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Discover New Zealand 9 popular summer holiday destinations

  • 5 minutes

Fiordland, New Zealand

Classic kiwi outdoors activities

New Zealand summer days are warm and balmy. Holiday magic happens when long daylight hours create the perfect time to explore New Zealand outdoors. Christmas and New Year are the icing on the festive cake, kiwis relax into party time with beach Santa in flip flops (jandals).

Tucked away in the corner of the southern Pacific ocean Australians are the lucky few who can easily visit New Zealand on a short haul flight. New Zealand is easily accessible from either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, the ‘hop across the ditch’ means plenty of Aussies abroad in New Zealand during the summer holiday season.

New Zealand summer temperatures hover around 25.5 °c (North Island). New Zealand has no snakes or dangerous animals creating a kiwi outdoor playground for locals and neighbouring Australia.

Otama Beach, a crowded summer day, Coromandel, New Zealand
Otama Beach, Coromandel, New Zealand

9 popular holiday summer destinations in New Zealand

Kaiteriteri beaches, impossible gold sand, turquois water, Nelson, NZ
Kaiteriteri beaches, impossible gold sand, turquois water, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ

Let’s find what it takes to have top billing as a New Zealand summer visitor hot spot.

  • Abel Tasman National Park (beaches, walks, water sports, festivals in nearby Nelson)
  • Northland Bay of Islands Waitangi, Kerikeri & Cape Reinga is combo magic heritage, history, scenery + farmers markets
  • Coromandel Peninsula is Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, beach festivals, galleries and farmers markets
  • Rotorua is nature on full display with geothermal activities adding a frisson to your adventure holiday experience
  • Taupo is on the water, by the water, near the water, the massive Lake Taupo is where it all happens in summer
  • Tongariro Crossing is a must-do day hike in the Central Plateau, North Island
  • Lake Tekapo offers mountain splendour with towering snow dusted Mt Aoraki alpine glory. Enjoy a favourite walk, Hooker Valley trail
  • Queenstown is the adventure capital for your NZ holiday. Mixed into the thrills are festivals, street food and the promise of a good time
  • Milford Sound & Fiordland National Park seduces visitors with its timeless majestic scenery.
Dusk at Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Dusk at Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Marahau beach at Abel Tasman national park in New Zealand
Marahau beach at Abel Tasman national park in New Zealand
  1. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s pocket handkerchief park. A treasure with global appeal due to glittering gold sandy beaches, shallow turquoise water, gloriously accessible tracks through native bush reserves, and close to the urban delights of Nelson and nearby villages. A kiwi summer of sun and consistent weather is a given in the Abel Tasman park. Abel Tasman and Nelson is a great place for families intent on an outdoors holiday.

Forward booking is essential to avoid disappointment. TIP: Carry sunscreen and insect repellent.

… read more Abel Tasman National Park things to do, attractions & places to go

  1. Bay of islands

Summer in a sub-tropical climate is sheer holiday bliss. Adventures from diving or snorkelling Poor Knights Islands to sailing around the Bay of Islands. Northland, Cape Reinga the tip of New Zealand is to travel on New Zealand’s beach roads, journey through sand dunes and listen to stories about Maori ties to the departure point for souls. Unearth history at Waitangi from the perspective of the traditional owners. where the Treaty of Waitangi and the relationship between the Crown (government) is explained. Beautiful carved waka (canoes), buildings and objects are part of the story of Waitangi. Spend time wandering around weekend farmers markets in Kerikeri and explore heritage Korokipo Precinct.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand
Cape Reinga Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand

Want to get on the road and do as much as possible in Northland & the Far North of New Zealand?

Take 14 days and hit the road on a lifetime journey on the Twin Coast Discovery Road Trip Northland & Bay of Islands – Best Bits



Where to stay in the Bay of Islands?

