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10 Best Places to Visit 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.

New Zealand has stunning natural beauty and diverse attractions, and you can experience it all at the best places to visit.

From the rugged mountains and glaciers of the South Island to the subtropical forests and beaches of its northern counterpart, there are endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Whether you want to learn about the cultural heritage of the Maori people, taste world-class food and wine, or enjoy vibrant cities and towns, you'll find something to suit your interests.

With a welcoming ancient culture and flourishing contemporary food and wine scene, the following information highlights some of the top destinations in which to experience the best of New Zealand.

Overview
  1. 1. Queenstown
  2. 2. Auckland
  3. 3. Rotorua
  4. 4. Abel Tasman National Park
  5. 5. The West Coast
  6. 6. Fiordland National Park
  7. 7. Napier
  8. 8. Kaikoura
  9. 9. Bay of Islands
  10. 10. Lake Taupo
  11. How Many Days Is Enough to See New Zealand?
  12. Explore the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand

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, it is a cinematic place for a family trip or seniors tour.

From the shorelines of Lake Wakatipu to the 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, matched by the impressive scenic drama for which one of New Zealand’s most alluring year-round destinations is known.

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

Recommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

2. Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is made up of fascinating ecosystems that highlight New Zealand’s largest city and its diversity.

The emerald bays give you easy access to the Hauraki Gulf and popular island getaways such as 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: Sky Tower • Rotoroa Island • Rangitoto Island • Waitemata Harbour • One Tree Hill • Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Islands • Puhoi

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

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

4. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park captures the country's spirit and is home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

A small but gorgeous destination with plenty of chances to relax and adventure, sandy beaches wedge between the thriving trees and lapping tide. Crystal-clear streams wind into mossy valleys and granite formations break into the sea for spectacular views.

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

5. The West Coast

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

New Zealand’s West Coast offers solitude amid some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes.

Adventure is never far away, with jet boat and helicopter rides, making the remote areas accessible. The real draws are the Franze Josef and Fox glaciers, as well as the limestone stacks of Pancake Rocks that are wedged between the Tasman Sea and Southern Alps.

Whether hiking, biking, kayaking, boating, or simply enjoying the view, the West Coast is the ideal place in which to enjoy a leisurely pace to take in your surroundings.

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

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

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 offers nature at its best.

The wilderness rolls over the mountains, plunging into untouched rainforests and towering fiords to form an ecological fantasyland. The water and greenery protect endangered species that are 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.

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

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

7. Napier

Te Mata Peak, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Te Mata Peak, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Napier is charismatic and composed, a gateway to the beauty of surrounding Hawkes Bay.

Vines drape 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 that are 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 landscape.

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

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

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 land and sea.

The picturesque coastline and charming town provide the perfect combination of coastal walks, seafood dinners, wildlife encounters, and 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

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 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 illustrate 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

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 beautiful town of Taupo, on the banks of Lake Taupo, unveils the essence of New Zealand’s 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, with its stunning resorts, natural thermal activity, and colorful silica terraces helping to create an attractive contradiction, that 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

How Many Days Is Enough to See New Zealand?

Wharariki Beach in New Zealand

Wharariki Beach in New Zealand

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

Learn more: Three Week New Zealand Itineraries

Explore the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand

Maori wood carving

Maori wood carving

New Zealand overflows with must-see destinations, providing the perfect experience for any traveler. Each place possesses seemingly endless things to do, like cruising around an ancient fiord or trekking a glacier’s surface.

Visit these best places and more with our New Zealand tours and vacations, or explore our New Zealand travel guide for more information and helpful tips.

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