It takes a seriously long time to travel to the Land of the Long White Cloud, so when you get there, you’ll want to make the most of it. Luckily, there are many things to see and do in New Zealand. It’s a country with an endless array of things to see and do. You can wake up and hit the beach, then spend the morning surfing some big waves before heading inland for a glacier trek in the afternoon. How many other places can offer that? At WeRoad, we’ve put together this guide to our favourite things to do in New Zealand — but after a visit to Aotearoa, you might just find yourself adding a few more things to this essential list…
Try some adventure sports
New Zealand might just be the world capital of extreme sports. Two adrenaline-pumping activities that were invented here are bungee jumping and zorbing. The former involves flinging yourself off a bridge attached to a bouncy cord. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but zorbing — rolling downhill inside a giant orb — is great fun.
The true thrillseeker will find plenty of opportunities to go bungee jumping in New Zealand. Bungee fans flock to Queenstown on the South Island, where you’ll find several jumps to enjoy. The 134-metre Nevis Bungee is the third-highest jump in the world, while the 35-metre Hammer Springs is a better choice for newcomers to the sport. Go to The Ledge in Queenstown for a totally unique experience. This is the only place in New Zealand where you can go bungee jumping at night, which adds an extra adrenaline rush to this extreme sport.
Get your adrenaline pumping in Auckland
Travellers say that many of the best things to see and do in New Zealand are adventure sports. In fact, it’s hard to avoid extreme sports in this adrenaline-mad country. Even in New Zealand’s most populous city, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get your pulse racing with death-defying feats.
The 328-metre SkyTower is a true icon of the Auckland skyline. It’s also home to some of North Island’s most jaw-dropping activities. Of course, you can bungee jump from the Sky Tower — New Zealanders will never miss an opportunity to fling themselves into the air from a great height — but you can also try the SkyWalk. As you walk along the narrow ledge high up on the side of the Sky Tower, you’ll notice that there are no handrails to cling to. Yes, you’ll have wonderful views to keep you company, but your legs will turn to jelly by the time you’re safely back on terra firma. This activity is best left for the most determined adventurers!
Get a taste of Māori art
Scared of heights? Don’t worry, as there are other cool places to visit in New Zealand that don’t involve dangling from narrow ledges far above the ground. Staying in New Zealand’s biggest city, why not head to the Auckland Museum? This is where you’ll find some of the country’s most treasured Māori artefacts, including ancient sails, handwoven clothes and more. The museum also has a memorial section dedicated to New Zealand at war. Here you can learn the sobering stories of the servicemen who travelled halfway around the world to fight in World War I.
For something more contemporary, pay a visit to the Auckland Art Gallery. As well as the European-style Renaissance paintings you can see all over the world, it contains fascinating exhibitions of Māori art. There are plenty of interactive exhibits if you want a hands-on experience, and you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of this ancient culture.
Swim with wild dolphins
Many of the best things to see and do in New Zealand are connected to the natural world. This island paradise teems with life — on the land, in the sky, and in its waters. Monstrous giant squid lurk in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. There’s also something far friendlier here: adorable wild dolphins.
To get up close and personal with Flipper and his pals, make your way to Kaikoura. Around here, you’ll find small dusky dolphins, a breed known for being particularly playful. This is a magical place where you can swim with dolphins in their natural habitat. You won’t be stepping into a tank of water with miserable captive animals; instead, you’ll be joining them in the wild. It’s an incredible experience that no animal lover will ever forget. You’ll need a wetsuit since the water is pretty chilly here, but the chance to swim with wild dolphins is definitely worth the cold!
Let’s stay in the water for another awesome New Zealand activity. There are two places in the country where you’ll be able to see whales doing their thing. We talk about Kaikoura in the south of the South Island or Hauraki Gulf on the North Island. In Kaikoura, you might be able to see whales all year round, but the best time of year is between May and October. This is when humpbacks, southern right whales and pilot whales migrate through the waters. Sperm whales like to hang out near Kaikoura throughout the year, so you’ll always have a chance to see them.
Again, there are some whales in Hauraki Gulf all year round, but the chilly winter weather from May to October attracts more of the gentle giants. The endangered Bryde’s whale can often be seen here, along with plenty of playful dolphins.
Take a tram ride through the streets of Christchurch
Christchurch is one of the country’s coolest cities and home to some of the best things to see and do in New Zealand. Start your sightseeing adventure with a tram ride. These classic, European-style heritage trams are a great way to get around. You can get a hop-on, hop-off ticket and spend a whole day exploring the city.
Along the way, you’ll see sights like the Christchurch Cathedral, Riverside Market, Arts Centre and Botanic Gardens. There are plenty of places to stop and get a closer look at some of the city’s attractions or grab a bite to eat. If you’ve just arrived in town, there’s no better way to get a feel for the city.
Go punting on the river
You might think of punting as being something for students at Britain’s elite universities. However, this chilled-out way to travel on water is popular in New Zealand, too. In fact, it’s the best way to get a river tour through the city of Christchurch. Sit back and relax as your flatboat makes its way along the winding River Avon, passing under bridges and along riverside parks. You won’t need to do anything: these boats all come with professional leaders to do the punting for you. To add to the environment, they wear an Oxbridge-style uniform with classic straw boaters and sharp blazers.
