• ~ mins read
A Wonderful Trip
  • Jonalyn
  • From USA
5 - Excellent
Geoff is an awesome guy! - and his travel agency. He worked with me to plan this trip...” Read More

1. Auckland

The Sky Tower in Auckland on a bright day.
Climb up the Sky Tower when in Auckland to get the panoramic city view from 220 meters high and then to dine at its Sky Cafe which is at 182 meters.

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland boasts a wealth of attractions, making it one of the top places to visit in the country. Discover the beauty of North Shore's beaches like Takapuna and Narrow Neck. Immerse yourself in the city center with iconic landmarks such as the Sky Tower and Auckland Art Gallery. Explore the lively Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter, popular for their wide range of restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Highlights:

  • Head out on a ferry from downtown or rent a kayak to Rangitoto Island. Sitting just outside of the city, this volcanic cone of rock juts out of the water and offers impressive views across the Hauraki Gulf and of Auckland from its summit.
  • Scale Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower and take in the breathtaking views from the top. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can always walk its perimeter, 192 meters in the air, or sky jump off the edge.
  • Discover the bright and vibrant Maori culture with a trip to the Auckland Museum. Set in stunning parkland surroundings, view exhibits exploring the history of these people. Learn first-hand about Maori culture and history from Maori volunteers.

Insider tip: When planning your Aukland trip, try to schedule your visit to Rangitoto Island or the Sky Tower in the early evening for a magical experience as the sun sets.

Tours in Auckland

2. Wellington

Cable car in Wellington, one of the best places to visit in New Zealand.
Take a ride in the iconic Wellington Cable Car from the terminal in the Lambton Quay shopping district to sightsee the city's major landmarks.

Wellington is often described as the "coolest little capital in the world," a reputation that is reflected both in the local people and the vibrant culture of the city. Enjoy a relaxed coffee at one of the city's many cafes and eateries, view the New Zealand Parliament buildings, and explore the interactive exhibits at the Te Papa National Museum before chilling out and ending the day on one of Wellington’s many beaches, like Oriental Bay just a short walk from the city center.

Highlights:

  • Explore Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. Alongside interactive exhibits all about New Zealand and world history, including an on-site bushwalk, it also contains the country’s national gallery, with over 40,000 works on display. Visiting this museum is one of the top things to do in New Zealand
  • Hop on board the Wellington Cable Car. This funicular railway runs between Kelburn and Lambton Quay and offers a unique way to see the city.

Insider tip: Wellington has more cafés per capita than New York City, so you could be overwhelmed with where to go. Cuba Street offers a great wealth of cafés and eateries, and with its laid-back bohemian feel, it’s the perfect place for a coffee.

Tours in Wellington

3. Hamilton

A blue stream and surrounding greenery in the Te Waihou Walkway.
Hike the 4.7 kilometers long Te Waihou Walkway (Blue Spring) to reach the clearest stream in all of New Zealand.

The largest city in Waikato and the fourth largest in the country, Hamilton’s main attraction is the award-winning Hamilton Gardens, where you can walk through botanical installations inspired by locations around the world. Stroll along the riverside before heading into the central precinct, where restaurants, cafes, and bars await.

Highlights:

  • Stroll through Hamilton Gardens, showcasing global landscaping through time. Marvel at the grandeur of the Italian Renaissance Garden, revel in the vivid hues of the Victorian Flower Garden or venture through the fantastic Surrealist Garden's unique topiaries.
  • Visit Hobbiton, the home of the Hobbits from the Lord of the Rings franchise. Explore Bilbo’s house, with its iconic circular door and bucolic surroundings, and tuck into a fantastical feast or even a second breakfast.
  • Get on your bike and take a scenic trip down the cycleway alongside the roaring Waikato River through the city. The Waikato River Trail can also be undertaken on foot if you wish to take things more leisurely.

Insider tip: Tea lovers ought to schedule a trip to Zealong, the only tea plantation in New Zealand.

4. Ōtautahi Christchurch

The Ferrier Fountain, Victoria Square, on a summer day.
Discover Christchurch's iconic Ferrier Fountain in Victoria Square: a captivating blend of history, art, and urban charm.

Christchurch is considered one of the best places to visit on New Zealand’s South Island. For nature experiences, visit the Pōhatu Penguins or walk around the city’s restored botanical gardens. To see the city’s best sights, take the tram to explore the city center or the gondola to the Port Hills.

