New Zealand, also known as the ‘Land of the long white cloud’, is well known for its snow-capped mountains, white sandy beaches and as the setting for Lord of the Rings. If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, make sure to add these 9 must-see spots to your itinerary.
1. Abel Tasman National Park
Located on the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is an almost unspoiled area that lets you see the best of untouched New Zealand. Take a kayak on the lagoon-blue water, enjoy the endless stretches of white sandy beaches, or go for a hike to explore the stunning surrounds.
You can camp on the beach in designated camping zones, but be warned: they do get crowded quickly. The park is also known to host lively theme nights that guarantee plenty of food, music, and good times.
When to visit: Perfect for spring and summertime to enjoy the stunning beaches and hiking trails.
2. Milford Sound
Milford Sound is considered by some to be New Zealand’s ‘most spectacular natural wonder’. In fact, author Rudyard Kipling suggested it to be the 8th wonder of the world.
Located within the Fiordland National Park on the west of the South Island, it has become the go-to destination to see pure, natural beauty.
See fur seals sunning themselves on Seal Rock and the stunning glassy water in the Mirror Lakes. Experience the beauty of hundreds of waterfalls throughout the national park, and exquisite wildlife such as Kea, the colourful and super cheeky NZ Parrot. If you’re lucky, you might even come across a pod of dolphins!
When to visit: Milford Sound is beautiful any time of year – even when it’s raining!
Located on the South Island, Queenstown is a natural playground with something to do year-round. Add skiing, hiking, zip-lining, bungy jumping and white water rafting to your to-do list, and start checking them off in this adventure-filled city.
There’s also ample golf clubs located conveniently close to vineyards, so it’s easy to combine a round with a winery tour. If you’re more about a relaxed vibe, Queenstown has plenty of spa and wellness centres to kick back and find your zen.
When to visit: Winter for snow sports, otherwise year-round.
Rotorua is renowned as the most geothermal area in New Zealand, with natural geysers and bubbling mud pools a hot attraction. Located on the North Island in the Bay of Plenty region, Rotorua is steeped in Maori culture, with cultural performances and traditional hāngi (banquets cooked in the steam from the earth) a must-see.
As one of the largest tourist locations in New Zealand, there’s plenty to see in Rotorua, including the stunning Redwoods Nightlights in the majestic Redwoods forest, lots of shopping and plenty of health spas.
When to visit: The warmest and driest time to visit is between spring and autumn – but it’s also the most popular with tourists.
Are you a Lord of the Rings fan? Welcome to Hobbiton, the filming location for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie franchise. Explore the lush pastures of the Shire, guided tours through the set, and a banquet fit for a hobbit. It’s a must-see for any LOTR fan.
When to visit: As with Rotorua, spring to autumn are the warmest and driest times of the year to visit. Plus, they’re perfect for warm, dusk tours of the movie-set.
6. Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Caves are a stunning labyrinth of natural caves and underground rivers. You can explore the caves by guided tour or boat, or feel adventurous and abseil or zip-line through the darkness. There’s a plethora of sights to see, with stalactites dripping from the ceiling, stalagmites growing from the floor, and a cosmic display of glow worms illuminating the walls.
There’s also plenty to do above ground, with hikes, walking trails and the stunning Marokopa Falls just a few of the activities available.
When to visit: Spring to autumn are ideal times to visit the Waitomo area and caves.
7. Marlborough Wine Region
Located at the top of the South Island, Marlborough is just a short flight or ferry ride from Wellington. Known for its expansive vineyards, sauvignon blanc, seafood and canyon-like coastlines, it’s a foodie and adventurers delight and the heart of New Zealand’s largest wine growing region.
Marlborough Sounds is a wonderful spot to relax on the water’s edge, explore local bush walks and enjoy freshly caught seafood. There’s also incredible scenic boat tours to idyllic and remote islands where you can catch a glimpse of fur seals, little blue penguins and dolphins.
When to visit: Spring through to autumn are the perfect time for warm weather when touring wineries and exploring the scenic beauty of Marlborough Sounds.
8. Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is a very rare and special place, both culturally for the indigenous Maori, and as a beautiful natural phenomenon. At the Cape, you can watch the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean in a beautiful swirl of currents. Learn about the 800-year-old pohutukawa tree, which according to Maori oral history is where the spirits of the dead leap into the ocean to find their way back to their ancestral homeland, Hawaiki.
When to visit: Spring through autumn are great times to visit, although keep in mind that the warmer months are peak tourist times.
9. Bay of Islands
Finally, we’ve saved the best for last. A visit to New Zealand is not complete with exploring the Bay of Islands on the North Island. It’s a subtropical paradise filled with stunning beaches, boutique towns and endless beauty.
Take a cruise, go for a kayak, or charter a yacht. Find yourself near Tapeka Point, and you’ll find yourself up close and personal with penguins, dolphins, whales and more. Or stay on dry land and take a hike along seaside walking tracks or through the rainforest. This is New Zealand at it’s most glorious and not to be missed.
When to visit: Spring and summer are beautiful times of year to get out on the water. But as a subtropical area on the North Island, any time of year is perfect for a trip to paradise.
Wherever you choose to go in New Zealand, there’s bound to be something exquisite and unique to explore. The easiest way to get around is with your own camper or van. Click here to rent or buy and get your holiday on the road!