Top 50 Best Things To Do In New Zealand


By Orla O Muiri

26 minute read

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All you need are the clothes on your back, some money in your pocket and a sense of adventure and you can spend a life-changing few weeks exploring, connecting and ticking off the best things to do in New Zealand. The beauty of this country is that you can be on the summit of a mountain in the morning then swimming in the sea by the afternoon! If you are wondering what to do in New Zealand, we’ve got activities to entertain the intrepid, the chilled, the aristocrats and the vagabonds. This is the ultimate New Zealand bucket list with something to inspire everyone. As locals, we’re in the privileged position of knowing all of the best spots, so here’s what we reckon are the top New Zealand adventures!

1. Hike one of our 10 Great Walks

Location: three in the North Island, seven in the South Island

New Zealand is home to 10 Great Walks, so called because they are great! They are our bucket list hikes; well-maintained, well-marked and all in all, simply stunning. They’ll take you on the journey of a lifetime across coastal trails, native forests and mountain passes, from the otherworldly terrain on the Tongariro Northern Circuit to the mossy green jungle of the Routeburn Track. Take a look at New Zealand’s Great Walks.

Solo Routeburn Hiker

Hiking through the native beech forest of the Routeburn Track.

Local’s tip: The Routeburn Track, Milford Track and the Tongariro Crossing are our most well-known tracks, which means they can get very busy during the high season (December to March). Therefore, if you are looking to be at one with nature, perhaps opt for one of the others. They are equally as stunning, just without the crowds.

New Zealand Trails trip: We visit up to seven national parks on our guided walking trips and take you on the best sections of our Great Walks. The Great Walks that we feature on our tours include the Paparoa Track, the Routeburn Track, the Kepler Track, the Milford Track and the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

2. Fly and jet boat into the wilderness of Siberia Valley

Location: Mount Aspiring National Park, South Island

This is the ultimate intrepid experience and one that will be etched in your memory forever. Fly into the heart of Siberia Valley, over winding rivers, beech forests, glaciated valleys and alpine lakes before touching down on a grass airstrip in Mount Aspiring National Park. Immersed in this stunning and isolated wilderness, you will spend your day hiking, dining and exploring, before boarding a jet boat to return you to civilisation. This is the ultimate Kiwi backcountry experience and something that should be on your list of things to do in New Zealand!

Siberia Valley Views from the bush plane

Fly into the remote and beautiful Siberia Valley.

Local’s tip: There is a well-marked scenic track that winds its way from Siberia Valley to the Wilkin Valley wilderness below. It’s the perfect place to spot some native birds along the way.

New Zealand Trails trip: We take you on this epic adventure on as part of our Grand Explorer and Pure South trips.

3. Visit a vineyard and enjoy a glass or two of delicious local wine

Location: Marlborough, Otago, Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa

Our wee country is actually one of the world’s top wine-making destinations! So, if you are a fan of the vino, you should set aside some time to visit a vineyard while here. There is a plethora of wineries dotted around the country, from Marlborough and Otago in the South Island, to Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa in the North Island. So sit back, relax, perhaps grab a bite to eat and delight your taste buds with a local pinot noir or sauvignon blanc.

Visit a vineyard and taste New Zealand wines

Sample the best New Zealand wines at vineyards like Wairau River Wines.

Local’s tip: If you are in Wairau River Wines estate, try their outstanding sauvignon blanc. Or if you are in Gibbston Valley, many of the wineries produce sparkling wines using the méthode traditionelle!

New Zealand Trails trip: We visit the Marlborough region on our Grand ExplorerKiwi Classic and Masterpiece tours. During our World Heritage tour, we take the time to visit the Gibbston Valley and sample a selection of locally-produced wines over a leisurely lunch.

4. Experience the rich Māori culture of our land

Location: Rotorua, North Island

Māori culture is our history and our heart and it needs to be experienced on your visit to New Zealand. In the North Island, you can immerse yourself in Māoritanga by attending a cultural show and feasting on a traditional hangi dinner, cooked in the ground. In Rotorua, you will be welcomed with open arms, guided, fed, entertained and generally treated like you are part of the family. It definitely should be a highlight activity on your list of things to do in New Zealand’s North Island.

Experience New Zealand's Maori culture

Learn about New Zealand's Maori culture in Rotorua.

Local’s tip: If you really want to try a local delicacy, sample some smoked eel at the buffet.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day two of our Sweet North, we will visit Rotorua where you will see the Māori values of manaakitanga (hospitality) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) on display.

5. Delight in discovering thermal activity and geysers

Location: Rotorua, North Island

Watch as the earth beneath your feet teems with life; from bubbling mud pools to magical geysers and rising steam, it truly is a sight to behold! The Te Whakarewarewa valley is a unique geothermal landscape in the North Island. It is home to New Zealand’s largest geyser, Pōhutu, which erupts up to 30 metres into the sky.

