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20 Best Things to See and Do in New Zealand

  • Get the most from holidays to New Zealand with our expert insider’s guide
  • Discover the best things to do in New Zealand – from Auckland sightseeing to chilling out in Queenstown
  • Enjoy incredible experiences from dolphin watching to visiting Hobbiton and travelling on the TranzAlpine train

If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, then New Zealand offers something for everyone. With a landmass that’s just slightly larger than the UK, New Zealand has an astonishing variety of magnificent scenery. There’s everything from snow-covered mountains, fjords and volcanoes to dense forests, plunging waterfalls, and vast lakes, as well as wide sandy beaches along its 9,400-mile coastline. New Zealand’s cities are great to visit too, including Wellington for exploring Maori culture, Christchurch, Auckland and Queenstown for adrenaline seekers.

Visit New Zealand on a Land of The Long White Cloud escorted tour with Riviera Travel. Experience dolphin watching, explore Auckland and cross the Southern Alps on the TranzAlpine train.

To get the best from any holiday to New Zealand, it pays to know some of the best things to do. Whether you’re travelling with family, friends or on a singles holiday, here is our list of 20 highlights, great things to see and do in both the North and South islands.

20 best things to see and do in New Zealand

Sightsee in Auckland

With twin harbours and rich maritime heritage, it’s no surprise that Auckland is also known as the ‘City of Sails’. The vibrant Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter waterside area are excellent spots to soak up panoramic views of the city and its surrounds. The Auckland Museum is also worth visiting.

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See so many fascinating sights in Auckland

Go on a wine tasting tour

One of the best things to do in New Zealand and one of the most enjoyable is to visit the country’s famous wine-producing regions. At wineries in Marlborough, you’ll get a taste for fine Sauvignon Blanc. And at Hawke’s Bay, sample the outstanding Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines.

Immerse yourself in Maori culture

At Tamaki Maori Village, a highlight of New Zealand tours, visitors can learn more about the country’s indigenous culture. Watch entertaining ceremonial rituals, listen to intriguing stories and tuck into a traditional Hangi buffet dinner – it’s a great way to get an insight into Maori life.

Jump aboard the TranzAlpine train

One of the world’s great train journeys is aboard the TranzAlpine, which travels between Christchurch and Greymouth. Passengers traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains, observing epic vistas from the comfort of a panoramic carriage. Look out for spectacular gorges and the river valleys of the ice-fed Waimakariri River.

Be charmed by Christchurch

The largest city in the South Island, Christchurch is on the itinerary of most New Zealand tours. Constantly evolving since the devastating earthquake of 2011, cutting-edge architecture now stands alongside heritage buildings. And as the Avon River intersects the city, the urban environment has an appealing natural landscape.

Watch some rugby

There’s no denying that New Zealand’s All Blacks are a force to be reckoned with – even the rugby team’s haka dance pre-kick-off is exhilarating. However, if your holiday doesn’t coincide with a game, visit Eden Park in Auckland instead and join a behind-the-scenes tour of the national stadium.

Fly over Franz Josef glacier

The Franz Josef glacier is one of the most remarkable things to see in South Island, New Zealand – especially if your view is from a helicopter! From a breath-taking vantage point, you’ll gaze down at an incredible glacier that’s moving around 50cm every day, then prepare for an incredible alpine landing.

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See the natural beauty of the Franz Josef glacier

Marvel at Mount Cook

Mount Cook, or Aoraki as it’s known in Maori, is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Standing 3,724 metres high in Mount Cook National Park, it’s a rugged landscape of snow, ice and rock. The nearby Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre celebrates the life of the acclaimed explorer.

Take a dip at Rotorua

Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland and a New Zealand must-see. No escorted tour would be complete without visiting the bubbling mud pools and gushing geysers. You can also swim in the area’s natural lakeside hot pools. Just want to dip your toes? Head for the public foot baths.

Enjoy a Milford Sound tour

A boat trip on the famous Milford Sound is a memorable thing to do in New Zealand. Not only do you cruise through deep fjord waters between sheer granite cliffs, but there’s also a chance of spotting dolphins and fur seals. Seeing the Stirling Falls cascade down 151 metres is also pretty special.

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Milford Sound fjord with dramatic mountain views

Pop into Hobbiton

Fans of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films will love New Zealand’s unique tourist attraction – Hobbiton. The fantasy world of Middle-earth comes alive in this movie set, located in the heart of the Waikato region. Scenes were also filmed in the distinctive Central Otago countryside.

Cruise through Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal paradise renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs and little blue penguins, and is fun to explore in a kayak or catamaran. Ashore, you can also walk a beautiful four-mile section of the coast track near Apple Tree Bay.

Watch the Pohutu Geyser

New Zealand’s famous Pohutu Geyser, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, can be found in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve. Erupting once or twice every hour, Pohutu’s explosions sometimes reach heights of 30 metres, and activity can last up to 20 minutes. The Maori cultural centre here is worth visiting too.

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Pohutu Geyser

Gasp at glow-worms at Waitomo Caves

Thousands of tiny luminescent creatures have made the caves at Waitomo their home, and they transform the dark roof of the damp underground cavern into a star-filled dream world. The light show courtesy of these Arachnocampa Luminosa glow-worms, which are native to New Zealand, really is spellbinding.

Look for dolphins in the Bay of Islands

A Bay of Islands tour is also one of the best things to do in New Zealand, particularly if you manage to glimpse the wild dolphins that frequent the waters here. A boat cruise also sails to Cape Brett and through the iconic ‘hole in the rock’.

Chill out in Queenstown

Sitting on the shores of picturesque Lake Wanaka, Queenstown is a renowned centre for adventure sports and outdoor activities. However, if you don’t want to bungee jump or white-water raft, you can take it easy. Board the Skyline Gondola for a trip up Bob’s Peak, or relax in the city’s tranquil gardens.

Stay in a homestead

New Zealand is primarily an agrarian economy, so why not spend a night of your holiday staying at a homestead. It’s a great way to learn more about traditional farming and perhaps meet a few of the country’s 39 million sheep and their owners. A home-cooked dinner and lively conversation are included!

Wander around Wellington

New Zealand’s bustling creative capital, Wellington has a lively café culture, quirky public artworks and distinctive Kiwi architecture. The city is also home to Te Papa, a contemporary national museum. Savour the sights, and sculptures, while wandering along the waterfront walkway. You’ll find plenty of eateries here too.

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Travel by cable car funicular for amazing views of Wellington

Get arty in Napier

Napier on New Zealand’s North Island is often referred to as the Art Deco capital of the world, and on a walk around the city, you’ll soon understand why. Rebuilt after a devasting earthquake in 1931, streets are now filled with palm trees and stunning Art Deco landmarks.

Eat the local cuisine

Being an island nation, fish and seafood feature prominently on menus in restaurants throughout New Zealand, so enjoy. Snapper, green-lipped mussels and blue cod are popular options, and you’ll also be able to sample excellent roast lamb, pork and venison. Delicious kiwifruit is a healthy dessert.

Holidays to New Zealand

If New Zealand is one of the countries on your bucket list, why not turn a dream into a reality and book a New Zealand tour. As for the best time to visit New Zealand, it’s a year-round destination – regardless of when you travel, you can experience four seasons in one day. Simply go and enjoy some of the best things to see and do in New Zealand.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.