New Zealand, with its abundance of captivating landscapes, unique attractions and delectable cuisines, is a country like no other - a country where anything is possible. Often considered the adventure capital of the world, caving, rafting, off-road driving, bungy jumping, zip-lining and skydiving are just a few of the many activities you can try if adrenaline-highs are your thing. If they’re not, New Zealand has plenty of other unique and surprising experiences. Below, our travel experts round up the best things to do in New Zealand.
New Zealand is a food lover’s paradise. Having developed a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine - drawing inspiration from Europe, Asia and Polynesia - you’ll encounter an unexpected cacophony of tastes, flavours and culinary influences as you traverse the islands. Fresh ingredients harvested from the land and seas are paramount to all dishes here: for superb seafood, try the local specialities of crayfish in Kaikoura, Bluff oysters in Southland and greenshell mussels in Marlborough; for a truly authentic experience, rise early on a weekend and immerse yourself in a local farmers market (such as Matakana Farmers Market in Auckland) where seasonal artisan delicacies are sure to be found.
Don’t miss out on a wine trail – cycle yourself around or be chauffeur driven from estate to estate. The Hawke's Bay is well-known for Bordeaux Blends, Syrah and Chardonnay, while Marlborough has world-class Sauvignon Blancs. Before you leave, make time to enjoy the communal experience of the hāngī in Rotorua, Christchurch or Northland – this indigenous Māori ‘roast dinner’ is cooked in the earth using hot rocks, and is traditionally accompanied by a welcome ceremony and a cultural performance.
New Zealand is renowned for its volcanic formations and geothermal landscape wonders. The area around Rotorua is bursting with bubbling mud pools, hot springs and threads of steam drifting upwards from parks, river banks and drains. Walkways around Rotoura offer easy access and fantastic vantage points from which to observe these geothermal views. At Lake Taupo, you can explore the active geothermal areas of Craters of the Moon and Orakei Korako, as well as walking through ancient rainforest in Whirinaki and Pureora Forest Parks.
Home to an amazing array of golf courses set in unbelievable locations, New Zealand is a definite must-visit for golf enthusiasts. A selection of the 400 plus courses have even been hand-picked by leading industry experts and categorised into the highly aspirational Marque Courses with international interest, and the Experience Courses which showcase local culture, community spirit and country charm. Try your swing on the world-famous course in Hawke’s Bay - built on a ridge and valley landscape with unparalleled views of the ocean above dramatic cliffs, the Cape Kidnappers par 71 golf course was designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak in 2004. For ultimate golfing experience, stay at one of the luxury lodges linked to a show stopping golf course and make the most of the gourmet cuisine and world class wines also on offer.
There are few other places on earth where you can witness such a striking array of wildlife and nature all in the space of one day. Head to Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island to easily spot sperm whales all year round; wait until December through March to see Orca whales, or June through July to see humpback whales. You’ll perhaps catch sight of the korora - the world’s smallest blue penguin - when they come to shore at night in the Marlborough Sounds, Dunedin and Akaora Harbour areas. At Cape Kidnappers, you can get up close with the rare and endangered Kiwi on a specialist guided discovery walk.
Ever since the first Lord of the Rings movie was released, New Zealand has become synonymous with Middle Earth - and it’s easy to see why. Gentle waterfalls cascade down into bubbling brooks, snow-capped peaks tower over plush forest valleys and ancient glaciers stand frozen in time. With more than 150 locations throughout the country having featured in the filming, you can almost catch a glimpse of Hobbit life wherever you are. For a more specialised experience, take a guided tour through the picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges on the North Island, home of the Hobbiton Movie Set.
For one of the most rewarding ways to see New Zealand’s outstanding natural beauty, lace up your walking boots and adventure out to some of the most picturesque walking and hiking trails. Think sweeping coastlines, lush native bush, majestic mountain ranges, alpine wildlife and fresh, fresh air. Take your New Zealand hiking adventure to the next level with a native private guide, who can customise an inspiring itinerary tailored specifically to your preferences and needs. We recommend the Milford Track – an easy to intermediate hike passing New Zealand’s tallest waterfall, spectacular valleys, and glacier-carved fiords. The amazing Tongariro Northern Circuit will also provide an unforgettable experience as you encircle the cone of Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand’s most active volcano.
The New Zealand lifestyle is infused with Māori cultures and values. As the tangata whenua - the indigenous people of the land of Aotearoa - their heritage is integral to the country’s identity. The best place to experience Māori culture is on a marae (tribal meeting ground); the Northland, Auckland, Rotoura and Canterbury regions all offer organised tours featuring traditional Māori welcomes with speeches and singing. You’ll also get to see carved meeting houses, greet the locals with the traditional pressing of noses, and enjoy a hāngi feast cooked in earth ovens.
New Zealand is an adventurer seeker’s paradise. Considered by many to be the adventure capital of the world, there is literally something to suit everyone – be it a bucket list must-do, an adrenaline-chasing highlight, or a good old-fashioned hike through unbelievable landscapes. Driving enthusiasts will relish the opportunity to go off-road on a number of varying terrains; from gravel to dirt, colossal sand dunes to sheep trails up a hillside, get ready to witness New Zealand’s scenic wilderness like never before. If you prefer water over land, you can try your hand at rafting – quiet drifts through forest rivers are best for the fainter of heart, while white-knuckled, wide-eyed journeys down turbulent rapids can be found in Lake Taupo's Tongariro River.
To really get under the skin of the country, a number of spectacular caves are open for exploration with experienced guides able to turn you into a caver in a single day. Or, you might prefer to see New Zealand’s spectacular geography from the sky – get a glimpse of the beautiful glacier lakes and peaks of the Southern Alps with an aviation helicopter adventure.