New Zealand is one of the most fascinating countries on Earth when it comes to scenery. You will be blessed by magnificent landscapes every day of your trip: beaches, mountains, volcanoes, fjords, glaciers, geothermal wonder, sand dunes... An outdoor paradise and a place to connect with Nature. Below is my New Zealand Travel guide to help you make the most of your time there!
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Best places and things to do in New Zealand
If you have reached this Travel Guide, you are probably thinking of traveling to New Zealand. If you are still unsure or just want to day dream or start planning, below are some general articles to show you how incredible New Zealand is. Stunning scenery!
Discover my top things to do on both islands: my favorite beaches, best roads and unbelievable natural wonders...
Visit New Zealand - North vs South Island
Let's start of an overall view of both main New Zealand islands to help you get a feel for its size and many things to do around.
It is a lot bigger than we imagine and driving takes a lot of time because roads are sinuous and have only one lane in each directions.
Below are 2 maps to help you understand where the most famous attractions are and how long it will take you to drive around:
Around North Island, the highlights of your trip will be:
- The costal scenery and sand dunes of Northland
- The wildlife and beaches around the Bay of islands
- The magnificent cliffs at Cathedral cove
- The geothermal activities around Rotorua
- The beautiful volcanoes at Taranaki and Tongariro
- The major cities of Auckland and Wellington
Around South Island, the highlights of your trip will be:
- The costal scenery at Wharariki beach and the Spit (West of Abel Tasman)
- The wildlife and beaches around Abel Tasman National Park
- The wildlife and scenery at Kaikoura
- The most beautiful drive in NZ at Arthur's pass
- The glaciers: Fox and Franz Josef
- The fords: Milford and Doubtful
- Queenstown and its adrenaline activities
- The geological wonders of Moeraki boulders and Punakaiki (pancake rocks)
- The charm of the Catlins region
eBook: The Road Trip Guide - New Zealand
Simplify the planning of your New Zealand road trip!
Looking for a selection of the most scenic places to see in New Zealand, practical maps and systematic information to plan your trip? Have a look at the eBooks:
- 12 easy-to-plan Maps
- 200 scenic locations in NZ
- Tips to plan + make the most of your time
- 285+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
- 6 easy-to-plan Maps
- 90+ scenic locations in NZ North Island
- Tips to plan + make the most of your time
- 150+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
New Zealand Travel Guide - How to plan your New Zealand Trip
Before I tell you more about all those amazing places to visit in New Zealand, I am sharing some practical tips to help you plan and prepare your trip: step-by-step, driving tips, renting a car, choosing your accommodations, defining your itinerary, packing...
But my overall tips to plan your road trip around New Zealand are:
- Don't plan too much! Driving takes a long time and it is beautiful everywhere so you want to stop all the time
- Pack layers of clothes as you can get all sorts of weather (by the coast / in the mountains ; North island vs South island)
- Don't be anxious about driving. It is quite easy as there are not many people on the roads outside of the major cities
- Rent a car with a good size trunk so that you can put all you stuff inside and don't have anything on seats that could attract thieves
- Bring a lot (and I mean a lot) of memory cards for your camera
Useful Links to book your trip
- Book your accommodations - Book from a large choice on Booking.com (my trusted travel booking site) or Compare prices on hotelscombined.com
- Rent your car - planning a road trip?
Compare car rental deals on my favorite platform Discovercars.com
- Book your organized tours, visits and tickets via GetYourGuide.com and Viator.com - I love them both
- Get equipment and appropriate clothing... on Amazon
- Insurance - I wish you a very smooth trip, but my policy is: better be prepared. I personally use World Nomads. Get a quote online here
- VPN - Don't use unsecured wifi without a VPN service to avoid risking electronic theft - NordVPN service is one of the best rated VPN service
And keep track of your own trip!
NZ NORTH ISLAND road trip - best places to visit
The North Island of New Zealand has a great variety of landscapes with beautiful beaches, volcanic regions, geothermal areas and great cities such as Auckland and Wellington.
