For a relatively small country, New Zealand offers an incredible diversity of places to visit.
These are some of the places in New Zealand we think you can't afford to miss and must be on your New Zealand tour itinerary.
Spirits Bay near Cape Reinga - Northland
A visit to the top of the North Island is a must for anyone travelling the length of New Zealand, and while a visit to the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga in itself is a highlight of any New Zealand tour, lesser known is a place called Spirit's Bay near Cape Reinga.
Spirit's Bay can be reached by taking a right turn off State Highway 1, about 20kms before Cape Reinga. A 15-km gravel road winds its way along stunning bush scenery, and what awaits you at the end is one of the most pristine sweeping bays and beaches of New Zealand. Climb up the mountain for magnificent coastal views, but do respect the local customs and do not enter the sacred Maori lands.
You will not regret the side-trip as this must be one of the best remote beaches to visit in New Zealand!
Tutukaka Coast - Northland
Many visitors traveling north are heading for the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga via the main State Highway 1, but for a real coastal treat with exquisite beaches, head towards the Tutukaka Coast just past Whangarei and you will be rewarded with some of New Zealand's finest beaches and coastal views. You're only able to undertake this journey on a self drive tour of New Zealand as you really need a rental car to reach these parts of New Zealand.
This coastal road winds it way along the stunning coastline and you'll pass through some pretty classic Kiwi beach towns, such as Tutukaka, Matapouri, Whananaki. Just off-shore from Tutukaka are the Poor Knight islands, renowned for one of the best diving spots on the globe, and where you can dive to the famous Rainbow Warrior.
Further north you'll find Matapouri, a stunning beach with inviting crystal clear waters. As you drive further north, the road keeps hugging the magnificent coastline until you eventually reach the Bay of Islands and the picturesque historic seaside town of Russell.
A road trip around North Island's remote East Cape has got to be one of the best places to visit in New Zealand if you are planning to get off the beaten track.
The East Cape is rich in colonial and Maori history and culture, and the Pacific Coast Highway is a marvellous stretch of coastal road which is right up there with the best coastal roads in the world, providine spectacular views of the Pacific ocean as it meanders along the small towns and beachfronts.
New Chum's Beach - Coromandel
Labelled one of the world's top 10 beaches, New Chum's Beach in the Coromandel might still receive less attention than the famous Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, but should be on your bucket list if you are in search of New Zealand's best beaches.
New Chum's Beach is a stunning white sandy beach surrounded by beautiful pohutukawa and fern lined native bush.
To get there, take the turn off to Whangapoua about halfway between Coromandel Town and Whitianga, and drive to the car park at the far end of Whangapoua Beach.
The walk to New Chum's Beach crosses a stream (check the tides) and then follows the shoreline across rocky boulders after which a well-graded and easy walking path takes you across a small saddle. Heavenly beach bliss at New Chum's Beach awaits you on the other side. Allow for 20-30 minutes walking one-way.
Great Barrier Island
One of the best places to visit in New Zealand for the nature lover must be Great Barrier Island. The island boasts pristine forests with abundant native wbirdlife, a coastal playground with spectacuar beaches offering great swimming, snorkeling, surfing and fishing. The multi-day Aotea Track is a must if you're a keen hiker, and stargazers should have Great Barrier Island on their bucket list as the island is designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.
Getting to Great Barrier Island is only possible via air or ferry from Auckland, but the wild, untouched ruggedness combined with an extremely laid back atmosphere makes this a pretty magical place.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's oldest national park and boasts Dual World Heritage status, recognising the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features, and is simply a North Island must see during your New Zealand vacation.
If you plan to do some hiking around New Zealand, but don't have the time to embark on a multi-day trek, then Tongariro National Park offers the best day hike in NZ with the epic 7 hour (19.4km) Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Urewera Forest Park
Urewera Forest Park was destablished as a national park in 2013 when it was replaced with a legal entity named Te Urewera. It was one of the last discovered places in New Zealand due to its geographical isolation, and when you visit this place you'll realize why. Well off the tourist trail, Te Urewera has some of the most stunning and ancient forests around New Zealand, taking you back millions of years in time. The park also features one of New Zealand's Great Walk, the 3-4 day Lake Waikeremoana track.
The getting there part is a little trickier. Te Urewera lies on the eastern side of the North Island between Rotorua and Hawke's Bay, and from Rotorua the journey is a whopping 80km on slow, narrow, windy and hilly gravel road. This is an adventure in itself. Access from Hakwe's Bay is slightly easier.
