New Zealand has become one of the most popular tourist and expat destinations in recent years. This magical country has a wealth of exciting and enchanting places to visit, no matter where you hop off the plane. We found it difficult to narrow down, but we eventually put together just 10 of the best places to visit in New Zealand.
1. Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley
It may be a bit of a mouthful to say, but once you get there you’ll be happy you heard of this place. This valley is home to a whole load of hot water geysers, including the biggest active geyser in the world. You’ll find that some of these water pools are so hot that you wouldn’t even be able to dip a toe in (we’re talking virtually boiling). You’ll find the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley in Rotorua; a city in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island. Once you have got there make sure you head over to the Maori Heritage Center to learn more about the springs, the history of the area and for a bite to eat. Here you can get a steam box meal, which is a meal cooked in the natural heat of the springs. It’ll be one culinary experience you won’t forget in a hurry!
2. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
If you’re looking for something a little bit different on your trip to New Zealand then make sure you head to the Waitomo Glowworm caves for a truly mind-blowing experience. Situated in Waitomo, on the North Island of New Zealand, this experience will be something truly unique (and one to tell all your friends about). The glowworm caves are appropriately named, due to being home to thousands of glowworms and fireflies. Inside the walls of the cave you’ll find all these magnificent creatures, who light up to guide you along the water pathways of the cave. Grab a boat tour from the main office at the entrance to the caves and let the glowworms and fireflies light up your journey. If you would prefer to go it alone then rent an inner tube and let the current of the river move you slowly along. This is one place you definitely won’t forget in a hurry!
3. Waiheke Island
Situated just across the water from Auckland, Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the gulf; it is also one of the best tourist destinations in New Zealand. You can get to the island via boat from Auckland, which takes an hour and a half, and also allows you to take in some of the incredible sights across the sea. Once you get there you will find plenty of different things to see and do, from deep sea diving, to zipline and forest adventures. You also need to check out the stunning vineyards situated on Waiheke Island, along with some wine tasting. This island has the perfect soil for grapes, so you will find some of the country’s best wine comes straight from the vineyards here. You can also stay the night on Waiheke Island, with dozens of quaint lodgings available to suit your style and budget.
Head over to the South Island in New Zealand and make a stop off at Kaokoura, a tiny fishing town. Although it may not be all of the hustle and bustle of some of the bigger cities and towns in New Zealand, there is one big reason why hundreds of thousands of people visit every years. It’s the dolphins. Kaikoura is a place jam packed with natural wonders, which includes an abundance of marine life. Here you can sit on the rocks and watch all of the marine life or take part in it yourself. Swimming with dolphins is one of the most popular activities in this town, but there are also plenty of other things to see and do. Book yourself onto an organized tour of the area and experience everything Kaikoura has to offer.
This lakeside town is a must-visit if you want to experience much of what New Zealand has to offer. Firstly, the town sits proudly on the shores of the Great Lake Taupo which already opens up a wealth of possibilities, from fishing trips to boat tours. If you’re feeling adventurous then you can also get a floatplane across the lake! Taupo is a real adventure playground but there are other things to see and do too, especially if you want to wind down. Nearby is the Orake Korako Thermal Park which is packed full of stunning caves, springs and mud pools that you will be able to explore and unwind in. This makes Taupo the perfect place for a mixture of adventure and thrill-seeking, combined with rest and relaxation. NO wonder it’s such a popular tourist destination in New Zealand!
6. White Island
Also known as Whakaari, White Island is the most active of all the volcanoes in New Zealand… Which is saying something for a country that has plenty of volcanoes! There are plenty of different ways to experience this incredible natural site, including a boat tour around the White Island, an on-foot tour, or even a helicopter ride above (if you’re feeling brave). There are often lots of little eruptions from the volcano, where it throws dozens of tiny rocks into the air. If you’re of a nervous disposition then this may not be the best place to visit in New Zealand. However, if you love nature and adventure then Whakaari is the place for you. It’ll take you a little while to get to White Island by boat, so make sure you set aside a whole day to experience everything this stunning area has to offer.
7. Milford Sound
This awe-inspiring fiord can be found on the South Island in New Zealand and is well worth a trip if you’re nearby. The Milford Sound was named the world’s top travel destination back in 2008 and is easily one of the most famous tourist hotspots in New Zealand. People who visit Milford Sound will find it hard not to fall in love; in fact, Rudyard Kipling famously claimed it to be the eighth Wonder of the World because he loved it that much. It’s a narrow sea inlet, originally formed by the actions of sea glaciers, and everything about the area will take your breath away. Although very few people live in the area you can partake in a number of different water sports, including canoeing and tramping. You can also explore the underwater marine observatory, in order to see the beautiful black coral. Milford Sound will appease even the fussiest of travelers!
8. The Franz Josef Glacier
This 12km long glacier on the west coast of South Island is unlike anything you will have ever experienced. Whilst you may think that hiking up a glacier requires multiple levels of clothes and equipment, the Franz Josef Glacier is quite the opposite. The area manages to catch plenty of sunshine and so it is only just a fraction cooler than the temperature at the bottom of the glacier. If you go during the summer then you’ll probably want to be wearing a t-shirt and shorts! You’ll find a range of organized walks, hikes and tours operate around the Franz Josef Glacier so you can enjoy the 12km with a group or on your own if you prefer. Once you’ve trekked back down make sure you visit the hot pools at the base of the glacier for a relaxing experience that will finish your day off perfectly.
9. The Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands looks like something straight out of a dream, if you dream about paradise often. After a 3 hour drive from Auckland you’ll find yourself slap bang in the middle of the Cape Reinga region, which is home to over 100 small islands to explore. The Bay of Islands has recently become one of the most famous destinations in the world for fishing, sailing and tourism. If you have a passion for water activities and white sanded beaches then this is one place you definitely have to visit in New Zealand. There are daily cruises around the islands, which will allow you to see the incredible array of marine life around Tapeka Point, including dolphins, whales, penguins and much more. Make sure you set aside a whole day for a boat trip around the Bay of Islands and you won’t be disappointed!
We started with the Geothermal Valley in Rotorua and we’re ending with the entire city of Rotorua. Not because we have run out of ideas, but simply because this is one place in New Zealand that you definitely have to spend some time in if you can. You will find a wealth of activities are always going on in this city, from adventure walks and mountain biking, to mud pools and Maori culture. Whilst most people in New Zealand head to areas such as Auckland and Hamilton, this city is where you truly want to be. A heady mix of historic cultures and modern flavor will ensure you want to return to Rotorua as soon as you have left. Plus, most of the places on our list are within easy visiting distance from this city; so it’s a win-win situation whichever way you look at it!