Useful tips for traveling in New Zealand

Best places to visit in New Zealand

Best places to visit in New Zealand

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!

 Spirits Bay - Northland

 


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.

 Matapouri Bay - Northland


 

East Cape

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. 

Anaura Bay - East Coast


 

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.

New Chum's Beach - Coromandel


 

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.

 Great Barrier Island -Kaitoke Beach


 

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.

 

Lake Waikeremoana Track - Urewere Forest Park


 

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!

 Abel Tasman Coast Track - Abel Tasman National Park


 

Hokitika

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.

 

Hokitika Gorge


 

Glacier Country

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.

 

Franz Josef Glacier - Glacier Country


  

Wanaka

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.

 Lake Wanaka - Lonely tree


 

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.

Mt Cook National Park - Hooker Valley Track


 

Queenstown

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.

 

Shotover Jet  - Queenstown


 

The Catlins

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.

 

Nugget Point - The Catlins Coast


 

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.

 

 

 


 

More articles to help you plan your New Zealand vacation

Facts for the New Zealand visitor

New Zealand travel maps

Facts for hiking in New Zealand

Driving in New Zealand

Traveling around New Zealand in a motorhome

Best time to visit New Zealand

New Zealand National Parks

New Zealand Passport and Visa Requirements

Safety in the New Zealand outdoors

New Zealand Weather and Climate


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Taranaki

 

 

Taranaki might be a slightly less known region in New Zealand, unless you're a keen surfer or windsurfer. The landscape is dominated by the perfectly shaped volcanic cone which is Mt Taranaki, or Mt Egmont. At 2500m not only does it entirely dominate the landscape, but it also creates its own climate. On any given day, the winds may be reaching gale force on one side of the mountain, while on the other side you may be relaxing on the beach without a sigh of wind, such is the impact of the mountain.

In winter you may ski down the mountain in the morning, and in summer there are a number of excellent hiking opportunities, including hikes to the summit or right around the mountain.

Surf Highway 45 offers word class surf and windsurfing conditions and the black iron sandy beaches are wild and beautiful and aplenty.

 

Marlborough

 

When travelling from the North Island to the South Island on the Interislander ferry, the sheltered waterways of the Marlborough Sounds are the first sight. Picton is the destination port, and a good base to go walking, fishing, sailing, kayaking and exploring the many secluded bays in the Sounds. 

The Marlborough region is internationally recognized for its world class wine, most notably its Sauvignon Blanc, and there are many different ways to sample these wines as their are many wineries offering excellent wine tours. By bike, or by luxury old timer cars, the creativity with which these tours are organized is brilliant. The seafood in this region is also sumptuous, great to combine with a glass of the local wines.

Those put off by the large crowds on the Abel Tasman Track will love the Queen Charlotte Track. The beaches are a little less exquisite, but the coastal scenery is still stunning and there are many accommodation options aolong the track.

Nelson - Tasman

 

 

The Nelson-Tasman region is blessed with an incredibly diverse natural beauty, offering no less than three of the finest National Parks in the country. From the golden beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, dramatic and lush rainforests in Kahurangi National Park, to the alpine environment of Nelson Lakes National Park, this region has it all. The area around Nelson is also one of the sunniest in the country, due to the protecting surrounding hills, so it's a popular region with travelers.

Nelson is the South Island's second largest city, noted for its fruit-growing industry in the Motueka Valley, wineries and micro-breweries. It also has an energetic local arts and crafts community with local artists exhibiting their products on the famed Nelson market every Saturday. Nearby Rabbit Island boasts great swimming beaches, boating fishing and forest walks. 

Further west, Motueka is the centre of a green tea, hops and fruit-growing area, and is a good base to explore the nearby parks. The drive over Takaka Hill takes you into Golden Bay, whre you may find the biggest cave in the Southern Hemisphere as well as New Zealand's largest freshwater spring, the Waikoropupu Springs, simply called "Pupu Springs", with reputedly the clearest water in the world.

Kaikoura

 

Kaikoura is a unique place by the sea where marine wildlife lives in abundance, against the backdrop of the impressive Kaikoura mountain ranges. It is well known for its range of eco-tourism activities and getting up close with the main inhabitant along its shores, the giant Sperm Whale.

Whale watching in Kaikoura is simply a must-do as you're guaranteed to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, and along the way you're most likely to see a pod of bottlenose or duksy dolphins play in the water, be impressed by the take-off and water landing of the Royal Albatross, and see a bunch of sea lions lazing about on a rock, suc is the diversity.

