Top attractions, activities and places to visit
Not sure where to start looking for places to visit in New Zealand.
Scroll through your holiday checklist of the top sights New Zealand offers. Find the ‘new’ as you plan New Zealand holiday. LIfetime memories guaranteed.
Consult our handy weather guide to New Zealand temperatures as part of our month by month guide to New Zealand activities.
# Scenic New Zealand – number one popular attraction
New Zealand’s scenery is diverse. Contrasting landscapes are the calling card that makes NZ a popular destination. Travel from sweeping mountains to gold sandy beaches in a day In one day travel through mountain passes on the Great West Coast Highway and walk layered pancake Punakaiki rocks in the afternoon. (TIP West Coast, South Island)
Scenic New Zealand’s top attraction, the National Parks and smaller regional parks make up 30% of New Zealand’s land mass. The largest park is Fiordland National Park and a jewel in the crown is the smallest, Abel Tasman National Park located in sunny Nelson.
New Zealand national parks
New Zealand National Parks are a magnet for visitors and locals alike. Barren volcanic plateaus (Tongariro National Park) to a magnificent southern alpine spine offer startling contrast. Discover meadows of rare alpine daisies in Fiordland or dip your toes in the water while strolling on Abel Tasman’s golden sandy beaches.
Highlights of New Zealand’s national parks
- Voted favourite NZ coastal walk, the Abel Tasman coastal track is located in the Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman National Park is a pocket sized gem boasting vineyards and farmers weekend markets on its borders.
- Find an active volcano. Tongariro National Park is part of the Central Plateau North Island. Tongariro National Park is home to hot pools and emerald mineral lakes.
- Join an evocative river cruise or kayak the Whanganui River in the Whanganui National Park. The Whanganui River is steeped in Maori history and is acknowledged as a person.
- Lace up the hiking boots on short walks in the Taranaki National Park. Families and groups will enjoy the imaginatively named Goblin Walk (fantasy come to life among dripping moss).
- New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park dominates the Southern Alps. The Southern Alpine range is easily viewed on the well known Hooker Valley trail.
- Unique, enormous ancient snail species and geological wonders are found in Kahurangi National Park. Karamea is the gateway settlement to the Kahurangi National Park marvel at the ancient rock formations of the Oparara Basin. Explore the Oparara Basin and journey back before dinosaurs to a primeval setting where your imagination is your companion.
- From rolling farmland to alpine passes, travel on the Tranzalpine Kiwi Rail train journey through Arthur’s Pass National Park
- Easy lakeside walks. Nelson Lakes National Park is where inky deep lakes are framed by mountain ranges
- Pancake rocks, Punakaiki and blowholes: Paparoa National Park and Pororari River is a great introduction to kayaking for the family and there are walks for all fitness levels.
- Stunning natural pools are create great selfie locations in Mount Aspiring National Park (Blue Pools, Wanaka)
- Glacier encounters: Westland Tai Poutini National Park, the Haast Pass is a journey through geological history with the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, a summer favourite for a helicopter ride over ice ridges, snow filled valleys and above the permanent snow line.
- Amazing waterfalls, fiords are found in Fiordland National Park where one of New Zealand’s top attractions is Milford Sound. with its towering cliffs dropping into the sea fiord and abundant wildlife
- Wild kiwi spotting hotspot: Rakiura National Park where over 85% of the Island is a National Park
- Nine of New Zealand’s Great Walks (there are 10 walks) are part and parcel of New Zealand National Parks.
Top New Zealand outdoors activities in the national parks
#Tongariro National Park
#Tongariro crossing day hike
TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK offers visitors a diversity of walks and hikes. Book the iconic hike, Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The Tongariro Crossing beguiles visitors with its deep green mineral lakes, alpine scenery and the sheer diversity of landscapes. The Tongariro Crossing is very popular with this Great New Zealand walk, managed by the Department of Conservation often fully booked several months in advance.
Tongariro National Park has several great short walks for visitors. Find the Tawhai waterfalls walk and wonder about the logistics of Lord of the Rings film location. Tongariro National Park is a year round destination with summer walking trails and ski and snowboard opportunities in winter.
# Abel Tasman National Park
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK is selfie central with Split Apple Rock of instagram fame, Farewell spit with its prolific birdlife and wildlife. Find a beach where the impossibly clear azure water lazily laps on fine gold sand in Kaiteriteri. Summer at the beach is a rite of passage for New Zealanders with Nelson beaches a hot favourite.
