What Full-time Travellers Like About New Zealand
New Zealand is often described as mind-blowing, awe-inspiring and even breathtaking, yet it still surpasses expectations by delivering unique experiences in front of a stunning backdrop. But often enough, soon-to-be New Zealand travellers wonder what are the best spots? What are other people’s favourite places in New Zealand? Of course, that is a near-impossible question to answer in a country as diverse as New Zealand. It is very much a subjective answer. Nevertheless, we love a challenge, so we asked travel bloggers from all around the world what was their favourite spot in New Zealand? As you’ll see, the answers vary from cities to national parks to waterfalls to islands. Now there’s no excuse to leave New Zealand missing out on the unmissable.
For more unmissable activities, check out our Must-Do section of the website. Plus, be sure to bookmark The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand for even more trip-planning inspiration.
1. Bay Of Islands – Mar from Once in a Lifetime Journey
“The Bay of Islands is a group of islands dotting a large bay area located 3-hour drive north of Auckland. Some of the islands are inhabited albeit with very few people, others are completely deserted and most have been declared as reserves or parks. I loved exploring it, especially from a helicopter because the landscapes, the islands and the stories behind are beautiful as they are fascinating. Take a ferry to Russell, “The Hell Hole of the Pacific”, for a slice of history with a side of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll”
Read more about Mar in the Bay Of Island: Russell – The Hell hole of the Pacific and The Bay of Islands from the sky, high above.
2. Cathedral Cove – Patrcia from Mad About Travel
One of the highlights of my first trip to New Zealand was this stunning beach nestled between cliffs and the sea. Since I saw it in one of the Narnia movies, I was in love. And the real place is even better than I imagined. I loved the fact that Cathedral Cove is so remote and secluded that you actually have to hike for a little less than one hour to get there. The landscape is stunning. And then, when the path descends and you make it to the beach, the big stone arch is there inviting you in. I could not think of a better spot to spend a day in the Coromandel Peninsula. Just pack your picnic like I did, put your bikini on, and enjoy.
Read more about Patrcia in the Cathedral Cove: Cathedral Cove, la puerta de Narnia y la playa ms bonita de Nueva Zelanda (SPANISH).
3. Dunedin – Mei Mei from Meimeichu.com
Dunner Stunner is NZ’s quintessential university town and it does not pretend to be anything else. While the city has an old charm, the streets are buzzing with youthful energy. Dunedin is famed for the Otago Peninsula where you can see the Southern Lights, penguins and seals but my favourite thing to do here is not in any of those top recommendations – crash a university lecture. The University of Otago holds regular free open lectures covering everything from environment, religion, to women’s suffrage, all which are really interesting. It’s almost like a TED Talk but in a stunning university campus, perfect for the curious-minded who is hungry for knowledge.
Read more about Mei Mei in Dunedin: The Best Thing To Do In Dunedin That Every Other Site Missed
4. Queenstown – Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped
Our favorite spots in New Zealand is hands down Queenstown! Queenstown is jam-packed with adrenaline-filled activities. Nothing beats jumping out of a plane at 12,000ft looking atThe Remarkables, hang gliding while watching epic sunsets looking down on Queenstown, drinking some of the best wines NZ has to offer at the nearby wineries, eating a giant Fergburger, jumping off the worlds first bungy jump location, and much more! I could easily spend two weeks in Queenstown, there is so much to do. If you’re road tripping through NZ, there are several great campsites just outside of town that are a great place to call home for the night.
Read more about Hannah & Adam in Queenstown: Queenstown Classics
5. Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound – Sue from Philatravelgirl
I’m a city girl so the chance to experience nature from the water and from above (helicopter/small plane) is always top of my to-do list. On South Island NZ, I had a dilemma as no one could tell me which Fiordland sound was best Milford (more popular) or Doubtful (a local secret?). Each has incredible beauty and provides a unique experience in waterfalls, stillness and gratitude (plus patience with the journey to get there!). The sounds provide visual overload and stunning images but I had to put my camera down to just take it all in. I saw the Fiordlands from bus, boat, on foot, on film and from above and have zero regrets for stretching my budget to experience New Zealand’s awesomeness.
Read more about Sue in Fiordlands: The New Zealand Quandary Milford Sound vs Doubtful Sound
6. Tongariro Crossing – Chantal from Translating Traveler
The Tongariro Crossing is part of one of the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand and it was the one thing I simply couldn’t miss out on! When my first attempt was crushed by bad weather, I was even more determined to try it once more three weeks later. And I’m so glad I did. Hiking this active volcano was the experience of a lifetime.The dreary and desolate rocky landscape looks out of this world. Black sand, red craters, emerald lakes and eerie fog rising up from the ground transport you right into the heart of Mordor. Hike the Tongariro Crossing and join Frodo on his journey to Mt. Doom to destroy the ring!