Abel Tasman National Park
A favourite place to visit on the South Island among Kiwis themselves is Abel Tasman National Park. It is New Zealand's smallest national park blessed with some of the most sunshine hours in the country, and is nothing short of a coastal paradise.
The golden sandy beaches and green colored waters with a bush clad backdrop offer year round hiking, sea-kayaking, camping, boating and just relaxing on the marvellous beaches.
Water taxis depart Marahau and Kaiteriteri frequently and can drop you off at numerous locations in the park, so just pick the beach you prefer and anjoy some awesome beach bliss!
Hokitika is a small town in the West Coast region of the South Island and has a fascinating gold mining history. It is also famous for its New Zealand greenstone (pounamu) jewellery and you'll find numerous quirky art galleries dotted across town. The iconic West Coast whitebait fritters must also not be missed.
Hokitika beach is a great place to hang out, and the Hokitika River with its turquoise waters makes its way through the beautiful Hokitika Gorge. A little further south the West Coast tree-top walk offers unique eco-experience high in the trees, where bird watchers can spot many endemic and endangered New Zealand native birds.
In short, Hokitika is a wonderful surprise package for any visitor to New Zealand.
Glacier Country is located on the West Coast of the South Island and is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area, a rugged region with untamed wilderness, New Zealand's highest snow-capped mountains, largest glaciers, ancient rainforests and dramatic remote beaches.
To experience the two famous glaciers in the region, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier to the fullest, they must be seen from a helicopter on a scenic flight or an epic hei-hike adventure.
Glacier Country is the best place in New Zealand to submerge in the most dramatic and spectacular landscapes.
Nestled among impressive snow-capped mountains and on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka, Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, a wilderness of glaciers, beech forest and alpine lakes. IT's not hard to imagine some of New Zealand's best hiking options can be found in this area.
Wanaka is also a premier New Zealand ski destination, with easy access to Treble Cone and Cardrona Ski field, and is therefore an excellent year round destination.
The fact that Wanaka is a lot less busy than its neighbour Queenstown and enjoys a relaxed vibe, makes Wanaka one of our favorite places in New Zealand.
Mt Cook - Lake Tekapo
New Zealand's tallest mountain, Aoraki - Mt Cook, is also its most majestic. It lies at the heard of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, a rugged land of ice and rock, with no less than 19 peaks over 3000m.
However, it is Mt Cook itself that dominates the landscape on your approach to Mt Cook National Park along the shores of the incredibly turquoise colored waters of Lake Pukaki.
The park offers several short day walks, with the Hooker Valley Track being its most popular. Scenic flights with snow landings are also a possible here and offer the best alpine scenery in New Zealand.
For the adrenaline seeker, Queenstown needs little introduction. Not only is Queenstown the best place to visit in New Zealand if you're after adventure, it is arguably the best adventure place in the world, as is it often dubbed the "Adventure capital of the world".
Queenstown is the home of bungy jumping, with the Kawerau bunjy being the first commercially operated bungy site in the world. Today, the plethora of bungy options will test even the hardiest of adrenaline seekers.
The majestic Remarkables Mountains as a backdrop provides a perfect playground for many other adventure activities such as skydiving, mountainbiking, hiking, skiiing, rafting, jetboating to name just a few.
But Queenstown also offers some of the best dining in New Zealand, making it a great destination for the food lovers as well.
One of New Zealand's best kept secrets, the Catlins is a true hidden gem and one of best places to visit in the South Island for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Abundant native bird and marine wildlife, beautiful forests, waterfalls, remote sandy beaches, the Catlins will enchant you in many ways.
Fiordland National Park : Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound
Fiordland National Park is a place stunning beauty, which is off the scale! Wild, remote, majestic, serene, it invokes a whole array of emotions in every type of traveler and we have no hesitation in calling this the BEST PLACE TO VISIT IN NEW ZEALAND!
It is New Zealand's largest National Park showcasing spectacular fiords, lakes and valleys, rugged granite tops and pristine mountain to sea views. The region is one of the wettest in New Zealand, but seeing waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliffs becomes a spectacular sight to behold.
The two most famous fiords are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Milford Sound is sometimes called the "8th wonder of the world", and its spectacular beauty will captivate you. Doubtful Sound is a little harder to get to, and while its peaks may be somewhat less majestic than at Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound offers a better wilderness experience and more serenity.
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