# Fiordland National Park
FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK where sunken glacier valleys and consistent rainfall create a misty magical world of dense forests, high mountain peaks and waterfalls. Visit Milford Sound and discover one of NZ’s premier holiday destinations. Glaciers carved out channels forming the fiords of Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Cruise on a day tour through cascading waterfalls. Sea kayaking is popular with visitors on the lookout for dolphins. Fiordland National Park is where the very popular multiple day hike, the Milford Track is located. Many visitors join day tours from Queenstown or Wanaka with cruising Milford Sound as part of the tour package.
#Mount Taranaki & Egmont National Park
MT TARANAKI walks enter a fantasy world. Gnarly twisted trees invoke stories of fairies and goblins. The solitary beauty of Egmont National Park is a thousand photo shots in every frame. Egmont National Park is where the lesser known Pouakai Crossing offers experienced visitors an impressive day hike. In the Egmont National Park Pouakai Crossing weave around the mountain with diverse vegetation from subalpine forest, to alpine bush and tussock to mossy wetland, the Tarn, towering cliffs and fabulous waterfalls. For tips on recommended clothing and supplies check North Island ultimate day walks, what to wear, supplies and fitness required. Remember to check the local weather report before departing.
#Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
The highest peak in New Zealand rises above the alpine landscape of Aoraki National Park. Almost 40% of the land is under glacier cover and the highest mountains of the country, Aoraki Mount Cook and longest glacier Tasman Glacier lie within the region. One of New Zealand’s popular day hikes, Hooker Valley track leads through the sacred Tōpuni area of the Hooker Valley, which has special significance and values to Ngāi Tahu iwi, towards Aoraki/Mount Cook. The best time to walk this stunning track is at dawn when you can view the first rays of the sun creeping over the Southern Alps, including over New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is where the internationally renowned New Zealand mountaineer trained. Sir Edmund Hillary climbed in the Southern Alps for the first successful climb to the summit of Everest, the world’s highest peak. Nature lovers will relish the diversity of flora and fauna with over 200 different species.
#Arthur’s Pass National Park
ARTHUR’S PASS NATIONAL PARK where a world class train journey stops for passengers to explore the park and meet the cheeky mountain parrot the kea. Take the opportunity to hit the road and travel on the Great Alpine Highway 27. The Great Alpine Highway is a day spent exploring natural landscapes from impressive karst rock formations to alpine scenery where resident keas (alpine parrots) herald visitors a welcome. The study contrasts the inland Canterbury rolling farmland to dryer higher plains and valleys of Waimakariri Basin into the high alpine Arthur’s pass.
#Rakiura Stewart Island National Park
Explore Stewart Island, Rakiura Stewart Island National Park guide, things to see, with over 85% of the island as a national park there is only one town, Halfmoon Bay or Oban.
#New Zealand attractions – coastal sea caves, rock sculptures
From the tip of the North Island to the Southern Oceans New Zealand is a wealth of geological wonders to explore. Volcanically active, earthquakes and natural elements have formed extraordinary shapes and stunning landscapes.
- Discover contorted shapes sculpted by nature at DUNTROON Elephant Rock outcrops in Otago
- Cathedral Cove Coromandel Peninsula is a stunning sea cave where weather and sea have carved a natural amphitheater. Walk on a gold sandy beach with Cathedral Cove as the backdrop. The moment is begging for the requisite selfie.
- Wind and weather molded staggering blowholes at Punakai pancake rocks, West Coast, South Island.
- Unmissable is an underground voyage through the Waitomo Caves on a boat ride. For the hardy visitors sign up for blackwater rafting. Underground rivers silently flowing past statacities, stalagmites and glow worms are the staple of many a tour in New Zealand. From day into night your world is reduced to cave walls. It is a stunning contrast that Waitomo Cave experiences excel at… read more about Geology, rocks, NZ fantastic natural sculptural landscapes.
Waterfalls fans rejoice New Zealand is renowned for its spectacular waterfalls
#New Zealand volcanic, geothermal Central North Island
Be captivated by ROTORUA. Rotorua is geothermal boiling hot energy, geysers, super-hot bubbling mud and a land streaked in vivid mineralised colour.