Discover geothermal activity and geysers

Steaming geysers in the Te Whakarewarewa valley.

Local’s tip: The healing properties of the thermal mud has been used by Māori for over 800 years. Pick some up for yourself while in Rotorua.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day three of our Sweet North tour, you will visit Rotorua’s geothermal wonderland.

6. Gaze upwards in awe at the southern lights

Location: Queenstown and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, South Island

Everyone knows about the northern lights but have you experienced the beauty of the southern lights? The southern lights or aurora australis frequently puts on nature’s most magnificent show for us here in New Zealand. Two of the best and most accessible places to experience its wonder are Queenstown and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

New Zealand Southern Lights

Marvel at the southern lights.

Local’s tip: In Queenstown, head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu or Lake Hayes to experience the lightshow at its best.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day seven of our World Heritage tour, you have a free day in Queenstown. We start and end our Grand ExplorerKiwi Classic and our Pure South in Queenstown. Nearly all of our trips in the South Island go to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. So at night, get your cameras ready and cast your eyes toward the skies.

7. Visit all 13 of our national parks

Location: All over New Zealand

There are 13 national parks in New Zealand; three in the North Island and 10 in the south. These incredible protected chunks of wilderness are home to our most prized scenery and our unique flora and fauna. The largest is Fiordland National Park and the smallest is Abel Tasman National Park. Our oldest national park is Tongariro National Park which was established back in 1887.

Majestic Mt Cook

Aoraki/ Mt Cook National Park, home to New Zealand's highest mountain.

Local’s tip: Read about our favourite national parks.

New Zealand Trails trip: You’ll visit up to seven national parks on our trips, depending on which tour you choose!

8. Go on the road trip of a lifetime

Location: All over New Zealand

Whether you decide to choose the nomadic lifestyle and travel the country via campervan or opt for the more luxurious approach of a guided adventure tour, either way New Zealand is the ultimate road trip destination.

MP March Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook

Wind your way through some incredible landscapes like this one on your epic road trip.

Local’s tip: There’s nothing quite like experiencing a country with its locals to really appreciate its finest offerings. We’ve trekked and explored thousands of kilometres of tracks and trails up and down our beautiful country. So, if you’re past your days of road tripping, a guided adventure tour is what you need.

New Zealand Trails trips: We have created seven different New Zealand guided tours ranging in length between five and 14 days. Our well thought-out and impeccably planned and designed to be flexible so you can enjoy New Zealand at the pace that's right for you. 

9. Face your fears and do a bungy jump

Location: Queenstown, South Island

If you are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, then why not tick off a once-in-a-lifetime activity! Queenstown is definitely New Zealand’s adventure capital, if not the entire world’s! It is here that you can get securely harnessed up and dive off the bungy bridge at the Kawarau Bungy Centre, at the ‘world home of bungy’.

One of the best things to do in New Zealand - bungy jump, Kawarau Bridge

3, 2, 1, BUNGY!!!

Local’s tip: Up the thrill factor and do it backwards!

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic and Pure South trips, you will cycle from Arrowtown to the Kawarau Bridge with its iconic bungy. The end location is the perfect opportunity to take the leap yourself. On our World Heritage tour, you’ll spend your day off exploring Queenstown. If it’s adrenaline you seek, this is the day you can head to the bungy bridge for your freefall experience.

10. Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins

Location: Akaroa Harbour, South Island

New Zealand is home to the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world, Hector’s dolphins. In a marine reserve in Akaroa, you can not only catch a glimpse of these magnificent mammals, but you can actually swim with them! Enjoy the native New Zealand dolphin’s playfully curious antics.

Wondering what to do in New Zealand? Swim with Hectors dolphins

One of the best things to do in New Zealand - swim with world's smallest dolphins.

Local’s tip: If you’re worried about the effect of this activity on the marine mammals, don’t be. This adventure is strictly regulated to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with these incredible creatures.

New Zealand Trails trip: You can swim with dolphins or watch from the boat on our Kiwi Classic and Masterpiece trips.

11. Hike in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

Location: Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, South Island

This is undeniably one of the most majestic destinations in the South Island – and there are plenty to choose from! Home to our highest mountain, Mount Cook, you can’t help but feel at peace while surrounded by these towering peaks. There are ample options for the hiking enthusiast, from the Kea Track to Sealy Tarns or all the way up to the Mueller Ridge. Another option in this soaring national park is to walk the Hooker Valley track, a beautiful and more relaxed track which winds through glacier country trails, overlooks rushing rivers and an alpine lake complete with icebergs.

Guide and guests on the Sealy Tarns Track, Mt Cook.

From Hooker Valley to Mueller hut, you'll be spoiled for choice on hikes around here.