Northland (North of Auckland)
The region North of Auckland, is referred to as the Northland. It is home to beautiful beaches and bays, including the famous Bay of Islands. At the narrow Northern tip, you can find the 90 mile beach, the giant dans dunes of Te paki and Cape Reinga. This is the region for beach lovers.
Bay of islands
Coromandel peninsula and the North Island East Coast
The Coromandel peninsula is a small detour on your road trip around North Island. 2 major attractions make it famous: The cathedral-looking archway and Hot Water beach where you can dig the sand and soak in really hot water.
South of the peninsula, the whole East Coast of North Island is full of beautiful Coastal landscapes around Gisborne, Napier, Castlepoint and Cape Palliser
North Island South Coast
West Coast - Raglan / Waitomo
Except for the famous Glow Worm caves of Waitomo, the West Coast is often overlooked. However it is home to beautiful beaches, waterfalls and other natural wonders.
Geothermal and Volcanic wonderlands - Rotorua - Taupo - New Plymouth
One of my favorite regions in North Island is Rotorua. It is full of geothermal parks and volcanoes. You can see the power of Nature (and its artistic touch). Some of the most famous features are Champagne Pool, Pohutu geyser, Tongariro National Park with the Alpine Crossing and the beautiful Taranaki Volcano.
I think those are must-see on your New Zealand Travels.
NZ SOUTH ISLAND road trip - What to do
The South Island of New Zealand is the place for the lovers of untouched nature: mountains, glaciers, incredible lakes, million year old boulders and wildlife
Northern regions of South island
In the Northern regions of South Island, you can find some of the most beautiful beaches there and the famous Abel Tasman National Park.
Kaikoura is a very touristic place, but still worth a visit. Here the tall mountains plunge into the sea. And not far from the coast, the crust drops into a deep canyon. This makes it a great place for wildlife spotting: whales, dolphins, seals, albatross... they all love feeding in the area.
Great Alpine Highway
East Coast - Christchurch, Dunedin
The South East coast of South Island, is another coastal wonderland with beaches, rock formations, ancient volcanoes... and victorian towns. No mountains but a great variety of points of interest.
Quite another vibe to explore the Catlins. Only small settlements, stunning beaches, beautiful waterfalls and lots of wildlife!
Around the Lakes of New Zealand
The glacial lakes of central South Island are wonderful. They should not be overlooked on your itinerary. Surrounded by white summits, their intense colors are mesmerizing. Avid hikers will enjoy the area. Plus, stay up late at night to admire the magical displays of the stars!
Te Anau, Queenstown, Wanaka
The South West coast of New Zealand is full of Fjords. The 2 easily accessible ones are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. They both offer impressive scenery to be enjoyed on a cruise.
Accessible via only one road, the West coast of New Zealand is famous for its glaciers located very close to the sea.
Activities in Queenstown
Queenstown is often called the Adventure world capital with many activities such as Buggy jumping, parasailing, Jet boat and more. Personnally I like a thrill but not too much, I opted for the following 3 activities. Here are my photos and reviews.
Visiting Queenstown with your family? Check out this article about Visiting Queenstown with kids !
Dream before traveling or make your trip last longer!
Other ideas from the web:
- Anita tells us how Lake Taupo is a great place to visit New Zealand with kids
- And don't miss the Northland area - often overlooked the area is wild and beautiful - have a read at Sarah's love affair with the Northland
- To help you find our where to go, what to it, what to do, Cory from YouCouldTravel has written a Monster article about a South island Itinerary that would be very useful!
- Crystal's recommendations for an Epic North island road trip
- And you can also check out Medha's great suggestion for a 2 week itinerary in New Zealand
Check out these puzzles with some of my photos to keep enjoying the wonderful New Zealand landscapes when back home:
Of course there are much more things to do in New Zealand. I am only sharing the ones I have experienced myself. Feel free to share yours in the comments when you come back from your trip!
Inspired? Which ones do you want to experience?