Kia Ora! Did you know that only 5 % of New Zealand is actually populated by people? That the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest was a Kiwi? That the term Kiwi originates from the kiwi bird, an important cultural symbol for the indigenous Maori people? Or perhaps you’re a big Lord of the Rings fan and conjure up images of The Shire, Mordor, and Mt. Doom? Let me just say this: whatever you’ve pictured about New Zealand, it is everything and more. While it may only be small in size, there are many unique and picturesque places to visit in New Zealand.
There’s no denying the fact that New Zealand is my favorite country in the world. It has everything from mountain peaks to volcanoes, beaches, wineries, adventure activities, and SO MUCH MORE!
How To Get There
New Zealand’s main international airport is in Auckland (on the North Island). There are no direct flights from the United Kingdom, but many nonstop flights from the United States, Australia, Middle East, and East Asia. Air New Zealand is the most popular carrier, as you might imagine. Should you fly Air New Zealand, I definitely recommend binge-watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy using their in-flight entertainment system. If you’re interested in reading about our experience flying Air New Zealand, you can do so here. One thing I can say is that the time flies by when you know so many incredible places to visit in New Zealand are awaiting your arrival!
So many awesome movie options – Air New Zealand
There are a few things you should know before your arrival:
- You can clear customs and immigration via electronic scan if you’re from New Zealand, Australia, USA, or Canada. It is a similar process to that of JFK or other major international airports.
- New Zealand will ask you many questions in regards to declaration, and if you don’t declare your items, there’s an on-the-spot $400 NZD charge. So what may you have to declare? Medicines, any outside food, nuts or plant-based materials, diving equipment, hiking boots, tents, etc. That’s what we had to declare. First, we had to get cleared at one desk to allow our medications to enter the country, and then we had to go to a different area to get our bags scanned and our tent checked by the biodiversity lab. 5 FT Tip: They will also check your hiking boots, so be sure the soles have been recently cleaned!
- You can get a SIM card in the airport. Spark and Vodafone are located right next to each other and offer the same deals. My brother used Spark on our first trip and I used Vodafone on my most recent trip and both carriers were equally reliable.
- Be sure to leave yourselves with far more time than you’d think when arriving in Auckland. It took us two hours from when we landed to when we left the airport, excluding the whole rental car process.
This page contains affiliate links, meaning that The Five Foot Traveler may receive a small commission when you purchase any flights or accommodations using the links in this article at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your continued support!
How To Get Around
I can’t stress this enough: rent a car or camper van. You will be doing yourself a serious disservice if you do not. They do drive on the “wrong” side of the road, but it’s actually a great spot to learn because there isn’t much traffic.
There really is no other way to experience the country in full without having the freedom to explore on your own route and schedule. I tend to use RentalCars when booking car rentals, and recently used JUCY for a 4-person camper van rental. Whether you rent a car or a camper van is up to you and your style of travel. I can honestly say that you will have an incredible time with whichever mode you choose!
As for the length of time for your visit – stay as long as you can! My first trip was a month-long and covered both Islands, while my second trip was 12-days long and was focused just on the South Island. Both times I had wished I’d planned to stay longer!
Have a look at the following 47 awe-inspiring places to visit in New Zealand, and decide for yourself what you’d like to see as you plan your epic journey….
Did you know that more people live in Auckland than in the rest of the country combined? In a country as beautiful as New Zealand, make your way to One Tree Hill while in Auckland, and then go immerse yourself in nature. One Tree Hill is an important memorial place for both the Maori and other Kiwis. The tree itself was attacked with a chainsaw by a Maori activist in 1994, and again in 1999. Sadly, it eventually had to be cut down, and now just a memorial to John Logan Campbell, one of Auckland's founding fathers, sits alone atop the hill. That said, I definitely recommend driving up there, taking in the views, and listening to U2's song One Tree Hill while up there (because, yes, I totally did that myself).
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Auckland here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Auckland – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Forget overcoming jet lag in Auckland, make your way to Waikawau where you can stay in your very own luxury tree house thanks to Canopy Camping Escapes. There are some beautiful, empty beaches and viewpoints to check out in the area. Be sure not to miss Little Bay or Waikawau Bay.
Where to Sleep? Check out Canopy Camping Escapes!
