25 Best Things to Do in New Zealand

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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New Zealand is called God zone for a reason.  Home to breathtaking beauty, the country is a dream destination. Whether you are a film buff, a thrill seeker or someone who wants to take a relaxing break, this top spot has something for everyone. This Pacific nation is made up of several isles, the main ones are the North and South Island.

Situated in the southern hemisphere, the country experiences the peak of its summer in the December- March period. Yes, there is no white Christmas in New Zealand. In fact, the end of year holidays are best spent on the beach – basking in the sun and enjoying barbecues.

You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in the land down under.

Lets have a look at the best things to do in New Zealand:

1. Take a Lord of the Rings tour

Hobbiton, New ZealandSource: Blue Planet Studio / shutterstock
Hobbiton, New Zealand

New Zealand has always been a favorite with the tourists, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit series are what really put it on the map. Pay a visit to Hobbiton and experience Tolkien’s Middle Earth come to life. The quaint village set will have you mesmerized.

Book your tour well in advance to avoid disappointment.

2. Dip with the dolphins in the Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands, New ZealandSource: Evelyn Dutra / shutterstock
Dolphin, Bay Of Islands

This region is a true hub of adventure and fun. Allow at least two days to fully enjoy this location. While there is plenty to do here, your best memory will perhaps be a swim with the some friendly locals.  Dolphins of all types are known to frequent these waters. Take a dip with the sea’s friendliest mammals for an unforgettable experience.

3. Visit Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island, New ZealandSource: Troy Wegman / shutterstock
Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island is a real treat for those who want a fine experience. It is a 40-minute ferry ride from New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. The gorgeous island has sandy beaches, picturesque walkways and charming shops. The area is known for its tasty wines and beautiful vineyards. For a splendid day trip explore the island by foot.

4. Discover the wonder of Waitomo

Waitomo Glowworm CavesSource: Shaun Jeffers / shutterstock
Waitomo Glowworm Caves

This one’s a true feast for the eyes. Located in the North Island, it is one of nature’s finest miracles. The limestone caves, estimated to be over 30 million years old, have stunning stalagmite and stalactite formations. They are also home to Arachnocampa luminosa – special glow worms found only in New Zealand.  The serene boat ride in the river underneath the caves is another experience altogether. You are sure to enjoy looking at the thousands of glow worms that line the walls. It feels like staring into a starry night, even when it’s broad daylight outside.

5. A history lesson at Waitangi

Waitangi, New ZealandSource: riekephotos / shutterstock

There is nothing quite like going back to the spot where it all began. A trip to New Zealand is incomplete without a visit to Waitangi. The country was found in 1840 on the basis of an agreement between the various local Maori tribes and the British Empire. James Busby, who had been appointed a representative of the empire, drafted the document – which came to be known as the Treaty of Waitangi. Busby’s residence stands to this day on the sprawling treaty grounds and visitors get a chance to take a peek into how the family would have lived.

6. Get dizzy at the heights – visit Sky Tower

Sky Tower, Auckland, New ZealandSource: Sorang / shutterstock
Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand has some of the world’s most adventurous activities. While you are in the North Island, pay a visit to the Sky Tower – the tallest man-made structure south of the equator. If you are feeling particularly daring, try the skywalk. It is a nerve-wracking experience, walking 192 metres above the ground without hand rails is not for the faint hearted. However, it does come with bragging rights – forever!

7. Take a plunge from the sky!

Sky Jump, AucklandSource: matiascausa / shutterstock
Sky Jump, Auckland

If you need more excitement than the SkyWalk, try the SkyJump. It is a 90 degree drop from the top of the tower. At 85 km per hour it should be over before you know it, but the adrenaline rush is sure to remain a lot longer.

8. Take a bird’s eye view

Auckland Helicopter FlightSource: C Levers / shutterstock
Auckland Helicopter Flight

While we are on the subject of heights, take in the breathtaking views of Auckland with a scenic flight over the city of sails. A helicopter ride is the best way to look at the striking scenery, urban landscape and deep blue waters of the Pacific.

9. The mysterious One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill, AucklandSource: Filip Fuxa / shutterstock
One Tree Hill

Auckland’s One Tree Hill is Mother Nature’s picturesque reminder that we live on a beautiful planet. It was once a volcanic peak, and although there is no estimate of when the volcano erupted, geologists can say with some certainty that the site is just over 28,000 years old.

A snippet from history has earned the spot a tongue-in-cheek title – None Tree Hill. When the foundations of Auckland were laid in the 19th century a tree stood on the summit. A settler cut it off – while one account suggests it was vandalism, another points to the fact that he needed firewood.

