For many travelers, New Zealand is both a dream destination and a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. If you’re planning your first trip to New Zealand, or if you’re planning a return trip to see more of this beautiful and wild country, you may want to know which places in New Zealand are at the top of the must-see list.
Auckland, New Zealand
No matter how long you're traveling for, one thing is for certain; you'll never run out of places to see in New Zealand.
12 Best Places to Go in New Zealand 2020 Updated
No list of the top places in New Zealand would be complete without Queenstown
On New Zealand’s South Island is Queenstown, a destination known as the dream spot for those in search of adrenaline and adventure. Surrounded by the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, and right on the banks of deep-blue Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is also an incredibly beautiful spot
Queenstown, New Zealand
In addition to the adventure sports, Queenstown offers all the creature comforts, with first-class hotels, spas, restaurants, galleries, and shops. It's also a great base for sightseeing trips to the Central Otago region, where visitors can explore gold-mining towns and the Middle Earth scenery from the popular Lord of the Rings movies
2. 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.
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Whether you want to hike along the coastal path, go kayaking in search of seals and dolphins, or just relax on the sand, this incredible beauty spot is not to be missed.
3. Tongariro National Park
The first national park of New Zealand, Tongariro is known for its surprises and extremes, in the center of the North Island and just a few kilometers from glittering Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, lies Tongariro National Park. A dual World Heritage Site due to its spectacular volcanic features and its importance to the Maori culture, the volcanic peaks of Tongariro
Walking on the Moon, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
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
Trail walk, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
For any hiking enthusiasts, the Tongariro Crossing is a must-do during the spring and summer months! In winter, strap on your skis or grab your snowboard because this is a great place for winter sports. Throughout the year you can also test your luck with some of the water sports on offers like stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, rafting and canoeing
4. Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, naturally illuminated by thousands of glowworms, are among the most unique places to go in New Zealand—and a visit to the caves is one experience you’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate anywhere else. You can take a boat ride through the caves to learn about the history and science behind the phenomenon
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
If you really want to put your body to the test, then try black water rafting, where you crawl, swim and float through caves on a rubber tube
5. Franz Josef Glacier
Up, up and above! Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers on the planet, meaning that you can actually walk up to the glacier and even through the glacier valley itself. Guided tours give you a closer look at the expanding glaciers, and you can relax after a day of hiking by soaking in the incredible glacier hot pools. If you want a more luxurious enjoyment, then you can even opt for a private pool as well.
6. White Island
If you want to try something more thrilling on your trip then White Island is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand. Part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, White Island (or Whakaari) is one of New Zealand’s most iconic, active, volcanoes that you can visit by boat. Just off the east coast of North Island, White Island is a fascinating place to visit; you can even see volcanologists monitoring the volcano’s activity.
White Island, Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand
For a totally extra unique experience, you can also scuba dive in the waters surrounding the volcano to see what’s going on beneath the surface.
7. Napier, Hawke's Bay
In the sunny region of Hawke's Bay, Napier is famous for its gourmet food and Art Deco architecture. After a powerful earthquake destroyed the town in 1931, it was rebuilt in the Spanish Mission style and Art Deco design for which Miami Beach is also famous. Today, fun things for visitors to do include taking a self-guided tour to view these buildings, some of which are embellished with Maori motifs, or spending time at Napier Beach.
Napier is New Zealand’s Art Deco capital and has the second largest Art Deco population in the world. In this photo, we see one of the many colorful alleyways that fill this beautiful city
Along the Marine Parade seafront promenade lies the town's famous statue from Maori mythology, called Pania of the Reef. Napier is also a haven for foodies. Gourmet restaurants here specialize in using fresh produce from the region, and the town plays host to popular farmers' markets. Nearby attractions include hiking trails and the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers
8. Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley - The Hidden Gem
If you’re passing through Rotorua on your travels, you cannot miss the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. It’s home to Pohutu, the biggest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, as well as boiling mood pools.
Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, on the edge of Rotorua, NZ
Also, you can also drop in to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute for a taste of Maori culture, including a welcome ceremony complete with traditional song and dance.
It really is one of the best things to do in New Zealand
9. Stewart Island
Stewart Island is the third-largest island of New Zealand, and it is found even further south than South Island. Most of the island is forested and undeveloped with over 80 percent of the island is set aside as the Rakiura National Park, giving you the chance to explore the wild side of New Zealand. Most of the pastimes on Stewart Island have to do with the outdoors, including hiking, camping, and birdwatching.
Ship at sea, Stewart Island, New Zealand
One of the most popular treks on Stewart Island is the Northwest Circuit, which can take several days to complete for even the fittest hikers. However, the trek offers spectacular views and access to amazing wildlife
10. Spot the quaint, Hobbiton
Trust me, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, this is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
Truth be told, any Lord of the Rings fan will have fantasized about walking around The Shire, and if you’re road-tripping around New Zealand, you can! Take a break from the road in the quaintest location in Middle Earth; you can even stop in at The Green Dragon Inn for a beer.
Even if you’re not a Tolkien fan, this trip has great novelty value that is surprisingly picturesque and quaint.
Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand
11. Great Barrier Island
One of the best places to visit in New Zealand that not many people make the effort to reach, but the trip is so rewarding. A 4-hour ferry ride or a 30-minute flight from Auckland will see you frolicking on white sandy beaches, jumping off secret waterfalls, and chilling in natural hot springs hiding in the bush! Often you will find yourself alone while exploring this epic island. To blend in with the locals, don’t bother wearing any footwear and say hello to everyone you see!
Great Barrier Reef
This beautiful and largely untouched part of the world has become the 3rd Dark Sky Sanctuary on Earth, meaning that visitors can understand the night sky with access to telescopes and local guides to explain the constellations.
Great Barrier Island
If you need a bit of pampering, the island is blessed with natural hot springs. Yep, you can roast at Kaitoke Hot Springs and walk along its nearby hiking trail. This free day spa is a must-do!
12. Muriwai Beach, Auckland
In just a 40-minute drive from Auckland’s city center, you’ll find yourself on the west coast. Massive black sand dunes, amazing surf, and killer sunsets make this one of the best places to visit in New Zealand’s biggest city. Visit on a stormy day and see why it’s earned its nickname of the Wild West Coast. Don’t forget to check out the gannet colony that overlooks two stunning bays and has hundreds of huge birds flying right over your head! Here you can hire blokarts and bikes and ride around the seaside paths, or even test out the waves at the local surf school. The Muriwai Beach Loop trail takes you right through the sand dunes, across the beach and through a walkway along the Coast Road (it takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete).
Muriwai, New Zealand
The hostels in Auckland perfectly reflect the city’s laid back vibe. Oaklands Lodge is a great bet, with a city location, but a homely and chill feel. They offer family dinners, movie nights, and quiz nights regularly, so the fun times are just waiting for you!
Do you think you’re ready for what New Zealand has to offer? What place on this list would you be most excited to visit? Let us know in the comments!