Extraordinary encounters with nature’s heated core in the volcanic zone of New Zealand (Rotorua) with natural hot springs generating hot pools to soak in. Te Puia is an essential tourist attraction for New Zealand. The spectacle of the Pohutu Geyser—the most active geyser in the south hemisphere. Immerse yourself in Maori culture with demonstrations of woodcraft weaving at the Maori Art and Craft Institute. Visit Rotorua Whakarewarewa: an iconic living Maori village – Best Bits where fountains of boiling water prepare hangi (earth oven) meals for visitors.
#New Zealand Maori culture is part & parcel of Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique identity
Holiday makers will be intrigued by the Maori story of their guardianship of Aotearoa New Zealand. The energy of Maori culture offers visitors interactive and personal holiday experience with a people dedicated to telling the story of their land and sea.
MAORI CULTURE TOP SIGHTS
- ROTORUA, visit Te Puia to experience geothermal energy sparkling under a night sky with the locals showcasing carving, weaving and other media
- Waitangi with its ancestral stories, the meeting of two people, European settlers and the local inhabitants, the Maori.
- From Northland Mana, Footsteps of Kupe to Kaikoura where Maori operators explain the relationship between themselves and the ocean going whales.
- Visit the Kerikeri Basin,where Māori and Pakeha first met and lived, worked and traded together. Kororipo Heritage Park, Rewa Village, Te Ahurea where visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the daily life of a pre-European Maori fishing village.
Allow a minimum of three days to visit Maori attractions in New Zealand. Enjoy a hangi (earth oven meal), a Marae (meeting house) half day tour of Waitangi and a walk around significant places in Rotorua from Te Puia Arts and Crafts centre to Rotorua Ohinemutu Heritage Village & St Faiths Church – Best Bits.
# Adrenaline adventure tourism in New Zealand
Scenic New Zealand is the canvas for adventures. Outdoors New Zealand has alpine ranges, surging waterfalls, torrents of white water rivers and placid waterways and lakes. There are quiet shallow beaches where kayaks are moored or wild west ocean surf for the intrepid surfer (or wannabe surfer).
New Zealand challenges the adventurous with bungy jumping, kayaking, rafting, climbing and canyoning with everything in between on offer. The historic bridge (Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital) is where the bungy jump was created.
Adrenaline laced holidays are the definition of many a New Zealand holiday. Just ask an Australian who has the privilege of visa free entry for work and pleasure.
#Adventures on the water, in the water & near the water in New Zealand
White water rafting, kayaking, canyoning, jet boating or natural rock water slides take your pick. Your family could be taking a leisurely walk while you are screaming in delight as you barrel down New Zealand’s natural water world. White water rafting is absolutely guaranteed fun and joy as it swirls into a shared journey, through the roar of a river… read more about where are the TOP-6 white water rafting NZ spots, adrenaline holiday fun: Best Bits.
- DEEP BLUE LAKE TAUPO and the Central Plateau string of lakes where water sports abound. Kayak, jet ski, para-ski, SUP or swim in cool clear lakes and rivers. Kayak to stunning rock Maori art in the middle of Lake Taupo. Picnic, swim and fish for trout in the Tongariro River.
- Lakes and rivers offer the thrill of ADVENTURE. Jet boats or rafts on rivers where surging water, river boulders challenge the senses.
- Marvel at the breathtaking power of the HUKA FALLS.
- WHANGANUI RIVER is officially a river with a soul. Kayak along one of New Zealand’s great waterways.
- Go underground at WAITOMO CAVES where underground rivers flow, glowworms light the way and boats silently glide past stalactites and stalagmites.
# What to expect on a family holiday in New Zealand?
Travelling with friends and family your New Zealand holiday is where boredom is banished. Quirky kids playgrounds, indoor attractions and museums geared for kids offer plenty of things to do. Check out 12 awesome family friendly attractions in New Zealand – Best Bits.
Discover how to keep the kids interested while you relish all that New Zealand has to offer. Families can join prison tours, find places where buttons are pushed and levers sprung to an exploration 1920’s milking shed complete with mooing cows. Plenty of diverse attractions explaining the story of NZ and places of interest along the way for families.
Ever wanted to hop into the cockpit of a fighter jet?
Classic Flyer Museum is the place to be for a chance to test your pilot skills.
Check out the top 10 places to visit with kids, add a dash of heritage and your bucket list gets better and better.
Where are New Zealand’s best playgrounds?
