46 Top Things to do in New Zealand

There are so many things to do in New Zealand and we have tried them all! We have visited New Zealand four times and have personally done these top attractions.

We originally wrote this New Zealand guide 10 years ago starting with 15 things, and has now grown to 46 of the top New Zealand experiences that we have personally done!

We actually did all of these activities in New Zealand and can give you first-hand information on what to see and do in the country.

Best Things to do in New Zealand

It can be overwhelming deciding on what things to do in New Zealand but we’ve rounded up the more unique and exciting things beyond the usual bungy jumps and skydivers. Although they make the list too! You can’t go to New Zealand without doing some extreme adventures!

We’ve broken up this New Zealand Guide into two sections. You can skip directly to the top things to do on each island:

Table of Contents

Did you know New Zealand is known as the adventure capital of the world? This was the reason we were drawn to it in the first place. Each time we visit, we discover something new. But New Zealand isn’t just for adventure lovers, it has cultural experiences, world-class vineyards, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.

Enjoy our favorite things to do based on what we experienced in the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

South Island New Zealand

things to do in new zealand south island map
Click to see your interactive map of things to do on the South Island New Zealand

The South Island is where we spent the majority of our time on our first visit and we feel it is the best places to start when planning your trip.

The South Island of New Zealand is the larger of the two islands but has a lower population making for amazing backcountry adventures and unspoiled scenery. This is where you’ll find the most adventurous activities.

Top Things to do on the South Island New Zealand

best things to do in new zealand beautiful landscape and rivers of south island

New Zealand may be the adventure capital of the world, but Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. This is the perfect place to make a base to take in all the top adventures in the country. From bunjy jumping to skydiving, Queenstown has everything you could ever want.

1. Bungy Jump in Queenstown

top things to do in new zealand south island bunjy jump
Bunjy Jumping our pick – #1 of the top things to do in Queenstown

We put this at the very top of our list because no trip to New Zealand would be complete without doing a bungy jump. Bungee jumping was invented by AJ Hackett in Queenstown. In New Zealand, it is written as Bunjy jumping but the rest of the world prefers bungy jumping.

We can’t decide what to use, so you will probably see it written a few different ways in this New Zealand guide.

Bungy Jumping is definitely one of the top things to do in New Zealand and there are many to choose from on the South Island and around the country.

Where to Bunjy Jump in Queenstown

The original Bridge Jump is the best for that authentic bungy jumping feel. The Ledge Bunjy offers the best view of Queenstown, and the terrifying Nevis Bungy located 134 meters over the middle of a gorge is the third highest bungee in the world! All are located in and around Queenstown!

2. Cruise Milford Sound

thing to do in new zealand - cruise milford sound
One of the top things to see in New Zealand – Milford Sound

In 2008 Milford Sound was named the World’s Top Travel Destination, and Rudyard Kipling called it the 8th Wonder of the World.

Milford Sound is the most famous tourist destination in New Zealand.

A cruise through Milford Sound is a must when visiting the country. Its breathtaking fiords showcase some of the highest sea cliffs in the world. You can book a tour here.

Milford Sound: This is probably one of the most famous excursions in New Zealand and Get Your Guide offers day tours cruise through Milford Sound

3. Swim with Dolphins. in Kaikoura

best things to do in New Zealand swim with dolphins
Swim with bottle nose dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is one of the most magical moments you will ever have in your life.

We swam with them in the The Bay of Islands where we had the opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins. But that is no longer allowed due to government restrictions.

I hear they became too domesticated. But you can still swim with dolphins in other parts of New Zealand.

In Kaikoura, you swim with a larger pod but it is also a tour with more people too. The waters are warmer on the North Island so you don’t have to wear a wetsuit-like in the South Island.

A wetsuit is required in Kaikoura.

Dolphin watching is a must and you can book this Get Your Guide dolphin and whale watching eco tour.

4. Sky Dive Abel Tasman

best things to do in New Zealand Skydiving
Skydiving in Abel Tasman

One of the top most popular things to do is to go skydiving. There are many places all around the North Island and South Island.