Read more about Chantal on the Tongariro Crossing: Hiking the Tongariro Crossing: The Ultimate Mordor Experience
7. Wellington – Megan from Half This World Away
Wellington is a little city with a big personality, and one of my favourite places in the whole of New Zealand. This seaside city is quirky, arty and full of character. I was fortunate enough to live in Wellington for a year so I got experience the best of the city had to offer from its world-class restaurants to its stunning coastline views. What I loved most about Wellington is that despite its size, there was always something happening from street food festivals to historical exhibits, making it utterly impossible to ever be bored.
Read more about Megan in Wellington: A foodie’s guide to Wellington’s epic restaurant scene
8. Huka Falls – Anita from The Sane Travel
Huka Falls is a nice side trip from Taupo. Huka Falls is different from the regular waterfalls elsewhere. The Waikato River, normally up to 100 metres wide, abruptly narrows to just 15 metres as it crosses a hard volcanic ledge. This causes a huge volume of water to collide together, forming a spectacular visual feast of powerful falls and rapids. To get there you can catch the public bus to Huka Falls from Taupo which is commuting just a few times a day. On your way back take a half an hour riverside walk to the Taupo which actually can take a bit longer because of taking a bath in a hot stream falling into the Waikato River.
Read more about Anita in Huka Falls: Huka Falls
9. Wanaka – Shaun from This Life in Trips
New Zealand is by far one of my favourite countries simply because of how offensively beautiful it is. Driving from Queenstown to Auckland was a complete sensory overload, possibly because everything I passed was straight out of a Peter Jackson film. No place was more spectacular than Lake Wanaka, and I got to see it in the most spectacular way possible. There I was, high above its snow-capped mountains and icy blue waters looping and spinning in a 1940s biplane. It was, to say the very least, an amazing experience and an incredible day for this now Kiwi-loving aviation nerd…and it almost didn’t happen.
Read more about Shaun in Wanaka: Wings over Wanaka Classic Flights Review
10. Mt Cook – Isabel from Bel Around The World
The landscapes that I’ve witnessed in New Zealand speak of the raw untamed beauty of the forces of nature. The brilliance of Earth’s formations cannot be felt anywhere else. We drove to Mount Cook when the sun has set in the May sky, unaware of the darkened surroundings around us. Huddled in our campervan, we slept through the cold, only to be awaken by the glints of sunlight through our window. It only dawned on us, as we opened our car door, that we have magically stepped in a landscape of snow-covered mountain tops and dew that have turned to ice overnight. It was such a sight to behold, it took our breaths away!
Read more about Isabel in Mt Cook: New Zealand South Island Attractions You Must See On Your Road Trip
11. Abel Tasman National Park – Elaine & David From The Whole World is a Playground
“Crystal clear turquoise waters, golden beaches, isolated islands and stunning views: the idyllic Abel Tasman National Park coastline is a little bit of paradise in New Zealand. We arrived in Abel Tasman after weeks of exploring the beautiful New Zealand in our campervan and we couldn’t wait to hop in a kayak, find our sea legs, and dip our feet in the irresistible waters of Tasman Bay. We explored the tidal inlets, rock formations and golden beaches that line the Abel Tasman coast and fell in love with its blue skies, turquoise waters and natural beauty creating New Zealand memories we’ll never forget.”
Read more about Elaine & David in Abel Tasman: Abel Tasman kayaking fun! A little bit of paradise in New Zealand!
12. (Bonus) Stewart Island – Robin & Laura from New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year
Often an after-thought, New Zealand’s third island is a raw jewel that is well worth exploring. Stewart Island is mostly a national park and a wildlife paradise. This is the best spot in the country to catch a glimpse of kiwi birds in the wild amongst hundreds of other unique bird species. The beaches of the island are pristine, almost untouched, and the only town, Oban, seems to have stopped in time. It is pretty incredible how such a small hidden gem of the world can be so easily accessible – just a short ferry-ride away from the South Island. We have explored every nook and cranny of New Zealand and the one that we both wanted on this list was Stewart Island: a must-do in New Zealand!
Read more about our adventures on Stewart Island: Exploring Oban on Stewart Island, Carving Greenstone and Flying Over Stewart Island, Hiking Coast to Coast on Stewart Island and Exploring the Bird Sanctuary of Ulva Island