There’s so much to see and do in this country, I couldn’t possibly list it all here. Here are some of my highlights to visit if you’re on a 2–4 week holiday. I suggest renting a car or van do get around as you have the freedom to stop at the many lovely spots along the way to bigger highlights. The seasons will affect the type of holiday you have here so be sure to consider whether you’re looking for warm and mild temperatures or snow adventures!
The Bay of Islands is a subtropical wonderland of beautiful beaches and islands worth spending a few days on if you’re here to relax. I see New Zealand as more of an active adventure holiday spot though and all that stuff is to be found further south.
The Coromandel has some beautiful beaches with excellent walks and hot water beach is very interesting here- you can make your own jacuzzi bath by digging into the sand on hot water beach!
Rotorua is home to many geothermal parks where you can witness some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Bubbling sulphur cauldrons and mysterious mud that cracks through the surface of the earth. It’s also the perfect place for visiting thermal baths.
Lake Taupo is a great adventure sports hub that is cheaper than its South Island counterpart Queenstown. It’s also a very beautiful lake and the best base for exploring the mountain ranges for amazing trekking like the Tongariro Crossing.
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves are a real sight to behold, a huge network of caves where it’s possible to witness the glowing worms above your head.
If you’re into Lord of the Rings then you can visit Hobbiton!
The South Island
Kaikoura is a beautiful coastal town on a peninsular and its the best place to see whales which I highly recommend that you do. It was my highlight of NZ.
Marlborough is an excellent wine region in the north where you can do many tastings and also see the beautiful Marlborough sounds if you head to Picton. The drive up here from Kaikoura is beautiful and offers the chance to see sea lion colonies.
The Fiordland National park is home to some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the world, similar to Marlborough but bigger and more majestic. Head to Doubtful Sound for a calmer and quieter experience, or Milford Sound which is more frequented by tourists. They are both in the south and make sure you have good weather before spending money on a tour here. Apologies I couldn’t find any blue sky photos for these places, you have to be really lucky to get those!
Abel Tasman is excellent for trekking and lovely walks in lush green forests and secluded beaches.
The west coast of the south island is known for its gorgeous landscape including the Pancake Rocks and many wild beaches. Driving here through the middle of the island will take you through Arthur’s Pass or Lewis Pass which are both stunning and deserve to be taken slowly to soak up the views.
Many people visit Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier on their NZ trip but I personally wouldn’t bother. I went 5 years ago and hiked on it which was amazing, and then went back this January and you wouldn’t believe how much it has receded. It’s not worth the time, but they won’t tell you that as they still have to make money from this attraction. If you’re interested in glaciers you must go to Patagonia, but don’t waste your time on this trip, there’s so much more to see here.
Lake Wanaka and Queenstown are beautiful calm lakeside resorts with plenty of activities to do. Wanaka is quieter and the drive here from the west coast is insanely beautiful. Queenstown is more of a party town, but that’s in NZ standards so it’s still pretty chilled. There’s plenty of fun to be had late at night at the bars in town though. And giant food as well at Ferg Burger and Fat Badger’s pizza. Work it all off by doing a skydive 😉
~ Lauren Gold, lived in New Zealand
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