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Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List: 50 Best Things to Do in NZ

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Are you looking for the ultimate New Zealand bucket list? If so, you’ve come to the right place! We share 50 of the best things to do in New Zealand. Whether you’re visiting the North Island or South Island, you will fall head over heels for this beautiful country. From scenic hikes and beautiful beaches to fascinating museums and adrenaline-pumping activities, New Zealand has it all!

New Zealand is easily one of our favourite places in the world and you only have to visit once to know why!

New zealand travel guide
In This Guide:
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MUST SEE IN NEW ZEALAND – THE ULTIMATE NEW ZEALAND BUCKET LIST

When it comes to exploring New Zealand, there are so many incredible things to see and do! This is a country that truly has it all – from stunning natural scenery and outdoor adventures to world-class cuisine and culture.

No matter what kind of traveller you are, you will find something on this list for you.

This ultimate guide will help you create your perfect New Zealand bucket list, with so many incredible things to do in New Zealand from North to South Island!

But first, let’s plan your visit!

Planning Your Visit To New Zealand

If you are planning to visit New Zealand, the first thing is to decide when to go!

The best time to visit New Zealand depends on the type of experiences you want to enjoy while you’re there.

For example, if you love hiking and being outdoors, the best time to visit would be during the summer months (December-February) when the weather is warm and stable.

However, if you’re more interested in hitting the ski slopes, winter (June-August) is the best time to visit New Zealand!

Keep in mind that the tourist peak differs depending on where you are going and when! Queenstown is bustling during the winter months while the North Island is busier during the warmer weather.

To avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons during spring and autumn are always a winner!

No matter when you decide to go, there really is no bad time!

printable trip planning pages

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start planning your trip to NZ:

  • Check the weather in the areas you plan to visit in NZ before you go so you know what to pack – the temperatures vary significantly in different parts of the country.
  • If you’re visiting during peak season, make sure to book your accommodation and attraction tickets well in advance.
  • Consider renting a car so you can explore all that New Zealand has to offer at your own pace.
  • A motorhome or RV road trip is another wonderful way to see NZ and can be a thrifty way to travel long term with transport and accommodation in one.

Best Way To Experience New Zealand Attractions & Scenery

While you can certainly get around by public transport, with buses, trains and rideshare options galore, we think the best way to experience all that New Zealand has to offer is by car or motorhome.

Especially if you are planning to travel beyond one of the major cities.

This way, you can explore at your own pace and make spontaneous stops along the way as you enjoy the ultimate NZ road trip adventure and the freedom to pull over and explore whenever the mood strikes you.

We have done a little of self-drive by car, an epic 2-week South Island motorhome trip, as well as short city visits relying on public transport!

Find a great deal on a rental car:

The Ultimate List Of Things To Do In New Zealand

With New Zealand being a sizeable country with so much to see and do, it can be tough to narrow down the best things to put on your NZ bucket list.

Each island has so much to offer and there is no shortage of things to do in New Zealand!

To make it easier, we have created our list of must-visit places in New Zealand split into North and South Islands so you can easily plan your perfect New Zealand bucket list adventure. Here are 50 epic things to see in New Zealand:

Epic Things to Do In New Zealand North Island

The North Island of New Zealand is home to some of the country’s most iconic attractions. From geothermal parks and active volcanoes to world-famous beaches, there is no shortage of things to see in North Island NZ.

Here are a few of the best North Island attractions and experiences for your bucket list:

Kayak Around Cathedral Cove

cathedral arch coromandel peninsula

Cathedral Cove, also known as Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, is one of the most popular natural attractions in New Zealand and with good reason.

Located within the isolated Coromandel Peninsula, the only way to reach the Cove is on foot or by water. This is what makes kayaking Cathedral Cove such a perfect option!

You can also take a boat ride to explore the cliffs and caves if you prefer the guided experience.


Visit Hobbiton

The iconic Lord Of The Rings films put New Zealand on the map for a whole new era of travellers and Hobbiton, in particular, has become a mecca for fans of the movies from all over the world.

The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was filmed in the remote town of Matamata. A visit to this working movie set turned fairytale village is an absolute must when travelling to New Zealand North Island! You will feel like a Hobbit preparing to take on Middle Earth!


Experience Rotorua Geothermal Area

Rotorua thermal area

Contributed by Caroline from CK Travels

Located in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is an active geothermal town that sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire (part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone).

It is an incredibly unique place that is worthy of a few days’ visit and is famous for its natural thermal baths, bubbling mud pools and colourful lakes.

 The most popular attractions to visit include the beautiful lakeside Polynesian Spa to enjoy a soak in their hot springs, or Hells Gate where you can book a mud bath spa treatment.

Our personal favourite is Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland where you can check out many colourful geothermal landscapes including the famous champagne pool.