See native wildlife in the heart of the capital
So many of the best things to see and do in New Zealand involve wildlife. The best part? Sometimes, you don’t even need to leave the city. In fact, Wellington, the country’s capital city, is home to Zealandia, the world’s first fully-fenced city centre ecosystem. One minute, you’ll be in Thorndon or enjoying the hustle and bustle of the CBD, and the next, you’ll be plunged back in time to a totally natural environment, where you can catch a glimpse of what New Zealand was like long before humans settled the islands.
Zealandia was designed as a haven for native birds, with thick fences to keep predators at bay. As well as little spotted kiwis, the smallest species of kiwi, Zealandia is home to rare birds like the tūī, kākā and kererū. The best way to see it is on a guided tour, so an experienced local bird watcher can help you spot the different creatures and tell you exactly what you’re seeing.
The sanctuary is open by day but also offers special guided dusk tours, where lucky travellers might just catch a glimpse of rare nocturnal creatures. With 32 kilometres of tracks to cover, you won’t get bored as you explore Zealandia.
Ride the Wellington Cable Car up the Kelburn hills
Wondering in New Zealand what to see? What could be better than some spectacular views of the capital city? Wellington is known for its steep streets, and if you’re tired of trudging up and down, just hop on one of the city’s iconic bright red cable cars. You’ll travel 612 metres up to the Kelburn hills, where you can see the truly spectacular vision of Wellington from above.
This heritage cable car route first opened in 1903 and features two tunnels. Inside them, you can admire LED light displays to keep you entertained while you wait for the more scenic views ahead.
Have an underwater adventure in Milford Sound
Deep in the wilderness of South Island, Milford Sound easily finds its way onto most people’s lists of the best things to see and do in New Zealand. Some people even say that this beautiful, unspoiled fjord deserves to be called the eighth wonder of the world. We’ll let you decide that one for yourself, but whether you agree or not, no trip to New Zealand would be complete without spending at least one full day there.
Milford Sound is one of the most stunning places on the South Island, surrounded by sheer cliff faces and dramatic waterfalls. You can take a cruise along the crystal clear waters or, if you’d prefer to get some exercise, hop into a kayak to explore. It often rains here, but don’t worry if the forecast looks dismal. When it’s raining, you’ll see temporary waterfalls appear in the rocks, making the scenery even more beautiful. In fact, many people say that the best way to see Milford Sound is in the rain. Bring a raincoat and embrace the adventure!
Explore Fiordland National Park
Milford Sound is the main attraction of Fiordland National Park, but it’s not the only thing worth seeing. This untamed corner of New Zealand is the best place to go hiking in the country, with epic scenery and stunning landscapes waiting for you at every turn. Bring waterproof boots and a protective poncho because, in this rugged wilderness, two days without rain is considered a major drought!
This park is, without a doubt, one of the best things to see and do in New Zealand. You can easily spend a few days trekking the many trails that wind their way across Fiordland National Park. Visit between July and November, and you may also be able to see some of the area’s most iconic inhabitants: the Fiordland crested penguins. These small penguins are quite different from their Arctic cousins. They have wild, bright yellow crests, and they create their nests in rocky caves. You might hear them before you see them, as they are known for their distinctive cry, which sounds rather like a donkey braying.
See the wildlife in Dunedin
If you’re an animal lover, then Dunedin is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand. The Otago Peninsula is known for its varied animal life, with sea lions, fur seals and two kinds of penguins to admire. Of course, like everywhere in New Zealand, it has some wonderful species of birds, too. The most impressive is the northern royal albatross, an enormous seabird with a wingspan that stretches a whopping three metres. For even more sea life, take a boat trip from Port Chalmers to see the dolphins and seals at play.
Cycle across Central Otago
There are three iconic cycle trails in the Central Otago region of the South Island. Whichever one you choose, you’ll enjoy some breathtaking scenery and unique sights, including dizzying river gorges, historic viaducts, windswept bluffs and old gold rush towns.
Central Otago is also known as a scenic wine region, so if you’re a foodie, you’ll find some of the best things to see and do in New Zealand here. Just don’t get on your bike after sampling too many of the local vintages!
Trek up Fox Glacier
The South Island’s Fox Glacier is considered to be one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. You won’t need to hike up the side of a mountain for days to reach it. In fact, it’s easy enough to spend the morning at the beach and then hop in your car for a spot of glacier-walking.
Another great way to see this sight is with a helicopter ride over Fox Glacier. Enjoy the amazing views of this slab of ice, which can be seen all year round.
Soak in Awakeri Hot Springs
Thorndon Beach is one of the coolest parts of the country. Here, you can go horse riding along the sand, swim in crystal-clear lake water or fish for kahawai at the mouth of the river. We reckon the best attraction of all is the Awakeri Hot Springs, a series of natural thermal pools. After all that bungee jumping, trekking and kayaking, you can just sit back and relax in the mineral-rich water. It’s the perfect way to end your trip to New Zealand. Close your eyes and dream of your next adventure…
Our epic New Zealand 360 Tour is the perfect way to see the country. You’ll be able to visit both islands, getting a real feel for the Kiwi way of life. See the lush green landscape that was transformed into Middle Earth for the Lord of the Rings films, look for whales in the water and enjoy glacier treks. Best of all, you’ll be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about travel and adventure as you are. What are you waiting for?
And since you are on the other side of the world… you might also be interested in our article on things to see in Australia!