Little Bay – Places to Visit in New Zealand
3. Lonely Bay
A true gem in the Coromandel Peninsula of which few tourists know. Enjoy the secluded, pristine, and utterly untouched beach.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Lonely Bay here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Lonely Bay – Places to Visit in New Zealand
4. Purangi Winery
Perfectly situated between Lonely Bay and Cathedral Cove, this is a must-lunch spot. Not only are the grounds immaculate, but the pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had and you’ll even get free tastings of incredibly tasty liquors. I highly recommend the local mussel pizza and passionfruit liquor… yum!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Purangi Winery here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Purangi Winery – Places to Visit in New Zealand
5. Cathedral Cove
Known for the filming location of Narnia, Cathedral Cove is a hot spot on the Coromandel Peninsula. When planning your day, it’s important to note that it’s, at minimum, a 45 minute walk each way from the parking lot so be sure to factor in that time. Cathedral Cove is obviously a popular swimming beach and a great place to spend a few hours – just be sure to bring plenty of food and drink!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Cathedral Cove here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Cathedral Cove – Places to Visit in New Zealand
6. Hot Water Beach
This beach got its name due to the thermal springs beneath the sand. Most people on the beach had a shovel in hand and were trying to dig holes deep enough to reach the thermal springs! It was quite amusing, and many seemed to have success, so see if you can rent a shovel from your accommodation.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Hot Water Beach here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Hot Water Beach – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Thames is quite the historical town! In fact, it has some of the oldest history in New Zealand. Thames has the longest single shopping strip in New Zealand, at over a mile long! Thames has the last pre-1900 factory facade in the southern hemisphere. Thames lost 249 men in World War I. Most of New Zealand lost 1/3-1/2 of their working-aged men in World War I, causing the women to step up. Thames is home to the first stock exchange, located on Script Corner. Thames is only 500 meters from bush clad mountains and the ocean, making it a long, narrow town. Most people use Thames as a base for hiking the Pinnacles in the Kauaeranga Valley.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Thames here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Thames – Places to Visit in New Zealand
As I’m sure you know, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. Peter Jackson decided that the lush green pastures of this particular farm – which became Hobbiton – matched Tolkien’s description of The Shire perfectly. At first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to visit, as I’m not a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, but honestly… the place is stunning. It is well worth the visit whether you’re a hardcore fan or have never even seen the movies. There are 44 Hobbit Holes and 300 Hobbits on set. The Shire itself seems 100% real, and yet it’s all a manifestation of Tolkien’s untouchable imagination.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Hobbiton here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Hobbiton – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Base yourself in this smelly sulfuric town to explore various lakes, mountains, volcanoes, and forests. It is best known for its geothermal activity, geysers, and hot mud pools. On the way from Hobbiton, it’s worth checking out the Redwood Forest. The first five minutes of the hike are the coolest, so you can decide if you want to do the hour long trail or not.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Rotorua here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Rotorua – Places to Visit in New Zealand
10. Mt. Tarawera
Four minor eruptions and one big eruption, left New Zealand under 30 meters of ash in 1886. Mt. Tarawera and the surrounding lakes are tribal land, so you must go with a tour company. Be prepared for all kinds of temperature changes, even if it’s nice in town. Definitely being a hat and windbreaker!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Mt. Tarawera here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Mt. Tarawera – Places to Visit in New Zealand
11. Kaituna River
If you’ve ever wanted to raft the highest commercial waterfall, you’ll have the opportunity to do so on the Kaituna River! The river is owned by the Maori and home to the largest freshwater eels in the world. To put it briefly and simply, the Kaituna River is considered a sacred place to the Maori people because a long time ago there were wars over land; the Warriors that died in battle were laid to rest in the river. The eels would eat the flesh of the bodies, and then the people would collect their bones, wrap them up, and put them in caves surrounding the Kaituna River. This is certainly an experience for the adrenaline-seekers reading this!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near the Kaituna River here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Kaituna River – Places to Visit in New Zealand
12. Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waimangu is the only hydrothermal system in the world that can be pinned down to an exact date, June 10, 1886, when a violent volcanic eruption pierced the country. While the views are quite nice, there are two impressive sights to see in the Valley: Frying Pan Lake and the Inferno Crater. Read more about them here.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near the Waimangu Volcanic Valley here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Taupo is located on the banks of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Like Rotorua, it’s known for its geothermal activities and hot springs, but lacks the strong sulfur smell. If you’re looking for some adventure, I highly recommend the extreme swing and bungy at Taupo Bungy. It’s important to note that you must be 45 kgs (99 lbs) in order to jump!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Taupo here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Taupo – Places to Visit in New Zealand
If you’ve ever wanted to do a 100 m abseil into a dark abyss to see glow worms, then look no further than Waitomo. In Waitomo it’s worth joining a tour to Mangapu Caves, also known as “The Lost World.” There are harnesses, carabiners, and a bit of hiking involved before you reach the entrance to the cave. Read about our epic experience here.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Waitomo here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Waitomo Caves – Places to Visit in New Zealand
15. The Three Sisters
This would be just a quick pitstop, but if you’re looking to check out a black sand beach in New Zealand, this would be it!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near the Three Sisters here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
The Three Sisters – Places to Visit in New Zealand
16. Wai-iti Beach
Wai-iti Beach is located thirty minutes north of New Plymouth. There were very few people when we visited and apparently, if you’re lucky, you can spot penguins (we didn’t).
