New Zealand is an island nation located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and geographically isolated from other parts of the Earth; therefore, this country has its distinctive nature and culture which attracts a large number of tourists around the world to come exploring. These features are varied in different areas of the country, so each city of New Zealand has its own specific attractions. Thus, this article is going to introduce to you the best cities to visit in New Zealand along with their remarkable characters to add to your upcoming travel list.
The Best Cities to Visit In New Zealand
Even though it is not the capital of New Zealand, Auckland is the largest and most populous city of the island nation. And because the country’s main international airport is located in this city, Auckland is the first city to land-on on almost all of the tourists who come to New Zealand.
Auckland is known as “the City of Sails”. There are sparkling harbors and bays decorating with glistering white sails and ferries in twin harbors Waitemata and Manukau. And it is such a deficiency if I don’t mention the beauty of Auckland beaches, from idyllic white-sand beaches to wild black-sand ones. The city offers an urban environment, mountains with volcanoes, hiking trails, and dozens of enchanting resort islands.
New Zealand, Auckland
You could also experience a fest of the cultural diversity of the city as Auckland is a multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts, and culture of the country. I would like to recommend New Zealand Maritime Museum and Toi o Tamaki Art Gallery for those who are into historic and cultural exploration. And there are Sky Tower, casinos, market areas for vibrant people. Especially Auckland possesses a diverse culinary scene inspired by cuisine styles all over the world, Europe, the Mediterranean, Polynesia, Japan, and Thailand.
Overall, Auckland is the largest and most diverse city of New Zealand and is able to fascinate all visitor groups’ interests. Auckland is the first place to be visited in New Zealand.
#2 Wellington - The capital
Not only is the capital of New Zealand, but Wellington is also considered to be "the coolest little capital in the world" and the fourth-best city in the world to visit by Lonely Planet. The capital contains all the best infrastructures without sprawl, traffic-jam or pollution, as well as has a mild sea climate in the combination of mountains and seas. To enjoy the full beautiful picture of Wellington, riding a cable car is a great choice in which you could watch a stunning view of mountains, hills, and rivers, as well as the city, construct.
The early morning sun hitting the CBD and waterfront of Wellington, New Zealand
What I find the most amazing about this city is that it is also known as the culinary capital of New Zealand. Wellington is not only the master of casual dining, with plenty of great restaurants, night markets, and food trucks, but also famous for its award-winning restaurants. World-class craft beer and strong coffee are the best specialties that you should not miss when exploring this city.
Mount Victoria, New Zealand, Wellington
Wellington city has a lively cultural dimension with lots of museums, art galleries, and theatre shows. Among these cultural collections, New Zealand’s National Museum is the most prominent place as it is one of the best interactive museums in the world. Or you could pay a visit to Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop and the Weta Cave - the main scenes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy.
As a compact city with a powerful mix of culture, history, nature, and cuisine, Wellington is one of the best cities to visit when coming to New Zealand.
#3 Christchurch - The oldest city
Set against the majestic backdrops of both alps and ocean, Christchurch is a unique destination with majestic and poetic landscapes from sky-piercing mountains and pristine glacial lakes to lush vineyards and wild coastlines generously blessed by nature.
Visiting Christchurch, you might find yourself lost in the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve stargazing at the spectacularly clear skies and bright stars. Or you could board on a boat floating in Kaikōura to watch sperm whales, orcas, and dolphins passing by. Walking through the Hooker Valley Track between Mount Cook National Park is also a good choice for nature observing people.
Sunset over the city, Christchurch, New Zealand
However, I personally think that the best thing in Christchurch is to relax in natural hot pools with the rising steam and local wine in the Hanmer Springs. This place contains up to 22 outdoor thermal pools with a wide range of indulgent spa therapies. And there is also Conical Thrill - the largest aquatic thrill ride in New Zealand, including adventure activities such as bungy jumping, jet boating, hydro slides, and or go skiing in winter.
Christchurch is a haven for tourists who are after astonishing scenery and fascinating adventures.
#4 Queenstown - The crown city
Queenstown is one of the most popular holiday cities in New Zealand. Queenstown is the heart of adventure, endless fun, and pounding adrenaline. There is a broad assortment of sports and outdoor activities: skiing and snowboarding, bungy jumping, sky-diving, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking, river rafting, heli-biking, so many exciting things to do in this wonderful city. You might need to take note of Treble Cone, Cardona, Millbrook resorts, Kawarau Bungy center, and especially Hydro Attack center as the most dramatic playground in Queenstown.