New Zealand’s best playgrounds are found in Hamilton Hare Puke park, Te Awamutu’s innovative Rotary playground next to the stunning rose garden as well Christchurch’s Margaret Mahy in the city centre is outstanding. Teenagers have been known to hang out at Margaret Mahy’s playground. And always check the public gardens and parks. There is often a duck pond, swings and cafe for kids to burn off excess energy.
10 spectacular children's playgrounds: guide, what to dolearn more
Another top 11 kids playgrounds in New Zealandlearn more
Beach tips, how to plan a great family daylearn more
SUMMER HOLIDAYS IN NEW ZEALAND – PEAK SEASON
Summer holidays in New Zealand are the best. The outdoors is not going to fry the senses. Cool temperate climate means an average temperature between 25 c – low 30’s. Beaches with shady trees, wide sandy beaches, holiday parks and holiday homes create the classic summer getaway experience for family and friends.
It’s never too early to learn the road rules, check out Napier Parade with its miniature road network for kids. Perfect entertainment while you enjoy the sights and sounds of art deco Napier, a recommended hot spot for families with kids on holiday.
Summer holidays in New Zealand – peak tourist season
Summer holidays in New Zealand are the best. The outdoors is not going to fry the senses. Cool temperate climate means an average temperature between 25 c – low 30’s. Beaches with shady trees, wide sandy beaches, holiday parks and holiday homes create the classic summer getaway experience for family and friends. Summer holidays are where the beach, lakes and rivers beckon and temperatures are not scorching.
The beach – summer holidays in New Zealand
- KAITERITERI golden sands are a contract to wild west coast driftwood beaches where surfers relish the RAGLAN
- Dig your temporary spa; bubbling warm mineral water at HOT WATER BEACH (low tide) activity
- Enjoy the charms of Ohope beach in the Bay of Plenty and the sub-tropical North, Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga.
- Estuaries and shorebirds at MURIWAI or CAPE KIDNAPPERS is a must for bird lovers
- Enjoy Mount Maunganui,a resort town focused on the beach, the promenade with its shops and nearby summit for its spectacular views. Attractions include an iconic salt water pool, superb shopping precinct adjacent to the beach and a relaxed summer holiday culture.
What are the best places to visit on a food & wine holiday in New Zealand?
The best places for food and wine holidays in New Zealand are Hawkes Bay, summer fruit roadside markets and easy wine biking trails. Marlborough’s award winning sauvignon blanc, Nelson farmers markets and craft brews, boutique wines of Hurunui (Canterbury) and Otago central region with its deep reds.
#What to expect on a foodie holiday in New Zealand
Looking for a foodie experience then visiting New Zealand one of the world’s leading food producers is a must. From farm to plate, from sea to brimming chowder bowls New Zealand food and beverage is gourmet heaven.
- Hawkes Bay summer fruit, wine trails easily navigated on a bike and Art Deco Napier has great restaurants, interesting galleries and eateries based around the pastel beauty of 1930’s architecture
- Marlborough with its award winning sauvignon blanc wines is the ideal place to let NaClachanWineTour Marlborough do the driving
- Otago with its burnished summers, stunning scenery and the nearby attractions of Wanaka and boutique wine trail
- For wine lovers nzjane recommends 6 Wine Trails, New Zealand off the beaten path – Best Bits
What makes a great food & wine holiday in NZ?
NZJANE recommends a food, wine and craft beer are sampled alongside with a journey exploring farmers markets (lots of yummy treats), a dash of scenery and adventure along the way. Key destinations on your food, wine and craft brew trail … read more
- FOODIE ARTISAN lovers start your New Zealand holiday in Auckland; allow time to get on the road to enjoy weekend markets in Matakana, Auckland. Either drive or fly to Napier, Hawkes Bay and explore the pantry of the Hawke’s Bay 3 days of food, markets and bit of everything road trip.
- FOODIE ARTISAN lovers visit Nelson, South Island with its vibrant Moutere, Nelson 9 best foodie experiences + great walk or nearby Christchurch North Canterbury, Hurunui wine and food trail – Best Bits is perfect combined with a weekend Christchurch market hopping and shopping – Best Bits.
