Few Destinations Boast so many Staggering Natural Wonders Packed in a Single Destination!
Nature crafted New Zealand with the surreal beauty of a movie set. Snow-capped peaks, sparkling coves, coastal glaciers, rain forests, fjords, and fish-filled rivers are some of the treasures travelers can explore. In Rotorua, one of the world’s largest geothermal areas, visitors can witness the powerful forces that birthed these landscapes in the bubbling mud ponds and hissing springs.
New Zealand is a breeze to travel around. Self-drive vacations are popular, and the country’s diverse accommodations range from quaint bed-and-breakfast inns and eco-lodges to some of the world’s most luxurious hotels.
The Most Amazing Attractions in New Zealand, for Nature Lovers!
Snuggled between the shores of shimmering Lake Wakatipu and the snowy peaks of the Remarkables, Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital and one of the country’s top destinations for international visitors. Bungee jumping, jet boating, white water rafting, paragliding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and downhill skiing are just some of the adrenaline-fueled things to do here, and visitors can explore the stunning alpine scenery on the excellent network of hiking trails.
Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, South Island
A World Heritage Site, Fiordland National Park protects some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Glaciers sculpted this dramatic landscape, carving the famous fjords of Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds. Visitors here can explore gushing cascades, offshore islands, virgin rain forests, vast lakes, and craggy mountain peaks.Not surprisingly, the park is a haven for hikers with some of the country’s best hiking, including the famous Milford Track.
Bay of Islands, North Island
A three-hour drive north of Auckland, the beautiful Bay of Islands is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country. More than 144 islands dot the glittering bay, making it a haven for sailing and yachting.Penguins, dolphins, whales, and marlin live in these fertile waters, and the region is a popular sport-fishing spot.
Visitors can sea kayak along the coast, hike the many island trails, bask in secluded coves, tour Cape Brett and the famous rock formation called Hole in the Rock, and explore subtropical forests where Kauri trees grow. The quaint towns in the area such as Russell, Opua, Paihia, and Kerikeri are great bases for exploring this scenic bay.
Rotorua, North Island
On the tumultuous Pacific Ring of Fire, Rotorua is one of the most active geothermal regions in the world. This is a land where the earth speaks. Boiling mud pools, hissing geysers, volcanic craters, and steaming thermal springs betray the forces that birthed much of New Zealand’s dramatic topography.
Visitors can take a walking tour of these geothermal wonders and soak in steaming mineral springs while visiting a variety of interesting attractions in order to learn about the region’s rich Maori history and culture.Adventure seekers will also find plenty of things to do. Sky-diving, luging, and mountain biking are some of the activities on offer. Trout fishing is also popular, and Rotorua is the gateway to the ski fields of Mt. Ruapehu.
Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park, North Island
One of the oldest national parks in the world, Tongariro is a land of dramatic beauty, with towering volcanoes, turquoise lakes, arid plateaus, alpine meadows, and hot springs. A highlight of the park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the most popular day walks in the country. Fun things to do here include camping, enjoying the park’s many walks and hiking trails, and spending time in its interesting visitor center.
Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, South Island
In the heart of the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s highest peaks rise above the alpine landscapes of Aoraki National Park, also called Mount Cook National Park. More than 40 percent of the park is covered in glaciers, and the country’s tallest mountain Aoraki/Mount Cook and longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier, lie within its borders, making this a top destination for mountaineering. Sir Edmund Hillary trained here for his legendary Mount Everest ascent.
Auckland, North Island
Blessed with two sparkling harbors, Auckland, the “City of Sails,” is New Zealand’s largest city. Blond- and black-sand beaches, rain forest hiking trails, picturesque coves, islands, and volcanoes surround the city, making it a perfect base for day trips and wilderness adventures.
Fun things to do in Auckland include enjoying its top-notch dining, sampling its vibrant arts scene, and a revamped waterfront district packed with boutiques and restaurants.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, South Island
Among the most accessible glaciers in the world, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are the main tourist attractions in spectacular Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Both of these rivers of ice flow from some of the highest peaks in the Southern Alps to near sea level, where the gentle coastal climate makes it easy for visitors to explore them on foot.
Guided hikes lead to the contorted frozen landscape of ice caves and pinnacles at the foot of the glaciers, plus a series of fascinating hot pools. For an aerial view, seaplanes and helicopters fly visitors to the top of these vast tongues of ice.
Coromandel Peninsula, North Island
Just across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland, the rugged Coromandel Peninsula seems a world away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Craggy mountains cloaked in the native forest form a spine along the peninsula, offering excellent opportunities for hiking and birding.
Other fun things to do for tourists include relaxing on the golden beaches, sea kayaking around the offshore islands, sky diving, and visiting the many galleries and art studios. At Hot Water Beach, a dip in the bubbling hot pools is a great way to end a busy day of sightseeing.
Kaikoura, South Island
Birders, wildlife enthusiasts, and seafood aficionados will love the charming coastal village of Kaikoura. Tucked between the Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean, Kaikoura offers excellent coastal hikes and popular whale-watching tours. In addition to sperm whales and humpbacks, passengers may spot fur seals, dolphins, and a wide variety of birds including the graceful albatross.
Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Winding along sparkling Tasman Bay, from Marahau to Separation Point, this scenic 51-kilometer hike lies in one of the sunniest regions of the South Island. Along the way, visitors can snorkel or kayak in secluded coves; enjoy tours that offer the chance to spot fur seals, dolphins, penguins, and a diverse range of birds; hike through cool forests, and enjoy panoramic views from the rugged coastal cliffs.
When to go and weather
High Season (Dec–Feb)
- Summer brings busy beaches, gorgeous tramping weather, festivals, and sporting events.
- Accommodation prices rise in most destinations – book ahead.
- The high season in ski towns is winter (June to August).
- Prime traveling time: fine weather, autumn colors, warm(ish) ocean, and long evenings.
- Queues are shorter and popular road-trip routes are clear, particularly after Easter.
- Spring (September to November) means the end of the snow season as well as cute lambs.
Low Season (May–Aug)
- Brilliant southern-hemisphere skiing and snowboarding from mid-June.
- Outside ski resorts, get accommodation deals and a seat in any restaurant.
- Warm-weather beach towns are maybe half asleep so reserve accommodation ahead.