Things to do in New Zealand

Things to do in  New Zealand

The stuff adventures are made of

New Zealand may be an island nation cast adrift in the Pacific Ocean at the bottom of the world, but that’s exactly what makes it special, especially to travelers. The North and South Islands (and a few inhabited outer islands) are home to only 5 million humans, but they’re incredibly geographically diverse, and their isolation has kept them that way. From subtropical beaches to low-lying glaciers, steaming volcanoes to alpine ski fields, ancient forests to desert plateaus, there are many things to do in New Zealand.

Top 15 attractions in New Zealand

Auckland Harbour Bridge

The Auckland Harbour Bridge is a landmark site on the city’s skyline. The 8-lane engineering marvel connects downtown Auckland with North Shore suburbs. Visitors can experience the bridge and the stunning views of the Waitemata Harbour from several vantage points: while driving over it, climbing it, or jumping off it.More

Lake Wakatipu

Surrounded by mountains and shrouded in legend, the crystal waters of Lake Wakatipu make up the longest lake on New Zealand's South Island. For travelers seeking adventure activities—from fishing to catamaran cruises—a day on Lake Wakatipu is arguably the highlight of any trip to Queenstown and the Otago region.More

Te Puia

Te Puia, located in the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley at the edge of Rotorua features Pohutu Geyser and is home to the impressive New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Visitors can tour the bubbling mud pools with a local Maori guide and choose from among myriad activities.More

Franz Josef Glacier

One of New Zealand’s most photographed natural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Franz Josef Glacier serves up a dazzling landscape of snow-smothered peaks, rocky gorges, and icy waterfalls, feeding into the Waiho River that's ripe for exploration.More

Hauraki Gulf Islands

Located off the coast of Auckland, Hauraki Gulf’s 16 beautiful islands are ideal for outdoor activities like walking, horse riding, swimming, and dolphin- and whale-watching. From the vineyards of Waiheke to the hiking trails of Rangitoto, the birdwatching of Tiritiri Matangi to the secluded hot springs of Great Barrier, each of the islands offers something special.More

Marlborough Sounds

A series of sunken river valleys at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, the Marlborough Sounds offer a range of sights and adventures—hiking, biking, camping, and wildlife watching, to name but a few. Many travelers pass through Queen Charlotte Sound and the town of Picton on the ferry between the North and South islands.More

Mt. Victoria Lookout

Looming out of the land at the end of Courtenay Place, Mt. Victoria is deeply embedded in the life of Wellington’s central city. Standing at more than 640 feet (195 meters) at its highest point, the Mt. Victoria Lookout offers 360-degree views of Wellington stretching out past the scenic harbor.More

Auckland Sky Tower

A dizzying 1,076 feet (328 meters) high, the Auckland Sky Tower is not only New Zealand’s highest building but also the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The tower offers unbeatable views of Auckland’s skyline, with its distinctive spire visible from all corners of the city.More

Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings

Measuring more than 33 feet (10 meters) high, these mammoth Maori sculptures were chiseled into the rocks on the edge of Lake Taupo in the late 1970s. Created by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell, the carvings depict Ngatoroirangi, who is said to have guided the Te Arawa tribes from their Polynesian homeland to New Zealand.More

Wellington Cable Car

Operating since 1902, the Wellington Cable Car is one of the city’s most famous sights. The ride, from the central business district to the city’s tranquil botanic garden, offers a stunning light show inside the tunnels as well as gorgeous vistas of Mount Victoria and Wellington Harbour as you reach the top.More

Milford Sound

With its soaring cliffs, dramatic glacial valleys, and thundering waterfalls, it's easy to see why the famous Milford Sound is one of New Zealand's most visited sights. This natural wonder is the star attraction of Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that provides a haven for dolphins, seals, and penguins.More

Auckland Domain

Enjoy the peace and tranquility of forests, gullies, and green spaces in Auckland Domain, a 185-acre (75-hectare) escape from the frantic Queen Street crowds. Get lost on a nature walk, admire the tropical plants at the Wintergarden, and marvel at the history on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.More