There are also many other things to do in Rotorua such as zip lining in the Redwood forest, learning about Maori culture at Whakarewarewa Tamaki Village and riding on the luge at Skyline Rotorua.


Cruise Bay Of Islands

One of New Zealand’s most popular tourist regions, the Bay of Islands is just a 3-hours drive from North Island’s largest city, Auckland.

The area is renowned for its stunning beaches, clear waters and abundant marine life among the 144 islands. It is the perfect place to enjoy some time on the water!

There are many ways to explore the Bay Of Islands. A boat cruise will take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the area including ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island.

Or if you are feeling adventurous, hire a kayak or paddleboard and explore on your own!


Take A Waitomo Caves Tour

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Contributed by Janine from Get Out With Kids

If you are interested in seeing nature of a different kind and want a quintessential New Zealand experience, then you must add the Waitomo Caves to your destination itinerary.

Located in the small town of Waitomo, just over 2 hours south of Auckland, this system of underground caves has thousands of glow worms embedded in the roof doing their glow worm thing!

Set up for tourists, you can visit Aranui Cave, and Ruakuri Cave or go black water rafting to enjoy these exquisite caves and their tiny, sparkling inhabitants.

Make sure you pack a sweater, as it can get chilly in the caves and practice your night photography, you are going to want to get tonnes of photos of these amazing caves and your experience in them!


Kayak or SUP at Lake Taupo

lake taupo carvings

One of the best things to do on the water is stand-up paddle boarding or SUP. And there is no better place to try it than at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand!

The water is crystal clear and the views of the surrounding mountains are simply stunning. You can even see the volcanic crater of Mt Ruapehu in the distance.

Lake Taupo is a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike so you will find plenty of SUP rental companies around the lake.

There are also many other activities to do in Lake Taupo such as hiking, mountain biking, skydiving and kayaking. While you’re there, consider taking a cruise or a kayak to visit Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings – an incredible 14-metre carving in the rock face.


Hike The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing emerald lake

Deemed the BEST day hike in New Zealand, and top 10 in the world, Tongariro Alpine Crossing should definitely be on your New Zealand bucket list!

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a one-day hike that takes you through some of New Zealand’s most unique landscapes, in Tongariro National Park across 19.4km of walking trails. The hike takes around 6 to 8 hours to complete.


Take a Waiheke Island Day Trip

Just a short ferry ride of around 35 minutes from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island is the perfect day trip from Auckland.

The island is home to some of New Zealand’s best vineyards and there are many tour companies that offer wine tours around the island.

You can also rent a scooter, or car and explore on your, or jump on the bus that drops you near the most popular attractions. This is also a perfect place to enjoy beautiful beaches and fresh seafood.


Go White Water Rafting On Rangitīkei River

Being the adventure capital of the world, don’t miss your chance to go white water rafting. There are many great spots around NZ to do it, however, the Rangitīkei River, located just a few hours’ drive north of Wellington, is one of the most popular spots for white water rafting.

The river has Grade 2 to Grade 5 rapids, so it’s perfect for those who are looking for a thrill. There are many tour companies that operate in the area and offer half-day trips as you make your way down 11 kilometres of river rapids.


Maori Culture Experience At Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village Games

Contributed by Marcie In Mommyland

One of the most unique things to do in New Zealand is visit a Maori village. There are several of them located in Rotorua, which is a town filled with adventures and cultural experiences.

We visited the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua and it blew us away. They do a really amazing traditional welcoming ceremony before offering hands-on experiences to play games, learn Maori dancing, carve wood, and more. Then, it’s time for a full Maori show that includes storytelling.

The evening ends with a hangi, a traditional Maori feast.

What really stands out is how they present the Maori culture in a very respectful and honest way. It’s not gimmicky and they don’t make fun of their culture to entertain tourists. We left feeling like we had a much better understanding of the Maori people and it was a highlight of our trip to New Zealand.


Walk The Tunnels At Karangahaki Gorge

karangahake gorge rail tunnel

One of the best (and lesser-known) North Island walking experiences is the Karangahaki Gorge Historic Walkway.

There are several walking tracks in the area, with shorter loops and the much longer Historic Walkway, taking you through tunnels and past mining relics and ruins. This is a really cool day trip from Auckland or on your way to Coromandel Beach.

The tracks take you alongside the Ohinemuri River, to Owharoa Falls and Karangahake Gorge. Although the most notable is the 1100m walk through the old mining railway tunnel.

When we visited, we did not know about the area and it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to stop so we were beginning to think the tunnel was never going to end. A very cool experience though!