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Wai-iti Beach here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Wai-iti Beach – Places to Visit in New Zealand
17. Mt. Taranaki
The Taranaki Region is a stunner and climbing Mt. Taranaki is must. Rather than spending our entire day hiking the Pouakai Crossing as we had originally planned, we decided to do a shorter hike to the Pouakai Hut via the Mangorei Track for the famed view of Mt. Taranaki. While there are many, many stairs involved, it was an enjoyable trek that offers great views if the mountain isn’t covered in clouds. If you’re not up for hiking, check out Te Rewa Rewa Bridge for a unique view of Mt. Taranaki, and go to the Dawson Falls Visitor Center to more amazing views of the mountain.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Mt. Taranaki here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Mt. Taranaki – Places to Visit in New Zealand
18. Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, within the National Park, is arguably one of the most popular treks in the world. It also known for the filming location for Mordor and Mt. Doom in The Lord of the Rings. The weather is very unpredictable in this region, so I’d recommend factoring in a few days nearby. Unfortunately, we didn’t know this and hiked with very little visibility. Even without the usually epic views, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was incredibly fun and well worth it! If you’d like to see us reenact the scene where Sam carries Frodo up Mt. Doom, you can view it here.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Tongariro National Park here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Places to Visit in New Zealand
19. Meads Wall
Beginning from the Whakapapa Ski Field, you will find the start of a fifteen minute walk to Mead’s Wall. Tread carefully up and over the wall for incredible views of Mt. Doom. When you’re done, head back to the ski field and grab a snack at New Zealand’s highest café!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Meads Wall here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Meads Wall – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world. It is the perfect blend of past, present, and future. With beaches that span the surrounding bay and free museums that could entertain every traveler, there is always something to do in the capital no matter the weather. Wellington is a booming city by New Zealand standards, and slightly overwhelming if you’re not keen on city driving. Most importantly, it’s the city where you catch the ferry to the South Island!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Wellington here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Wellington – Places to Visit in New Zealand
21. Kissing Gate
Did you know that kissing gates were once found on the pathways between villages to prevent cows and sheep from wandering? You’ll have to read the story here. If you’re looking for a unique place to relax in nature, with incredible stars overhead, give yourself a day or two to chill out at the Kissing Gate. It’s worth checking out the Mapua Wharf nearby too – an old port that has been renovated into a chic pedestrian area with delicious cafés!
Where to Sleep? Check out Canopy Camping Escapes!
Kissing Gate – Places to Visit in New Zealand
22. Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park has some of the bluest water in New Zealand. I recommend driving to Kaiteriteri and taking the sea shuttle to Medlands Beach. From there, it’s worth going on the four hour hike to Anchorage Beach if you have time. There are some truly stunning views!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Abel Tasman National Park here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Abel Tasman National Park – Places to Visit in New Zealand
23. Nelson Lakes National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park is not only well known for its lakes, but also for it’s beech forest, mountains, viewpoints, and clear streams. We first stopped at Kerr Bay to look onto the lake from the rocky shores before driving up Mt. Robert Road in St. Arnaud for a lovely overview of the entire lake area below. There are also longer and more strenuous hikes in the area for those who want to get their hearts pumping a bit more.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Nelson Lakes National Park here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Nelson Lakes National Park – Places to Visit in New Zealand
24. Teorumata Cave
This sea cave was one occupied by travelers from the earliest of days in Paparoa National Park. Hippies used to gather and throw huge parties in this cave. Could you imagine?! The views from the cave, and of the cave itself, are truly beautiful.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Teorumata Cave here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Teorumata Cave – Places to Visit in New Zealand
25. Pancake Rocks & Punakaiki Blowholes
The Pancake Rocks and Punakaiki Blowholes are a key tourist spot on the West Coast. These stacked limestone formations, resembling pancakes, are beautifully juxtaposed against the sea. Amongst these formations you will also find blowholes and surge pools too. You only need to devote a solid thirty minutes to explore the Pancake Rocks area.