We went to two skydiving locations in New Zealand but nothing compares to skydiving over Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman is probably the most iconic in the country since it has the highest jump in New Zealand. With skydive Abel Tasman you have the option to jump from 16,500 feet. Which naturally we had to do!

There are many places to jump in New Zealand, but Abel Tasman is special as you can see both the North Island and South Island when you jump.

5. World Famous Gorge Swing

adventures in new zealand gorge swing
Dave on the Gorge Swing

If bunjy jumping is too much for you, try a gorge swing instead. You can do a tandem swing or go on your own.

You get to do this in pairs of two if you like! It’s not a direct fall, but instead a swing across the gorge on a 300-meter arc.

This is the highest swing on the planet and not for the faint of heart.

6. Go Paragliding Over Queenstown

Things to do in New Zealand Paraglide Over Queenstown

One of the more popular things to do in Queenstown is to go paragliding from the mountain above the city.

Catch the Skyline Gondola  (just a 5-minute walk from central Queenstown) to the top of the mountain for the most extraordinary paragliding experience you’ll ever have.

Then soar 2000 feet above Queenstown for the most extraordinary view! We had a good 15-minute flight and could keep catching the waves to go back up to our starting point rather than dropping quickly to the ground.

You’ll get to do some amazing maneuvers too! Paragliding over Queenstown was one of the highlights of my first trip to the country.

7. Shotover Jet Boat Queenstown

Top things to do in New Zealand Jet boat tour in Queenstown
Exploring “Middle Earth”

Enjoy another Jetboat experience with the Underwater Observatory .

The Queenstown Jetboat experience is probably the most popular jet boat ride in New Zealand going through the canyones of the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers.

Where to Eat

When you are in Queenstown, you must try a Ferburger. Ferberger is a Queenstown institution and no visit would be complete without giving it a try. Don’t worry, there’s vegetarian selections available.

8. Whitewater Raft Class 5 Rapids

best new zealand things to do white water rafting
Whitewater Rafting for Pure Adrenaline

Whitewater Rafting in New Zealand was the best rafting experience we’ve ever had and we’ve done a lot! These enormous class five rapids located just two hours from Christchurch was a thrill of a lifetime.

These waves were massive and at times. a bit terrifying. I fell out of the raft once, but our quick-thinking guide pulled me back in. After facing the giant whitewater, you can take it easy and jump from a 3 – 5 meter high ledge into some smaller rapids for some body surfing.

Check out more white Water Rafting Adventure with Rangitata Rafting.

9. Trek the Fox Glacier

things to do in new zealand trek fox glacier

The Fox Glacier is probably one of the easiest and quickest glacier walks you’ll ever be able to do. If you want to experience what it is like to hike on a glacier, this is a good choice!

We were suited up with thick woolly socks and boots suitable for crampons. They gave us a rain jacket and waterproof pants all we had to do was show up. Located at a low elevation, it’s suitable for anyone that’s relatively fit.

Depending on where you’re traveling from, Get Your Guide offers tours to Fox Glacier from Queenstown to Fox Glacier or book a helicopter landing on Fox Glacier.

10. Take a Helicopter Ride over or Franz Josef Glacier

things to do in new zealand franz josef glacier

After seeing Fox Glacier, book a helicopter ride to see Franz Josef Glacier from above. Franz Joseph Glacier is close to Fox Glacier, so you can see both in a day!

We feel that helicopter rides are one of the best ways to take in beautiful scenery and the South Island of New Zealand has some of the best scenery in the world. So if there is one place to do it, it is here!

But what is great about a helicopter tour to Franz Joseph is that you will land on the glacier and go on a trek with nobody else in sight to witness some of the most spectacular glaicer formations.

11. Trek to Aoraki Mount Cook

things to do in new Zealand Mount Cook

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Sir Edmund Hillary trained here for his summit to Mount Everest!