The ocean here also provides some spectacular seafood, and a stay in Kaikoura may not go by without having tried the crayfish

Aoraki - Mt Cook

 

 

The approach to new Zealand's tallest mountain, Mt Cook, via the blue lake of Lake Pukaki is something you will remember for a lifetime. At 3754m Mt Cook entirely dominates the landscape and as you draw ever closer, its imperious glaze on you only gets more and more impressive.

Mt Cook National Park, along with Aspiring and Westland National Parks, have been incorporated into a World Heritage Area extending from the Cook River in Westland down to the base of Fiordland. Of the 27 mountains in New Zealand which are over 300om, 22 of them are in Mt Cook National Park. The park also boasts New Zealand's longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier.

The park offer numerous hikes to get up close with Mt Cook, but also offer many other exciting adventure activities, such as mountaineering, helicopter flights, heli-skiing and sea-kayaking on glacial waters.

West Coast - Glaciers

 

 

The West Coast or Westland is a rugged and wild land with rocky beaches, deep river gorges,  bush-clad hills and towering icy-peaks. Extending across a 600km long stretch on the western side of the Southern Alps, a visit here takes you through a myriad of five National Parks, yes five!!, including the World Heritage Area - Te Wahipounamu. Each of the national parks - Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur's Pass, Westland and Mt Aspiring National Parks - have their their own unique and distinct features. You'll find New Zealand's highest mountains, most dense and lush rainforests, natural rivers, glacial lakes, deepest gorges,  and of course the two phenomenal Glaciers themselves, Fox and Franz Josef.

Wanaka

 

 

Wanaka receives slightly less attention than it's more famous neighbour Queenstown, only about an hour away, but one may argue which of the two towns is nestled in the most impressive scenery. While that may be a very difficult question to answer, Wanaka boasts a similar range of adrenaline activities, but with some more serenity about it all.  The town offers fine dining and living and is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park and the Treble Cone, Cardrona, Harris Mountains and Pisa Range ski areas. Every second Easter, Wanaka hosts the incredibly popular Warbirds over Lake Wanaka, a huge international air show that sees the town swell with visitors.

The central feature of the region is Mt Aspiring, surrounded by the national park with the same name. The alpine scenery does not get any more dramatic than this in New Zealand, and offers some of the best hiking in the country. The park has wide valleys, secluded flats, more than 100 glaciers and towering mountains. The southern end of the park around Glenorchy receives most visitors and includes popular hikes such as the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's great walks, but there are also excellent shorter walks and more demanding hikes in the Matukituki Valley close to Wanaka. 


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Millenniumm Queenstown

 Image result for millennium queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, Millennium Hotel Queenstown is just minutes from Queenstown central shopping, entertainment and outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating. The popular ski destinations of Coronet Peak, Remakables, and Cardrona are also close by. 

This luxury hotel also offers accessible rooms for special needs guests with their friendly staff on hand to assist you anytime. Most of this accommodation also offers scenic views of Queenstown city and mountains, providing the perfect backdrop to your trip. Millennium Hotel Queenstown is a 4-star plus and Enviro-Gold Qualmark rated hotel, with an Environmental Sustainability Plan for the future. 

Citylife Wellington (Heritage)

 Image result for citylife wellington

Wellington prides itself on being not only the country’s capital, but also its cultural capital – and there’s no better place to soak up the atmosphere than CityLife Wellington, with hotel accommodation located right in the heart of the city. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

When you want a breather, the hotel offers plenty of ways to make the most of your downtime. Enjoy a hotel experience unlike other Wellington hotels.

Whether you’re seeking Wellington accommodation for work, rest or play, our spacious rooms offer you the comforts of home - with the added benefits of housekeeping and room service.

Offering a range of one and two bedroom serviced apartments, After an exciting day of sightseeing or business, you can now enjoy an even better night's sleep with extra comfy beds in all rooms.

 

Rutherford Nelson (Heritage)

 Image result for rutherford nelson a heritage hotel

Whether you’re visiting our incredible region for business or pleasure, Rutherford Hotel Nelson is the obvious choice for luxury accommodation in Nelson.

Rutherford Hotel Nelson is Nelson’s only 24-hour fully-serviced hotel, offering luxurious rooms and suites – ideal for corporate travelers, families and conference delegates. The central location means Nelson’s many galleries and City attractions are just a stone’s throw away. All rooms have a view of the harbour, city, historic South Street or Nelson’s beautiful cathedral.

The stylish accommodation will suit anyone looking for a great place to stay in Nelson, whether you’re here on holiday, in town for a wedding or visiting Nelson for a conference. 

