What to see and do in New Zealand
Anyone who’s seen the Lord of the Rings is already familiar with the out of this world beauty that New Zealand can offer. Chosen by filmmakers time and time again, New Zealand’s dynamic terrain offers everything adventure seekers and nature lovers could ever want. This small island nation, with a rich history coming from both British rule and the native Maori culture, the New Zealand of today is a welcoming, warm place with everyone on its two main islands embracing Manaakitanga, the Maori sense of hospitality. That idea has certainly taken root in a booming tourist industry, and that’s why having local knowledge will help you to build an itinerary that offers thrilling hikes through volcanoes, skydiving, sailing, and time to relax in the world’s most southern wine country.
Why go to New Zealand with a local travel agent?
New Zealand is consistently rated among the top travel destinations in the entire world - backpackers, honeymooners, families, nature lovers, and thrill-seekers of all ages always seem to report back with glowing recommendations for the small island nation. A big reason for this is that the hospitality of New Zealanders is just as spectacular as their natural landscapes.
The tourist industry has been thriving for years because friendly locals like our agents dedicate their time to ensuring that visitors have the best time possible. Being so far away from Europe (there is a 12-hour difference between Auckland and London), having someone on the ground who can organise your trip and narrow down the unbelievable array of natural sites means you get the fantastic full New Zealand hospitality experience before you even buy your tickets.
What are the most common things to do in New Zealand?
- New Zealand is known for beautiful landscapes, a welcoming culture and sense of adventure.
- Visitors most often experience these traits by taking in a traditional Maori cultural performance displaying traditional ceremonies, crafts and legends, and even whole pre-European villages recreated down to the last detail, to immerse you in the Maori way of life.
- For adventure, you can organise heli-hiking on the unique Franz Josef Glacier or watching whales and dolphins from the gorgeous Bay of Islands just north of Auckland.
- For fans of the Lord of the Rings, there are tours centred around filming locations like the stunning Abel Tasman Park or why not take a cruise on Milford sound?—once described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world.
- Those wanting something truly out of this world can take a tour of caves illuminated only by the glow worms native to the islands.
- After all of that nature, the artsy capital Wellington, the charming Queenstown, and the laid-back metropolis of Auckland can give you great restaurants and cultural experiences to unwind.
When is the best time of the year to go to New Zealand?
The most popular time is from December to February; the summer months for New Zealand. The weather is nice, and plenty of sunny days make it possible to spend time relaxing on one of the many beaches throughout the island’s coastlines. However, the price of accommodation rises with the temperatures; rooms and tours will start to book up months in advance. We recommend visiting just outside of these times in October or November and March or May as prices are better and popular destinations are less crowded, but you still avoid the slightly chillier, rainier weather.
How is the climate on New Zealand’s islands?
The two main islands that makeup New Zealand don’t offer wildly different climates, the entire country is largely temperate, but there are some differences to keep in mind. The far North of the country is much more subtropical, offering better weather for a time at the beach during the summer months. The South is more temperate, but also generally colder and rainier.
However, both islands offer the most moderate temperatures along the coast, with mountainous inland areas reaching extremely cold temperatures in the South. The most important thing for travellers from the Earth’s Northern hemisphere to remember is that summer months in New Zealand are January and February, while colder winter months are June and July.
Which is the most unique, off the beaten track experience in New Zealand?
Many people agree that the most unusual thing New Zealand has to offer is a stay in Mount Maunganui; or “The Mount” as locals call it. A cool beach town situated on a large sandbar, this relaxed north island spot offers stunning views of the distinctive Mauao Peak at the end of the peninsula from its many inviting cafes. Tourists looking for another of New Zealand’s off the beaten track experiences, can experience kayaking through a cave illuminated in bright neon colours by New Zealand glow worms. These are attractions that New Zealanders themselves love to do, but that many visitors skip over—giving you two true Kiwi experiences without any crowds.
Why do New Zealanders do the Haka and why are New Zealanders called Kiwis?
The Haka has its roots in the Maori culture. Originally a war dance performed by warriors before battle; they would stomp their feet and yell in unison to intimidate the enemy. Today, traditional Hakas can still be seen in Maori cultural performances, and at Rugby games. Since the 80s, New Zealand’s national team has been performing the Haka before matches, making it into a symbol for the modern nation as well. While that piece of modern New Zealand has its roots in Maori history, the term Kiwi comes from the nation’s other founding element: its unique nature. The Kiwi bird is the national bird of New Zealand and has been an emblem for the country since the early 1900s.
What is the wildlife like in New Zealand?
The only thing more fascinating than the natural vistas that New Zealand offers are the encounters with beautiful animals that are possible while trekking through its mountains, spending time on its beaches, and cruising through its crystal blue bays. The most common wildlife experiences in New Zealand are based around whales, dolphins, seals, penguins and the Kiwi. As New Zealand’s national bird, kiwis are small, flightless birds with long beaks that have become a symbol for the entire country. Due to its endangered status, the Kiwis are all limited to wildlife sanctuaries where visitors can still see them.