Located in Mount Cook National Park, it is easily accessible by road offering stunning views of peaks and glaciers.

There are plenty of tracks to hike and it has outstanding rock climbing experiences.

Another famous track on the South Island is the Routeburn Track. See what it is like on our Best Treks in the world.

12. Visit The Wanaka Tree

what to see in new zealand lake wanaka

While in the area of Queenstown, drive up to Wanaka to see the famous Wanaka Tree. Thanks to Instagram this sleepy town has gained popularity. But there is so much more to do in Wanaka than look at a tree.

It is the perfect place for outdoor lovers. Surrounded by Mountains there is no shortage of hikes and outdoor adventures. Wanaka is also one of the best places in New Zealand to go skiing!

13. Look for Greenstone in Hokitika

best things to do in New Zealand Greenstone
Dave Proudly wears his Toki Greenstone Wherever He Goes

Dave hasn’t taken his Green Stone (Kiwi for Jade) off since our first trip to New Zealand in 2011. When you are on the west coast of the country, be sure to get yourself a Greenstone gem.

The town of Hokitika is famous for the green stone that washes up on the beaches. If you find a good piece, you can bring them to a studio and someone will make a necklace for you.

Greenstone in the shops is expensive, but if you walk around the markets, you will find some affordable pieces.

Dave wears a Toki around his neck. The Maori used Toki’s as a tool, but today they are worn around the neck and represents strength.

It’s important not to buy yourself a Toki, they should be given to you. Naturally, I gave one to Dave.

14. Marvel at Lake Tekapo

visit new zealand church of the good shephard lake tekapo
The Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo on the South Island

Lake Tekapo is part of the Dark Sky Preserve and is an excellent place for camping. Spend the night and take in the stars.

It’s most photographed view is the one above of the Church of the Good Shepherd. Besides being a historic site, it also offers a beautiful view of Lake Tekapo.

15. Go Sailing in Abel Tasman

things to do in New Zealand sailing
Go sailing in Abel Tasman

One cannot appreciate the beauty of a coastline until you see it from afar. Take a sailing trip for the best views of the rugged coast.

A sailing trip is a fun and relaxing way to spend the day.

We sailed along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park exploring secluded beaches and witnessing unique rock formations. But most importantly, we had the opportunity to captain the boat!

It’s no secret that we love Abel Tasman. We went skydiving, kayaking, sailing and we flew a stunt plane there. If you want to a good view take a cruise and hiking day trip in Abel Tasman National Park.

16. Go Whale Watching Kaikoura 

what to do in New Zealand whale watching
Whale watching in Kaikoura

What makes whale watcihng so speical in New Zealand is the sheer number of species you will see.

All kinds of different whales migrate through these waters and chances of spying several are very good!

When whale watching in Kaikoura, the chances of spotting whales are so that if you don’t see any, they will refund 80% of your money.

We not only saw humpback whales, we saw killer whales too! Plus, Whale Watch Kaikoura is the only place where visitors can encounter the chance to see Giant Sperm Whales all year long!

17. Take a Jet Boat Tour

New Zealand what to do Jetboat tours

There are many places to experience jet boating in New Zealand with the most famous being in the Queenstown area.

We took a few in the country through backwaters, rivers and out to sea, but one of our favourites was The Luxmore Jetboat Experience. It offered some thrills and spills through Fiordland National Park. And we saw some more LOTR movie sets to boot!

18. Walk along the Pancake Rocks

what to see in new zealand pancake rocks

Located on the west coast of the South Island, the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki are an awesome place to visit.

Take a walkway out to view the 1000-year-old eroded limestone formations.

If you time it right, you’ll catch the sea spewing up through the rocks blowholes.

Part of the Paparoa National Park, the Pancake Rocks are accessed by the easy Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk right in the centre of Punakaiki.

A great idea to really take in the scope of New Zealand is to enjoy a Scenic Helicopter Tour – Fly over the peaks of Mt. Aspiring National Park where you’ll see stunning mountains and ice falls before landing in the Forbes Mountains.