 

Distinction Hotel Lake Te Anau

 

Get away from it all, and escape into the serene surroundings of Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Lake Te Anau before heading out to explore the world-famous beauty of Fiordland including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. With its range of modern hotel accommodation options, 2 on-site restaurants, FREE unlimited WiFi, complimentary guest car parking and an excellent standard of service, the team at Distinction Luxmore Hotel will make your stay in Te Anau comfortable and enjoyable.
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Conveniently located in the heart of Te Anau's town shopping centre and a short stroll from Lake Te Anau, the South Island's largest lake and launching pad for many water based activities. The 180 room Distinction Luxmore Hotel offers guests a wide range of modern, refurbished hotel accommodation.

Alpine Resort Wanaka (Distinction)

 Image result for alpine resort wanaka


Distinction Wanaka Alpine Resort is nestled in a quiet Lake Wanaka location and guests can enjoy access to the resort facilities whilst staying in the serviced apartments. The stylish, self-contained, serviced apartments each provide a high level of personal comfort and convenience, perfect for all seasons.

They offer a fully equipped kitchen, televisions with 50+ channels of SKY channels, free WiFi, under-floor heating in the bathrooms, private & secure car garages, perfect for storing additional equipment such as skis and bikes. Enquire about daily, weekly and longer term servicing options..

Scenic Hotel Napier

 Image result for scenic hotel napier

We invite you to enjoy quality 4-star hotel accommodation of an international standard. From the moment you step into our spacious, light-filled lobby, you will experience our commitment to quality and customer service. If you fancy waking up to serene ocean views, Scenic Hotel Te Pania is the perfect place to start your day in Hawke’s Bay. Simply leave the curtains open, roll over in bed, and soak it all in. 

Hawke's Bay is one of the first places in the world to see the light each day, with Napier hotel enjoying a premium waterfront location on Napier's Marine Parade. The hotel’s slender curved form echoes the shape of the bay and guests are treated to sweeping views out over the water. A fresh, contemporary style hotel, Scenic Hotel Te Pania is just a short stroll from Napier’s main art deco style street and is located in close proximity to many of Napier's attractions..

 

Scenic Franz Josef

 Image result for scenic hotel franz josef

In the heart of the village and edge of the Westland World Heritage Park, the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier is only a breath away from the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. 

This hotel offers everything you need to be able to explore this dramatic region in style and comfort. With an exceptional restaurant, serving hearty, West Coast fare, and the Moa Bar with its open fireplace, you are never without choice. Plus, with the private hot pools and our Amaia Luxury Spa close by, you can enjoy time out to rejuvenate after a day taking in the many walking tracks and other outdoor pursuits. 

Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel, plus a guest information and booking service will ensure that you can make the most of every minute you spend in the Westland region.

 

Funyaks + Jet Boat

  Image result for funyak + jet boat queenstown

This day in and around Queenstown takes you deep into "Paradise", near Glenorchy in Mt Aspiring National Park.

An unmissable experience with the exhilaration of a wilderness jet boat ride combined with a leisurely downstream float on easy to use Funyaks (inflatable kayaks) awaits you. This trip is a must-do to explore the truly unique Dart River. Your amazing journey begins with an exhilarating jet boat ride up the Dart River deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park. From here you’ll then travel back down river at your own pace in our unique Funyaks exploring pristine waters as they flow from the Southern Alps to Lake Wakatipu, hidden side streams with amazing rock pools and dramatic chasms.
Just when you think your Funyaks adventure is over, you will enjoy a gourmet buffet lunch before heading via 4 wheel drive coach to locations used in the movies to illustrate Middle Earth from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.

Milford Sound Cruise

  Image result for milfors dound cruise

Description: A spectacular two-hour cruise to the mouth of the fiord on a spacious, classic vessel with excellent viewing opportunities. The Haven has large windows, spacious decks and beanbag lounges which offer uninterrupted views of towering peaks and surging waterfalls. Keep a look out for seals basking on the rocks, dolphins and penguins. Enjoy scenic highlights such as Mitre Peak and Stirling Falls. Informative commentary from the captain explains the history and highlights points of interest during the cruise. Suitable for all ages.

Departure Point: Milford Sound Visitor Terminal, Milford Sound.

Peppers Bluewater Resort - Lake Tekapo

 Image result for peppers bluewater resort

Near the shores of Lake Tekapo, in the heart of Mackenzie Country in New Zealand’s central South Island, is Peppers Bluewater Resort. Overlooking Lake Tekapo this resort is located in an intensely beautiful part of the world.

Peppers Bluewater Resort is set amongst the purest natural landscape. Romantic and secluded, your accommodation in Lake Tekapo reflects the beautiful landscape surrounding you.

You can explore the natural wonders of Mount Cook and the Mackenzie region from here. Marvel at an International Dark Sky Reserve with millions of stars. Ride horses through the mountains, catch a scenic flight to Franz Josef glacier, go skiing, or immerse yourself in the Tekapo Springs Day Spa and Hot Pools.