Queenstown is situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and has stunning views of the surrounding alpine peaks. Considered by many as one of the world’s adventure capitals, it offers visitors a wide selection of adrenaline-boosting activities to choose from, such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, zip lining, skiing and skydiving. Queenstown also has a lively bar and restaurant scene, and for those who prefer the quieter things in life there are vineyards, golf courses, spas and wellness centres.
The city of Rotorua has been a spa town since the 1800s, thanks to the many geysers, hot springs and mud pools that can be found in what is one of the world’s most active geothermal fields. The Maori, who considered the region sacred, make up 35% of the population and a popular attraction is discovering their rich culture and traditions. Rotorua is surrounded by lakes, mountains, forests and other natural features that afford visitors the opportunity to try out a number of outdoor activities between relaxing sessions in the hot springs and pools.
Wanaka is a town located on the southern bank of Lake Wanaka on the South Island of New Zealand. This resort is known for being a prime access-point to the unique Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park – featuring rich bird life, enormous mountains and many astounding glaciers – and which forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Area of Te Wahipounamu. However, besides being near the famous park, Wanaka also offers an abundance of outdoor activities. When it’s warm, enjoy water sports like kayaking and canoeing on Lake Wanaka, as well as hiking, rock climbing and 4×4 routes; while, in winter, you can go skiing and snowboarding on the white peaks of Snow Farm, Treble Cone or Cardonia (all within a 40-minute drive from Wanaka), and extreme sport enthusiasts even have the opportunity to heli-ski.
Dubbed the world’s first “lifestyle reserve” by the locals, Lake Wanaka has something of interest for every sort of visitor. The lake itself offers great fishing, boating and even gold-panning opportunities, while the neighbouring Mt. Aspiring National Park is home to glaciers, mountains and river valleys waiting to be explored. Wanaka, one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand, lies on the shores of the lake and attracts visitors with its relaxed atmosphere and activities such as horse riding, golfing, flight seeing and air shows.
On the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the seaside settlement of Kaikoura is located on a rocky peninsula, protruding from lush farmland beneath the mountains. This little hamlet has become a popular tourist destination, primarily due to its famous wildlife watching opportunities. Few places can boast such a wide range of accessible wildlife. With whales, dolphins, fur seals, penguins and albatrosses frequently spotted, this area is truly a nature lovers dream. Visitors can join the Art Trail to witness the skilled local artisans at work in their own studios and galleries or visit the town’s first home which was built in 1842, remains remarkably well-preserved and, interestingly, was built using whale bone as its foundation. So, if you are looking for a bit of history, a touch of crafty culture and a whole heap of outdoor adventure, Kaikoura won’t fail to impress.
Abel Tasman National Park
Located on New Zealand’s South Island, the Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest park in the country. This coastal paradise is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches lapped by crystal-clear turquoise waters. The incredibly scenic, unspoilt landscapes make the park a popular destination with locals and tourists alike. It is home to an array of wildlife such as: a variety of birdlife, bottlenose dolphins, seals and the Little Blue Penguin, the smallest of the species. Visitors can hop on a scenic boat tour, enjoy fantastic hikes, or camp under the star-studded night sky. Other popular activities include: swimming, snorkelling, as well as kayaking, which is said to be the best way to discover the park’s spectacular natural treasures. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike along one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, traversing rugged headlands, lush forests and pristine beaches.
The quaint west coast town of Franz Josef has a few hundred permanent residents, but numbers swell during the holidays to around 2000 visitors per day. This is glacier country, and Franz Josef glacier (after which the town is named) and Fox Glacier, some 23km further south, are the main attractions. The town offers myriad options for cosy accommodation, especially after the snow and ice activities on offer – combine a helicopter tour with a guided walk on the glacial terrain to view ice caves, and spectacular crevisses and pinnacles. Helicopter tours over the two glaciers are also available, with a stop off at the head of either glacier so you can experience the frozen landscape up close.