Local’s tip: Stop and listen for a bit, you might just hear an avalanche falling from the glaciers on Mt Sefton.

New Zealand Trails trip: We take you exploring in Aoraki/Mt Cook on the Grand ExplorerWorld Heritage, Kiwi Classic, Masterpiece and Pure South, where you will get to experience either the Mueller Ridge hike or the Hooker Valley track.

12. Hike the world-renowned Routeburn Track

Location: Fiordland National Park and Mt Aspiring National Park

The Routeburn Track is arguably the most famous of our Great Walks. This 32km (20 miles) multi-day hike winds its way through dense green beech forest accompanied by roaring blue rapids. Running through sections of both Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks, it is a true jewel in New Zealand’s crown.

Routeburn Track reflections at Key Summit.

One of our most famous Great Walks, the Routeburn Track.

Local’s tip: The Key Summit Trail is a great option for a day hike on the Routeburn. It begins from the Divide on the Te Anau to Milford Road. Taking the Routeburn Track to begin with, the trail heads off to the right before Howden Hut. It’s roughly a three to four hour return and you’ll cover 6.8km (4.2 miles).

New Zealand Trails trip: We take on a section of the Routeburn Track on our Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic trips.

13. Hike to Martins Bay seal colony

Location: Martins Bay, Fiordland, South Island

It’s a beautifully intrepid trip to get out to Martins Bay seal colony. Your journey begins with a walk through a native podocarp forest as you make your way out to Long Reef seal colony. Take some time to marvel at the sight of New Zealand fur seals and hopefully some rare Fiordland Crested penguins.

Hike to Martins Bay seal colony

Get your cameras ready for the seal pups!

Local’s tip: The stars are amazing here, grab a glass of wine and sit outside star gazing.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our World Heritage tour, you’ll take a helicopter flight across the rugged backcountry into Martins Bay. From your drop-off point, you’ll head to Martins Bay seal colony on foot. Afterwards, you’ll hop on a jet boat to return you to your accommodation for the night.

14. Hike to Franz Josef Glacier

Location: Westland Tai Poutini National Park, South Island

Now is the time to see a glacier and experience its magic before they forever disappear from our planet. At 12km (7.4 miles) in length, Franz Josef Glacier is the largest and most accessible of the West Coast glaciers and undoubtedly one of the best things to do in New Zealand. Hike the Lake Matheson track to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier and stand in awe before this declining wonder.

Enjoy the views across Lake Matheson.

Enjoy the stunning views across Lake Matheson.

Local’s tip: If you really want to experience a glacier in all its majestic glory, sign up for a heli-hike and step foot on the ice itself.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our World Heritage tour, you’ll explore glacier country and Mt Aspiring National Park. You’ll hike to Franz Josef Glacier’s terminal face. You also have the option of adding on a heli-hike on any of our South Island trips.

15. Hike the iconic Milford Track

Location: Fiordland National Park, South Island

Dubbed the ‘finest walk in the world’, the Milford Track is an incredible four-day hike that will impress even the most well-travelled walker. Your reward at the end is the sights and sounds of the cascading waterfalls of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi itself, captivating in its scale and dramatic backdrop.

Arthur River, Milford Track

Stunning views of Arthur River along the Milford Track.

Local’s tip: During the high season, the Milford Track has to be booked so we recommend going with a guiding company who will sort reservations and transport out for you.

16. Hike the Hollyford Track

Location: Fiordland, South Island

Follow the Hollyford River as it meanders through the incredibly varied wilderness. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you set foot on the Hollyford Track, seeing 1000-year-old rimu trees, ancient beech forest, crimson southern rata and so much more.

What is there to do in New Zealand? Hike the Hollyford track

Wander off the beaten track in the Hollyford Valley.

Local’s tip: It’s easy to keep looking down at your feet when hiking but make sure to look up and capture glimpses of the stunning snow-capped mountains through the trees.

New Zealand Trails trip: You’ll enjoy a full-day guided walk on the Hollyford Track on our World Heritage tour. That day also includes a thrilling jet boat ride and dinner with a view in Te Anau.

17. Hike in the Coromandel and Taupo regions

Location: Coromandel Peninsula, North Island

The entire Coromandel coast is a beauty to behold. Famous for its white sandy beaches, it’s unsurprisingly a favourite spot for Kiwis to holiday. One of our favourite walks in the area is the Waiomu Kauri Walk. This two-hour return trip allows you to visit one of the Coromandel Peninsula’s finest remaining kauri stands, Waiomu Kauri Grove. There you’ll explore the native forest leading to a grove of ancient kauri trees, which hold a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders.

Coromandel coastal views

Coastal views in the Coromandel.

Local’s tip: This is the only place in New Zealand that you can hug a kauri tree – what are you waiting for!

