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Top 10 Must-See Places in New Zealand

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Aerial view of Queenstown at twilight with Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkable Mountains in New Zealand.

Aerial view of Queenstown at twilight with Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkable Mountains in New Zealand.

Wild is the best way to describe the breadth and depth of the country, and the must-see list of destinations in New Zealand is impressive.

Nature carved the main islands with pristine majesty to form national parks, world-famous wave breaks, and celebrated slopes for skiing and snowboarding.

The diversity of the islands, cities, scenery, and culture create unforgettable destinations you can visit during your New Zealand vacation.

1. Queenstown

The Road to Paradise along Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

The Road to Paradise along Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is more than just the adventure capital of New Zealand. From the shorelines of Lake Wakatipu to the exciting peaks of the Remarkables, Queenstown offers active exploration alongside opportunities to enjoy the arts, wines, and celebrated cosmopolitan food scene. The city’s diverse offerings are thrilling and matched by the impressive scenic drama for one of New Zealand’s most alluring year-round destinations.

Highlights: Lake Wakatipu | Skippers Canyon | Shotover River | The Remarkables Mountains | Lake Wanaka | Queenstown Hill

Recommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: December | January | July | August

2. Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is made up of a fascinating collection of ecosystems that highlight New Zealand’s largest city and its diversity in the water. The emerald bays give you easy access to the Hauraki Gulf, and to popular island getaways such Waiheke Island and its celebrated wines. The City of Sails spreads across the coastlines and into the thriving forests for a mixture of white beaches and greenery, idyllic islands, and lively harbors accentuated by a dynamic food, coffee, and contemporary culture.

Highlights: SkyTower | Rotoroa Island | Rangitoto Island | Waitemata Harbour | One Tree Hill | Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Islands | Puhoi

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: April | May | October | November

3. Rotorua

Wai-O-Tapu geothermal pools in Rotorua, New Zealand

Wai-O-Tapu geothermal pools in Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua is the lively cultural center of New Zealand. From thermal activity from geysers to soothing mud pools, you can find remarkable scenery around every corner. Be immersed in a moonscape of silica terraces or take in the unique light from glowworms in an otherwise dark cave. Traditional Maori culture remains an integral part of life in Rotorua, with local tribes eager to share their heritage and history, while the landscape also provides a glimpse into Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Highlights: Waimangu Volcanic Valley | Te Wairoa | Wai-O-Tapu | Whakarewarewa | Te Puia | Waitomo Glowworm Caves | Hobbiton

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: January | February | March

4. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park captures the spirit of New Zealand. A small but gorgeous destination with plenty of chances to relax and adventure, sandy beaches wedge between the thriving trees and the lapping tide. Crystal-clear streams wind into mossy valleys, and granite formations break into the sea for spectacular viewing. Whether you are looking for native wildlife on the trail or kayaking the glassy Abel Tasman Sea, the national park will immerse you in New Zealand’s incredible natural beauty.

Highlights: Abel Tasman Coastal Track | Golden Bay | Te Waikoropupu Springs | Ngarua Caves | Paynes Ford Scenic Reserve | Farewell Split

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: November | March | April

5. West Coast

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

New Zealand’s West Coast offers remarkable solitude amid some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes. Adventure is never far away with fantastic jet boat and helicopter rides, making the remote areas accessible. The real draw is the frozen scenery of the Franze Josef and Fox glaciers, as well as the limestone stacks of Pancake Rocks wedged between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps. Whether trekking, biking, kayaking, boating, or simply enjoying the view, the West Coast is the ideal place to bask in a leisurely pace to enjoy your surroundings.

Highlights: Franz Josef Glacier | Hokitika Gorge | Fox Glacier | Pancake Rocks | Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: April | May | October | November

6. Fiordland National Park

Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

The epic expanse of Fiordland National Park is New Zealand's nature at its best. The wilderness rolls over the mountains and plunges into untouched rainforests and towering fiords forming an ecological fantasyland. The water and greenery protect endangered species visible on multi-day treks and day-cruises, adding to the sublime scenery. With the land shaped and carved by receding glaciers over thousands of years, it’s no wonder places like Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound can leave you speechless with wonder.