19. Spy on Split Apple Rock

Things to do in New Zealand sailing to Split Apple Rock New Zealand
Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock is a 120 million-year-old granite rock that has been split in half.

Legend has it the rock was split between two warring Gods.

Science tells us that during the ice age, water that had seeped into the rock expanded splitting the massive formation in half.

I’m going with the Gods!

20. Moeraki Boulders

things to do in New Zealand see the Moeraki Boulders on the Beach
One of the most unusual things to do in New Zealand – The Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are a natural phenomenon that lay along a stretch of the Koekohe Beach on the Otago Coast of New Zealand.

I didn’t even know they existed, but seriously, they are one of the best things to do in New Zealand. The Moeraki Boulders are located between Moeraki and Hampden on the South Island.

Scientists claim that the Moeraki boulders were formed millions of years ago due to muddy sediments slowly forming the boulders through erosion, wave action and landslide. They are a fascinating sight to see.

We book day tours with Get Your Guide Around the World. They offer last minute bookings and easy cancellations.

21. Walk up the World’s Steepest Street in Dunedin

things to do in new zealand world's steepest street

New Zealand has the steepest street on earth.

Baldwin Street is located in Dunedin and is a short 350 meter (1,150 ft) walk, but it rises a whopping 30 meters (98feet) in that short time.

It’s a quick short bucket list item to add to your itinerary.

22. Wine Country

things to do in new zealand wine tasting

From Queenstown head out on an epic drive to Central Otago located an hour and forty five minutes from the city. This region is known for its world-class pinot noir wines but there are plenty of other things to do here as well.

Top things to do here besides wine tasting are cycling along the old rail trail, a heritage cruise down the Clutha River, or the ferrari experience at the Highlands Motorsyport Park.

23. Explore Christchurch

things to do in New Zealand Christchurch Tram

Christchurch has come a long way since the 2011 Earthquake. The city has a new funky vibe and things are coming together.

We were there just after the earthquake and could tell that it was a beautiful city, even within the rubble.

Local writer Martina Grossi shares how far it has come and shares all of the amazing things to do in Christchurch.

24. Fly Your Own Stunt Plane

unique things to do in New Zealand fly a stunt plane
Fly Your Own Stunt Plane

The most original and exciting adventure you will ever do in your life is to fly your own stunt plane at Ufly Extreme. (sadly, you can no longer fly your own stunt plane here but you can do it in Wanaka! My experience was too cool not to leave in).

Imagine taking full control of the plane you flip upside down and all around in mid-air as pilot Vincent talks you through the flight from the cockpit behind.

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart but is definitely the most unique thing we did in New Zealand or anywhere for that matter.

Update:
UFly Extreme is no longer in business, but we do see that there is still a place to fly a stunt plane . We however didn’t fly with the new establishment, so we can’t say how good it is.

North Island New Zealand Experiences

top things to do in new zealand south island map

You could spend your entire time in New Zealand on just one island. But that would be only half the fun! There are so many things to do in New Zealand on the North Island too! So plan for another couple of weeks, or book a full flying Kiwi experience of both the South and North Island tour.

Top Things to do on the North Island

Top Things to do in New Zealand on the North Island

In total, we’ve spent nearly three months trekking around New Zealand. These are the best things we did on the North Island. Our last two visits were spent exploring a lot of the North Island.

And here are the top things to do!

25. Hike the Tongariro Crossing – North Island

best things to do in new zealand tongariro hike
Sulfer Lakes on Tongariro

The Tongariro Crossing is considered one of the best day hikes in the entire world. It’s an absolutely beautiful trek taking you through huge valleys, up mountain slopes and to incredible volcanic lakes.

Peter Jackson chose this location to be the dreaded Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. We can understand why it is an incredible view that is movie worthy indeed.

The day hike takes you to sulfur lakes that seem out of this world. Just like Middle Earth!