Dig a Hole in the Sand for a Hot Spring Jacuzzi

Ocean Beach Kawhia with shovel in sand

Contributed by Sarah from Cornwall’s Best

There’s a lot of geothermal activity in New Zealand, and that makes for some excellent must-do New Zealand experiences and one that you must not miss is digging a hole on a hot water beach in New Zealand.  

This allows the geo-thermally heated water to bubble up and give you a homemade hot tub in the sand.  

New Zealand has famous hot water beaches on the Coromandel, where you’ll be able to share your homemade Jacuzzi with hundreds of others.  However, head 90 kilometres south of Hamilton to Ocean Beach, Kawhia and you will have the beach and its glorious hot springs to yourself.

It’s easy to borrow shovels from your hotel or campsite and take a walk to the beach for your own personal spa bath.  

There’s usually a smell of rotten eggs associated with the Sulphur in geothermally heated water, but you don’t get much of that here as there’s usually a consistent breeze. 


Visit Kapiti Island

view from the top of kapiti island

Contributed by Jub from Chur New Zealand

Kapiti Island is 4km off the Kapiti Coast, about 45 minutes north of Wellington. As a predator-free island, the bird life on the island is a must-do on the Kapiti Coast.

You’ll be able to see some rare birds, including the kiwi if you stay overnight, throughout your time on the island. And while you can take a guided walk, it’s great that once you arrive you can explore the island independently.

If you can, do the walk to the top of the island. On the way, you’ll see lots of birds, and at the summit, you’re rewarded with epic panoramic views.

There are two companies you can go to Kapiti Island with. Both offer a similar package so book the one that suits your timetable the best. 


Surf In Raglan

Raglan is world-famous for its surf, and it’s easy to see why. With some of the most consistent waves in New Zealand, Raglan is a surfer’s paradise.

There are plenty of surf schools in Raglan if you want to learn how to surf or improve your skills. And even if you’re not a surfer, it’s worth checking out the surf culture.

There are plenty of other things to do in Raglan too, like exploring the town, going for a swim, hiking up Mt Karioi, or seeing the 55m Bridal Veil Falls. But surfing is definitely the main attraction here.


Ride The Wellington Cable Car

Wellington cable car

Contributed by Sharon from Dive Into Philippines

Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is a great place to explore on your New Zealand wanderings and an attraction not to miss while you are in Wellington is the Wellington cable car.

While technically a funicular, this train carriage will take you from Lambton Quay, the main shopping strip all the way up to Kelburn, a Wellington suburb that overlooks the city. It rises 120 metres over its journey of 612 metres. It only takes 3 and a half minutes.

While the journey is short (but sweet), the views at the top are amazing. You can see over Wellington and its surroundings. While it is a popular attraction, it leaves roughly every five minutes so you don’t have to wait long to take it. Make sure you fit it into your North Island itinerary.


Take The Leap From Auckland Sky Tower

Skytower auckland

Auckland Sky Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemispherem 328m high and an iconic part of Auckland’s skyline. The 360-degree viewing deck gives you incredible views of the city from 186 metres above street level.

Enjoy dining or a drink with a view after a visit to SkyCity Casino, or if you’re looking for an adrenaline fix, there are a couple of ways to get your heart racing at Auckland Sky Tower.

  • SkyJump – Take on New Zealand’s highest jump at 192m (629ft) above Auckland, with an experience described as base jumping by wire and different to Bungy jumping.
  • SkyWalk – Prefer not to leap from the tower? A skywalk takes you on the outside ring of the Sky Tower with 360-degree views of Auckland.

Explore The Redwoods Forest

There are many ways to explore the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua.

This is a popular spot for mountain bikers (you can hire a bike), hikers and horse riders, with walking tracks from a short 30 minutes to a full 8-hour tramping route, all set amongst magnificent towering Californian Redwoods, exotic trees and native forest.

The Redwoods Treewalk is a 700M-long suspended walk through the towering redwoods, suspended 20 metres from the ground. This is the perfect way to experience the 75-metre redwoods.


Stroll Through Hamilton Gardens

mauri garden at hamilton gardens

Contributed by Pippa from Eco-Pippa

Hamilton Gardens is a must-see attraction in Hamilton (around a 1.5-hour drive from Auckland). Hamilton Gardens is a wonderful showcase of different types of garden design from around the world and at different times in history.

The garden ‘rooms’ include classical Italian and Egyptian designs, a traditional Māori garden, an English flower Garden, to a quirky Surrealist Garden with oversized garden tools – this one is especially fun for the kids!

Free entry and a family-friendly vibe make this a favourite NZ attraction for visitors and locals. Useful facilities at the Gardens include an information centre, kids’ playground, and café with views out over the Turtle Lake.


Go Snorkeling At Poor Knights Islands

One of New Zealand’s top diving spots is also a great place for snorkelling.

