New Zealand is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world. From the tropical forests, sandy beaches and gentle rolling hills in the north to the daunting peaks, mysterious fjords and massive glaciers in the south, New Zealand offers visitors a wide array of natural highlights as well as excellent cuisine and local wines. There’s literally something to do for everyone: you could go on a leisurely cruise, laze on a pristine beach, rub noses with the Maori, gawk at impressive geysers, hike through majestic scenery or partake in a variety of thrilling activities such as bungee-jumping into a canyon, making 360-degree spins in a jet-boat or paragliding off the edge of a mountain.
I’ve been to New Zealand only once but explored the country from its northernmost point to the southern shores of South Island. I’ve compiled a list of top ten things to do in New Zealand which I would recommend to everyone. Enjoy!
1. Explore Mt. Cook National Park
This national park is home to New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt. Cook. Within the park boundaries are an impressive variety of snow-capped peaks, glistening turquoise lakes, glaciers and broad plains.
2. Soak in a thermal pool in Rotorua
Rotorua is famous for its volcanic activity. As you stroll through this town, you’ll be greeted by the scent of sulphur and the occasional steaming vent. There are various spas which offer different therapies or you could opt for a simple soak in one of the many thermal pools.
3. Sail in the Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a stunning part of North Island. With its secluded coves and beaches and crystal-clear water, the area is a favourite holiday spot for many locals. Head to the town of Paihia and join a serene sailing trip around the bay. If you’re lucky, you might spot some dolphins and penguins.
4. Marvel at the kauri trees at Matakohe
The kauri trees are some of the largest in the world. Some of them grow up to 50 metres in height and have a diameter of more than 10 metres! A thriving kauri lumber industry almost resulted in the extinction of this tree species but luckily some were saved.
5. Watch a sheep show in Rotorua
This may be tacky to some but I really enjoyed the sheep show! 🙂 The different varieties of sheep that can be found in New Zealand pass the revue as well as a sheep-shearing demonstration. It’s a noisy, humorous affair… and fun for the whole family.
6. Visit Queenstown
Queenstown is my favourite town in New Zealand. A breathtaking location certainly helps! On the shores of Lake Waikatipu, Queenstown is surrounded on three sides by majestic mountains, the most spectacular being the Remarkables and the Eyres mountains. The town is also the adventure tourism capital of New Zealand.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline boost, Queenstown is the perfect place to be. Bungy-jumping was invented not too far from here. I enjoyed paragliding (something I highly recommend for the unforgettable experience of silently gliding high up in the air and taking in the spectacular scenery) and the jet-boat ride down Shotover River. You can also opt to take the scenic Skyline gondola or ride on the TSS Earnslaw steamship to enjoy the spectacular Queenstown scenery.
7. Go on a cruise around Milford Sound
Technically not a sound but rather a fjord, Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s biggest attractions. Rightfully so, the sound is simply awe-inspiring. Surrounded by huge snow-capped mountains and cascading waterfalls, with the splendid Mitre Peak in its middle, the sound is an absolute natural wonder! You could go on a cruise or a hike. Either way, be prepared for many unforgettable moments.
8. Experience the marine life in Kaikoura
A former whaling station, these days, Kaikoura is popular as a base to explore the rich diversity of marine life that can be found along the coast. Penguins, seals, whales and dolphins can easily be spotted on a cruise from Kaikoura.
9. Take the Tranz Alpine train
This is one of the most spectacular train trips I’ve ever done! The train leaves Canterbury and crosses the Canterbury Plains before climbing up into the Southern Alps. One of the highlights during this train trip is the spectacular Arthur’s Pass. Imagine viaducts, tunnels, majestic mountain scenery, gushing rivers and gorgeous lakes!
10. See the glow worms in Te Anau
The trip starts with a 30-minute boat ride across Te Anau lake. Visitors then walk into the cave, with its streams, waterfalls and whirlpools. Once past the ‘rapids’, visitors climb into the boat for a tranquil glide into the deeper reaches of the caverns. Once the lights are turned off, an enchanting scene unfolds. Millions of glow worms on the walls and ceiling of the cave emit a faint light, creating the impression of floating in a dark, cloudless sky with the Milky Way above you. Absolutely magical!
[…] is the ‘Adventure Capital of New Zealand‘. Located on South Island, Queenstown is surrounded by spectacular mountains and lakes. There […]
Thanks for sharing your adventure in NZ.
I just got back from New Zealand two weeks ago. Among many places I visited Christchurch – the city that was badly hit by the earthquake. If you wish to find out how people deal with this natural disaster click here: http://nullnfull.com/2013/12/12/christchurch-reloaded/
I hope that when you visit Christchurch soon the city will impress you!
We already really wanted to go to NZ but your post only further confirms that! Everyone of your top ten look amazing! New Zealand looks like a country of such natural beauty, we can’t wait until we are able to visit!
The sheep show is interesting. hah. Any specific sheep shows you can recommend? Might as well see the best sheep show.
Trying to pick my next destination- thinking NZ now has a leg up after reading this.
Oh. My. Gosh. These photos are so incredible! There are many, many, many countries that I want to visit but New Zealand is definitely in my Top 5. Thanks for the inspiration to get my butt in gear 🙂
the places in the pictures are made in paradise!
Thanks for your comment Paul. These were just ten of the many things I did and saw in NZ. There’s obviously so much more to see and do – I bet many countries are envious of NZ’s rich variety of highlights. The Tranz Alpine was really cool. I did various other train trips in NZ but this one definitely struck a chord.
I absolutely love New Zealand and consider it my second home after spending 8 months there living and working a few years ago.
You’ve picked some great choices and I can say I’ve done 9 of them, the only exception being the Tranz Alpine train, so I feel another trip coming on to complete the list!
Great ten choices, just returned from a trip in January would only add. Drink Pinot Noir in central Otaga. Remember, the World Cup of Rugby in October in En Zed.
Wow, it really is a true testament! There’s just so much to see and do in NZ. Thanks for your comment.
We just spent over 9 weeks in NZ and only did two of the specific things on your list, so that’s a testament to just how much there is to do there. Such a gorgeous country!