You can read all about our experiences on this hike at The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: New Zealand’s Best 1 Day Hike

26. Watch Wai-O-Tapu Bubble

New Zealand things to do Wai-O-Tapu
Wai-O-Tapu Sulpher Springs

Wai-O-Tapu is a Thermal Wonderland. It is certainly the best display of sulphur geothermal hot pools we have ever witnessed. A stop here is well worth your time on any New Zealand itinerary.

Walk along safe and defined tracks through this incredible geothermal pools and volcanic and acidic lakes.

Witness bubbling mud, steaming ground and volcanic craters at this natural attraction that has bee called One of the 20 Most Surreal Places in the World.

27. Skydive Lake Taupo

things to do in new zealand skydive taupo
Getting picked up by the limo

Another great place to go skydiving in New Zealand is Lake Taupo. We actually enjoyed the Taupo skydive company more than Able Tasmen. We got to choose our soundtrack for our video which I thought was really cool and they picked us up in a limousine, how cool is that?.

There were plenty of other things to do in Taupo though. Instead of an adrenaline rush, we had an amazing time basking in the geothermal hot pools.

Visit Skydive Taupo for more information.

28. Visit Hobbiton

things to do in New Zealand Hobbiton

New Zealand has always been an amazing destination but the world really took notice when the Lord of the Rings filmed here. If you are a movie buff, a visit to Hobbiton is a must.

The entire Hobbit Village was built on farmland and transformed into a movie set and it is now open to the public. See where Frodo and Sam lived up and experience a piece of Hollywood History.

Visit Middle Earth and the actual shire movie set from on the Hobbiton Movie set tour. Make sure to have a pint of ale in front of the fire to really feel what it is like to be a Hobbit in Hobbiton.

Check out tours of Hobbiton with Get Your Guide.

29. Sail the Bay of Islands

top things to do in new zealand dolphin swim bay of islands
Dolphins swimming

The Bay of Islands is a beautiful subtropical area of New Zealand that consists of 144 islands. There are so many experiences to be had here you need to give yourself a few days.

They bay of Islands is one of the best places to experience Maori culture. M?ori are the original settlers of New Zealand coming to the island more than 1000 years ago from the Cook Islands.

The warm waters here make for the best scuba diving and snorkeling in New Zealand. We swam with bottle nose dolphins here and it was a spectacular experience. There is also whale watching, sailing tours and like many places on the North Island, a chance to visit some hot pools.

  • Check out Tall Ship Sailing excursion from Auckland through Get Your Guide where you can help the crew hoist the sails.
  • 3 Day Bay of Islands Tour – Explore the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga on this 3-day trip from Aukland.

30. See the Glowworm Caves Sparkle

glowworm caves waterfall - things to do in new zealand north island
Waterfall in the cave

We actually saw glow worms on both the South Island in Te Anau and North Island in Waitomo. The Waitomo Caves are the more popular excursion and easier to get to.

Glow worms are small insects that emit bioluminescent and they were definitely one of the coolest wildlife experiences we’ve ever had.

Glowworm Caves are found all around New Zealand and you must experience seeing the glow worms in real life. Glowworms never leave the cave and they spend their lives feeding on insects that make their way into the deep caverns.

One glowworm alone hangs hundreds of threads to catch their prey using their lights to attract the bugs where they are trapped in their gooey string to wait for a slow death. It is gruesome for the insect, but it is spectacular to see.

31. Go Zorbing in Rotorua

Zorbing New Zealand activities

If you are looking for unique experiences in New Zealand, look no further than zorbing. New Zealand is known for its zany adventures and one of the most popular things to do in Rotorua is zorbing.

Zorbing is completely unique to New Zealand and you must when you are there. Get in a ball and roll down a hill like a hamster. Word of warning, don’t eat too much before you experience rolling every which way down the hill. You may toss your cookies!

The place to do it is Rotorua or Waitomo.

32. Rotorua Hot Pools

top things to do in New Zealand Rotorua Hot Pools

When visiting Rotorua, you’ll notice a distinct smell of sulphur. The North Island is a volcanic island, so there are many thermal hot pools to explore. But no place is as popular as Rotorua.