The southwestern corner of New Zealand’s South Island presents a picture of incredible contrasts – the snow-capped Southern Alps towering over massive, deep lakes, and ocean flooded valleys. It’s also breathtaking. Of the 14 fiords that dramatically carve into 215km of coastline, Milford Sound is the most accessible and popular, with the more remote Doubtful Sound offering a wealth of marine life. Take a boat charter or cruise, helicopter flip, or one of the many walking trails in the area. Lake Te Anau offers the perfect base for your exploration of this acclaimed World Heritage Site, and if it’s a family holiday, the kids will love the Discovery Centre underwater observatory and glowworm caves.
The popular tourist city of Napier on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island is one of the country’s most likeable regional centres. The inner-city streets are lined with palm trees, and the sculpted Marine Parade is strewn with numerous lush parks, landscaped gardens and grand memorials, giving the water’s edge its unique character. Arriving in Napier gives one the distinct feeling of stepping back in time, owing to its unique concentration of remarkably well preserved 1930s art-deco buildings, built after much of the city was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1931. The city is also known for its gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and its abundance of world-class wineries on the surrounding plains. This is the place to enjoy a Mediterranean climate, an excellent variety of restaurants and cafes, and the air of an affluent English seaside resort.
The tiny township of Punakaiki on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is primarily used by visitors as a base for exploring the nearby Paparoa National Park. The park is best known for its dramatic blowholes and the distinctive Pancake Rocks. These picturesque limestone formations look curiously like stony stacks of pancakes which funnel blasts of water up to 15 m into the air as the waves crash into the caverns below the rocks. Visitors can explore the sub-tropical rainforests, horse ride along the spectacular coastline, paddle a canoe down the tranquil Pororari River, or climb the remarkable limestone formations for which this area is known. The town itself offers some delightful cafes and restaurants and is home to many jewellers, carvers, painters and potters.
Set at the northeastern tip of South Island, New Zealand, Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine-growing region, boasting over 4000 hectares of vineyards. Those with a taste for the finer things in life will find plenty to savour in the many world-class wine cellars, cafes and restaurants. With an average of 2400 hours of annual sunshine, the Marlborough climate is the perfect setting in which to explore the local wildlife and scenery, and highlight activities include swimming with the dolphins, trekking or mountain biking along breathtaking coastal paths, whale watching, kayaking and boat tours. The gorgeous Marlborough Sounds, a vast area of sea-drowned valleys, offer the chance to see fur seals, little blue penguins, dolphins, and rare birds. Heritage and aircraft enthusiasts will delight in the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where historic aircraft are celebrated in theatrical presentations.
Situated on the banks of New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato, Hamilton is a destination city that will enchant the whole family. It boasts 145 parks and gardens, plenty of sporting areas, a vibrant nightlife and fine dining, and a thriving cultural precinct. The kids will love WaterWorld, the Hamilton Zoo (which is home to 600 indigenous and exotic creatures) and the miniature train track at Tui Avenue. There are a number of galleries showcasing local art, a Classic Car Museum, and the ever-popular Hamilton Gardens with its themed garden displays. For an easy day trip, visit the Hobbiton Movie Set and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
Paihia is a tourist town in the Northland Region of New Zealand’s North Island. This popular hub is home to some great sights and attractions, as well as being an excellent gateway to the beaches and dive-sites of the area known as the Bay of Islands. Begin at the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the site of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document, before heading out of town to visit the spectacular Haruru Falls or the towering Waipoua Kauri Forest. Finally, cruises depart the Paihia Wharf multiple times per day, giving visitors the chance to explore the Bay of Islands’ many attractions, including swimming with dolphins, sea kayaking, relaxing on beautiful beaches (such as Taiputuputu Pahi Beach) and visiting geological marvels such as Hole in the Rock.