The Poor Knights Islands are located off the east coast of Northland and have been referred to as “the best subtropical dive site in the world”. They are home to Rikoriko Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world.

But you don’t need to be a scuba diver to enjoy the underwater world here. The islands are also a marine reserve, so there is an abundance of sealife to see while snorkelling, including colourful fish and sea urchins.

There are also day cruises if you want to enjoy the beautiful Tutukaka Coast without needing your swimsuit!


Go Sand Surfing At Te Paki Sand Dunes

Sand Surfing At Te Paki Sand Dunes

A visit to the North Island wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Te Paki Sand Dunes. These huge sand dunes are located at the very top of New Zealand’s North Island. They are on the Aupouri Peninsula, and about 17 km from Cape Reinga. 

Also known as the Giant Sanddunes, they are around 10km long and 1km wide.

The best way to experience the sand dunes is to boogie board (or ‘sandboard’) down them! You can hire boards at the car park, or bring your own if you have one. The dunes are huge, so there’s plenty of space to run and play.


Top Things to Do In NZ South Island

When it comes to planning your New Zealand South Island bucket list, there is no shortage of things to do. From majestic mountains and fiords to glaciers, hot springs, and world-famous beaches, the South Island is an incredible place to explore.

Here are the best South Island attractions you won’t want to miss:

Experience Milford Sound

child on board milford sound cruise

One of the most popular things to do in New Zealand is to experience Milford Sound. This fiord located in Fiordland National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

There are many ways to experience Milford Sound, but one of the best is from the water on a boat cruise. We did a full-day guided tour from Te Anau to Milford Sound, which included a guided coach tour with a few short walking track and sightseeing stops, along with lunch and a Milford Sound cruise.

Other popular ways to experience Milford Sound are by scenic flight or kayak. No matter the method, there’s a reason why it has been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world!


Helicopter Landing On Tasman Glacier

Helicopter Landing On Tasman Glacier

Contributed by Holly from Globeblogging

Though perhaps not the most well-known of the South Island glaciers, the Tasman is actually the biggest, stretching 27 kilometres in length and 4 kilometres in width.

Situated in the Southern Alps at the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt Cook, a helicopter flight and landing on the glacier is an experience that is not to be missed.

Inflite Helicopters leave from the nearby Mt Cook airport and when conditions allow passengers will be treated to swirling through the clouds at the summit of the mountain, before coming to rest on the powdery snow of the glacier.  

Prices start at $399 for a 35-minute flight and it is worth every penny!

While you’re there be sure to stop by to admire the pristine glacier-fed waters of Lake Pukaki or take one of the many popular hikes in the National Park.


See the Southern Lights on Stewart Island

In the Māori language, Stewart Island is known as Rakiura which means ‘the land of glowing skies’. This is one of the best places to see the Aurora Australis – the Southern Lights.

Just a 30-minute flight from Invercargill, or by boat cruise, Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third-largest island and one of the best places to see a Kiwi in the wild.

The native birds are most active at night, so your best chance of seeing them is on a guided nocturnal tour. But even during the day, there are plenty of birds to spot, as well as beautiful beaches and walks through native bush.

More than 85% of the island is a National Park, making it perfect for birdwatching and hiking, with 280km of walking tracks, including the three-day Rakiura Track. There are also plenty of places to stay in Halfmoon Bay, the islands’ only settlement.


Whale Watching in Kaikōura

Contributed by Niels from Whales Watching Iceland

If you are ever planning to visit New Zealand, a visit to the whale-watching capital Kaikōura is a must-do. Why? Because you will experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up-close and personal with a wide variety of whale and dolphin species.

Next to massive sperm whales you can spot New Zealand fur seals, Dusky and Hector dolphins, and several bird species, including the albatross with a wingspan of almost 9 feet!

Depending on the season (the high season starts in November and ends in March) you can encounter killer whales, pilot whales, blue whales, right whales and of course, humpback whales.

Most tour companies provide four trips per day and the duration of each tour is on average 3-4 hours long. A marine mammal specialist will lead the tour and explain to you all you need to know about the behaviour and the natural habitat of these gentle giants.


Stargazing In Tekapo

While on the topic of beautiful night skies, another must-do in New Zealand is to go stargazing. And there is no better place for it than Lake Tekapo.

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, of which Tekapo is a part, was created in 2012 and is one of only eight reserves in the world. This makes it one of the best places on Earth to go stargazing.

The reason this unique experience is so incredible here is due to there being so little light pollution. On a clear night, you can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

Take a Mt John Observatory stargazing tour or enjoy one of the most unique things to do in New Zealand with stargazing combined with a hot pools experience.


Take The Back Road From Lake Tekapo To Lake Pukaki

brahman road new zealand heading towards lake pukaki

Spending a day or two in Lake Tekapo is a must and this is easily one of our favourite places in the world, with the breathtaking turquoise lake and New Zealand’s most visited church – Church of the Good Shepherd.