Lake Tekapo

A glacial lake on New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Tekapo is an adventurer’s playground by day—and a stargazer’s heaven at night. On a clear night, southern hemisphere constellations, plus the Milky Way and the southern lights, shine spectacularly in the UNESCO-listed Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.More

Auckland War Memorial Museum

The Auckland War Memorial Museum, one of New Zealand’s finest, displays thousands of items—including Maori and Pacific Island collections—reflecting the country’s history, culture, and nature. A dedicated children’s area allows kids to touch animals, fossils, and bugs. Visiting Auckland Museum is a must when spending time in New Zealand’s largest city.More

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s largest lakes, surrounded by the mountains of Mt. Aspiring National Park. On the lake's southern shore, the town of Wanaka is a relaxed spot that offers easy access to lake-based activities: in summer, paddleboarding, kayaking, boating, and swimming are popular; in winter, skiing is available nearby. More

Trip ideas

New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks

New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks

Top activities in New Zealand

Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves Guided Day Trip from Auckland
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TSS Earnslaw and BBQ Buffet Lunch in Queenstown
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Premium Milford Sound Small Group Tour from Queenstown
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Mitai Maori Village Cultural Experience in Rotorua
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Hobbiton™ Movie Set Walking Tour from Shires Rest
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Hobbiton Movie Set Small Group Tour from Auckland
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Franz Josef Heli Hiking Guided Tour
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TranzAlpine Train, Arthur's Pass and Castle Hill Day Trip
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Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour

Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour

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All about New Zealand

When to visit

There’s a lot of climate variation between northern and southern New Zealand, but generally summers are warm and dry and winters are cool and wet. The warmer months of summer (December-February) as well as late spring and early autumn are the best time for beach time and outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. Christmas, New Year, and the summer school holidays are especially busy. Ski resorts in the South Island generally operate between June and September.

Getting around

Public transport in New Zealand is limited and unreliable, even in the larger cities. The ferries linking the North and South Islands are frequently canceled. Long-distance intercity buses operate in some areas but not all. A few scenic train lines on both islands link major cities and attractions. To travel around the country, it’s best to have your own car, especially as many tourist attractions are in rural areas.

Traveler tips

It’s often said that New Zealand is roughly the same size as Japan or the UK, but this comparison can be misleading when it comes to getting around. While New Zealand doesn’t look all that big on a map, much of the country is mountainous, rural, or sparsely populated, and even the major highways can pass through slow, challenging terrain. Always allow more time for getting around New Zealand than you think you’ll need.

Local Currency
New Zealand Dollar (NZ$)
Time Zone
NZST (UTC +12)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What’s New Zealand famous for?

New Zealand is famous for its mountainous scenery, geothermal geysers and mud pools, Maori culture, All Blacks rugby team, for being the filming location for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and its flightless national bird, the endangered kiwi.

What is the most beautiful part of New Zealand?

Many consider the mountainous South Island to be the most beautiful part of New Zealand. Others think the beaches of Bay of Islands or Abel Tasman National Park are the most beautiful. What you think is the prettiest part depends on your interests and preferences, and the options are many.

How many days is enough for New Zealand?

Many find that seven days is enough to focus on one island (the North or the South islands), but prefer 10–14 days. How much time in New Zealand is enough depends on whether you want to focus on one of the main islands or cover the whole country.

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in New Zealand?

The top tourist attractions in New Zealand are its national parks: Fiordland National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, and Tongariro National Park in particular. Queenstown, Milford Sound, Franz Josef Glacier, Aoraki Mt. Cook, Te Papa Museum, Rotorua, and the Hobbiton Movie Set are also among the most popular attractions.

What activities is New Zealand known for?

New Zealand is best known for its outdoor and adventure activities, as well as tours themed around The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Hiking, mountain biking, sightseeing cruises, whale and dolphin watching, white-water rafting, jet boating, and kayaking are all popular activities that travelers to New Zealand enjoy.

Is NZ expensive to visit?

Yes, New Zealand is an expensive country to visit. Accommodations, activities, food, and transport costs in New Zealand are all relatively high, as is the high cost of long-haul international flights. And you’ll want to peek at exchange rates to see how that will affect your costs, too.

Frequently Asked Questions
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