Those Must-Do Experiences in New Zealand
Wow, where to begin? New Zealand is an action-packed country where a trip there will be nothing short of epic. It’s a country of staggering environments from pristine beaches to rugged glaciers. From fascinating Polynesian cultures to wildlife that has evolved in isolation to make some unique species. From adrenaline-pumping bungy jumps to relaxing geothermal hot pools. There’s so much to do in New Zealand that’s impossible to make a top 10 of things to do in New Zealand, but we’ll give it a bloody good go!
While many awesome experiences will take you far beyond this list (they’re here in our 101 Things to Do in New Zealand), here is a good place to start on the things to do in New Zealand. These are the things that are on most people’s New Zealand bucket lists, so start making notes and plan the epic adventure of a lifetime.
Before we begin, be sure to bookmark The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand for even more tips.
1. Hike on a Glacier
New Zealand is home to some of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier on the West Coast of the South Island. Hiking on these ever-changing glaciers is a once in a lifetime opportunity with a stunning helicopter flight over the glacier valley onto the glaciers themselves. Explore ice caves and narrow crevasses with an experienced guide through the New Zealand glaciers. If you miss the West Coast glaciers, be sure to check out New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier, in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.
Find out more ways to see the glaciers in 7 Ways to Take on New Zealand’s Glaciers or book your heli-hike on the Franz Josef Glacier on Viator and Tripadvisor, the Fox Glacier on Viator and Tripadvisor or the Tasman Glacier on Viator and Tripadvisor.
2. Visit a Geothermal Wonderland
New Zealand is a hotbed for geothermal activity, the North Island in particular. Visit mind-blowing geothermal parks between Rotorua and Taupo with multi-coloured hot pools, geysers and bubbling mud that used to be used by the local Maori for therapeutic hot pools and for cooking food.
Choose from the 5 Insane Geothermal Parks in New Zealand You Won’t Believe Exist.
3. Immerse Yourself in the Maori Culture
The Maori were the first settlers in New Zealand well before the first Europeans, bringing with them a fascinating Polynesian culture. There are opportunities to learn about the Maori culture from the cultural shows and traditional “Hangi” dinners in Rotorua in the North Island to learning how to carve greenstone on the West Coast of the South Island.
For more ways to immerse in the Maori culture, check out these 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand.
4. Do a Bungy Jump
Did you know that bungy jumping was invented in New Zealand? New Zealand is a country of adrenaline, so one of the best places in the world to experience the thrills of free-falling is right here. Jump from the world’s first commercial bungy site at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or do the highest in New Zealand at the 132m (433ft) Nevis Bungy (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
There are far more bungy jumps to choose from in 7 Epic Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand.
5. Do a Multi-day Great Walk
New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking scenery and one of the best ways to experience these landscapes is by hiking. To showcase some of the best scenery in New Zealand, there are the 10 Great Walks of New Zealand. These multi-day hikes have hut accommodation and well-formed trails making them approachable for beginners.
However, if you are looking for more “budget” multi-day hikes, then check out these 12 Awesome Alternatives to the New Zealand Great Walks.
6. See a Kiwi Bird
New Zealand is home to many fascinating native species of birds and marine life, but the one everyone wants to see is the unusual kiwi bird. You’ll be lucky to see one of these elusive nocturnal birds in the wild though, so your best shot is to see the birds in conservation kiwi houses around the country. (Although, we consider seeing a kiwi bird in the wild much more rewarding).
Find out more in Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand.
7. Cruise in Milford Sound
Often described as the most beautiful place in New Zealand, Milford Sound is made up of towering glacier-carved mountains emerging from the sea. It lies in Fiordland National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Area meaning it’s pretty much a big deal. Ways to see Milford Sound include by cruise, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving and scenic flights.
Learn more about Milford Sound in 10 Amazing Things to Do in Milford Sound.
8. Get Your Hobbit-on
The Lord of the Rings might have first come out in 2001 but the Middle-earth magic is still alive in New Zealand with scenery clearly visioned in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. While there are many tours and free Lord of the Rings locations to visit, the most popular is The Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata. Learn more about Hobbiton on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Start finding the Lord of the Rings locations in The Lord of the Rings Location Guide.
9. Stargaze in a Dark Sky Reserve
New Zealand is home to some of the “darkest” skies in the world, especially in the Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in the South Island. This is where the Southern Hemisphere stars appear at their most vivid. What’s more, the South Island is one of the places where you can see the colourful phenomenon of Aurora Australis, a.k.a. the Southern Lights.
See the stars at these 5 Stargazing Sites in New Zealand
10. Sip on New Zealand Wine
It turns out that New Zealand is one of the world’s top wine-making countries, so there are lots of opportunities to try the local produce. Take a tour or pop into the cellar doors of vineyards of Marlborough or Otago in the South Island, or the wineries of Hawke’s Bay or the Wairarapa in the North Island.
Consider these 9 Great Winery Tours in New Zealand