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!