After your visit to the top of Mt John to see the incredible view of the lakes by day, jump in your car or campervan and make your way along the back road to Lake Pukaki.

Brahman Road is a well-maintained dirt road that takes you past farmland with some of the country’s best views as you travel between Lake Tekapo and equally beautiful Lake Pukaki (there is a brilliant free camping site here right on the lake).

This is the perfect off the beaten track scenic drive for your NZ itinerary!


Bungy Jumping In Queenstown

The Ledge bungee in new zealand

Contributed by Amanda from A Dangerous Business

For the adrenaline junkie travelling to New Zealand, one must-do is going Bungy (bungee) jumping. Commercial bungee jumping was “invented” in Queenstown in the 1980s, and South Island’s “adventure capital of New Zealand” is still the best place to go bungee jumping in New Zealand.

There are three different places to try bungee jumping in Queenstown, all operated by the OG bungee company, AJ Hackett.

First (and most popular) is the Kawarau Bridge, where the first commercial bungee jumps took place. This is a traditional bungee jump, where you can jump solo or tandem.

You can also try The Ledge, where you can jump “freestyle” off a platform overlooking Queenstown and The Remarkables mountain range.

And lastly, the truly daring can brave the Nevis bungee, where you jump off a little platform suspended from a highwire stretched across a canyon. This is New Zealand’s highest bungee jump at 134 meters.

No matter which bungee option you choose, it’ll be a rush!


Ride The Queenstown Luge

queenstown luge track

The Queenstown Luge is one of the most popular things to do in Queenstown with kids. You’ll find it located at the top of Skyline Gondola, a short ride from central Queenstown.

The luge is basically a go-cart on wheels that you can race down one of three different tracks. The Skyline Luge is great for all ages (kids as young as two can ride with an adult so long as they are over 80cm tall) and is a lot of fun.

You’ll get two rides included with your gondola ticket, or you can buy a luge-only pass if you don’t want to ride the Skyline Gondola.

If you do decide to do both, the Skyline Gondola is the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere, taking you 480 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak, with incredible views of Coronet Peak, Walter Peak, The Remarkables and Cecil Peak, as well as of Queenstown itself.


Sample Wine In The Central Otago Region

central otago wine region

Contributed by Roxanne from Faraway Worlds

If you enjoy red wine, spending time in Central Otago is a must. Renowned for its pinot noir and spectacular scenery, visiting the Central Otago wineries makes a great day trip from Queenstown.

Gibbston Valley is a popular place to start with Gibbston Valley Winery, Kinross and Brennan Wines all offering tastings, stunning views and options for lunch. You can even do a cycle tour of Gibbston Valley from Arrowtown, stopping at the vineyards along the way.

Between Queenstown and Wanaka, you’ll also find Cromwell, which is home to a number of well-known wine brands such as Mount Difficulty, Wild Earth and Felton Rock Wines.

As well as offering tasting and cellar doors, and a number of the wineries also have restaurants, so be sure to stop for lunch. And, if you have some people in your group who prefer beer, there are also a few local breweries and pubs well worth visiting.

For more wineries worth visiting in New Zealand, check out our guide to the best winery tours for both the North & South Islands.


See The Moeraki Boulders

moeraki boulders

If you’re looking for something a little different to add to your New Zealand itinerary, consider visiting the Morekai Boulders. These spherical boulders are found in the small town of Moeraki on the East Coast of the South Island and make for a unique photo opportunity.

The best time to see the boulders is at low tide when they are most exposed. There is a short walk from the car park to the beach where you’ll find the boulders. They ask for a gold coin donation which goes towards the conservation of the area.

The origin of the boulders is still not entirely certain and some of them are up to 2 metres tall and several tonnes in weight.

If you’re visiting in summer, you can even go for a swim at Moeraki Beach.


See The Katiki Point Seals

fur seal at katiki point

While you might think the Katiki Point Lighthouse is the real appeal here, it’s actually not! Although don’t get me wrong, it’s still very cool to see when you are visiting the Moeraki area. But that’s not the best reason!

Katiki Point Reserve is a private breeding ground for the yellow-eyed penguins and has also become home to a massive colony of fur seals too.

The walk from the car park to the seals is around 10 minutes. Take care along the track if you are visiting with younger kids. It’s not stroller friendly!

You will want your camera for this experience because there are few moments you will be this close to wild fur seals. We saw at least 50 of them lazing around on the cliffs, paying us little attention as we stood there in awe.

If you get too close, they will let you know though. Stay at least 5 metres away!

As for the penguins, early morning and mid to late afternoon are the best times to see them.