Highlights: Milford Sound | Doubtful Sound | Te Anau | Lake Manapouri | Milford Track

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: April | May | September | October

7. Napier

Te Mata Peak, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Te Mata Peak, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Napier is charismatic and composed as a gateway to the beauty of surrounding Hawkes Bay. Vines drape the fields spreading to backwater villages, and Art Deco architecture decorates the streets of Napier. Cape Kidnappers protect wildlife like gannet colonies, and deserted beaches fade to rolling waves perfect for surfing excursions. Napier and Hawke’s Bay highlight the simple pleasures of New Zealand found in delicious wine, tasty cuisine, and the charms of the rich landscape.

Highlights: Otatara Pa | Cape Kidnappers | Bluff Hill | Te Mata Peak | Hastings | Marine Parade

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: March | April | May | October | November

8. Kaikoura

Whale tail of the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whale tail of the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is the perfect spot in New Zealand for nature enthusiasts with an endless season for birding, whale watching, dolphin encounters, and seal sightings. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world that effortlessly offers the natural splendor of both land and sea. The picturesque coastline and charm of the town provide the perfect combination of overlooking the water with coastal walks to seafood dinners and wildlife encounters to excursions into the mountains.

Highlights: Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway and Seal Colony | Kaikoura Museum | Whale Watching | Dolphin Encounter | Kaikoura Beach

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: October | November | February | March

9. Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands, New Zealand.  Photo courtesy Tourism New Zealand / Shaun Jeffers

Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Photo courtesy Tourism New Zealand / Shaun Jeffers

The Bay of Islands is an incredible collection of New Zealand’s diverse ecosystems. Plunging you into forested slopes and hidden white-sand coves, the sea shimmers blue as coastal towns offer casual sightseeing tours along the water and islands. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds illustrates the regional and national heritage, while roughly 150 undeveloped islands reflect the untamed wilderness. Whether kayaking, diving, or cruising, you are nearly always in the company of whales and dolphins.

Highlights: Bay of Islands Maritime Park | Waitangi Treaty Grounds | Russell | Paihia | Waipoua Forest

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February | March

10. Lake Taupo

Sail boat on Lake Taupo in New Zealand

Sail boat on Lake Taupo in New ZealandSail boat on Lake Taupo in New Zealand

The town of Taupo is a deceptive beauty on the banks of Lake Taupo, the true essence of New Zealand grandeur. The shoreline features elegant restaurants, and the trails outside of town offer fantastic destinations for cycling or trekking. Rapids, snowcapped peaks, and glassy water barely scratch the surface of Taupo’s essential ornateness with stunning resorts, natural thermal activity, and colorful silica terraces, helping to create an attractive contradiction of humble opulence.

Highlights: Tongariro National Park | Lake Taupo | Huka Falls | Mine Bay | Orakei Korako | Craters of the Moon

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: January | February | March | August

How many days is enough to see New Zealand?

Wharariki Beach in New Zealand

Wharariki Beach in New Zealand

Three weeks, or between 18-21 days, is a perfect amount of time to explore New Zealand. People often plan for a two-week New Zealand trip but forget to account for the two days of travel time that cuts into their overall journey. Given the amount of travel time involved, a more extended visit is always a good idea if your schedule allows.

New Zealand is a rare place where you can start the day in a city, visit unspoiled beaches, and end the day in the mountains. You can also find the glaciers, relax in secluded coastal towns, and truly experience the preserved heritage.

More Travel Information & Tips

Maori wood carving

Maori wood carving

New Zealand practically overflows with must-see destinations giving the perfect experience for any traveler. Each place possesses seemingly endless exciting things to do, like cruising an ancient fiord or trekking a glacier’s surface. Experience even more with our New Zealand Travel Guide for information and helpful tips on how to discover the adventurous landscape and welcoming culture. If you want to plan a trip soon, you can also speak to a New Zealand travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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