Highlights:

  • Experience unspoiled, panoramic views of Christchurch, the seaside town of Lyttelton, the Southern Alps, the rolling Canterbury plains, and glittering Pegasus Bay on the Christchurch Gondola.
  • Jump on the Christchurch Tram for one of the best ways to explore the city. These vintage vehicles provide a hop on and hop off tour experience to destinations like the Botanic Gardens, Riverside Market, and New Regent Street.

Insider tip: Book a tour to see the largest colony of little white-feathered penguins between November and February for a chance to help with feeding and rehabilitating some of the birds.

5. Fiordland

Tourists kayaking on the waters of Fiordland National Park.
Enjoy kayaking on the waters of Fiordland National Park in tourist hotspots like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
A helicopter parked at the Campbells Kingdom in Fjordland National Park.
Experience the breathtaking natural beauty of Fjordland National Park from above with a thrilling helicopter ride.

 Fiordland National Park has been drawing visitors for years. The park is famed for its rugged, untouched natural beauty, with rolling hills and vast waters to explore. Take a cruise to experience its full majesty, or take to one of its noted walking trails, such as the Routeburn or Kepler tracks.

Highlights: 

  • Cruise across the mirror-like waters of Lake Te Anau, which spans over 344 kilometers, as a part of your New Zealand adventure tour.
  • Discover the beauty of Milford Sound, considered by some to be the 8th natural wonder of the world. View stunning waterfalls that come alive with the rainfall, including the show-stopping Sterling Falls.
  • Hike the 60-kilometer Kepler Track to see the very best Fiordland has to offer, including hills, forests, and glacier-carved valleys. If you don’t have time to trek the whole thing, take a day trip to the Luxmore Hut.

Insider tip: Fiordland is best enjoyed in the summer months between December and February, but going in the shoulder months of November and March can provide more comfortable temperatures for walkers.

6. Rakiura

A hiking trail in the Rakiura Track.
Head through ancient forests in the Rakiura track filled with birdsong, across tranquil beaches, and along cliffside paths with views down to the coast.

Stewart Island or Rakiura (the land of the glowing skies in Maori) is the third largest island in New Zealand but only has 400 residents in Oban. Rakiura National Park, which takes up much of the island, features dense native bush, sandy beaches, and picturesque bays perfect for fishing, sailing, and spotting fur seals, penguins, and other marine wildlife. Oban, the main village, has just a single main road but offers lodging restaurants and is the departure point for ferries.

Highlights:

  • Head out on a nighttime ferry from the harbor to see the national bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi. Take a scenic walk with your guide to a secluded beach where you will spot the wild birds foraging for food among the sands.
  • Take the ferry to Ulva Island. This conservation area is pest and predator-free, allowing rare birdlife like the jet-black Tui, Yellowheads, and even Kiwis to thrive here when they might struggle on the mainland.

Insider tip: Look up, especially at nighttime. The low artificial light levels here allow for a great stargazing experience.

7. The Catlins

Three hector dolphins spotted in Porpoise Bay of The Catlins.
Head to the Propoise Bay when in The Catlins to spot New Zealand's endemic hector dolphins.

Discover the diverse ecosystems of the Catlins that host a variety of wildlife, from native birds to seals, sea lions, dolphins, and penguins. Tokata Nugget Point's lighthouse offers a stunning view, while Slope Point fascinates as the South Island's southernmost point. Experience the ancient Jurassic forest revealed by the outgoing tide at Curio Bay. Explore the Waipapa Point Lighthouse for a chance to spot sunbathing sea lions. Inland, marvel at the picturesque McLean Falls, Purakaunui Falls, and Matai Falls.

Highlights:

  • Bask in the beauty of McLean Falls. Tumbling down 22 meters across mossy rocks that form small rivulets in its cascade, the walk through the verdant Southland bush to get here is not to be missed either.
  • Surf’s up at Kaka Point, one of New Zealand’s top destinations for surfing. The area also offers a wide range of bushwalks, and the clifftop path towards Nugget Point lighthouse is like something out of a storybook.
  • Witness the tide retreating at Curio Bay to unveil a rare 180-million-year-old Jurassic forest. Keep an eye out for Hoiho Yellow-Eyed Penguins and a pod of Pahu Hector’s dolphins that call the bay home.

Insider tip: Take a coat or rain jacket with you as although abundant with wildlife, the Catlins are also known for their colder temperatures compared to locations further North.

8. Dunedin

Boats parked at a port in Dunedin during sunrise.
Embark on a wildlife cruise from Dunedin Harbor to spot albatross, fur seals, penguins, dolphins, sea lions, and much more besides.