Cathedral Cove incoming tide sunset, Hahei, New Zealand
Cathedral Cove incoming tide sunset, Hahei, New Zealand
  1. Coromandel Peninsula

Find out why Aucklanders throng to Coromandel. What to see and do in the Coromandel involves chilling out at Cathedral Cove with the requisite selfie among the rock sculptures and coves. Hang out on one of the sixteen other stunning beaches, explore quirky art trails or join in the festive fun at weekend markets. The classic kiwi summer holiday spirit includes fishing, diving, hiking and cycling. And, of course pack a spade to dig your own spa treatment hot pool at Hot Water beach.

For many locals and Australians Whitianga is a yearly magnet …

Why go to Whitianga?

The road trip is winding and takes about 3 hours from Auckland. Whitianga is kiwi charm wrapped around sea, sand and surf. Child friendly with space to simply let go. Galleries, cafes, wide open spaces and a sense of country meets urban gloss.  It is one of my favourite places any time of the year.

Whitianga is having your cake and eating it too.


Check the status of Cathedral Cove walkway as it has recently been closed for repairs.

  1. Rotorua

Discover a wealth of things to do in Rotorua. The earth’s energy is on full display. Lakes and forests invite you to zipline through forests and luge down mountain summits. Rotorua has adventure nailed. Rotorua attractions are showcased by extraordinary lunar landscapes where volcanic activity offers visitors a chance to experience nature at its most raw. Visitors will relish the quirky challenge of a mineralised mud bath or a soak in the geothermal hot springs that abound in Rotorua. The ultimate holiday destination offers visitors a choice of accommodation from budget camping to luxury hotels pampering to your every want. Year round the temperate climate ensures Rotorua will not disappoint. Rotorua is living the dream, world class in every way… read more about Things to do in Rotorua. Activities, Attractions & Places to Visit.

Te Puia plumbs of super heated water from geysers, Rotorua, NZ
Te Puia plumbs of super heated water from geysers, Rotorua, NZ
Sail boat sailing near the iconic Maori Rock Carving at lake Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand.
Sail boat sailing near the iconic Maori Rock Carving at lake Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand.
  1. Taupo

Lake Taupo is synonymous with the thundering might of the Huka Falls. The glorious scenery has a stunning backdrop of the three snow-tipped peaks of Tongariro National Park mountain ranges. It is the stuff of holiday dreams with the picturesque landscape encouraging water sports, adventures from jet boating, rafting and kayaking or walking tours soaking up the views.

The sheer variety of what nature has to offer is exhilarating. Visitors can dip their toes into warm water seeping from lakeside streams and walk among mineralised landscapes where scalding water paints the world a vivid orange. Adventure beckons on Lake Taupo from kayaking to water parasailing. Action in Taupo does not just mean jet boating (lots of fun) or screaming in delight as you jump off a very large platform (bungy jumping) it can mean memorising sheer water surging against dam walls or a walk among a lunar landscape. Let’s go for contrast, activities that are specific to Taupo and relax in one of New Zealand’s premier holiday destinations.

  1. Tongariro crossing

Tongariro National Park

Summer adventures in NZ invariably beckon visitors to tramp outdoors. Hiking the 20 km Tongariro Crossing is a must for walking visitors. Transverse active volcanic zones, pass jewelled lakes, climb numerous steps and chained pathways to alpine vistas showcasing the Central Plateau glorious scenery. The walk is officially a day hike and summer weather offers the safest conditions for this sometimes arduous walk. Tongariro Crossing is one of the world’s ultimate day hikes yet for visitors who want to explore the area on short walks they will not miss out with several short walks in the vicinity of the Whakapapa Visitor Centre.

Tongariro Crossing 

Difficulty: Medium, there are two challenging ascents and alpine weather conditions throughout the year. 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.

Tongariro crossing in winter, mount Ngauruhoe, the great walk, New Zealand, Tonagriro National park
Tongariro crossing in winter, mount Ngauruhoe, the great walk, New Zealand, Tonagriro National park

Short walks departing from the historic Chateau Tongariro Hotel (CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE) give you a taste of what the Tongariro crossing has to offer with waterfalls, magnificent views of Mount Ngauruhoe and alpine tussock landscape.


