The island country of New Zealand is located in the South Pacific Ocean and is made of two major islands – North Island and South Island. The country is best known for its mesmerising natural beauty and infinite list of outdoor adventures it offers. The diverse landscape of the country is simply unbelievable and encompasses geothermal regions, rainforests, fjords, glaciers, rugged mountains, snow-capped peaks, lakes and beaches. For fans of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit trilogies, exploring the country will be a dream come true as you can visit numerous shooting locations for these films.
New Zealand is a magical destination and very few countries can trump what it has to offer.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands are a group of more than 140 islands located near North Island and the perfect solution for a seaside holiday. You can sail the turquoise waters, weaving your way through the pristine islands that are home to idyllic beaches and lush wilderness and enjoy numerous activities like fishing, skydiving, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and exploring the underwater world. The islands are also steeped in history and here you will find the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the native Maori tribes and the British Crown entered into a partnership. Russell, the former capital of New Zealand and the town of Paihia, the major tourist hub in the islands are other popular places.
The bustling metropolis of Auckland is a major city located in North Island. The iconic Sky Tower, the country’s highest building at a height of 328 metres, is the most prominent landmark in the city’s skyline. The tower has an observation deck offering panoramic views of the city, a Sky Walk platform that is 192 metres high and even offers a Sky Jump that adrenaline junkies would love! The Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Domain Park and the SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium are other popular attractions in the city. Make sure you visit the city’s harbours, Waitemata Harbour and Viaduct Harbour, which are surrounded lined with restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping options.
Hobbiton, believed to be the largest movie set ever, has served as the setting for the world renowned The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. You don’t need to be a fan of these movies to visit the set, as the sprawling green landscape with dozens of ‘hobbit holes’ (homes of the fictional creatures called hobbits), are bound to captivate every visitor. The Hobbiton is located in a family farm in the Waikato region and covers an area of 1200 acres.
The lakeside city of Rotorua is best known for its geothermal wonders and indigenous Maori culture. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu, Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Te Puia are the best places with geothermal marvels like geysers, hot springs, volcanic craters and mud pools. The Whakarewarewa village is where you can get in touch with Maori culture, witness cultural performances, listen to their traditional music and observe their lifestyle.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park and it centres around three active volcanoes – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. The park is popular for hiking, climbing and skiing through dramatic volcanic landscapes. The 20 km Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the most popular hiking route which will take you through rugged volcanic terrain, lava fields, crater lakes, waterfalls and the famous Mt Tongariro, which was used as a setting for the Lord of the Rings movies. If you visit during the snow season, you can also ski along the slopes of active volcanoes and that is a truly memorable experience!
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand is located on the southern part of North Island, and is the world’s southernmost capital city. The beautiful windy city, surrounded by rolling hills, is home to a lively waterfront promenade, lovely beaches and excellent dining options. The breathtaking cable car journey to the Kelburn Lookout and the enchanting Wellington Botanical Gardens, will give you the best views of the city and Cook Strait. The Museum of New Zealand, Wellington Museum and the Beehive, the city’s most iconic building and the seat of the government, are other popular attractions.
The Marlborough region in New Zealand is renowned worldwide for its top class wines, especially the sauvignon blanc variety. Touring the sprawling vineyards and wine tasting are the best things to do in this region. The region is also blessed with breathtaking natural sights and the Marlborough Sounds are a fine example. It is a network of waterways and islands, best experienced on a cruise or by traversing the Queen Charlotte Track which passes through forests, coves and the coastline.
The coastal town of Kaikoura is known for its abundant wildlife and considered one of the best whale-watching spots on the planet. You can go on marine life watching tours to spot sperm whales, humpback whales, orcas, dolphins and dozens of other species. You can also opt for aerial whale-spotting tours which will give you stunning views of the surrounding mountains as well. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, a walking path with amazing viewpoints and the Kaikoura Museum are other popular attractions.
The volcanic town of Akaroa was a former French settlement and is located on the Banks Peninsula. The town can be visited on a road trip from Christchurch and is mainly popular for the Akaroa beach where you can swim with the rare Hector dolphins. The Akaroa Museum which narrates the French and British history of the country and the Giant’s House with its colourful mosaics are other popular attractions.
Lake Tekapo is located in the Mackenzie Basin in South Island and is popular for its stunning setting! The lovely lake is ringed by mountains and fields of lupin flowers, making it one of New Zealand’s most picturesque locations. Hiking to Mt John from where you can enjoy views of the lake and its surroundings, mountain biking, paddle boarding in the lake and helicopter tours are popular activities. You can choose to stay in a luxurious tent by the lakeside, popularly called glamping (glamorous camping).
From here, you can also visit Mount Cook (Aoraki), the highest mountain in New Zealand. This region is also home to the country’s largest glacier, Tasman and has numerous trails and viewpoints from where you can admire its breathtaking scenery.
The town of Franz Josef is popular for the Franz Josef glacier and tourists flock here to witness the surreal glacial environment. The walking trails will lead you through icy peaks, caves, glacial lakes, rivers, waterfalls, rainforests and stunning viewpoints. This is one of the most accessible glacial regions on the planet, and must not be missed!
Queenstown, located on the banks of Lake Wakatipu with a backdrop of the Southern Alps mountains, is a hotspot for adventure activities. From skydiving, paragliding and bungee jumping to jet boating, ziplining and hot air ballooning, Queenstown offers a wide range of activities and is rightly called the adventure capital of New Zealand. In winter, the city is perfect for skiing and snowboarding along the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. Queenstown can act as a base for day trips to other places in the region like Arrow Town, Milford Sound and Glenorchy.
From here, you can also visit Lake Wanaka, which is just an hour’s drive away. It is popular for its endless list of outdoor activities like hiking, snowboarding, skydiving, rock climbing, mountain biking and paragliding. The lake is the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park which is home to alpine peaks, glaciers and valleys.
Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s best natural treasures and a popular tourist destination. The best way to explore this stunning fjord is by cruising through its waters, towering peaks with lush rainforests and magnificent waterfalls. You might spot seals and dolphins from your cruise ship. Mitre Peak, Stirling Falls and Key Summit are some of its most popular sights.
Queenstown in South island is known as the “adventure sports capital of the world”.