekers, and anyone seeking a profound connection with the wild beauty of New Zealand.

12. Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Image Credits: @moonmountainman (Instagram)

Visiting the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand is a truly unique and enchanting experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

The Waitomo Caves are famous for their mesmerizing illumination by thousands of tiny, bioluminescent glowworms. This unique natural phenomenon creates a mesmerizing, starry-sky effect on the cave ceilings, a sight that’s truly magical.

Visitors can explore the caves on guided boat tours, drifting silently along the subterranean river beneath the illuminated glowworms. It’s an otherworldly experience, as if you’re navigating through a galaxy of living stars.

Beyond the glowworms, the Waitomo Caves showcase impressive limestone formations, including stalactites and stalagmites, formed over millions of years. The intricate, cavernous architecture is a geological marvel.

These caves hold cultural significance for the local Māori people, and guided tours often include insights into their history, legends, and traditions, offering a holistic experience.

These caves are not only a visual delight but also an opportunity to learn about bioluminescence and cave geology in a safe and accessible environment, making it suitable for all ages.

The unique natural wonder of the glowworms, combined with the geological beauty and cultural context, makes it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a truly extraordinary experience.

Bonjour! I'm Parv, and I'm on a mission to discover the world's most awe-inspiring destinations. With my trusty backpack and my insatiable wanderlust, I've trekked through countless countries and discovered some of the most incredible hidden gems on earth.

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