Allow a minimum of 14 days on a food and wine tour of New Zealand this will provide time for two food and wine districts in either the North or South Island…
Historic journeys through New Zealand
Combine your Maori immersion holiday experience with visits to Auckland’s Howick Historical Village and Matamata, Waikato’s Firth Tower & open air historical village for an insight into settler history in the 19th century. For heritage buffs Otago and the West Coast, South Island have fascinating 19th century gold mining trails visit Arrowtown, a postcard tourist town neatly wrapped as a preserved nineteenth gold mining settlement.
While on the road, on your NZ holiday make sure to check out kiwi towns nearby and stop. It’s likely the local museum is a gem with few visitors and plenty of odd and unusual things on display. With over 80 kiwi towns there is plenty of do and see. For heritage fans who turned up and named the place is documented. Slow down and spend time in our kiwi towns. Find out places to visit on your road trip and where to go to find the next ‘big thing.’
New Zealand’s history is fascinating. A story of challenge, interaction and settlement between the indigenous Maori and British colonialism. Nineteenth century gold miners and immigrants hungry to farm the land. The last hundred years witnessed urban waves from Europe have built a contemporary story retold in myriad ways.
New Zealand has its own Pompeli, Rotorua Buried Village, the story of the Tarawera volcanic explosion. Recent tragic loss of life during a violent eruption in the nineteenth century.
Yes, New Zealand has a number of places actively practicing responsible tourism from walks in predator free zones (sanctuaries) where native flora and fauna is protected to volunteer weeding programmes and tour operators who contribute to the local environment.
#Where to go for a wildlife holiday in New Zealand
Key New Zealand wildlife holiday destinations include predator free sanctuaries, island reserves and WILDLIFE & ISLAND SANCTUARIES.
Swim with dolphins in a safe setting for the mammals, listen to native bird song in protected sanctuaries, embark on a boat trip in Kaikoura to encounter whales on their migration journey and spend time on a road trip in The Catlins.
- Walk in predator free zones where visitors observe life before human occupation impacted on the unique flora and fauna of Aotearoa New Zealand. From Bay of Islands, Urupukapuka Island, Hauraki Gulf Tititi Matangi and Rotoroa Island to the national treasure, Hauraki Stewart Island
- Observe the elegant gleam of blue feathers on the rare Takahe and the cheeky weka
- Marine sanctuaries, POOR KNIGHTS ISLAND (Tutukaka) where diving and snorkelling among the reef immerses the visitor in ocean life in one of the world’s top dive spots.
- Embark on a Southern Scenic Road Trip Guide Dunedin to Queenstown – Best Bits and discover Wildlife Safari Road Trip, The Catlins. You will encounter massive sea lions, wonder at the majesty of Otago peninsula’s Northern Albatross as they soar above and listen for native birds on boardwalks where you might be the only person.
Nzjane’s planning tips for a great New Zealand holiday?
- Create a must-do list of attractions and places of interest this is your preliminary route map of where to go
- Check how much time each place or attraction needs and then calculate the time needed in each location
- Check the travelling distances between locations and add to your destination timeline
- Your now ready for the details
Where to stay in New Zealand, we have got you covered with plenty of choice.
What is the best way to get around New Zealand while on holiday?
Self-driving or guided drive (bus) tours are the most popular ways to visit New Zealand. Together with a good roading network and amazing scenery around every corner, driving is a great way to visit New Zealand. The sparsely populated country does not have a public transport network similar to Europe or even Australia.
There are regular bus services between small towns and regional destinations. Intercity is the most well known service.
Renting a campervan and driving around the country is a popular New Zealand holiday choice.. Campervan (motorhomes) offers visitors flexible transport / accommodation.
Nzjane recommends overseas visitors start their New Zealand trip with a flight into Auckland and depart from Christchurch (or Queenstown), South Island. Domestic flights can be expensive yet it is acknowledged if you wish to maximise your time on the ground flying is the way to go.
Save money on your budget holidays in New Zealand and use a bus pass service. FlexiPass (InterCity bus service) is currently New Zealand’s most flexible bus pass. The FlexiPass is an hours based bus pass giving you the flexibility to hop on and hop off anywhere on the InterCity bus network. As long as you change or cancel at least 2 hours before departure, there are no penalties or extra fees. All bookings are managed online.
STRAY BUDGET TOURS
An excellent budget transport service that comes with the bonus of fellow minded travellers as well as visits to scenic highlights and stops for adventure tourism is STRAY.
Drop hints with the relatives a STRAY tour is a perfect Christmas gift.
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE
Best Bits travel guide is published by nzjane.com. Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.
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