Hokitika, or ‘Hoki’, as locals have affectionately named this little town, is located on a stunning, driftwood-strewn beach on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Presided over by the towering Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, this idyllic little town functions primarily as a gateway to the South Westland World Heritage National Park. However, the town itself offers plenty to keep visitors engaged. Hokitika is well-known for its excellent local crafts and has developed a prolific artistic community with an array of open studios and galleries, where visitors can watch skilful artisans in the process of weaving, greenstone carving and glass blowing. Enjoy the fabulously fresh local seafood, or have a picnic on the banks of the picturesque Lake Kaniere, surrounded exquisite snow-capped mountains.
Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand, home to almost a third of the country’s inhabitants. Featuring a rich Polynesian heritage, spectacular beaches, and a buzzing nightlife, Auckland is a world-class destination that has much to offer its visitors. The city sprawls out from the two bustling harbours dotted with super yachts and over 70000 watercrafts. Adrenaline junkies love Auckland for all the leisure activities on offer, including sky jumps, canyoning, kayaking and more. Art galleries, top-notch restaurants, shopping centres and markets add to extensive sightseeing in and around the city. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the iconic Sky Tower and take in the splendid city views.
Milford sound, New Zealand’s most well-known tourist destination, is not really a sound at all but a fjord as it was created by a succession of glaciers which carved through the rocks as they gouged a track to the sea leaving in their wake the impressive rock formations visible today. Home to some diverse and particularly unusual wildlife including fur seals and crested penguins, as well as bottlenose and dusky dolphins, this geographical gem is a must-see for nature lovers. With the striking Mitre Peak towering over head, sheer rocky cliffs rise vertically out of the calm dark waters while nearby, the waters of the exquisite Bowen Falls plunge down a 520-foot drop before crashing dramatically into the fjord below. With its remarkable geographical setting and its unbelievable abundance of wildlife, it is easy to see why writer Rudyard Kipling once called Milford Sound the “eighth natural wonder of the world.”
Situated on tree-covered hills overlooking the spectacular Otago Harbour and Peninsula, Dunedin (Celtic for Edinburgh) is New Zealand’s largest city geographically. But there’s no urban sprawl here; instead you’ll find impressive historic architecture, parks, and natural beauty in abundance. You’ll want to visit Larnach Castle (high tea is served at 3pm every day); Speight’s Brewery for tours, tastings and hearty meals; St Paul’s Cathedral; and the Ice Stadium to watch a game or two of curling. Beyond the city limits you’ll find some gems, too, including the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and the seaside settlements of Karitane and Port Chalmers.
Waitomo is one of New Zealand’s most outstanding travel destinations, famed for its exceptional natural environment, exquisite scenery and unique adventure options. The area is best known legendary limestone caves – the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Ruakari Cave, Aranui Cave and Gardner’s Gut, which offer a multitude of adventure options. Explore caverns glittering with the presence of countless glowworms, go ‘blackwater’ rafting or tubing in subterranean lakes, or go abseiling through magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations. Other area attractions are the breathtaking Marokopa Falls, cycling along the Pureora Timber Trail, and the 17-metre high stone arch that forms part of the Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk. The town offers great accommodation and dining options, and is located an easy two hour’s drive from New Zealand’s capital, Auckland.
Resting at the northern end of Lake Taupo and surrounded by magnificent bush clad mountains, the tidy town of Taupo is distinguished by its picturesque lakefront setting and its excellent opportunities for outdoor activities including sailing, cruising, kayaking, waterskiing, fishing, and snow skiing on the slopes of the towering Mount Ruapehu. The town is surrounded by some exceptional natural attractions such as the dramatic crystal-blue cascades of the Huka Falls, which can be reached via a number of popular hiking and biking trails. Other highlights include wonderful geothermal pools and the Waipahihi Botanical Reserve. Those seeking more of a cultural experience can head to the lovely Lake Taupo Museum and Art Gallery which features exhibits on the Maori, Volcanic and early European history of the area.