This did not bode well with the locals and trees had to be planted to replace the original one. None, but two pines survived – someone once again inadvertently chopped off one of these. Between 1994 and 2000, Maori protesters twice attacked the remaining tree to draw attention to the government’s injustices towards natives. Unable to sustain the second attempt, the tree had to be removed.

10. A bungy jump from Auckland Harbour Bridge

Auckland Harbour BridgeSource: travellight / shutterstock
Auckland Harbour Bridge

New Zealand is the home of bungy jumping, so why not take the plunge at the very spot that started it all? The founder of the extreme sport, AJ Hackett first hurled himself from the Harbour Bridge in 1987. He was arrested as soon as he had his feet were on the ground. Hackett was released a few hours later, and the rest as they say is history.

11. A trip to the hotspot

Rotorua, New ZealandSource: Olga Yatsenko / shutterstock
Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua is quite literally New Zealand’s hotspot, thanks to plenty of geothermal activity that keep its geysers and thermal pools warm.  There are also 17 lakes in the region, so visitors can enjoy all sorts of water activities, from extreme sports to a quiet swim.

12. Immerse yourself in Maori culture

Tamaki Maori villageSource: Fotos593 / shutterstock
Tamaki Maori Village

Not far from Rotorua is the Tamaki Maori village, which gives visitors a unique opportunity to take a peek into the native culture.  Immerse yourself in the customs and cuisine of the indigenous people of New Zealand. You will receive a traditional welcome and get a chance to experience Maori traditions, which will momentarily transport you into another era.

13. Tea time at Taupo

Lake Taupo CarvingsSource: weltreisendertj / shutterstock
Lake Taupo Carvings

At the heart of the North Island is a town that sits on the banks of the tranquil waters of Lake Taupo.  Around one hour’s drive from here would take you to Mount Ruapehu.  In the winter the snow covered mountains come alive with skiing enthusiasts. Even if you do not have an interest in zipping through peaks, it is worth a visit just to experience the stunning landscape. If walking is what takes your fancy, try the Tongariro crossing – a 19 kilometer journey that is as beautiful as it is challenging.

14. Check out the art in windy Wellington

Wellington, New ZealandSource: Milosz Maslanka / shutterstock

New Zealand’s capital is a treat for art lovers. The city is dotted with art galleries and public sculptures. Take a walk around Wellington’s stunning waterfront to soak in the rich culture. Be sure to check out the Writers Walk, the strip is peppered with at least 19 text sculptures representing writers who lived in the city at some point.

15. Take a selfie on the steps of the Beehive

Beehive, WellingtonSource: Robert CHG / shutterstock
Beehive, Wellington

While you are in the capital, a quick stopover at the most important building in the country is a must. Check out the New Zealand parliament buildings, especially the executive wing called the Beehive because of its interesting shape. You can also take a guided tour to learn more about the history of the parliament, but if you want to keep it short and sweet, snap a selfie in front of beehive.

16. Have a drink at the Backbenchers Gastropub

Backbenchers GastropubSource: russellstreet / Flickr | CC BY-SA
Backbenchers Gastropub

This historic pub is surrounded by government offices and sits across from the parliament. It is well-known for its tongue-in-cheek humor often aimed at the New Zealand politicians. Prior to 2012, there were even caricatures of local politicians on the wall. However, after a couple of fires ravaged the pub, it had to be refurbished. The following year it was unveiled with a new look and a scrumptious new menu. The pub now serves 20 different tap beers and more than 60 wines.

17. Visit the city of gardens

Christchurch Botanical Garden, New ZealandSource: Ho Su A Bi / shutterstock
Christchurch Botanical Garden, New Zealand

As you make your way towards the bottom of the country, you will realize that the locals rightfully call the South Island a “giant national park”.

Christchurch is the biggest city on the island. The 2010 earthquake caused much destruction; however, the garden city has mostly recovered from the disaster. There are several gardens that provide a stunning backdrop to the beautiful city. A walk through the sprawling Hagley Park will leave you feeling refreshed. You may also want to stroll through the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. If you are really in the mood to relax, take a gondola ride through the Avon River.

18. Walk backwards on the world’s steepest street

World's Steepest Street, DunedinSource: gracethang2 / shutterstock
World’s Steepest Street, Dunedin

Dunedin is a small but happening city. Home to one of New Zealand’s largest universities, it has a sizable student population and a substantial appetite for adventure. So it is little wonder that the world’s steepest residential street happens to be in Dunedin. Baldwin Street is around 350 meters long and the height difference between its highest and lowest point is 70 meters. The surrounding streets, too, have a pretty sharp incline.