Skydive Over Abel Tasman National Park

skydiving abel tasman

Contributed by Anwar from Beyond My Door

There are plenty of opportunities to skydive in New Zealand. However, one of the most memorable opportunities for skydiving is jumping over the stunning Abel Tasman National Park in the South Island of New Zealand.

Skydive Abel Tasman in nearby Motueka offers the opportunity to view the rugged coastline and park from both the plane as well as from the sky as you drop with the park below you.

The outfit also allows one of the higher dive options for tandem with options at 9,000, 13,000, 16,500, and now even at 20,000 feet. The higher options give an incredible amount of free fall and time in the air.

If you can time it right, doing it close to sunset, the colours of the sky add to the already spectacular experience.

The facility feels like a place you could hang out and just chill for hours. Watching planes take off from the runway out back and the folks coming back to the landing zone.

They also offer photographs and videos for an additional fee to memorialise your trip. Definitely worth splurging for if it’s a rare experience for you to skydive. 


Soak In The Onsen Hot Pools

If you’re visiting New Zealand in winter, be sure to add a visit to the Onsen Hot Pools to your list. The Onsen Hot Pools are located in Queenstown and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Shotover River.

The pools are fed by natural hot springs and are open year-round. You can choose from an Original Onsen Indoor Soak, or Garden Outdoor Soak Experience. There are 14 hot spas, heated to around 38.3 degrees Celcius and infused with earth minerals to detoxify the body.

This is the perfect experience after hitting the Queenstown ski slopes!


Franz Josef Glacier Ice Climb

Franz Josef ice climb

Contributed by Karen from Smart Steps To Australia

Before relocating to Australia from the UK, my husband and I went backpacking around the world together. I’m not naturally an outdoor adventurer but when we visited Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Franz Josef Glacier) on New Zealand’s South Island, I had to get out there to experience this natural wonder.

Firstly, just staying in the town of Franz Josef on the West Coast is a spectacular experience. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and there is such a buzzing, friendly atmosphere.

While you can explore Franz Josef Glacier on a walk, it is best explored with experienced guides on an ice climb.

It’s hard to explain how awe-inspiring it is to climb a glacier. As beginner climbers, you join a group where you hike up to the base of the glacier and then picked your way up the side of the glacier.

There were ice holes to peep through and cracks to explore. It is a thrilling experience. You can also book heli-hikes where you fly over the glacier and land ready to enjoy an epic glacier walk.

My husband also did a skydive over nearby Fox Glacier which he says was even better but I prefer to keep my feet on the ground, even if it is icy ground!


Go Jetboating In Queenstown

shotover jetboat in queenstown

One of the best ways to experience the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand is by jet boat. And there’s no better place to do it than in Queenstown.

Queenstown is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by mountains. The scenery is simply stunning. And when you add in a high-speed jet boat ride, it’s even more exhilarating.

There are several operators offering jet boat rides in Queenstown but the Shotover Jet Boat experience is by far the most popular.

Your heart will be racing as you zip through the narrow canyons at high speed, with sheer cliff walls. Kids can ride the jetboat so long as they are at least 3 years of age and 1 metre tall.


Hike Roy’s Peak

hiking Roy’s Peak

Contributed by Shannon of Adventuring With Shannon

One of the best New Zealand “must-dos” for outdoor-loving travellers is hiking Roy’s Peak.

Roy’s Peak is located on the South Island, on the outskirts of the town of Wanaka. This incredible hike is one of the most Instagrammed spots in New Zealand because of its insane views of the surrounding lakes.

Don’t be fooled by the photos though, this hike is no joke. This hike is 10.1 miles long and has a 4000ft elevation gain on the way up. 

 Despite the intense nature of the hike, the view from the summit draws thousands of hikers to the area every year. From the top of the mountain, you can overlook multiple lakes and mountains colliding.

Make sure that you arrive early in the morning to ensure that you have parking and plenty of time to complete this hike. Plan to bring a lunch with you to eat at the top while you enjoy the views.


Hike The Moke Lake Loop Trail 

Moke Lake water reflection

Contributed by Lotte from Phenomenal Globe 

If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful hikes on the South Island to add to your New Zealand itinerary, the Moke Lake Loop trail is exactly what you’re looking for. 

This easy 7-kilometre-long trail leads along the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand – Moke Lake. It’s a suitable family activity as well since the trail is mostly flat and kids will love the amazing reflections in the lake. 

If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, consider climbing to Secret Moke Lake Viewpoint for (more) breathtaking views. 

It takes about 20 minutes to get to Moke Lake from Queenstown. Just take the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd and drive 7km until you see an exit on your ride (Moke Lake Rd). Continue along on this road and you’ll reach Moke Lake after 15 minutes. Note that the final section of the road is gravel so drive slowly. 


