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12 Things You Must Do in New Zealand

Published 30 March 2016

Round the World Experts blogger Helen Winter

Helen Winter

Obviously, there are more than 12 things not to miss in New Zealand, but for those on a real whistle-stop tour, make sure that you schedule in a stopover in these iconic Kiwi locations.

Cruise through Milford Sound

The word ‘Fiordland’ oozes Scandinavian fantasy and fairy-tale but on the other side of the world in New Zealand, Milford Sound is a true otherworldly wonder.

Located in the South Island, Milford Sound – mistaken for a sound instead of a fiord when discovered by Europeans in 1812 – is New Zealand’s only fiord accessible by road, but that doesn’t mean that it’s overcrowded. Quiet and still, spectators can cruise along the smooth waters and gaze in awe at the mountains that are believed to have first been discovered by the Maori more than 1,000 years ago.

No words can really describe the beauty of Milford Sounds so we recommend seeing it for yourself on our Glacier Sound & Silence Journey, and our Kiwi Wilderness Adventure Journey.

Sky gaze at Lake Tekapo

Famed for its spring bloom of the pink and purple Russell Lupine flower, Lake Tekapo is just as intriguing as it is beautiful. Contrasting with the pink palette is the turquoise lake, which gets its milky blue colour from the fine dust created by the glaciers of the Southern Alps grinding against the rocks. The perfect view, and the one everyone clamours to see, is from the Church of the Good Shepherd which was built in 1933. From here, you can start a steady hike to the top of Mt John and wait for sundown to map the stars in one of the world’s clearest skies.

Got you day dreaming? Visit Lake Tekapo as part of our New Zealand Explorer and Best of the South Island Journeys.

Hike Mount Cook

Also known as Aoraki, meaning ‘cloud piercer’, Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain, reaching a whopping height of 3754 metres. Located in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mount Cook National Park, adventurers with varying levels of ambition swarm with hiking poles in hand; taking on either a gentle stroll through the beautiful landscape, or a boast-worthy alpine trek.

If hiking isn’t your thing then don’t worry, you won’t have to resign yourself to the luxury comforts of the nearby lodges – unless you want to that is. Grab your camera and a sense of adventure by trying out kayaking, boating, skiing, horse riding, 4x4 driving and, after dark, pour yourself a warm drink and go star gazing.

Swap those dull days in the office for outdoor hours on our Landscapes of New Zealand Journey.

Soak in the mud pools in Rotorua

There’s no denying it, Rotorua isn’t the best smelling place in the world, but it does have some of the more phenomenal views. The odour of rotten egg from the hydrogen sulphide is worth it – trust us.

Although it’s the world’s most accessible geothermal land, you’ll feel like you’ve landed on another planet here. With bubbling mud pools, multi-coloured mineral pools, belching geysers, and ancient stalactites, you’ll get to experience a raw earth millions of years old. It’s mind-blowing to say the least.

Experience the hot springs and pre-historic land of Rotorua on our Kiwi Wilderness Adventure and New Zealand Explorer Journeys.

Become a fan in Hobbiton

Bilbo, is that you? No, it’s just The Shire. You can’t go all the way to New Zealand without wandering around the sets of one of the most iconic films of all time, Lord of the Rings mega fan or not.

Choose one of the 42 hobbit hole homes in the hillside, crouch in front of it and snap a photo. Across the lake, inspect the thatched watermill, connected by a stone bridge to The Green Dragon Inn. Remember to cross your fingers for The Hobbit to be showing on the flight home so you can exercise your bragging rights and say ‘I’ve been there!’

Show your dedication to the fantasy franchise on our Middle Earth Explorer Journey.

Walk the Franz Josef Glacier

A glacier which needs no introduction is the ever popular Franz Josef. One of two cosy glacier villages, Franz Josef is nestled in spectacular surroundings. Visitors can hike on or around the colossal glaciers in the Westland National Park, kayak on the nearby Lake Mapourika, or even take a flight over the mountains. When you’ve exhausted all your energy, slip into a glacier hot pool to soothe your aching muscles and reflect on your triumphant day.

Become a glacier expert on our Glacier and Sound of Silence Journey.

Whale watch in Kaikoura

New Zealand is not in short supply of scenic small towns, but one exciting place for wildlife watching is Kaikoura.

The thing to do in Kaikoura is to go whale watching, and why would you miss it when there’s the chance to see the ocean behemoth, the sperm whale, with interludes of dolphins and seals? On land you can go on wilderness walks, explore the sea-formed Maori Leap Cave, and even visit Fyffe House, a 19th century whaler’s cottage built on whalebone foundations.

Become a whale specialist on our Best of Both Islands Journey.

See glow worms in the Waitomo Caves

If you haven’t realised by now, New Zealand is a hub for weird encounters, one of which is the alien-like Waitomo Caves.

Waitomo showcases an underground city of cave caverns with its very own lighting show. Take a tour through the caves at night and see them lit up by green orbs coming from strange glow worm insects. More like a gnat than a worm, these larvae use a chemical light to draw in a supper of midges and flies into their traps. But to us human beings, it’s a marvellous natural spectacle.

Witness the natural light display on our Best of New Zealand Journey.

Get active in Queenstown

Sitting on the edge of Lake Wakatipu with a backdrop of looming mountains, the activity and adrenaline hub of Queenstown is a must-visit.

Used both as a base for exploring the nearby attractions and for more local endeavours; there’s never a dull day in Queenstown. Get a good night sleep and conserve your energy for white-water rafting, jet boating, and bungy jumping. Or, for those who want to experience Queenstown’s offerings without erratic heart palpitations, there are walks, lake cruises and gondola rides to Bob’s Peak.

Add Queenstown to your to-see list on our Best of South Island Journey.

Uncover history on the Bay of Islands

Lying north of Auckland, the Bay of Islands is a coastal delight. Offering a jigsaw puzzle of 144 islands and brilliant blue waters, you’ll be getting more than your fill of fresh air.

Remembered as the landing place of the first Europeans and where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, the Bay of Islands holds a significant place in history. To celebrate and remember New Zealand’s history, Waitangi Day is held every year on February 6th so make sure to plan your trip accordingly if you want to be part of this fun-filled national holiday. 

Find yourself in the Bay of Islands on our Best of New Zealand Journey.

Shop in Auckland

Had enough of the great outdoors? As if! But just in case you have, reconnect with civilisation in the cosmopolitan city of Auckland. Often mistaken for New Zealand’s capital (which it was from 1840 to 1865 before changing to Wellington) Auckland is home to hip bars, restaurants, daily events and shows.

Downtown, you can bring your bags-for-life to the Victorian Arcades in Queens Street to swipe up some souvenirs, sip an after-dinner cocktail at Britomart Precinct, and get the best views from the Sky Tower. On a warm summer’s afternoon or crisp winter’s morning, head to The Domain, Auckland’s floral park, for a relaxing stroll.

Discover Auckland on our New Zealand by Campervan Journey

Indulge in local wine at the vineyards

Let’s finish with a drink shall we? It’s been a long article and you deserve a glass of fine New Zealand wine for getting to the end.

The Hawkes Bay vineyard has been around since 1865 and is still producing some of the world’s best wine. You can tour the vineyard, and most importantly, taste the wines. Well known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Blenheim in the South Island is another important contributor to the wine industry, and here’s the kicker: you can go there on our South Island Wildlife and Wine Journey.


All of our Journeys to New Zealand can be tailor-made to suit you. So if you have more (or less) time to spare or want to add in a day trip or even another destination give your Expert a call.


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