Where to Sleep? Check out The Hexagon at Canopy Camping Escapes!
Pancake Rocks – Places to Visit in New Zealand
26. Hokitika Gorge
The Hokitika Gorge is one of those places that really surprised us. It’s a short, easy walk, and the color of the water is just out of this world! If you’re looking for a longer hike in the area, check out Mt. Tuhua, Mt. Brown or Cedar Flats.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Hokitika here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Hokitika Gorge – Places to Visit in New Zealand
27. Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier is quite a special stop along the West Coast, as you can go onto the glacier itself with a guided tour, so get those crampons ready! Believe it or not, the Franz Josef Glacier moves about 50 cm per day!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Franz Josef here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Franz Josef Glacier – Places to Visit in New Zealand
28. Haast Pass
The Haast Pass is the best way to get from the west coast to Wanaka. There are many easy pull-offs and trails that are well worth it. I definitely recommend devoting a day to this drive, and to check out Thunder Creek Falls, Pleasant Flat. Fantail Falls, and Hawea Lake.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Haast here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Haast Pass – Places to Visit in New Zealand
From That Wanaka Tree to Patagonia Ice Cream and Lake Wanaka, I’ve always felt drawn to this town. Both times I’ve visited, it’s been a highlight and I would truly love to spend a week just chilling in Wanaka itself. It’s much quieter than Queenstown, but equally as beautiful. There are numerous trails if you feel like being active, the lakeside if you feel like relaxing, and plenty of delicious little eateries if you feel like indulging. You can even learn how to fly a plane in Wanaka!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Wanaka here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Wanaka – Places to Visit in New Zealand
30. Roy’s Peak
Roy’s Peak is one of my favorite hikes in the world. It’s a steep uphill climb with switchbacks, but it’s clearly marked. I’ve hiked it both mid-day and before sunrise and I highly recommend beginning your hike at 4am to catch sunrise (which was at 7:30am when we climbed). Give yourself about three hours to get up the mountain if you’re in pretty good shape and make sure to bring many layers, even if it feels warm when you leave your hotel. Whether you’re an active hiker or not, I would certainly recommend hiking poles are the decent is rough on the knees. Difficulty aside, the views from Roy’s Peak are simply spectacular and not to be missed!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Roy’s Peak here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Roy's Peak – Places to Visit in New Zealand
31. Omarama Clay Cliffs
The Omarama Clay Cliffs are a great stop to break up the drive between Wanaka and Mt. Cook. The Clay Cliffs are tall, orange pinnacles in deep ravines, formed over a million years ago by ancient glaciers. Please note that these are on private land, so you will find a donation box at the gate where you can get out and stroll around the area.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Omarama here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Omarama Clay Cliffs – Places to Visit in New Zealand
32. Lake Pukaki
In order to get to Mt. Cook Village, you have to drive around Lake Pukaki, the largest of the three glacial lakes in the region. The source of Lake Pukaki comes mostly from the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers, giving it an absolutely stunning blue color. Aside from the color, the best part of Lake Pukaki is that it provides you with your first view of Mt. Cook in the distance! It’s also a spectacular spot to watch the sunrise.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Lake Pukaki here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Lake Pukaki – Places to Visit in New Zealand
33. Tasman Terminal Lake
Just before reaching Mt. Cook Village, you’ll find a right turn off to the Tasman Terminal Lake. It is definitely worth the small detour, no matter what time of day. I’ve now been twice – once mid-day and once at sunset. The lake has been created due to the Tasman Glacier receding, and it’s unique in that the lake is actually full of icebergs! There are two different trail options – one that is pretty flat (the trail to the right) and leaves you at the base of the lake, and one that has a bunch of stairs (the trail to the left), but gives you a great lookout over the lake. I’ve done both trails – and recommend both trails – but if you can only do one, I’d recommend the trail to the left, if you’re physically capable.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Tasman Lake here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Tasman Terminal Lake – Places to Visit in New Zealand
34. Mount Cook / Aoraki National Park
