The Best Things to Do in New Zealand: 12 Awesome NZ Experiences
With the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble set to be in full swing by April 19, there should finally be an influx of tourists after a tough year. If you’re an Australian and want to travel overseas, it’s going to be your only option for a while yet. What’s it really like though? What are the best things to do in New Zealand? Luckily for you, I’m here to help. This post will look at some of the best travel experiences you can have in New Zealand, as well as some tips to make your first (or 10th) trip to New Zealand a success.
Head for the Mountains
I’m going to assume you’re Australian, and if you are then you probably don’t see spectacular snow-covered mountains very often. You can easily change that in New Zealand. The Southern Alps run almost the entire length of the South Island and there are countless walks, scenic drives, and viewpoints to explore. You’ve also got some picturesque towns (Wanaka and Queenstown, among others) and if you want to see it all from above, there are plenty of scenic flight options.
Stay in a hut
Huts are found throughout the country on a huge variety of walks. There are backcountry huts (basic, no booking required) as well as ones on Great Walks (the photo below is Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track) which book out months in advance. Staying in one is a fun experience – you’ll meet lots of people and you’ll likely wake up to an amazing view.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Two-Week New Zealand Itinerary
Do a Scenic Drive
Hiking to a hut certainly isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy easier forms of transport will also have something to see. There are dozens of stunning roads in New Zealand, where new views unfold around every corner and road-side car parks are full of photo-snapping tourists. There are also quiet roads where you’ll see great views and no people. You could see so many cool things without walking more than five minutes away from your car if you really wanted to.
See Mount Doom (or other Lord of the Rings stuff)
I reckon Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) is the best Lord of the Rings filming location to visit, but there are heaps of others to seek out too. Hobbiton is obviously popular (for good reason) and down south you’ve got heaps of mountain areas where filming took place. One of the best is Mount Sunday, where quite a lot of scenes were filmed.
Go for a stroll
If you’re willing to stray a little further from your car, say an hour walk, it opens up a huge number of iconic viewpoints. Places like Hokitika Gorge, Pancake Rocks, and Cape Reinga can be explored with little time and effort, and there are hundreds of waterfalls, beaches, and viewpoints within short distance of a car park.
Do a day walk
If you’re the outdoors type, or you’re just looking for an adventure, you’ll want to do a day walk. It’s one of my favourite things to do in New Zealand, and again you have so many options to choose from. Most of the best day walks in New Zealand are on the South Island, including Roys Peak, Gertrude Saddle and Alex Knob. These day walks usually involve a lot of uphill hiking, and you’ll need proper shoes for most of them, so be prepared!
Visit a vineyard
This one probably isn’t that relevant for the next few months as we head into winter, but wine is massive in New Zealand and there are several cool wine regions to explore. Waiheke Island is probably my favourite (I’m not a wine guy though), but Central Otago is also highly rated (and there are heaps of other things to do if you get bored of wine).
Hang out in a city
If there’s one thing that Australia does better than New Zealand it’s cities (and probably beaches), but there are a few gems to check out in NZ. Auckland reminds me of a worse version of Sydney, so you might want to get in and out of there pretty quick. Dunedin, on the other hand, is a small, scenic city with heaps of history – probably quite a unique city for Australians. And then you have the smaller ones like Nelson and Tauranga, which are interesting enough (and good bases for exploring the surrounding area).
See some rocks
New Zealand is home to some interesting rock formations, including the Moeraki Boulders, the Organ Pipes, Clay Cliffs, Split Apple Rock, Pancake Rocks and many more. Most are quick and easy to visit and things like these are always fun to see.
See our native birds
You’ll probably struggle to spot a kiwi in the wild, but if you know where to go you should see plenty of kea (up in the mountains), kereru, tui and many more. There are also some sanctuaries (Dunedin, Wellington) where they are much easier to spot. Kea are the most fun birds to see in New Zealand – just be careful of your things or they might steal or destroy them.
See some snow
Whether you’re into skiing or just want some pretty photos featuring snow, you’re well served in New Zealand. The ski fields around Queenstown and Wanaka are always popular, and those towns are great places for a ski trip. If you just want to see some snow there are plenty of options in winter – the photo below was taken at the Red Tarns near Mount Cook – only a two-hour walk and such a magical experience.
Go somewhere new
You may have already been to New Zealand and think you’ve “done” it already, but chances are there are still countless amazing places you haven’t been yet. There are so many walks, viewpoints, scenic drives, and interesting small towns to visit and even the most well-travelled locals haven’t come close to seeing it all. There’s always something new to do in New Zealand!
What are you most looking forward to about a trip to New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below!
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