New Zealand Trails trip: We’ll take you to explore this magical area on the first day of our Sweet North trip.

18. Multi-day hike in Nelson Lakes National Park

Location: Nelson Lakes National Park, South Island

The Mt Robert circuit to Bushline hut is one of the most incredible hikes in New Zealand. Escape into New Zealand's spectacular backcountry and stay overnight in one of our world-famous huts. It's the ultimate New Zealand adventure. 

Hike to Bushline Hut in Nelson Lakes.

Hike to Bushline Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Local’s tip: On a warm day, be sure to take the plunge with a dip into one of the stunning mountain lakes!

New Zealand Trails trip: This multi-day hike is included in our Kiwi Classic trip.

19. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Location: Tongariro National Park, North Island

Not only is Tongariro New Zealand’s oldest national park, but it also boasts dual World Heritage site status. The 43.1km (26.8 miles) loop can be done as a multi-day hike or just take on a section of it in a day. It has long been known as New Zealand’s ‘best day walk’. Home to active volcanoes, the diverse track goes from alpine fields and forests on one side to a desolate plateau on the other. It’s truly otherworldly!

Best things to do in New Zealand North Island - hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Feast your eyes on the views of the Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Crossing.

Local’s tip: One of the best ways to experience the Tongariro area is to take a day hike on the crossing.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day four of our Sweet North trip, we hike the 19.4km (12 miles) Tongariro Crossing.

20. Hike the Kepler Track

Location: Fiordland National Park, South Island

The Kepler Track is another of New Zealand’s Great Walks. The 60km (37.3 miles) loop track traverses Fiordland National Park. This stunning trail was custom-built to make the most of the landscape and it certainly does – but be prepared for some hilly terrain! Put it on your list of things to do in New Zealand’s South Island.

Kepler Track Beech Forest

Wondering what to do in New Zealand? Add this Great Walk to your bucket list!

Local’s tip: It’s worth taking a little side trip to the fascinating Luxmore Caves along the route.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day 12 of your Masterpiece trip we'll take you on one of the most beautiful sections of this Great Walk. 

21. Explore MacKenzie Country

Location: Between Queenstown & Christchurch, South Island

Often overlooked by visitors for its more famous neighbours like Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, MacKenzie Country is well deserving of its own adventure. Learn the rich history of the region and the tales of the sheep rustlers and explore MacKenzie Countries' beautiful lakes and wide open plains. 

Mt John views of Mackenzie country

A distant horizon across MacKenzie Countries gorgeous landscape.

Local’s tip: Take a refreshing dip in the azure blue glacial waters of Lake Pukaki.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day seven of our Pure South adventure, we’ll hike Mt John to the observatory for panoramic views of Lake Tekapo and its surrounding beauty. 

22. Cycle the Queenstown Trail

Location: Queenstown, South Island

Hop on a bicycle and take a scenic cycle along some of the 130km of scenic trails around Queenstown. Simply choose a section of the route (there are loads of full-day and half-day options) and explore. It’s all equally breathtaking.

Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley Cycle Trails

Explore the vast network of exceptional gravel trails.

Local’s tip: Walk your bike across the bridges to really take in the incredible scenery.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Kiwi Classic, Masterpiece and Pure South trips, we’ll take you on a two hour spin (12.8km/8 miles) from the beautiful old gold-mining village of Arrowtown along the Kawarau River to bungy bridge (where you can go for a jump if you like!).

23. Explore Milford Sound by boat

Location: Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island

Milford Sound is a treat for the senses. What better way to experience its striking beauty than from the water. Board a catamaran and cruise around the sound, taking in 360° views of the towering peaks and plunging waterfalls of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Enjoy a Milford Sound cruise

Cruise the eighth wonder of the world, Milford Sound. This has to be one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

Local’s tip: Beat the crowds and head in early or stay overnight for a truly magical experience.

New Zealand Trails trip: You’ll spend a morning on a scenic cruise of Milford Sound on our Grand ExplorerWorld Heritage, Kiwi Classic, Masterpiece and Pure South trips.

24. Go kayaking on Okarito Lagoon

Location: Okarito, West Coast, South Island

Take to the waters of Okarito Lagoon and be awed by the abundance of wildlife that appears before you as you paddle through the coastal wetland. Over 70 species of bird call this place home. With any luck, you’ll spot a kotuku (white heron) or a royal spoonbill.

West Coast Kayaking adventure

Kayaking is one of our favourite things to do in New Zealand. Paddle your way around the Okarito Lagoon.

Local’s tip: Binoculars or zoom lens are a bird lover’s best friend!

New Zealand Trails trip: We’ll take you paddling on Okarito Lagoon on our Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic, and our World Heritage tours.