Hike The Milford Track

One of New Zealand’s most popular Great Walks, the Milford Track is a 53.5km journey that takes you through Fiordland National Park, starting at Lake Te Anau and finishing in Milford Sound, at Sandfly Point.

The full track takes around 4 days to walk, however, you can do part of the track instead. The first section to Clinton Hut is the most popular part of the track and can be done as a return day walk.

The track takes you through native forests, past waterfalls and over swing bridges. It’s a moderate-grade walking track with some sections that are steep.

If you want to do the full Milford Track, you need to book in advance as there is a quota in place to protect the track. You can book through the Department of Conservation (DOC).

There are also several operators that offer guided walks on the Milford Track.


Shotover Canyon Swing

shotover canyon swing

Contributed by Sarah from New Zealand Travel Tips

The Shotover Canyon Swing is a real must-do experience for adrenaline seekers. Located just outside of Queenstown, this activity is unlike anything else you can do in Queenstown

You’ll find the jump zone perched on the edge of the Shotover Canyon. This provides the most spectacular backdrop for your swinging adventure. 

With dozens of jump styles (including the option to rock yourself off the platform on a chair, whizz off their slide or hang precariously over the edge, until they cut away at the little rope above you) each and every jump with them is unique – I myself have jumped five times and keep returning for more.

Though safety is always a top priority, don’t be surprised if your jump masters have a bit of fun with you. They’re known for their cheeky sense of humour!


Hiking the Kepler Track

kepler track hiking track

Contributed by Daniel from Destinationless Travel 

The Kepler Track, located in Fiordland National Park on the South Island, is easily one of the best hikes in the country.

As one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” the Kepler Track is known for being a diverse trail showcasing a variety of scenery. One minute you’ll be walking through the forest of ferns and moss, and the next, a ridgeline next to snow-capped mountains. 

The Kepler Track is a loop track at 60 km long in total. You’ll find the trailhead at a large parking lot just outside of the town of Te Anau.

Because of its length, most people complete the entire loop in 3-4 days staying in DOC-maintained huts and campsites along the way. In order to do this, you must be well prepared and book your stay online months in advance.

The Kepler Track is, after all, one of the most popular hikes. So, huts and campsites book up months in advance of the summer hiking season. 

If you don’t want to do the overnight hike, you can do day hikes on the Kepler Track too.

The hike to the Luxmore Hut and back down the way you came is a great option offering the panoramic views that the Kepler is famous for.

Or, for something a little easier, walk the loop in the opposite direction to Moturau Hut and back. This is a flat trail along the edge of a lake – stunning!


Marlborough Sounds Cruise

marlbouough sounds viewpoint

Contributed by Bailey from My Queenstown Diary 

The Marlborough Sounds are located in the Cook Strait the top of the South Island. This area is full of small islands, remote beaches, and plenty of wildlife.

The only way to properly experience to the Marlborough Sounds is on a boat cruise. Cruises allow you to explore all of the different islands from out on the water seeing wildlife along the way. 

Boat cruises in the Marlborough Sounds all typically depart from the small town of Picton. Picton is also where to ferry to the North Island departs from.

There are a variety of cruises you can choose from. Some simple cruise around the Marlborough Sounds, spotting wildlife along the way. Some include snacks and wine, and some include a knowledgeable guide to give information about wildlife. 

Some cruises also stop at select islands where you can get off and explore. Many of the islands in the Marlborough Sounds are protected wildlife sanctuaries where you can find birds that you won’t see elsewhere.

There are also some pretty spectacular beaches, perfect for relaxing on a hot summer day! Whichever cruise you choose, you’re sure to enjoy this unique area of NZ. 


Explore Christchurch By Tram

christchurch tram

A Christchurch tram city tour is a great way to see the city, learn about its history and have plenty of photo opportunities.

The tram departs from Cathedral Junction and makes its way around the central city, stopping at key attractions along the way. This is one of the best things to do in Christchurch for short stays.

Your ticket includes an informative commentary as well as unlimited travel on the Christchurch Tram for the day, so you can hop on and off as much as you like.

You can also get a combo ticket for the Christchurch Gondola as they are operated by the same company. This is a fantastic way to see the views across Christchurch. There is even an educational ride at the top, detailing the history of Christchurch in a fun, slow-moving motion ride experience.


Hike The Hooker Valley Track

hooker valley track

Contributed by Greta from Greta’s Travels

If you’re looking for the must-do attractions in New Zealand, you have to add hiking Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook / Aoraki National Park to your New Zealand bucket list. 

Hooker Valley Track is one of the most famous hikes in New Zealand, and rightly so. It’s a 10km return trail that takes you through Hooker Valley to Hooker Lake, and then back to the start.