Queenstown, New Zealand
In the past, it is the gold prospectors - who were captivated by the magnificent natural landscapes in the surroundings - that crowned this city the name Queenstown. In this town of Queen, the beauty of nature lies in the changing colors of seasons: the crisp blue sky in winter, vivid blooming flowers on white snow background in spring, glittering sunshine and long twilights in summer, and a burst of brilliant red and gold of deciduous trees and vineyard in autumn. You could go to Gibbston Valley Vineyards, Glenorchy, and Arrowtown, or ride a cable up the Bob Mount, join the TSS Earnslaw Cruise in Wakatipu Lake to take the best photos of the city’s charm. And if you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings film, you might recognize many locations of Middle‑earth here.
Parasailing at Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is definitely one of the must-go cities in New Zealand for those who love to explore and adventure.
#5 Rotorua - The sulfur city
Located within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is famous for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers, clouds of steam, and natural hot springs, which emit an amount of sulfur gas - the source of the nickname “the sulfur city”. In team up with surrounding mountains, rivers, and native forests, Rotorua has built a raft of attractions and is providing a wide selection of experiences for everyone.
Views or Lake Rotorua, New Zealand from the top of Skyline Rotorua.
Most of the visitors come to Rotorua for its well-known natural hot streams and luxury wellness & spa services. You should not miss the most unique and active geothermal reserve and mud spa in New Zealand - the Hell’s Gate. This is a live myth land possessing the power of healing via its geothermal steams and boiling muds, and offering you the most mysterious and strangest experiences. Besides, Rotorua also has many incredible amusement and wildlife parks for groups with children, especially the animal conservation park Rainbow Springs to meet with endangered species like the Tuatara and Kiwi.
Rotorua in New Zealand
Remarkably, Rotorua is considered to be the best place in New Zealand to experience Māori culture as this is a hub of ‘Māoridom’. You could travel to Māori villages in the areas to discover the dramatic performances of singing, dancing, and haka, or to taste a hangi feast cooked in the steaming ground. The Maori people have huge hospitality for all the comers
#6 Dunedin - the Edinburgh of New Zealand
Known as the second Edinburgh, Dunedin still preserves Victorian and Edwardian heritage. There are still many carefully conserved buildings that have become famous attractions, the Municipal Chambers, Dunedin Railway Station, or Larnach Castle, Olveston Historic Home, and Dunedin Chinese Garden for example. The old architectures joining with impressive hills and along picturesque harbor make Dunedin city look like a beautiful painting.
Dunedin, New Zealand
Dunedin is also a rare animal reserve, especially for endangered wild birds, in New Zealand as well as the globe. The Royal Albatross Center, located at the foot of Taiaroa Head, is the only place in the world where you can see the Royal Northern Albatross in their natural habitat. In addition, you can also catch sight of rare species of penguins such as little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins, even fur seals, and sea lions. Or, 20 kilometers north away from Dunedin center, you can pay a visit to Orokonui Ecological Reserve to view Tuatara lizards, Otago Skinks, and 17 species of native birds, including kiwi.
Dunedin is the best city in New Zealand for those who love observing nature and historic culture
#7 Nelson Tasman - The city of Arts
Nelson Tasman, located in the north-west of South Island, is the sunniest region in New Zealand and also has geographic landscapes that split from long golden beaches to pristine mountains. Maybe Nelson Tasman generations were inspired so much by these features that this land gave birth to numerous talented artists in every field from painters, sculptors, photographers, to glass artists and fashion designers.
Taken from above a short distance from where I grew up in Nelson, New Zealand. In the distance is the start of the famous ‘Boulder Bank’, the longest of its kind.
Hoglund Art Glass of Nelson Tasman is internationally famous for its strong, simple lines of classic Scandinavian glassware. You could visit Hoglund Art Glass Studio & Gallery to watch the artist's craft glass masterpieces through our glass blowing demonstrations. Besides, Nelson also includes several unique art galleries that you might find interested in, for examples, taking a tour to the World of Wearable Art & Nelson Classic Cars Museum for the most innovated and wonderful designs, or heading to the Craig Potton Gallery & Store where New Zealand’s best-known landscape photographer displays his work on the relationship between artistic beauty and natural wilderness.
Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, New Zealand
If you have a trip to Nelson Tasman, you should not forget to visit the three oldest cultural establishments - the Suter Art Gallery, the Theatre Royal, and the Nelson Centre of Musical Arts. And on weekends, go to a local market where a large volume of local artisan’s works are on sale.
In the evening, you could take a stroll on sands of Golden Bay in the light sunshine, or tasting wine from the local vineyards while dining on the famous Nelson Bay scallops.
Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson Tasman is the best city in New Zealand for the art-lovers and romantic ones.
These cities above are the best cities to visit in New Zealand that I strongly recommend for those who have the intention to travel to this island nation. I wish you to have a great selection and plan for your trip to New Zealand after reading this article.
Thank you and enjoy it!