It’s not only the clear blue water, fresh air, surrounding volcanoes and green mountains that make Lake Taupo such a favourite among locals and foreigners; friendly, bustling towns, excellent trout fishing and a number of great outdoor adventure activities ensure visitors flock to the area, especially in high summer. For high flyers there’s skydiving and bungy jumping, water lovers can take a cruise to view giant Maori carvings, hire a jetboat or sightsee via a floatplane, and avid cyclist have plenty of trail options. Visit Tongariro National Park, marvel at Huka Falls, or simply relax near to the lake, drinking in the perfect sights and sounds.
Sandwiched between the lush green rolling hills of the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island and the calm, tranquil waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, lies the small, picturesque town of Picton. This peaceful seaside town is known as the gateway to the greater Marlborough area and it makes an excellent base for exploring the Sounds, the Queen Charlotte Track or the wonderful wine region around Blenheim. The town’s favourable location around a sheltered harbour makes it an ideal spot for boat cruising, fishing, dolphin watching or sea kayaking. Less energetic travellers can enjoy browsing local craft markets, exploring the floating maritime museum or simply watching the world pass by at one of the numerous cafés and bars lining the waterfront of this delightful little port town.
Coromandel is a charming little town on the Coromandel Harbour, on the western side the Coromandel Peninsula, and is one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday destinations owing to its laid-back atmosphere, gorgeous beaches and enthralling forests. The town is brimming with Victorian heritage buildings, quaint cafes and some lovely art galleries. Visitors can spend their days exploring the picturesque mountain ranges, marvelling at the majestic, ancient kauri trees, or sampling the delectable local mussels which are served in every way possible. Popular activities include tours of the Coromandel Goldfield Centre and Stamper Battery (a 112-year-old, fully operational water-powered plant for processing gold), and mountainside railway trips to the 165-metre-tall Eyeful Tower. The stunning, famous Cathedral Cove is a short trip away.
The Coromandel Peninsula is situated on North Island, some 50km east of Auckland across the Hauraki Gulf. It is a sparsely populated region with only five towns, together having a population of just 1000 residents. However, the steep and hilly area with its temperate rain forests experiences a dramatic influx of visitors during the holidays, as many Aucklanders have holiday homes here. The Coromandel is popular for yachting and scuba diving, due to the 900m high peninsula creating a natural barrier from the Hauraki Gulf. Aside from the plethora of water-related activities, there are also hiking trails of every grade to be found here.
They say Hawke’s Bay can be summed up in two words… wine country. But, on closer inspection, there is much more to enjoy here than an excellent Syrah or Savignon Blanc (although that might suffice for some). The warm, dry climate is also conducive to a number of outdoor activities including cycling, walking the forest trails of the Ruahine and Kaweka Forest Parks, getting up close and personal with the largest gannet colony in the world at the scenic sandstone headland of Cape Kidnappers, or heading up to Te Mata Peak for panoramic views of the entire area. For a wind down, pop into the Chocolate History Museum or stroll the streets of Napier – the town boasts phenomenal Art Deco architecture.
The village of Tekapo is a picturesque lakeside resort in the heart of Mackenzie Country, in the South Island of New Zealand. It gets its name from the stunning Lake Tekapo, one of the Southern Lakes in the Southern Alps. Surrounded by some of New Zealand’s highest peaks, including Mt Cook, and far from the glare of city lights, Lake Tekapo’s famously cloud-free skies make it one of the best places in the Southern Hemisphere to see the night sky. World heritage status is currently being sought for the whole area as the world’s first starlight preservation area. The burgeoning little village is set at the idyllic southern end of the lake, centred around a lovely row of tempting cafes and quaint gift shop offering magnificent unobstructed views across turquoise waters, to a backdrop of rolling hills and snow-capped mountains.
