New Zealand is blessed with astonishing natural beauty. Consisting of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, the country offers incredible diversity – and a number of must see places! You’ll find magnificent mountain ranges, active volcanic regions, picturesque lakes, mighty waterfalls as well as a fantastic array of wildlife. With so much to do and see it’s overwhelming deciding which places to skip and which things not to miss.
From mid 2015, we spent 9 months living together in New Zealand on working holiday visas. We split our time between travelling around the country and working hard in order to do so. Here are our top 10 things to see in New Zealand:
Wildlife enthusiasts, you simply cannot afford to miss out Kaikoura – a charming coastal town on New Zealand’s south island. Take a whale watching tour and find yourself just a matter of metres away from some of the world’s most majestic marine life – including a number of different whale species, dolphins and seals. It will take your breath away to witness playful dolphins and diving whales in their natural habitat. This is a story you will tell for years to come! Learn from our mistakes and take some seasickness medication. You don’t want to miss your chance to see these giants of the sea up close.
Franz Josef Glacier
Weather permitting, a trip to Franz Josef could be the highlight of your trip to New Zealand. You’ll take a short helicopter ride up to the glacier where you then hike across stunning glacial terrain. Finding yourself amongst gleaming blue ice, with brilliant panoramic views represents a special opportunity which you should take advantage of! We wish we had chance to do this but despite going in the middle of New Zealand’s summer, it rained for two days straight and our tour was cancelled. Many of our friends had better luck and assure us it’s one of the most amazing things they’ve done.
Take a trip to the adventure capital of New Zealand. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone in Queenstown – offering skiing/snowboarding (when in season), bungee jumping, skydiving, white water rafting and more. Even if you aren’t searching for thrills, the setting alone is worth the visit. This quaint town is set against a huge glacial lake with incredible views of the towering Remarkables mountain range, making it the perfect place for sharing a few drinks with your friends.
If you’re visiting the South island, you should make visiting Milford Sound a priority. One of New Zealand’s most iconic spots, most easily accessed as a full day trip from Queenstown – you can relax and take in the incredible scenery along the way, from rushing waterfalls to the beautifully still mirror lakes. The highlight of your day will be a cruise through the Fiord itself. This gets you up close to spectacular landscape, with towering peaks, gorgeous green rainforest and the chance to get drenched under a powerful waterfall – which will leave your heart racing! With some luck, you may even catch a glimpse of dolphins, penguins and seals to make the day even more special!
Found in one of New Zealand’s most volcanically active regions, Rotorua is your chance to visit a geothermal paradise. Marvel at erupting geysers, bubbling mud pools and fluorescent green sulphur pools. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the fascinating Māori culture. Treat your taste buds to a traditional Māori Hāngī and learn to perform the world famous Haka. Be warned before you visit though, Rotorua does have an overpowering sulphur smell but don’t let that put you off taking in such rare geothermal phenomena and educating yourself on the ways of the Māori.
Home to the luscious blue waters of the vast Lake Taupo, which itself is roughly the size of Singapore, you won’t find yourself short of things to do here. Take the time to relax in beautiful natural hot springs, spend an evening sailing the lake, stare in awe at the sheer power of the Huka falls or challenge yourself to take on the Tongariro Alpine crossing for a real sense of accomplishment. This near 20-kilometre hike takes you past the iconic Mount Ngauruhoe, instantly recognisable as Mount Doom from the famous Lord of the Rings films, as well as stunning emerald lakes making it particularly rewarding for lovers of the outdoors. The incredible landscape and nature throughout the hike are a must see on the North Island.
When you go to New Zealand the chances are that your inbound/outbound flight will be going to/from Auckland. Having lived and worked there for around 6 months, we can categorically say there aren’t many exciting things to do in Auckland itself. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave before checking out some of the beautiful surroundings. Visit the volcanic island of Rangitoto and hike to the crater, passing wonderful viewpoints along the way. If that’s not for you, spend a few days on Waiheke Island appreciating the vineyard tours and gorgeous beaches. Alternatively, rent a car and head up north to the seemingly never-ending Omaha beach and a number of waterfalls along the way.
Lake Pukaki/Mount Cook
Whether you’re looking to get out into nature, or just want that picture-perfect Insta shot – make sure to visit Lake Pukaki. Glacial waters make it a mesmerising shade of blue that will make you question whether your eyes are deceiving you. If that isn’t enough to convince you to visit, it offers dramatic viewpoints of the colossal Mount Cook – New Zealand’s highest peak.
Prepare to be blown away – New Zealand’s capital is the world’s windiest city! Take a cable car ride to the alluring colours of the botanic gardens, head up Mount Victoria for sensational panoramic views, educate yourself on the intriguing Māori culture at the national museum of New Zealand (Museum Te Papa) or just take a stroll to appreciate the beauty of Wellington’s waterfront. Consistently ranking as one of the world’s most liveable cities, you may just find yourself not wanting to leave!
Abel Tasman National Park
New Zealand’s smallest national park is home to some of the most alluring golden beaches you’ll find anywhere in the country. Hike to waterfalls hidden in the forest, search for Cleopatra’s pool (which has its own natural waterslide) or relish the opportunity to kayak through the park’s exquisite waters. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun on blissful beaches or adventure into nature, Abel Tasman is a wonderful place to spend some of your trip.
New Zealand is a truly beautiful country, with an abundance of activities and must see places to visit on both islands. With such wonderful nature it really is a country begging to be explored. Take your time making an itinerary to suit you. That way you can make the most out of your trip to one of the world’s most scenic countries.
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