After a day of adventures, you can warm up in the warm volcanic sulfur waters and hot springs.

The healing waters located on the edge of Lake Rotorua have been attracting visitors for hundreds of years.

33. Immerse in Culture at Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua

maori culture what to do in New Zealand
Maori Performer

No visit to New Zealand would be complete without immmersing in a Maori Cultural experience.

The Polynesians settled here in the 13th century and an excellent way to learn about their history is to visit the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua.

Here you will be welcomed by the Powhiri, a formal welcoming ceremony followed by a performance of warrior dances and songs.

Maori Luxury Tour – Learn about the Maori culture as you explore the wild west coast with a local Maori guide.

 We named New Zealand as one of the top spots for the Best Road Trips in the world, see where else made the cut!

34. Sail On America’s Cup Winning Yacht

best things to do in new zealand - auckland
One of the best things to do in Aukland

New Zealand’s yachting team is one of the best in the world. When in Auckland make sure to experience what it is like to sail an authentic America’s Cup yacht.

This yacht is a previous winner of the America’s cup and this experience is definitely one of the top things to do in Auckland if you are looking for adventure.

Get as involved as you like, or just take in the view of the city from the sea. Either way it is an experience you’ll never forget.

  • Visiting Auckland, book the Hop on Hop off Bus to explore Auckland easily with a hop on hop off bus tour of the city.

35. Jump from the Sky Tower

things to do in auckland sky tower

Want a little adrenaline in the city of Auckland? Choose from the Skywalk or Sky Jump at Auckland’s Sky Tower.

What I love about this is, if you are not ready for a bunjy jump, this offers a controlled descent reaching a speed of 85km per hour.

  • 3 Day Aukland to Wellington – Travel from Aukland to Wellington via Rotorua includes tours, admissions and Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Where to Stay in Auckland

Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour – We like the standards of Sofitel Hotels and this modern hotel is walking distance from all the sights.

Check out Availability & Prices Trip Advisor Booking.com

SkyCity Grand Hotel – Centrally located upscale hotel. Located next to the casino and connected to the entertainment complex.

Check out Availability & Prices Trip Advisor / Hotels.com

36. Waiheke Island

best things to do in new zealand kayaking

New Zealand has become well known for its wine-producing and when visiting Aukland, you must visit the Island of Wine, Waiheke Island New Zealand.

Waiheke Island is just a 40-minute ferry ride from mainland New Zealand and here you can enjoy a wine tour and wine tasting at Waiheke Island Wine.

You can make a day of it, but we recommend staying overnight to explore the beaches, go for a hike, hire a bicycle or do some kayaking.

New Zealand is known for its adventures, so naturally there is an opportunity to add a little adrenaline into your trip with a zip line over the vineyards.

37. Hike to Wellington Lookout

what to do in new zealand wellington lookout

In the center of Wellington, there’s a hill known as Mount Victoria. This is one of the most popular things to do in Wellington for a lovely afternoon out and a great view of the city.

There, they filmed the first scene from The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo and the Hobbits hide from their first Wraith.

It’s a great way to get. out of the city.

38. Lord of the Rings Tour Wellington

top things to do in New Zealand Lord of the Rings Tour

When heading over from the South Island, we hopped on a ferry to Wellington and had the chance to spend a few days there.

Wellington was the location for the main studios when filming Lord of the Rings.

We had the chance to see the miniatures and one of the coolest things was to see the sets showing the perspective of how they made the Hobbits look small compared to the wizards.

It was all done by perspective manipulation. Wizards were in a tiny part of the room hunched over while the Hobbits stood in a place with high cielings.

If you can’t make it to New Zealand, check out the Hobbit Houses of Charlevoix in Michigan!

39. Hike Mount Maunganui

hike Mount maunganui what to see in new zealand

Mount Maunganui is a beautiful place to visit.  The Main Beach has been crowned the ‘Best Beach in New Zealand” and hiking the mountain, Mauao, is a gorgeous hike that takes about 45 minutes.

