Lets start by stating for the record, that there are so many things to do in New Zealand, 10 won’t cover it! These are just my highlights, 10 of the ‘must do‘ activities or places to see. Seen something I need to add? Please let me know in the comments section below, I’d love to experience them on my next visit to New Zealand.
1. Milford Sound
If you ever wanted a feeling of insignificance, the Milford Sound will do it for you. Located in the South West of the South Island, the sheer size and magnitude of this place is insane. It’s difficult to comprehend how these cliff faces are formed over thousands of years, and its something extremely hard to portray in a photo. The only way to do the Milford Sound justice, is to see it for yourself. It’s breathtaking.
2. Cape Reinga
At the north-western most tip of the North Island lies Cape Reinga, the most spiritual significant place in Maori tradition and mythology. The cape where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean is known as the place Maori spirits descend into the underworld. Everywhere you turn at Cape Reinga you are surrounded by beauty, whether it’s stunning beaches or the Cape Reinga lighthouse.
Also check out: 90-mile beach, a public highway on route to Cape Reinga, where you can also go sand-boarding on the sand dunes, and Rarawa Beach, a gorgeous cove perfect for surfing.
3. White Water Rafting, Rotorua
Rotorua, nicknamed the ‘Sulphur City‘ due to the hydrogen sulphide emitted from the Geysers and bubbling hot springs all around the region. Which generally means it stinks here, like rotten eggs! There’s a ton of things to do here, so its essential you add Rotorua to your itinerary. For me, White Water Rafting was THE thing to do. Rotorua is the home to the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, at 7 metres – ie it’s the biggest with out being qualified. Exactly the adrenaline-fuelled activity NZ is known for. And for our group, the instructor chose me to take the front seat, so I had a front-row view on one of the scariest drops in the world. Brilliant!
Also check out: the Waiotapu Thermal Park, Huka Falls (nearby) and Kuirau Park.
4. Bungy Jumping, Queenstown
Continuing the adrenaline theme, New Zealand is the bungy (or bungee) capital of the world, and home of first ever bungy jump. There are plenty of options, and having never done one before I thought lets go big and chose the 134 metre Nevis, New Zealand’s highest bungy from a cable car. This isn’t your only option though, there’s ‘The Ledge’ overlooking Queenstown where you can bungy at night, or the Kawarau Bridge, where bungy jumping began. Take a look at AJ Hackett Bungy for more details.
Also check out: There’s hundreds of activities to keep you entertained in Queenstown, I’ll probably write a whole blog about it soon. But make sure you try the numerous mountain biking trails, walking up the cable car route for views over Lake Wakatipu, and hiking the Ben Lomond trek. I’d also love to come here for the snow season!
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5. Lake Wanaka
Wanaka is probably my favourite spot in New Zealand. My bus tour didn’t automatically stop here, but I felt I wanted to and what a great decision it was. Its just a place of serene beauty, there’s not a lot to do but you don’t need a lot. I went out jogging one morning with a packed lunch and probably had the most enjoyable day I’d had in New Zealand, finding random routes, pathways and incredible views to occupy myself.
6. Abel Tasman National Park
At the North of the South Island, between the Golden Bay and Tasman Bay is the Abel Tasman National Park. There’s a host of wildlife to see and a few options when it comes to exploring, we chose a cruise around the coast line before being dropped off to walk the infamous Abel Tasman Coast Track. There’s a few different walks to choose from but most take in the golden beaches, lush native forest and picturesque inlets. You’ll want to stop for a photo every 5 minutes and you can also kayak around this beautiful National Park.
7. Franz Josef Glacier
Much of New Zealand’s incredible landscape is due to effect of the phenomenal glaciers over time, so a visit to either Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier is a fundamental part of any trip to NZ. You can do either glacier, or why not both? There are some great tours on offer, unfortunately I ran out of money fast here so didn’t get to experience these. Next time… You can choose from a stunning helicopter tour, guided ice walk, or when I go back I’ll have a go at ice climbing, not for the feint hearted! Read about Ice-climbing the Franz Josef Glacier from Miss Barlow.
Also check out: Lake Matheson, a mirror lake with stunning views of Mount Cook, although it was a little cloudy on our visit.
8. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Crossing is a 19.4 kilometre trek in the middle of the North Island, its known as the best one-day hike in New Zealand and its not hard to see why when you take a look at some of the stunning scenery. Passing through the Tongariro National Park you also pass Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro itself, and it can take approximately 6 to 8 hours depending on your fitness levels. And make sure you have some as you’ll be climbing to an altitude of nearly 2000 metres. I wrote a full blog on this incredible hike, so please take a look.
9. Whale Watching, Kaikoura
Kaikoura photos: The Planet D
You have such a good chance of seeing whales from Kaikoura that most trips refund your trip if you don’t see whales! You have the highest chance of seeing Giant Sperm Wales, but also often catch Blue Whales, Pilot Whales, Humpback Whales and Southern Right Whales, and even Orcas, the world’s largest dolphin (yes, did you know it is actually a dolphin? Me neither). Not to mention other wildlife such as Fur Sea Lions, Dusky dolphins and Albatross. So make sure to visit the sleepy seaside town of Kairkoura to see some real New Zealand wildlife.
10. Skydiving, Lake Taupo
As a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, it doesn’t come much bigger than skydiving. I chose Lake Taupo purely due to the incredible views of snowcapped mountains and the gorgeous Lake Taupo itself, you can apparently see the East and West coast of New Zealand’s north island from 15,000 feet too. Not that I can verify that as my concentration was not on the coastline at this point! I’d certainly suggest 15,000 feet over 12,000 as you get more freefall time, and I kid you not when I say this was one of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life, its just over too quickly. Unfortunately I’d exhausted my travel budget by this time so didn’t pay extra for a DVD or photos, hence why you only see me on the ground!
Have you been to New Zealand? What was your highlight? I’d love to know your suggestions in the comments below. Thanks for reading.