Mount Cook is, hands down, one of my favorite places in the world. And I don’t say this lightly. Every turn and every angle left me speechless. It is also New Zealand’s highest mountain! I honestly could have spent weeks just exploring the Mount Cook area alone; that said, be sure you give yourself at least three days here to explore. I’d highly highly highly recommend a helicopter flight over Mount Cook, as it was one of my most memorable travel experiences. If you only have time for one hike, let it be the Hooker Valley Trail. The incredible thing about the Hooker Valley Trail is that it’s mostly flat, and a path that just about anyone can walk, and yet it offers some of the most spectacular views that this world has to offer. It takes about 3 hours round trip or so, but if you’re a photographer, definitely factor in longer. Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park are also part of the International Dark Sky Reserve, and if you’re lucky enough to have a clear night, you’ll be able to witness the most gorgeous night sky.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Mount Cook here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Mount Cook – Places to Visit in New Zealand
35. Lake Tekapo
If you’re traveling from Christchurch to Mount Cook, you’ll pass Lake Tekapo about 3 hours in. It’s also only an hour and fifteen minutes from Mt. Cook, so if you’re looking for a beautiful day trip (from an already beautiful region), Lake Tekapo would be a great decision. Grab a book and read by the water, take a dip, enjoy the cute eateries, or just take in the views and you’re bound to have a great time.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Lake Tekapo here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Lake Tekapo – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Arrowtown is an old gold rush village just outside of Queenstown. They’ve got a super cute heritage main street and it’s perfect for any nature lover. I personally love that Arrowtown is home to the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bungy Bridge Jump and I definitely recommend checking it out when you’re there!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Arrowtown here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Bungy Jump Arrowtown – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world! Not only is it simply stunning, but it’s nestled on the lakeside and surrounded by incredible mountain peaks. This is a wonderful place to base yourself in either summer or winter, depending on if you want to hike or ski. You can do everything in Queenstown from skydiving to bungy jumping to jetboats, and you can even hop in a helicopter for some epic views while you’re at it! If you’re not an adrenaline-seeker like myself, but still want to take in some stunning views, there are plenty of hiking trails in the area as well. You can very easily spend a week in Queenstown and never run out of things to do.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Queenstown here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
NZONE Skydive – Places to Visit in New Zealand
38. Lake Alta
We decided to squeeze in a hike to Lake Alta after departing Queenstown, and it surely didn’t disappoint! Nestled high up in the mountains, drive yourself to the Remarkables Ski Field where you can begin your hike up. The drive to the parking lot, in and of itself, offers spectacular views; while we drove up in our campervan, I would perhaps recommend a 4×4 next time. Factor in about an hour to get to the alpine lake – the first bit is steep, but then it flattens out for the majority of the climb. The reflections on the lake are simply beautiful, and I could have spent hours relaxing and reading by this beautiful lake.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Lake Alta here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Lake Alta – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Kingston is a must if you’re in a campervan or free-camping. On Campermate, “Kingston Campsite” is definitely where you’ll want to spend the night, as long as you’re in a self-contained vehicle. Not only is it a free campsite, but it’s right on the water too. More than that, it is an absolutely spectacular sunset spot! We only spent one night in Kingston, but we could have spent days just relaxing off the grid, as it was just so peaceful.
Where to Sleep? Only sleep in Kingston if you’re in a self-contained campervan. If not, spend the night in Queenstown!
Kingston – Places to Visit in New Zealand
40. Te Anau
There’s nothing super special about Te Anau, but it’s the gateway to Milford Sound and a great place to grab a hotel if you’re just doing a Milford Sound day trip. There’s a cute town center, and it’s situated right on the lake. Te Anau is also known to have some of the best savory pies in New Zealand!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Te Anau here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Te Anau – Places to Visit in New Zealand
41. Milford Road
Milford Road is the one and only road that takes you from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Along the way there are so many pretty stops you can make and you can easily make a day out of Milford Road alone. Whether you stop at the Mirror Lakes, Lake Gunn, Key Summit, Lake Marian, The Chasm or anywhere in between, you’re bound to be blown away by the beauty! Unfortunately it down-poured both times that I drove down Milford Road, so maybe I’ll be luckier the third time!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations on Milford Road here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Milford Road – Places to Visit in New Zealand
42. Milford Sound
Considered the “eighth wonder of the world,” Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular places in the world. The best way to explore Milford Sound is through a day cruise. Rain or shine, you’re bound to have a great time. Keep your eyes peeled for Bowen Falls, Mitre Peak, and Stirling Falls, as those were my favorites!