What are the most scenic drives for a road trip in New Zealand?
While almost every road in New Zealand can offer some of the most spectacular natural views on Earth, our agent’s pick for the best of the best when it comes to road tripping across the islands, is a drive along the west coast of the South Island.
Start from Westport— a charming town with an extensive history in coal mining for history buffs— and then continue past Hokitika before arriving at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. From there, travel through the Haast Pass to explore a rain forest filled with stunning waterfalls before travelling back inland. Those wanting to see the classic experience of the world-famous Milford Sound can take the scenic route from Te Anau to this natural wonder of the world.
What are the most popular tracks to explore New Zealand’s landscapes?
New Zealand's tracks offer walks through national parks that traverse incredible mountain ranges leading to beautiful beaches. Our agents often recommend Tongariro Crossing: New Zealand’s oldest national park, a world heritage site and known to people all over the world as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. The Milford Track is the most famous hiking trail in New Zealand and often cited as the world’s top travel destination for its unparalleled beauty.
On the South Island, the Routeburn Track takes you through wildly different vegetation from the rest of the island along the edges of Lake Wakatipu, and the Queen Charlotte Track offers contrasting landscapes along the coastline with a variety of accommodations and water transfers to have you hiking, cruising, dining, and relaxing against some of the world’s most impressive landscapes. Of course, the Abel Tasman with its waterfalls, immaculate beaches, and difficult tracks remains the biggest draw for the most adventurous travellers.
What makes New Zealand a great destination for a couple?
Couples wanting a great escape or just time relaxing together can build an itinerary filled with exciting adventure and low-key downtime. New Zealand is one of the best places in the world for spending a romantic evening star-gazing. At certain times of the year, you can even be lucky enough to see the lights of the Aurora Australis.
Other romantic activities to be found almost everywhere you go in New Zealand include sailing, balloon rides, and tours through the New Zealand wine country complete with romantic picnics. A day spent in the world’s most southern vineyards will include views on sweeping green hills that roll out to the ocean while snow-capped mountains stand in the distance. New Zealand's views and wines can easily compete with more traditionally romantic locales like the South of France or Italy.
What are the activities New Zealand offers for a family with children or teenagers?
For families travelling with young children, our agents recommend some of the country’s most exciting wildlife experiences, especially going whale and dolphin watching. There’s also the OGO Rotorua, an amusement site that turns exploring nature into a fantastic experience by allowing the family to roll down hills in large clear plastic balls. Learning about glaciers can turn into a fun and exciting experience as well with special Glacier Explorer tours by boat. For children who are too young to go skydiving or bungee jumping, numerous cities in New Zealand offer the alternatives of Skyline Gondolas and luge rides.
For families with teenagers, the famous adventures that New Zealand offers will provide plenty to do. Heli hiking uses a helicopter to place you and your thrill-seeking teens deep within the wilderness or high up on a glacier, reaching remote locations that are difficult to find backpacking and giving you one of the most thrilling hikes of your life. Another fantastic option for the adrenaline junkies in your family; go white water rafting down roaring rivers, ziplining high above the trees, or kayaking. Of course, for those families wanting to entertain teenagers with something a bit easier, any hike offers stunning views of New Zealand that will impress people of all ages.
Which tours and activities are best to travel New Zealand in three weeks?
With so much to see and do in the country, the best tours and activities for travelling New Zealand will be based on your interests. Travellers who love food and wine can create an itinerary that includes areas known for great restaurants and wine production like Waiheke Island, Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago. Other travellers that just want to take in the natural landscape as much as possible can venture to the spectacular areas of Milford Sound, the country’s various Glaciers, the small city of Wanaka, and the numerous National Parks scattered all over the country.
However, every itinerary, no matter the time-frame, should include some of the New Zealand ‘must-dos’: experiencing Maori Culture, taking in the impressive beauty of geothermal sites, seeing the nation’s unique glow worms, savouring local wine and food, hiking through the mountains, flying over glaciers, skydiving over hills and lakes, and of course, taking a cruise over the unbelievable Milford Sound.
Why should I spend my honeymoon in New Zealand?
New Zealand is a beautiful place for a honeymoon. There are plenty of go-to properties that overlook the best vistas the country has to offer, giving newlyweds the opportunity to relax in private while taking in the scenery and fresh air. Even though New Zealand is known for its adventurous activities, there a plenty of ways to incorporate romance and relaxation into your itinerary: spa treatments, hours spent in a hot spring, horseback riding on a beach, gourmet dinners, and tours of excellent vineyards.
Of course, for adventurous couples, there’s always time to throw in some mountain trekking and skydiving. But no matter how you choose to spend your days, the luxury lodges available throughout the country will offer up the hospitality that has given New Zealand its current tourism boom and spa services that include traditional Rotorua mud baths, allowing you to spend entire days with nothing but luxury pampering.