As its name suggests, this historical town lies at the mouth of the Grey River. The town is well geared for travellers, offering all the necessary services and the odd tourist attraction, the most famous of which is Shantytown, a re-created 19th-century gold-mining town surrounded by an impressive native forest. Greymouth’s wide avenues are strewn with galleries specialising in pounamu, also known as New Zealand jade. Spend a day admiring these exquisite greenstone carvings for which this town is famous, take a tour of one of the town’s impressive local breweries, or indulge in some excellent trout fishing on the peaceful banks of the stunning Lake Brunner. Greymouth caters for a broad range of interests. Those in search of adrenaline pumping adventure will be well sated, but so too will those looking for a quiet, relaxing day out in a magnificent natural landscape. There really is a little bit of everything for everyone in Greymouth!
Situated on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the vibrant city of Christchurch is the largest city on the island. Dubbed the ‘Garden City’, it is known for its many lush green spaces and possesses a multicultural charm with an added dash of Victorian flair. The city offers a fabulous array of activities, including punting down the Avon River, helicopter tours, hot air ballooning and whale and dolphin watching. Visitors can enjoy a stroll around the beautifully sculptured parks, visit the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and browse numerous art galleries, followed by a visit to Pomeroy’s for a craft beer and the adjoining Victoria’s Kitchen for a pub-style lunch.
Located on the south-western tip of North Island on the Cook Strait, Wellington is the constitutional and cultural capital of New Zealand – dubbed ‘the coolest little capital in the world’. With its diverse architecture, world-class museums, cultural attractions and award-winning restaurants, Wellington is a popular destination for both local and international travellers. Due to its location in the ‘Roaring Forties’ the city experiences its fair share of wind and as a result, sailing is a popular activity here – with charters offering the visitors the experience of a relaxed cruise with beautiful views of the city and the surrounding bays.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is part of New Zealand’s North Island mainland and includes a cluster of 144 islands. The area’s is dotted with larger islands, such as Urupukapuka, Waewaetorea, Moturua, Motuarohia and Paihia, each of which are surrounded by a number of smaller ones. These islands are known as a fantastic vacation attraction and tourists from around the world travel here to spend time in nature. The area is renowned as an adventure playground for watersports and ocean enthusiasts, who while away the time exploring the archipelago by kayak or boat, or snorkelling and scuba diving to view the mesmerising array of underwater life.
Over 170 years old, Nelson is New Zealand’s oldest city and has recently made a name for itself as a flourishing cultural centre, making it a destination where art and businesses thrive together amidst awe-inspiring landscapes. The city is home to a large number of artists and creatives who are celebrated during an array of popular events. With more than 2500 hours of sunshine a year, Nelson is also considered the country’s sunniest city, and is a perfect setting in which to enjoy an array of adventure and leisure activities – biking, horse trekking, rock climbing, wine-tasting at local estates, or simply taking in the superb views of the Tasman Bay. Must-see highlights include: Founders Heritage Park, a wondrous museum housing historical displays; and the World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum, featuring an iconic collection of classic cars.
Nelson Lakes National Park
Resting in the mountains at the northernmost point of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, about 120kms southwest of Nelson, lies the enchanting Nelson Lakes National Park. The park is centred around the exquisite alpine lakes of Rotoroa and Rotoiti which are cocooned by towering peaks and surrounded by native honeydew beech forests which attract an abundance of birdlife including the kea (mountain parrot), kakariki (parakeet), kaka (forest parrot), and korimako (bellbird). The gateway to the park is St Arnaud, a quaint little village on the shores of Lake Rotoiti from which a network of walking tracks lead to lush and tranquil forests, magnificent glacial lakes and high mountain passes offering breath-taking panoramic views of the spectacular surrounding landscape.
Waiheke Island offers stunning vineyards, gorgeous olive groves and spectacular beaches, all just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. This once sleepy destination is now a holiday hotspot for New Zealand’s wealthy upper class. Waiheke boasts an impressive array of gorgeous galleries, quirky craft stores and tempting cafes. It is also the proud host to 19 high quality, boutique vineyards, many with excellent restaurants on site offering stunning views and serving a variety of culinary delights. Make sure to try New Zealand’s fresh Pacific Rim cuisine, famous for its fresh, subtle or spicy dishes. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, zip-lining, clay pigeon shooting, exploring lush nature reserves, and exploring the sheltered bays with small surf making them ideal for a relaxing swim.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the heart of North Island. It encompasses three active volcanoes – Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu (one of the most active volcanos in the world) – that have great significance to the local Maori people. The raw beauty of the environment draws a high number of tourists, and is also the reason much of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was filmed here. There are activities to be enjoyed by everyone here, from scenic cruises to white water-rafting, hiking, rock climbing and skiing in winter.