19. Walk along the Pancake Rocks

Punakaki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park, West Coast, South Island, New ZealandSource: NaughtyNut / shutterstock
Punakaki Pancake Rocks In Paparoa National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

For those who love nature, Pancake Rocks are really something to marvel at. Located close to a small town called Punakaiki in the west of the South Island, the spot is extremely popular. The area is best explored on foot. Pancake Rocks have earned their name due to the layers of limestone formed on top of one another, giving a look of stacked pancakes.

20. Say hello to the penguins

International Antarctic CentreSource: Kritsana Laroque / shutterstock
International Antarctic Centre

Experience the Southern Hemisphere in its full glory at the International Antarctic Centre. Here, visitors get a true glimpse into what the Antarctic is like. From a penguin encounter to experiencing what a snow storm in the world’s coldest continent would feel like, the centre is full of action-packed adventure. If you want a truly authentic experience go for a ride in the Hagglund, these sturdy and reliable vehicles are used as transport in Antarctica .

21. Taste the Fergburger in Queenstown

FergburgerSource: Hizor / shutterstock

There is only one place in the world where you will get a Fergburger and that is Queenstown. The queues are at least a mile long at all times and patrons always come back for more. Find out what the fuss is all about and give the gourmet burgers a try. With the menu boasting over 30 different types, you are sure to find one (or more!) that please your palate.

22. Become a daredevil down south

Kawarau BridgeSource: Martian977 / shutterstock
Bungee Jumping, Kawarau Bridge

Wherever you may be in New Zealand, you can never be too far from an adrenaline fueled activity. Queenstown has three world-renowned bungy jumping sites and the world’s biggest swing with an impressive 300 metre arc. Take your pick depending how much you want to push your limits (and bragging rights!).

23. Mother Nature’s finest work – Milford Sound

Mitre peak at Milford soundSource: Natheepat Kiatpaphaphong / shutterstock
Mitre Peak at Milford Sound

Milford Sound is around a five-hour drive from Queenstown. The journey is as beautiful as the destination. Lush green mountains and hills tower over calm and serene waters. A scenic boat cruise will take you close to several picturesque waterfalls and other wonders of nature. You will even get to see the point where waters of the Milford sound meet with the Tasman Sea. This is a not-to-miss opportunity, and if you are lucky you may even spot a few seals.

24. Get puzzled in Puzzling World

Puzzling World, WanakaSource: Narongsak Nagadhana / shutterstock
Puzzling World, Wanaka

This is one place that will really mess with your head, but it won’t stop you from exploring. Optical illusions will make you look like a giant one minute and a dwarf the next. There is also a Great Maze that will test your mental strength and physical agility. The Hall of Following Faces will stump you as 169 faces constantly stare at whoever enters no matter which direction they go. All in all, it is a creepy experience – but one that is worth every bit the confusion!

25. Unwind at the Onsen Hot Pools

Onsen Hot PoolsSource: Lilysssu / shutterstock
Onsen Hot Pools

After a long day of sightseeing and adventure, there is nothing more relaxing then soaking in a hot spa. You can unwind in style at the Onsen Hot Pools surrounded by the spectacular views of Queenstown. Put your feet up, take a deep breath and reflect on your travels through God zone.

25 Best Things to Do in New Zealand:

  • Take a Lord of the Rings tour
  • Dip with the dolphins in the Bay of Islands
  • Visit Waiheke Island
  • Discover the wonder of Waitomo
  • A history lesson at Waitangi
  • Get dizzy at the heights – visit Sky Tower
  • Take a plunge from the sky!
  • Take a bird’s eye view
  • The mysterious One Tree Hill
  • A bungy jump from Auckland Harbour Bridge
  • A trip to the hotspot
  • Immerse yourself in Maori culture
  • Tea time at Taupo
  • Check out the art in windy Wellington
  • Take a selfie on the steps of the Beehive
  • Have a drink at the Backbenchers Gastropub
  • Visit the city of gardens
  • Walk backwards on the world’s steepest street
  • Walk along the Pancake Rocks
  • Say hello to the penguins
  • Taste the Fergburger in Queenstown
  • Become a daredevil down south
  • Mother Nature’s finest work - Milford Sound
  • Get puzzled in Puzzling World
  • Unwind at the Onsen Hot Pools