It’s one of the country’s most popular walks making it one of the top things to do in New Zealand. We enjoyed hiking to the top of the mountain for a lovely view of the coast.

40. Listen to the Thunder of Huka Falls

what to see in new zealand huka falls

The Huka Falls offers a spectacular display of the power of water with 220k litres of water rushing down an 11-metre waterfall per second!

It’s worth stopping to have a look!

41. Relax at Hot Water Beach

things to do in new zealand hot water beach

Located on the Coromandel Peninsula, Hot Water Beach is a true Kiwi experience.

When the beach is at low tide, the hot springs that run below rises through the sand creating a cozy place to burrow into.

42. Go Sandboarding in Openoni

adventures in new zealand sandboarding

Sandboarding in Openoni which is just south of the Bay of Islands is a good little stop in the middle of a sunny afternoon.  

The cost is okay at 20 NZD (about $15 USD) per person for the boat ride and the board rental making it one of the cheapest excursions we did in the country.

43. Hawke’s Bay

When visiting the North Island of New Zealand, you can visit wineries at Hawkes Bay. For foodies and wine lovers, this is the place to be.

Make sure to visit the town of Napier for its art deco architecture. After the Earthquake of 1931, Napier reconstructed it’s downtown to the design of the day creating the best example of Art Deco design in the world.

44. Look for Kiwis at Stewart Island

things to do in new zealand off the beaten path

If you want to see the kiwi bird in person, take a trip to Stewart Island. Contrary to popular belief, the kiwi is not extinct. The flightless bird is alive and well and Stewart Island is one of the top places in New Zealand to see them.

The Tokoeka brown kiwi birds outnumber humans on the island. Which isn’t too hard since the population is only about 400 people.

Stewart Island is located off the far southern tip of New Zealand and is a nature lover’s paradise. There are 280 km of hiking trails, and trekkers come to tackle the three day Rakiura Track.

The main settlement of Halfmoon Bay offers accommodation.

45. Hire a Campervan

how to explore new zealand

New Zealand was made for a road trip. The best way to experience it is to have the freedom of the open road.

Campgrounds are well stocked and getting around is super easy. Plus there are plenty of scenic lookouts just waiting for you to pull over.

46. Take a Flying Kiwi Tour

flying kiwi new zealand
Hat Day at The Flying Kiwi

We travelled with the Flying Kiwi and it’s a great budget way to get around.

The hop on Hop off Bus lets you stay as long as you like in a location.

It’s basic, with camping as your accommodations and barbecues for your meals, but it’s a wonderful way to get to know your fellow travelers and to see a lot of the island.

The North and South Island Tour last about 6 weeks!~ But you can choose a leg of any tour that is usually around 9 days.

There are so many things to see and do in New Zealand, you could spend a month exploring the two islands and still not see it all. We know! We’ve spent nearly two months there.

Getting Around New Zealand

new zealand by campervan road trip
It’s easy to find somewhere to stay with a campervan

New Zealand is compact and easy to get around by renting your own campervan, flying between towns or joining a full hop on hop off multi-day bus tour.

 Air New Zealand offers local flights to 25 cities getting you quickly to your destination.

Hop on hop off bus tours are very popular to get around New Zealand. Flying Kiwi offers camping and food and stops at all of the top attractions. Read our review here: Touring with the Flying Kiwi

We also rented a campervan to get around. We saw a lot of people driving in Wicked and JUCY Campervans. See what it’s like to Explore New Zealand by Campervan

So there you have it, you are armed with these amazing ideas of the greatest things to do in New Zealand to easily create your own custom itinerary.

Top Things to do in New Zealand Map

For the full map of things to do on both islands, click on the map to take it with you!

map of things to do in new zeland

Here is a link to all of our stops on our New Zealand Trip

Did you enjoy this New Zealand Travel Guide? Pin to Save to Pinterest for future travel planning.

