11 Best Places to Visit in New Zealand

Kia ora, world travelers and future guests of New Zealand! Expect to be welcomed with this warm Māori greeting throughout the country. If you dream about visiting this southwestern Pacific island, you will be happy to learn that it has managed to preserve its awe-inspiring beauty over the years. Away from commonly trodden paths, it is now more alluring than ever. Some of the best places to visit in New Zealand are those not many know about.

We hope to shed some light on these natural and man-made wonders, so sit back and enjoy. Here are a few unique locations in New Zealand. This island country nestles a blockbuster movie set, wild camping spots, vibrant cities, stunning nature reserves, sheltered beaches, and everything in between.

Best Places to Visit in New Zealand

It is a difficult yet rewarding task to select the best places to visit in New Zealand.

1. Rotorua

Wai-O-Tapu is one of the most distinctive and famous geothermal attractions in New Zealand. Volcanic activity has shaped unique geothermal landscapes over thousands of years, making some of the most beautiful and multicolored sites on the location. Walk around at your own pace and enjoy the geysers, hot bubbling mud, and thermal pools.

Champagne Pool, Sinter Terrace, and Steaming Ground are must-see spots and you, hopefully, won't be discouraged by the pungent sulfuric odors.

2. Tongariro National Park

The spectacular vistas of Tongariro are only one half of this amazing site. The Park is not only the oldest National Park in New Zealand but also a cultural World Heritage Site, sheltering many sacred Māori sites. At the heart of the park are active volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu which can be observed from the trail of Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This 19 km/12 mi hiking route is one of the most fascinating in the world.

The popular Great Walks are well manicured with the river crossings all bridged. The standard of the facilities is relatively high. The tracks are well populated and have resident hut wardens in each of the huts, with radio contact to the outside world.

3. Waitomo

What does a tiny cosmos look like? What if a cave had its very own sky? New Zealand has the answer. Millions of years have shaped the Waitomo caves, making them the natural wonder they are today. Most famous for Arachnocampa Luminosa, the Glowworm caves are a magnetically attractive tourist site. The darkness of the Glowworm Grotto is broken by the myriad of glowworm lights.

Hence, a slow boat ride through the network of caves guarantees an unforgettable experience. Even more so if you know that some of your guides directly descend from the Māori chief who first explored the caves. Take a boat ride through the caves of Waitomo, where caves-ceilings are adorned with worms that glow bright and blue. When in New Zealand, you don’t want to miss out on this!

4. Poor Knights Islands

A paradise for scuba divers, these volcano islands nestled just off the northeastern coast of Whangarei. Visitors cannot land; these islands and their wildlife can be observed and admired only from the water. Boats and kayaks offer a spectacular view of the native lizards, birdlife, and ancient forests.

If you're a fan of the underwater world, you will be amazed by the clear and warm waters and the diverse sea life. Do not miss to swim with seals at the impressive Rikoriko cave, the largest sea cave in the world.

5. Fiordland National Park

Fiordland is a piece of untouched wilderness, a perfect combination of awe-inspiring landscapes and wildlife. Visitors can spot penguins and dolphins, admire scenic fjords and dramatic rainforests, that amazed even Rudyard Kipling. Vistas in this park have an epic fantasy feel. Time spent scuba diving, cruising, kayaking or spotting wildlife in Milford Sound, a glacier-made fjord is a time well spent.

Moreover, hiking the Hollyford Track and Kepler Track, or climbing the Key Summit is yet another breathtaking experience. But not nearly as breathtaking as doing a scenic flight over the Fiordland. No matter how long you stay, the sense of how vast and beautiful this wilderness is can be gained only from a bird's perspective.

Maori heritage sites are among the best places to visit in New Zealand

6. Hamilton

A short drive from the town of Raglan, among the lovely native trees of the bush, await Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls. After a short hike, the enchanting forest disappears and the waterfall shows up. Bear in mind that more than 200 steps take you to the bottom of the trail where the view of the waterfall and its pool is the best, and as many steep steps back up.

The magical landscape of the 55 m (180 feet) high Waireinga Falls can be admired from four lookout platforms.

