It’s home to Lord of the Rings, kiwis and the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Why haven’t you visited yet? If you have, it’s time to go back! We’ve put together a list of New Zealand’s most awesome bucket-list experience, so it doesn’t matter whether this is your first or your fifth trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud – prepare to make some of your most awesome holiday memories.
New Zealand’s Best Experiences
1. Explore Milford Sound
Yes, fjords exist outside Scandinavia, and yes, this one is stunning. Milford Sound is the South Island’s biggest draw, and we cannot stress how beautiful it is. Pack a camera, a warm coat and start exploring this mountainous region.
2. Visit Hobbiton
Have you watched The Lord of the Rings? No? Open up Netflix and get cracking. This enchanting movie set was heavily featured in Peter Jackson’s timeless trilogy, and remains open as a way for tourists to explore Middle Earth.
3. Visit Whakarewarewa
The name might be a tongue-twister, but the Living Māori Village is nothing short of fantastic. Experience the legacy of the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao among ornate wooden buildings and drifting geothermal steam. If you’re feeling particularly brave, get a Ta Moko (tattoo) as a permanent reminder of your NZ holiday.
4. Smell the sulphur at Rotorua
Where else in the world can you find Māori culture, bubbling geothermal pools and ancient forests all right next to each other? Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s coolest tourist destinations, and it’s our opinion that you haven’t lived until you’ve had a sniff of its sulphurous springs.
5. Ski at Wanaka
Did you think Queenstown was the South Island’s most adventurous destination? Surprise! Wanaka is just as heart-pumpingly awesome. Even though you can do everything from canyoning to hunting in this outdoorsy paradise, hitting the slopes of Wanaka’s world-famous ski resorts is a definite must.
6. Go wine-tasting in the South Island
To drink, or to drink more – that is the question. Wine connoisseurs, rejoice. This is what you’ve been waiting for. A South Island holiday wouldn’t be complete without at least one tasting tour exploring New Zealand’s famous vineyards.
7. Get thrown across a canyon
Afraid of heights? Time to get launched (literally) out of your comfort zone. Queenstown’s Shotover Canyon Fox is a zipline on a serious dose of steroids – speed through the air at a terrifying 182 metres above ground for 445 metres. Yes, it scares us too.
8. Go white-water rafting on the Kawarau River
The stunning Kawarau River passes through both wine regions and Lord of the Rings shooting locations, and, if that’s not cool enough, it also features plenty of white-water rapids. Cling on to your inflatable and wave your paddle triumphantly as you conquer another NZ challenge.
9. Skydive over the Southern Alps
Okay … we don’t blame you if this seems a little too intense. Plummeting through the air at 200 kph, roughly 15,000 feet above ground? It’s definitely an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
10. Explore Tongariro National Park
Are you craving a dose of undiluted nature? If you answered ‘yes’, visiting Tongariro National Park is one bucket-list item you need to tick off ASAP. This sprawling swathe of wilderness features dozens of amazing hiking trails, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which traverses the breathtaking Mt. Tongariro itself.
11. Stand above the Huka Falls
“A waterfall?”, we hear you say. “That’s not exactly bucket-list material!” Ah, we beg to differ! Huka Falls is one of those incredible nature phenomena you have to see to believe. With more than 220,000 litres of water pounding through the falls per second, this furious channel of foaming water is more than a little intimidating.
12. Interact with wildlife at Wellington Zoo
You probably won’t get to see New Zealand’s national icon in the wild, but, at Wellington Zoo, you can get up close and personal with truly adorable kiwis. One-legged kiwi Tahi is probably the most famous resident, but you can also meet other animals like the native kea and the very unique wētā.
13. Visit Waitomo
Waitomo is a village with a lot to offer, but if you’re like us and you love bright ’n’ shiny things, head straight to its Glowworm Caves. Take a boat through these subterranean caverns and gaze up a ceiling full of shimmering stars.
14. Bungee jump off the Sky Tower
Like the idea of visiting New Zealand’s tallest building? Try jumping off it! The Auckland SkyJump is like that trust-fall you played as a kid – leap off a ledge 192 metres in the air, and hope that you come back up in one piece.
15. Visit Fox Glacier
This giant dome of rock and ice is absolutely stunning, and, as one of the world’s most accessible glaciers, is a must-see if you’re in the South Island. Explore its pristine natural beauty via heli-hiking, ice-climbing or guided tours.
16. Walk on a volcano
Does the thought of walking on an active volcano terrify you? Don’t worry – White Island is completely safe. If you embark on a guided tour, they’ll even provide you with gas-masks so you don’t suffocate on the island’s plumes of steam and clouds of yellow sulphur. How nice is that?
17. Kayak around the Bay of Islands
Experienced kayaker? Paddling amateur? Small child? This guided tour is perfect for everyone, young or old. Learn about local history and Māori culture while circling the horseshoe waterfalls at Hauru. If you’re in need of a day outdoors or some family bonding, you’ll love kayaking around the Bay of Islands.
18. Walk along Ninety Mile Beach
Yes, we share your disappointment that Ninety Mile Beach is, in fact, only 54 miles long. On the bright side, 54 miles (88 kilometres) is still really far, so you probably won’t be able to walk the full distance anyway. Recommended if you like swimming, surfing or long walks on the beach.
19. Step into Waipoua Forest
Best explored with a local Māori guide, Waipoua Forest is home to New Zealand’s largest kauri tree, Tāne Mahuta. Maybe it’s just us, but anything that’s known as ‘the Lord of the Forest’ and is 2,500 years old is 100% worth a visit (and lots of photos).