Top Things to do in New Zealand

Read More about the top things to do in New Zealand

Many people combine trips to New Zealand with Australia, you may also like these experiences:

Disclaimer: There are affiliates in the post. If you choose to visit any of the recommended tours we earn an income at no extra cost to you. 

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

24 thoughts on “46 Top Things to do in New Zealand”

  1. These are all great, if I could add one more it would be Canyoning through Sleeping God Canyon in the Coromandel with Canyonz. They are incredible and it is by far the best adventure I have been on in NZ.

    Reply
  2. I doubt that I’ll ever make it to New Zealand in terms of traveling abroad, but it looks like a great place to vacation. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Cool…thanks for your article .Some of these things are in my wishlist especially swimming with Dolphins in Kaikoura and paragliding.Anyway I am planning a trip to Newzealand next season, i don’t know whether i will do all these thing.

    Reply
  4. Ooooh I’ve done quite a few of these. Maybe swimming with dolphins in kaikoura should be on my list next… if only the water wasn’t so cold!

    Reply
  5. Great blog!
    I love the pictures you shared.
    The idea of flying your own plane is just thriller.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers!!

    Reply
  6. Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times. From space, the earth appears predominantly blue; the clouds are brilliant white. Surprisingly, you don’t see much green, although Ireland looks green, and so do Scandinavia and New Zealand. The deserts are brick red and really stand out.

    Reply
  7. Thank you for sharing, the vivid pictures gives you a real insight into New Zealand. The idea of flying your own stunt plane on the south of the island sounds like a thrilling experience!

    Reply
  8. OK Dave and Deb,
    Now you’ve got me dying to go to New Zealand! I have a Kiwi friend staying with me at the moment, and she was telling me about the hot water beach the other day. Sounds amazing. It’s too bad that it was raining when you were there. I guess it’s another reason for you to go back one day!

    Reply
  9. Really Thanks alot for this informative Post. You explained everything about places of New-Zealand and things to do in New-Zealand. It is a nice place and I have no any idea about these places but after reading this post and see images I feel wow its amazing place. Once again thankyou so much for this post.

    Reply
  10. Wow! Some of these things seem insane! I’m planning a trip to New Zealand at the moment and I’m definitely going to be looking into how many of these I can get done. I’m sure that a few of them out of my budget but I hope I can definitely squeeze in the whale watching and skydiving at the very least. Thanks for sharing! Your photos are incredible!

    Reply
  11. The walks, Oh the walks! The Milford is no doubt really beautiful. I also did a few more on my trip like: 1. Abel Tasman 2. Franz Josef Glacier 3. Canterbury – Mount Cook National Park (this. This was my favorite. When I think of New Zealand, this is the first memory that pops up in my head) 4. Stewart Island Have you done any of these? I’d highly recommend them!

    Reply
  12. I did quite a few of these when I was living and traveling around New Zealand. The Great thing about New Zealand is there’s so much to see and do there!

    The Milford Cruise was amazing! We went on a rainy day, even though you couldn’t see the peaks of the sound at all, it was still great, such a beautiful place!

    Likewise, the Moeraki Boulders were really intriguing as well. They really don’t look like they are the result of millions of years of erosion! We had great fun climbing over them!

    Fair play to you for doing the bungee and skydive! I definitely couldn’t do the former!

    Reply
  13. I did about half of these things when I was in New Zealand long ago, but I’d go back in a heartbeat to do the rest — though I’m still not jumping off a bridge with an elastic band tied to my ankles. New Zealand has even more great experiences to offer, too, like wine tasting in its beautiful wine country, watching the amazing bird life in the south island, and hiking the temperate rain forests of Fjordland. One of my favourite countries in the world, and AIr NZ is one of my favourite airlines.

    Reply
  14. I did most of these things a couple of years ago. I still don’t think anything has ever beaten the experience of flying that stunt plane!

    Reply
  15. New Zealand is one country very high on my wish list! Spectacular pictures and great insight into the activities – off right away to check more on the contest!

    Reply