25. Go backcountry jet boating

Location: Hollyford Valley, Martins Bay or Siberia Valley

A New Zealand invention, jet boats have come a long way from transporting venison out of the mountains way back in 1968. The nifty vehicles are now the sightseeing/thrill-seeking vessel of choice to explore our braided rivers and canyons. And they are FUN!

PS March Siberia jet boat

Experience the adrenalin rush while jet boating.

Local’s tip: Don't forget your sunglasses so as you can take it all in without fighting the elements.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our World Heritage tour you’ll take two rides on a jet boat, one in Martins Bay and the other on the Hollyford River. During your visit to Siberia Valley on our Grand Explorer and Pure South trips, jet boats will be waiting to take you for a thrilling 30-minute ride down the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers back to Makarora Village.

26. Explore the stunning Cathedral Cove by kayak

Location: Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve, the Coromandel Peninsula, North Island

The magic of Cathedral Cove is that it can only be reached by foot, boat or kayak. And out of those three options, the kayak is definitely the most magical mode of transport. Paddle through the turquoise waters of Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve to the natural rock archway which joins two secluded coves.

Explore the beauty of Cathedral Cove.

Paddle the clear waters of the Coromandel to Cathedral Cove.

Local’s tip: Remember your camera, this is one of the most photogenic spots in the country.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day two of your Sweet North trip, you’ll paddle to the stunning Cathedral Cove.

27. Go kayaking on Queen Charlotte Sound

Location: Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui, Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Another incredible spot for a serene paddle is Queen Charlotte Sound. Spend a day out on the water, watching the local wildlife, exploring all the hidden coves and bays. Tōtaranui is nestled in Marlborough’s wine-growing region, so be sure to sample some local treats and a glass of vino in one of the local vineyards.

Kayaking Queens Charlotte Sound

See Queen Charlotte Sound from a fresh perspective.

Local’s tip: Make sure to swing by Lochmara Lodge to check out the native wildlife, sip wine in a hammock or explore the paths to find the Punga People.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day six of the Masterpiece, we will spend the day paddling Queen Charlotte Sound and tasting wine in the renowned vineyards of the Marlborough region.

28. Have a sea kayaking adventure in Abel Tasman National Park

Location: Abel Tasman National Park, South Island

The beautiful Abel Tasman National Park is filled with seemingly endless golden beaches, imposing granite cliffs and clear warm water. The kayaking options are plentiful. For a multi-day paddling adventure, start from the paddle base in Marahau. Make your way into the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, all the way to Bark Bay, where you’ll set up camp for the night. Explore the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, and then kayak down to Apple Tree Bay for the night. The next day, paddle back to Marahau.

Abel Tasman

Explore hidden coves in Abel Tasman National Park, one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

Local’s tip: Keep an eye out for the playful New Zealand fur seals on your way to Bark Bay!

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Grand Explorer we spend three days exploring the exquisite National Park. 

29. Lake Wanaka Cruise & Island Wildlife Walk

Location: Mou Waho Island, Wanaka, South Island

Get out on the water and cruise across Lake Wanaka to the tiny island wildlife sanctuary of Mou Waho. There you’ll meet an experienced ecologist, who will take you on a walk that weaves through native bush to the top of Tyrwhitt Peak. The island is a 'safe' area for the native birdlife to live and breed and you’ll learn all about the work they do here before reaching the peak and experiencing stunning views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains and valleys.

4 Beautiful Weka in the sun copy

Meet Wally the Weka on Mou Waho Island, Lake Wanaka.

Local’s tip: Start practising saying; an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island in the ocean, so you can describe this magical place to your friends back home.

New Zealand Trails trip: On day 13 of your Grand Explorer tour, you’ll board a boat and cruise on Lake Wanaka, before going to explore the conservation area, Mou Waho Island.

30. Take a zodiac boat to the Tasman Glacier

Location: Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, South Island

You’ll fall in love with Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park the moment you set foot in it. One of the best ways to get up close and personal with a glacier, with minimal effort, is to board a zodiac boat. The glacier boat cruise takes you across the terminal lake to the ancient ice face of the Tasman Glacier for incredible close-up views.

What is there to do in New Zealand that's a bit different? Take a zodiac boat to the Tasman Glacier

Looking for different things to do in New Zealand? Cruise alongside icebergs on a zodiac boat.

Local’s tip: Dress warm, it is a large chunk of ice after all!

New Zealand Trails trip: On day four of our Grand Explorer, you’ll board the zodiac boat and explore the face of the Tasman Glacier. It is also an optional extra on our Masterpiece, Pure South and Kiwi Classic trips.

31. Do a glacier heli-hike

Location: Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, South Island

Photos and videos do not do these frozen behemoths justice. Climb aboard a chopper to take you up on to the Tasman Glacier. There you’ll slip on a pair of crampons and explore the insane ice caves and clear blue seracs with a specialist guide to ensure your safety at all times.