The trail is pretty flat, with only a 100m elevation gain spread across 5km. It’s also a very well beaten and marked path, making it an easy hike for every fitness level.

All throughout the hike, you will be surrounded by the incredible view of towering mountains and snow-capped peaks.

The highlight of the hike is without a doubt reaching Hooker Lake, where you can see small icebergs floating around in the lake.

There are toilets halfway across the hike, as well as picnic tables at the most scenic spots. There are no other facilities in the proximity of the trail, so make sure to bring all the food and water you need for a 10km hike.


Visit Puzzling World In Wanaka

puzzling world in wanaka

If you are looking for fun things to do with kids in Wanaka, Puzzling World has a little something for all ages. From trying to complete the mammoth outdoor wooden maze (we didn’t finish it) to being awed by the optical illusions throughout.

This family attraction in Wanaka is a great way to spend a rainy day as well. Although you might miss some of the fun photo opportunities outdoors in bad weather!

At the end of your walk-through experience, there is a large cafe area with various puzzles on the tables. This is genius for keeping kids entertained while they wait for their food, so even if you don’t do the full tour, it’s a fun dining experience with the kids!


Take An Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise

There is no doubt that a visit to Milford Sound is essential, yet it is also a busy tourist area during the peak season. If you want to experience a fiord with fewer people, consider taking a cruise from Manapouri to Doubtful Sound instead.

Doubtful Sound or Patea, (meaning ‘place of silence’) spans a massive 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the head of the fiord to the Tasman Sea. It is also the deepest of all New Zealand’s fiords.

The views are just as spectacular as Milford Sound (if not more so), and you might see dolphins playing in the fiord as well! Wildlife lovers will be excited to see other animals too, such as New Zealand Fur Seals and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.

This is an excellent option for those who want to experience Milford Sound without the crowds. And it’s definitely one of the best things to do in New Zealand!


Both North Island & South Island Tourist Attractions & Experiences

These experiences can be enjoyed in either of New Zealand’s islands and should not be skipped during an NZ holiday!

See A Kiwi Bird

New Zealand’s most iconic animal, the kiwi bird is also one of the hardest to see. These nocturnal birds are very shy and are only found in specific areas around NZ.

Spotting a kiwi in the wild is no guarantee so instead, there are many different conservation parks around New Zealand, such as Stewart Island mentioned above, that give you the opportunity to see these beautiful, shy animals up close.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve near Christchurch is a fantastic day out with the family with unique New Zealand wildlife, along with animals from other parts of the world, pony rides and play zones for the kids.


Try New Zealand Craft Beer

If you love beer, as Simon sure does, then you’ll be pleased to know that New Zealand has a fantastic craft beer scene in both the South and North Islands!

With over 130 craft breweries around the country, there are plenty of opportunities to try something new. And with so many different styles on offer, there’s sure to be something for everyone. I personally love sampling the local ciders instead!

Some of the most popular include Derelict Brewing (Rangiora), Behemoth Brewing Company (Auckland), Monteith’s Brewery (Greymouth), Speight’s Brewery (Dunedin with brew pubs all around NZ) and Emerson Brewing (Dunedin).


Hit the Slopes

While this activity is mostly reserved to the winter months, it’s definitely worth including on your NZ bucket list. New Zealand is home to some of the best ski fields in the Southern Hemisphere, and whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier/snowboarder, there’s a slope for you.

For the best places to ski on the South Island, check out Cardrona, The Remarkables, Craigieburn (for experienced skiers), Treble Cone and Coronet Peak. For ski fields on the North Island, try Mt Ruapehu.

The Snow Farm outside of Wanaka is a great option to take the kids for snow tubing and snowshoe tours. We had a lot of fun here!


Swim With Dolphins

One of the unique wildlife encounters in NZ is swimming with dolphins and there are several places where you can swim with dolphins in New Zealand.

Akaroa, located on the Banks Peninsula, is one of the only places in the world where you can swim with Hector’s dolphins – the world’s smallest dolphins.

You can also experience dolphin tours and swimming opportunities in Marlborough Sounds, Bay of Plenty and Kaikoura, or go on a dolphin-watching cruise in Bay of Islands.


There you have it – our ultimate New Zealand bucket list! We hope you get to experience as many of these amazing things to do in NZ as possible during your visit.

Find more New Zealand Inspiration:

Flights – We use Skyscanner to research, set price alerts and book flights.
Car hireDiscover Cars is a great option for comparing car rental prices.
Accommodation – We use Booking.com or Agoda to book most of our accommodation.
Travel insurance – Protect yourself with World Nomads Travel Insurance.
Tours & attractions – Our favourite attraction and tour booking sites are Get Your Guide and Viator.

Need more help planning your next road trip? Grab our mammoth printable planner!!

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