Arrowtown is located in a magnificent natural landscape of South Island’s Otago Region. Dwarfed by the towering peaks surrounding the peaceful Arrow River, this enchanting gold-rush village is a treasure trove of historical sights, with over seventy original gold-rush buildings and a fascinating partially restored Chinese village. The tree-lined avenues running through this lively little town are strewn with quaint miners’ cottages, funky cafes, fashionable boutiques, trendy galleries and a host of tempting restaurants and bars. Visit the Jade and Opal Factory shop to see hand carving done on-site, check out Patagonia Chocolates to watch it being made, or play a few rounds on the town’s three immaculate golf courses. More adventurous travellers can revel in the network of famed summer trails and winter ski-fields. Arrowtown is an ideal destination for nature lovers, thrill-seekers and culture enthusiasts alike.
Great Barrier Island
Just off the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula lies the remote, rugged and sparsely populated Great Barrier Island. Know by the Maoris as Aotea, meaning cloud, this little pocket of paradise is the largest of the Hauraki Gulf islands. With no supermarket, no central electricity supply, few sealed roads, limited mobile-phone reception and no banks, ATMs or street lights, the island offers a chance to step back and experience the slow-paced lifestyle of an earlier, simpler time. While living without all of your usual mod cons may take some getting used to, most places on the island are fairly well equipped for off-the-grid living. So pack your walking shoes, leave your gadgets behind and head to the Great Barrier Island where you can discover breath-taking waterfalls, stunning white sandy beaches and picturesque tidal creeks against the backdrop of some of New Zealand’s most magnificent forest-laden mountains.
Idyllically located on Lake Wakatipu, the tiny mountain-girt village of Glenorchy is a place of blissful tranquility, swoon-worthy natural landscapes, and middle earth magic! Glenorchy is the perfect laid-back counterpoint to nearby busy and bustling Queenstown. Despite a fair amount of visitors, Glenorchy has managed to preserve its quaint, small village atmosphere while providing a petrol station, a grocery store, a post office and a few quirky pubs and cafes to travellers seeking some of New Zealand’s finest tramping, horse trekking, kayaking and jet boating in the astonishingly picturesque surrounding area. If you are seeking a quiet retreat off the beaten track, this rustic little town might be just the destination for you.
This remarkably sunny and rather sleepy little town is most commonly used as a base for exploring the town’s surrounding winelands which are home to some of New Zealand’s most fertile and venerated vineyards. The area boasts over 40 excellent wine farms, many of which are conveniently located within a 10km radius of Blenheim. In and around Blenheim you’ll find an impressive array of tempting cafes and restaurants, charming craft shops, artisan food outlets and some world-class golf courses. The nearby Marlborough Sounds provide an ideal setting for a variety for water sports, from kayaking to swimming with dolphins. Popular attractions include the fascinating Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, home to a well restored collection of World War I planes, as well as the Marlborough Museum which showcases a variety of interesting local historical artifacts and also houses Beavertown, a replica street scene based on features of Blenheim around 1900.
South Island’s West Coast region stretches for 600km between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, taking in everything from lush rainforests, windswept bays, snow-capped mountains and imposing glaciers along the way. It is extremely rugged and one of the least densely populated parts of the country, home to Maori locals who prize the Greenstone found in abundance here. The West Coast encompasses the Fiordland wilderness area – the location of ever-popular Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and Browne Falls and Sutherland Falls, ranked as some of the highest waterfalls in the world. Natural forests dominate the inland area and have remained largely untouched, offering a pristine environment with spectacular scenery.