Do a glacier heli-hike

Traverse the Tasman Glacier on foot.

Local’s tip: Bring lots of snacks! It’s surprising how hungry you get when walking on a glacier.

New Zealand Trails trip: A glacier heli-hike is an optional add-on on our Grand Explorer, Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic, and Pure South trips.

32. Helicopter into the Hollyford Valley

Location: Fiordland, South Island

If you are going to travel to a remote area, you should do it in style. Take a helicopter over the rugged backcountry into Martins Bay. You’ll see the plunging waterfalls of Milford Sound from the sky and the mighty Darran Mountain Range before touching down in Martins Bay for the start of your next adventure.

Soar over Milford Sound on your way to the Hollyford Valley.

Soar over Milford Sound on your way to the Hollyford Valley.

Local’s tip: Don’t forget to ask the pilot lots of questions!

New Zealand Trails trip: On day nine of our World Heritage, you’ll explore the Fiordland backcountry from the skies, before discovering Martins Bay on foot and heading up to see the seal colony.

33. Explore mystical glow worm caves

Location: The Charleston Glow Worm Cave Tour, South Island and Spellbound Glow Worm Caves, North Island

Explore the world beneath your feet in New Zealand’s underworld glow worm caves. In Charleston, you will walk through the rainforest to the Nile River Caves. These natural cathedral-like caverns are a remarkable sight, complete with stalactites and stalagmites alight with galaxies of glow worms. For an added fun experience, you can don wetsuits and hop into a small inflatable raft to float through this splendid subterranean environment.

Best things to do in New Zealand North Island - explore glow worm caves

Marvel at the "underground stars" in the Waitomo Caves. Seeing the glow worms is one of the top things to do in New Zealand North Island.

Local’s tip: While the glow worm caves are pretty spectacular here, you can find glow worms on the side of trails at night, if there is a moist fern-covered bank nearby.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Sweet North, you’ll go dry caving at Spellbound Glow Worm Caves.

34. Swim with Dusky dolphins

Location: Kaikoura, South Island

For wildlife lovers, this is the ultimate experience. The Dusky dolphins are a rare and beautiful breed known for their aerobatics. Kaikoura is an outstanding marine reserve, whose waters make for a unique habitat close to shore. There are strict regulations in place both to protect these dolphins and to keep you safe in the water.

Swim with Dusky Dolphins

Swim with these playful creatures in Kaikoura.

Local’s tip: Try to keep eye contact with the dolphins for maximum engagement.

New Zealand Trails trip: On both our Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic you will get to swim with these magical creatures.

35. Visit a high-country sheep station

Location: Walter Peak Station, Queenstown, South Island

Be prepared to see a lot of sheep when you touch down in New Zealand. If you’re a city slicker in your normal life, this is a great way to experience a working farm. Catch a boat across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak to learn about the region’s farming history. Meet the farm animals, learn the history, get a glimpse of life on a working station here in New Zealand and enjoy some of the best food in Queenstown. 

Explore Walter Peak and enjoy a ride on the Earnslaw.

Explore Walter Peak and enjoy a ride on the Earnslaw, one of the very few steam boats still in operation.

Local’s tip: While these woolly bundles of joy might steal your heart, don’t forget to look around. These sheep stations are located in some of the most breathtaking scenery in New Zealand.

New Zealand Trails trip: If you've got time in Queenstown we highly recommend a trip on the Earnslaw to Walter Peak for delicious barbeque and a taste of the country life. 

36. Visit a Kiwi house to see an adorable kiwi bird

Location: Queenstown, South Island or Te Puia, North Island

The kiwi bird is both the country’s national bird and its unofficial emblem. It’s very rare to spot these nocturnal creatures in the wild, so the best place to see them is in a kiwi house. There you’ll learn all about these curious little flightless birds and how New Zealanders are trying to protect them.

New Zealand Kiwi bird

See a real life kiwi at Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown.

Local’s tip: Add a few days to the end of your trip and try your luck at spotting a kiwi in the wild on Stewart Island.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our World Heritage tour, you can spend a few hours of your free day at the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. On our Sweet North tour, you will get the chance to visit the kiwi house in Te Puia, Rotorua. And on our Kiwi Classic, you’ll have the opportunity to join a guided wild kiwi spotting tour.

37. Go skiing or snowboarding

Location: All over New Zealand

If you are coming to New Zealand in winter, it’s likely that you’re keen on snow sports. In the North Island, there are a lot of resorts to choose from, with Mt Ruapehu being the most popular one. And in the South Island, Queenstown is the skiing hub. It is home to both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, with Treble Cone and Cardrona not too far away.

Ski Coronet Peak

Take to the slopes in Queenstown, one of the top things to do in New Zealand in winter.