Tongariro Crossing accommodation options

Turangi is a favourite base for the internationally renown Tongariro Crossing as it’s 30 minutes drive from the Ketetahi Car park. There are a number of shuttle services to the Crossing who will pick trampers up at the end of the one way walk. To fully understand the requirements of what can be a strenuous day tramp visit the Tongariro Visitor Center before departing to ascertain the conditions and requirements. The video about the Crossing is memorising and worth the trip alone.

Tongariro is part of the Central North Island road trip, geothermal explorer: Best Bits

  1. Lake Tekapo

MacKenzie country, alpine South Island is New Zealand’s high country. MacKenzie is a photographer’s delight with its depth of light, sweeping views of mountains, lakes and rivers and the contrast between winter and spring. The weather is four distinct seasons, Summer is alpine high country with hot dry summers, brightly lit days and cool summer evenings. The alpine climate has the ability to turn on and off the sunshine with a bout of crisp, sharp wind flurries.  Even in the depths of summer, anticipate four seasons in one day. Winter expects snow, ice and sub-zero conditions.

Spring Rachel Stewart Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

A international favourite location for DARK SKY enthusiasts with star grazing an ultimate couples holiday experience.


Read more about Towns in the MacKenzie country where to stay and what is happening in the summer months.

View of Queenstown and lake Wakatipu in the early morning, New Zealand
Queenstown and lake Wakatipu in the early morning, New Zealand
  1. Queenstown

Adventure capital of the world, year round Queenstown is a premier visitor destination

A year round holiday location where glorious scenery and outdoors adventures go hand in hand. Queenstown is a resort town framed by alpine peaks with a beautiful lake at the edge. The town is fun, adrenaline laced attractions, leisurely fine dining and indulgent spa treatments and a place where kids have plenty to do and see. From mellow, chilled out holidays to adventures packed with skydiving, canyon swinging, bungee jumping and heli-skiing Queenstown is New Zealand’s premier tourist destination.

What to do, 6 must do highlights

  • The classic outdoors alpine scenery is part and parcel of the charm of Lake Wakatipu and Remarkable mountain range, consider a summer lake cruise on TSS Earnslaw Cruises Queenstown to Walter Peak Farm
  • An autumn walking trail to soak up the outdoors from Queenstown hill walking tracks to Ben Lomond Walkway.
  • Splurge on a helicopter ride over the glaciers, the alps and the valleys. Get the adventure juices firing with a winter snowmobile trip.
  • Jet boating, where else to sample an iconic river an exhilarating ride than Queenstown where doughnuts and spins are part of the course
  • Bob’s Peak, skyline views and Queenstown Gondola rides offer selfie holiday moments
  • Eat, drink and market in Queenstown from juice dripping Fergburgers, wood fired pizzas, fine dining lakeside and gourmet counter foods for an impromptu picnic.
Steamship TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand
Steamship TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand
Pop`s view lookout. Landscapes of Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Pop`s view lookout. Landscapes of Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand
  1. Fiordland & Milford Sound

Inky waters, waterfalls cascading down sheer cliff faces clocked in lush forest the scenery is surrounded by sound beauty. Remote pristent the landscape punches a place into lifetime holiday memories. Milford Sound is just a part of the World Heritage site that’s known as Te Wāhipounamu – the other national parks in this collective are Aoraki Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and Westland Tai Poutini. There are no shops and mobile coverage is spotty at best. Nature is in ascendancy with visitors  Take a cruise out to the Sound or book a converted spot on the Milford Track Great Walk. For self-drive visitors the road trip into the Fiordland National Park is part of the holiday magic.


9 POPULAR NEW ZEALAND SUMMER HOLIDAY PLACES TO VISIT is part of a series focusing on the seasons in New Zealand, what to do and see throughout the year. Check out:




For road trip ideas check out

For the ultimate New Zealand holiday inspiration for visitors from Australia and elsewhere check New Zealand, attractions, things to do and places to visit, the definitive travel guide – Best Bits as the definitive New Zealand holiday guide.



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