7. Hobbiton

Undoubtedly, the most famous and best known to wider audiences is Hobbiton. You might have seen it in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, but seeing it in person is a totally different experience. When you visit the site, you can stand in front of all your favourite parts from the films. You can snap photos of Bag End, explore the hobbit holes, and even have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. It really is like visiting a whole new world. A movie set developed for the LotR and later The Hobbit trilogy is delivered in great detail, attracting more visitors today than when the movies were at the peak of popularity. The most fascinating thing about the movie set is that it looks and feels lived in.

Visitors can easily immerse themselves in the magical world. Pastures with grazing sheep, hobbit holes with gardens, a mill, a Green Dragon Inn, and a double arch bridge perfectly fit the site of the Alexander family sheep farm. The Hobbit holes themselves are just fronts with nothing except a small void behind them. But they are crafted with genuine skill, using timber and traditional construction methods (beams are pegged together, etc.)

They were built this way as part of a deal between the filmmakers and the site owners, to allow the place to live on afterwards as an attraction. And the pub down by the lake, The Green Dragon, is a delightful place to hang out and have some refreshment. It really does fell like an old English country pub, but with Hobbity overtones. Even the beer is pretty good!

The ‘village’ genuinely feels like a small hamlet. The staff there keep the place looking and feeling like it’s in regular use: vegetable patches burst with produce, plants and flowers are everywhere, insects buzz about lazily, washing hangs from lines. During the tour, you’ll have access to parts of the park people normally don’t get to see, as well as the Hobbiton movie set and the Weta workshop.

Some tours even include a breakfast at the Green Dragon Inn or lunch at the Shires Rest Cafe. Even if you’re not particularly into the films, Hobbiton is a great day out.

8. Lake Tekapo

Turquoise glacial waters of Lake Tekapo are a sight throughout the year, magically complemented by violet and pink lupins in the spring. Its visitors enjoy sparkling waters by day and starry skies in the night - at the top of nearby Mt. John where the Observatory is located.

If you ever get enough of stargazing you can enjoy mountain biking, horse trekking, paddle boarding, relaxing in the hot pools of Tekapo Springs, or feeding baby animals at the Balmoral Farmyard.

9. Milford Sound

The South Island is known for its temperate climate, beautiful landscape, glaciers, lakes, and mountains. Enjoy adventure activities such as hiking and ocean kayaking at the Abel Tasman National Park. You can also indulge yourself in the breath-taking beauty at the glaciers on the west side of the country. Don’t forget to try New Zealand’s typical and quintessential foods.

Milford Sound is a fjord located in the southwest of the South Island and within the Fiordland National Park. Located 300 km from Queenstown, it is a destination worth visiting. It has been rated as one of the best tourist destinations and called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

This fantastic and beautiful fjord stretches for 15 kilometres from the Tasman Sea to the interior of the South Island. There are two permanent waterfalls called Lady Bowen and Stirling.

10. Stewart Island

From Bluff you can take the ferry to Stewart Island. Half Moon Bay is the only settlement on Stewart Island, the third largest island in New Zealand. It is a fishing village that works as a base for those who make excursions and observe dark shearwaters, albatrosses, capensis datings and different types of penguins.

While touring the interior of the island, you will be able to see and hear the Maori Bellbird, the Tui, the fantail, the kaka and many more. From Half Moon Bay, you can jump on the trails of Rakiura National Park.

11. Franz Josef Glacier

Located on the west coast of the South Island, the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are the only ones that descend from the Southern Alps. They are two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. Scenic flights are the best alternative to take an image that you can hardly forget among things to do on the South Island.

The fjord is home to penguins, sea lions and dolphins that can be seen regularly during sailing. It is also possible to meet whales. You can also include a visit to the underwater observatory. Here you can observe part of the fauna that inhabits the fjord and admire coral formations that in general can only be seen offshore. If the alpine road you came by road seemed beautiful, try to crown this experience with a helicopter or plane on return.

A few bonus tips:

Whether you're just visiting or plan to move hassle-free to another continent, you first need to explore the destination. Also, one needs to get accustomed to the New Zealand climate first after experiencing all four seasons in one day.

The peak season for visiting New Zealand is mid-December through early February when the majority of tourists stop by. However, the beginning of December and the end of February are still favorable times for a visit. Pleasant weather and the absence of big crowds make some of the best places to visit in New Zealand even more attractive.
Kalyan Panja