Local’s tip: If skiing is not your thing, there is an endless supply of other adventurous activities to choose from like snow shoeing, cross country skiing, dog-sledding or simply building a snowman!

New Zealand Trails trip: We don’t run our guided hiking trips in the winter due to the weather. Spring, summer and autumn tend to have better weather for hiking in New Zealand.

38. Take the plunge into glacial waters

Location: Anywhere in New Zealand

Nothing will get your heart pumping and clear your head quite like jumping into a glacier lake! From Hooker Lake to Lake Tekapo or Ohau Lake, there are plenty of these pristine blue beauties dotted all over the country ready to cool you off.

Swim in a glacier lake - Lake Crucible

Swim in a glacial lake. We love Lake Crucible.

Local’s tip: Be brave, hesitation only leads to cold toes!

New Zealand Trails trip: There are plenty of opportunities to go for a dip in a lake on our trips. From the Nelson Lakes on our Kiwi Classic to Hooker Lake on any one of our South Island trips and many, many more!

39. Soar through the sky and go paragliding

Location: Queenstown, South Island

When you touch down in Queenstown, one of the first things you’ll notice when your eyes adjust to the rolling ranges and pristine lakes is the paragliders soaring in the sky above you. Join them on an adventure in the clouds and go paragliding.

Paragliding Queenstown

Soar above the clouds in Queenstown.

Local’s tip: Add that extra element to your achievement; hike up the Tiki Trail and paraglide off – epic!

New Zealand Trails trip: On day seven of our World Heritage, you’ll have a free day in Queenstown. This is the perfect opportunity to go paragliding.

40. Bag a summit

Location: All over New Zealand

Between the Southern Alps in the South Island and the Ureweras in the north, there is no shortage of summits to be bagged in New Zealand. For hardcore mountaineers, there’s Mt Cook or Mt Aspiring. Alternatively, choose from the abundance of other peaks more suited to us mere mortals like Roy’s Peak, Tongariro and Mt John.

Bag yourself a summit on the Routebrun Track.

Bag yourself a summit on the Routebrun Track.

Local’s tip: Pack for all weather and tell someone where you’re going. Safety is paramount in the New Zealand outdoors.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Kiwi Classic and Masterpiece, you will aim to reach the summit of Mt John. On our Sweet North, you will hike Tongariro. And on our Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic and Pure South, you will hike Key Summit on the Routeburn Track.

41. Sleep in a backcountry hut

Location: All over New Zealand

If you are a keen hiker and wondering what to do in New Zealand, you should take on a multi-day hike and spend a night in one of New Zealand’s DOC (Department of Conservation) huts. DOC manages a network of over 950 huts on tracks and trails all over the country. They are rustic and remote and the perfect place to take shelter from bad weather or to spend a night in relative comfort while exploring the country’s incredible outdoors.

Soak in the views from Bushline Hut.

Soak in the views from Bushline Hut.

Local’s tip: Unless you are a super heavy sleeper, pack a pair of earplugs for a restful night’s sleep.

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Kiwi Classic, if you choose the multi-day hiking option in Nelson Lakes National Park, you’ll stay in one of our famous backcountry huts.

42. Explore the vibrant town of Queenstown

Location: Queenstown, South Island

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. There is an endless amount of activities on offer here to keep you entertained, whether you’re seeking high-octane action or a more relaxed pace. From great wines to sip on, trails to hike and bike, jet boat rides and paraglides to thrill you, the list goes on! The mountain resort nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu is one of the most picturesque places in the world.

Explore Queenstown

Explore Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Local’s tip: For a tasty burger, skip the Fergburger hype and go straight to Devil Burger – it’s local, the burgers are just as good, plus no queues!

New Zealand Trails trip: On day seven of our World Heritage tour, you’ll spend your free day exploring Queenstown. Our Grand ExplorerMasterpiece and Kiwi Classic start and end in Queenstown and our Pure South begins there.

43. Visit a brewery and sample the local creations

Location: All over New Zealand

Take a sip of New Zealand’s award-winning hand-crafted beers brewed on site in one of our many breweries around the county. Some of our favourites include the Valley Brewing Company in Geraldine, CBD in Nelson and Monteith’s brewery in Greymouth.

Visit a brewery

Sample the best local beers.

Local’s tip: Chat to a local wherever you are, chances are they know a little hole-in-the-wall brewery nearby.

New Zealand Trails trip: On the Kiwi Classic, you’ll have lunch at the Valley Brewing Company, Geraldine. On our Masterpiece, you’ll eat at Monteith’s Brewery.

44. Go to an All Blacks game

Location: Eden Park, Auckland, North Island

Home to the mighty All Blacks! Even if you are not a die-hard sports fan, you won’t regret seeing our rugby stars battle it out on the pitch. After all, when will you get the chance to see one of the best rugby teams in the world play in their home country?