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Milford Sound here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Milford Sound – Places to Visit in New Zealand
43. Doubtful Sound
Unlike Milford Sound, the everyday tourist tends to skip over Doubtful Sound because it’s a bit harder to reach, but so very worth it! On the way, you’ll cross Lake Manapouri and the Wilmot Pass, before boarding your cruise on Doubtful Sound. It’s a longer excursion than Milford Sound, but a great alternative if you’re out to see New Zealand’s iconic karst formations.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations near Doubtful Sound here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Doubtful Sound – Places to Visit in New Zealand
44. The Catlins
The rolling green hills that define the Catlins make for a beautiful road trip along New Zealand’s Southern Scenic Route. Whether you’re stopping to check out Lake Wilkie, Matai Falls, Purakaunui Falls, Nugget Point, Moeraki Boulders, or anything in between, you’re bound to enjoy the southernmost region of New Zealand.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations on the Southern Scenic Route here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
The Catlins – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Oamaru is definitely worth a stop if you’re into wildlife, as it’s home to the Blue Penguin Colony! These are the smallest penguins in the world, and oh so adorable. There are a range of tours available, from self-guided tours to guided tours and premium evening tours. I definitely recommend the evening tours, as that’s when the blue penguins are most active (they’re typically out fishing all day). We personally saw 65 blue penguins with the premium package. 5 FT Tip: No photographs are allowed, as not to disturb the penguins, so I have borrowed the below image from the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony website.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Oamaru here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Blue Penguin Colony – Places to Visit in New Zealand
46. Banks Peninsula
Whether you’ve just flown into New Zealand, or you're getting ready to take off, give yourself a few days to relax in the tranquility of the Banks Peninsula. Canopy Camping Escapes has an awesome glamping site called Green Antler just an hour east of Christchurch. It’s peaceful, isolated, and oh-so-comfortable. Not only will you have your own luxury glamping tent and amenities with epic views, but you’ll even have your own private wood-burning hot tub. I personally hope to make Green Antler part of my trip every time I fly in or out of Christchurch from here on out.
Where to Sleep? Stay at the Green Antler by Canopy Camping Escapes!
Banks Peninsula – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Christchurch is a great starting or ending point for anyone journeying to New Zealand. The first time we visited, it was our end point (as we started on the North Island), but the second time we visited, we started and ended in Christchurch (as we just explored the South Island). Christchurch has been hit with some rough earthquakes over the years, but has definitely been recovering. While there’s not much to do in Christchurch itself, the Botanic Gardens are said to be lovely, as well as New Regent Street and the Cardboard Cathedral.
Where to Sleep? Search all accommodations in Christchurch here or get $55 off your AirBnB using my code here.
Christchurch – Places to Visit in New Zealand
Where are these places located?
Here’s a map to show you the most incredible places to visit in New Zealand. There are so many routes you can take – be it you just explore the North Island, just explore the South Island, or decide to tackle both islands. No matter which route you choose, it’s certainly bound to be awe-inspiring. I have put on the map below each of my recommended places to visit in New Zealand. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message or leave a comment below.
Hot Water Beach
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
The Three Sisters
Tongariro National Park
Abel Tasman National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park
Franz Josef Glacier
Omarama Clay Cliffs
Tasman Terminal Lake
Resources on the best places to visit in New Zealand…
I highly recommend purchasing (and reading!) the Lonely Planet New Zealand series before journeying into this incredible country. You never know what hidden gems you might find that I missed, as I’m sure there are many! Have a look at…
- New Zealand Travel Guide by Lonely Planet
- New Zealand’s Best Trips by Lonely Planet
- New Zealand’s North Island by Lonely Planet
- New Zealand’s South Island by Lonely Planet
And, of course, since it’s such a long journey over, don’t forget to pack your travel essentials!
Do You Have Travel Insurance?
I hope you don’t travel without travel insurance! If you do, you better think again. Travel insurance is arguably the most important thing to have on hand (after your passports and visas). I’ve had to use my travel insurance multiple times on the road, even though I’m healthy. You never know when something might happen; take comfort in knowing that whether your flight gets cancelled or you wind up sick and in the hospital, you will be covered. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for each and every one of you travelers. You can get a free quote here.
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You have me wanting to go back to New Zealand so badly. I’ve only spent a week in and around Auckland, which was great, but I’m dying to see the southern portion of the country.
Yessss! The South Island is out of this world! I couldn’t recommend it more highly.