Dunedin is considered the “wildlife capital” of New Zealand, with access to the Otago Peninsula and its abundance of animal and marine life, including albatrosses, penguins, and seals. The city itself is also worth exploring, with Victorian and Edwardian architecture, Larnach castle, the only historical castle in the country, and even an outdoor seawater pool.

Highlights:

  • Explore Larnach Castle, the only one of its kind in New Zealand. Built-in 1871 by William Larnach, the interior is lavishly furnished with period New Zealand furniture; outside, you’ll find 7 acres of painstakingly restored gardens.
  • Set aside some time to discover the Otago Peninsula, where you can observe penguin and fur seal colonies and explore the exhilarating cliffs of the Chasm and Lovers Leap.

Insider tip: Visit during April for the 10-day New Zealand Festival of Nature (Wild Dunedin), celebrating all things wild and wonderful in and around Dunedin.

Tours in Dunedin

9. Queenstown

A vineyard near Queenstown, New Zealand.
Indulge in the exquisite allure of Queenstown's vineyards, where breathtaking landscapes meet world-class wines.

Queenstown is known as the “adventure capital of the world,” and it is the perfect place for any adrenaline junkie looking to get their fix. Bungee jumps from Kawarau Bridge, enjoy watersports like jet boating on the Dart River, and ski the slopes on the Remarkables and Coronet Peak if you are visiting during winter. If you are looking for a more laid-back experience, try exploring the many vineyards that Queenstown has to offer.

Highlights:

  • Go skiing at Coronet Peak. With challenging pistes that have rollercoaster vibes to family-friendly bunny slopes, everyone can get involved.
  • Cross Lake Wakatipu on a restored vintage steamboat for one of the best ways to discover the area in and around Queenstown.
  • Take in Queenstown the adventurous way by going on a segway tour! Zoom through the botanical gardens and along the lake edge for a fun sightseeing experience.

Insider tip: The Coronet Peak and Remarkables ski resorts don’t open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer months, so plan your trip accordingly!

Tours in Queenstown

10. Rotorua

Cable cars, a town, hills, and lakes as seen in Rotorua.
Discover Rotorua's stunning landscapes from new heights with the exhilarating cable car experience; a must-see aerial adventure.

Rotorua is a true natural wonder. Boasting geothermal mud pools and hot springs perfect for relaxing in, it’s also an area renowned for its Maori hospitality. Active souls will love walking, horseback riding, and mountain biking by the lakes and magical ancient forests. Stop and have a bite on Eat Streat, a geothermally heated alfresco food quarter, or try a traditional Maori hangi feast cooked in the ground.

Highlights:

  • Bask in the heat at Orakei Korako Geothermal Park and Cave. With over 23 active geysers, hot springs, and stunning silica terraces awash with steam, it’s an awe-inspiring and almost otherworldly trip.
  • See Mother Nature’s very own light show at Te Puia. Operating at night, this tour takes you on an interactive journey through lit geysers and Maori artwork for a mesmerizing and sensory experience.
  • Soar through the ancient native forest on a ziplining adventure through the Rotorua forest canopy, navigating among the trees and crossing 20-meter-high suspension bridges.

Insider tip: Take a moment to get your nose accustomed to Rotorua. The geothermal features here give off a sulfur smell that can be unpleasant to the uninitiated!

New Zealand is a scenic wonderland with rugged natural beauty, vibrant culture, and adrenaline-pumping adventures. From the cosmopolitan excitement of Auckland to the breathtaking fjords of Fiordland National Park, each destination offers unique experiences.

To craft your amazing New Zealand journey, complete with the top places outlined here and more, contact one of our travel experts to help customize your New Zealand tour itinerary.

For more information on the country, read our New Zealand travel guide.

New Zealand Tours
Published by Supriya Rayamajhi, updated on February 22, 2024
Plan a custom-made trip to New ZealandWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to New Zealand.
  • David Tupper
    David TupperTravel Expert in Australia & New Zealand
  • Geoff Venning
    Geoff VenningTravel Expert in New Zealand
Our travel experts are recommended by:
  • BBC
  • Independent
  • Lonely Planet
0 COMMENTSWe welcome your questions or comments to this article. Our travel experts will respond within 48 hours.
    COOKIE POLICY

    We use cookies to analyze traffic and give you personalized content and ads. It's an essential part of giving you a great site experience. Click on the 'Accept' button if you agree with our use of tracking and analytical cookies. Please refer to our Cookie Policy for more information.