All Blacks game

Cheer on the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Local’s tip: Dress up! Black and white is the colour scheme.

New Zealand Trails trip: Our Sweet North trip starts and ends in Auckland, so if the timing works out you could catch a game at Eden Park.

45. Relax and unwind in a remote lodge

Location: All over New Zealand

After a day out exploring, nothing beats being able to relax and unwind with a little touch of luxury. You'll be amazed at some of the incredible accommodations on offer in New Zealand that are well off the beaten track. 

Lochmara Lodge.

Lochmara Lodge.

Local’s tip: Head off the beaten track and find a touch of remote Kiwi luxury. 

New Zealand Trails trip: On our Masterpiece adventure tour we stay in the beautiful Lochmara Lodge, only accessible by water. 

46. Watch countless majestic sunrises and sunsets

Location: All over New Zealand

New Zealand does sunrises and sunsets really, really well! Wait until you see the sky merge in a haze of pink and orange; it’s an arresting experience and one that invites you to stop and truly be in the moment.

Golden hour on the west coast

Get your camera ready for the West Coast sunsets.

Local’s tip: Watching the sunrise from the boat in Kaikoura while heading out to swim with dolphins is the ultimate experience.

New Zealand Trails trip: You will see some beauties while on any trip with us – wake early to see the sunrise at its finest.

47. Drink coffee, lots of coffee!

Location: All over New Zealand

We were late to the coffee scene but we have more than made up for it since then! Nowadays, New Zealand is known as one of the most discerning coffee-making countries in the world. So make sure to carry that Keep Cup around with you and sample some delightful coffee while you explore.

Drink coffee

New Zealand, home of the flat white.

Local’s tip: Make sure to try the flat white. It’s a subject of rivalry between Australia and New Zealand as to who invented it… we did!

New Zealand Trails trip: There will be plenty of coffee stops along the way as you journey around the country. One of our favourites for an artisan brew is Morri Street Café in Nelson. We’ll take you there on the Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic.

48. Visit the home of hobbits, Hobbiton

Location: Matamata, North Island

If you are a lover of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then Hobbiton is probably already on your list of things to do in New Zealand. Head to Matamata to explore the full-scale set that was used for The Lord of the Rings movies, aka Hobbiton.

Visit Hobbiton

Lord of the Rings fans, assemble!

Local’s tip: Even if you’ve never seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hobbiton is a great destination to visit if you are interested in discovering what it takes to create a film set of this magnitude.

New Zealand Trails trip: We don’t go to Hobbiton on our trips, but if you are a fan of Middle-Earth, we do pass through and explore a lot of the other areas you’ll see in the movies.

49. See the weird and wonderful Cardrona Valley bra fence

Location: Cardrona Valley, Wanaka, South Island

Sometime in 1999, four bras appeared on a fence in the Cardrona Valley. Since then, it has escalated! Add your bra to the line or simply pull in on your way to Wanaka or Queenstown and snap a picture of this quirky attraction!

2. Bradrona

Wait until you see this bizarre spectacle - the Cardrona bra fence!

Local’s tip: Have some coins spare to drop in the donation box which contributes to a breast cancer awareness charity in New Zealand.

New Zealand Trails trip: You’ll pass by this hilarious tourist spot on our South Island trips!

50. Go on a guided walking tour

Location: All over New Zealand

If you want to experience New Zealand completely, see all the highlights, tourist spots and the hidden gems that only the locals know about, this is the way to do it. If you want adventure, hiking, companionship, amazing activities by day followed by relaxing in comfort and style by night, then a guided walking tour is for you.

Let the locals show you the real New Zealand!

Let the locals show you the real New Zealand!

We have created seven incredible New Zealand guided tours. They range in length from five to 14 days and are designed to be flexible, so you can enjoy New Zealand at the pace that's right for you. From our adventurous yet indulgent Grand Explorer to the action-packed Kiwi Classic. There’s our Masterpiece for the best New Zealand South Island itinerary out there. For those short on time, there’s the Pure South and then there is the Sweet North which explores the North Island and works perfectly in conjunction with any one of our South Island trips or equally as a trip in its own right.

Come and see New Zealand with New Zealanders!


Let’s talk – we’d love to hear what you think. Pop your details in below and have your say.

  • Karsten Madsen, Denmark July 2023

    You forgot the Kaikoura seal trail and the Albatross watching near Dunedin and volcano hike to Mt Tarawera in Roturoa … well and the very friendly atmospere that you kiwis always represent. Thank you. Would love to come back

    • Ziggy Dukes, July 2023

      There are so many incredible experiences in New Zealand we couldn't possibly list them all in just 50 :) There's always so much more to explore. We'd love to see you back this side of the world and to show you a few of our favourite spots.

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