The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List: 50 Things to Do
If you haven’t already read my latest post, well, SURPRISE, I’m going to be living in New Zealand for two months this summer! I haven’t stopped thinking about everything I want to see and do in this wonderful little country so I’ve put together a
little mahoosive New Zealand bucket list. In no particular order, here are 50 amazing things to do in New Zealand, whether you are travelling to New Zealand with kids, your partner, friends or family!
1. Visit Milford Sound
If most people had to name a tourist attraction in New Zealand, Milford Sound would be one of the first to come to mind so that’s why it’s first on this list. Once called “the eighth wonder of the world” and arguably being New Zealand’s most spectacular natural attraction, you cannot leave the country without cruising through Milford Sound.
2. Go bungee jumping or canyon swinging in Queenstown
Queenstown is well known for being an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. Commercial bungee jumping was born in Queenstown at the Kawarau Bridge in the 80s, and now the city has two more jumps. While there are other bungee jumps throughout the country, it’s only right to do it in Queenstown! If you don’t fancy throwing yourself off a platform head first, why not try canyon swinging instead?
3. See glowworms in Waitomo Caves
At Waitomo Caves, you can see thousands of glowworms and it looks pretty damn magical. For an extra fun adventure, go black water rafting while you’re there.
4. Stargaze at Lake Tekapo
Everyone loves a good stargaze and you can’t really get a better stargaze than at Lake Tekapo. Located in the centre of the South Island, the skies above Lake Tekapo are some of the darkest and clearest in New Zealand – or maybe even the whole world. P.s. It’s just as beautiful in the daytime too so try to see it both night and day!
5. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Alternatively known as Mordor, and the home of the Dark Lord Sauron, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site. This 12-hour hike is one of New Zealand’s most popular day hikes and offers some pretty spectacular views over volcanoes and emerald green lakes.
6. Cross the Cook Strait by ferry
Taking the ferry between the North and South islands is definitely a must for any visitor to New Zealand! The three-hour journey offers some lovely views across the Cook Strait.
7. Hike Franz Josef Glacier
It’s not every day that you get to climb a glacier and that’s why it’s a must when you’re visiting New Zealand!
8. See the Southern Lights
Everyone’s heard of the Northern lights but have you heard of the Southern lights, alternatively known as the Aurora Australis? In order to see one of Earth’s most beautiful natural light displays head to the most Southern point of New Zealand on Stewart Island during the Antarctic winter, between March and September.
9. Visit White Island
White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano. Yes, you can actually cruise across the Bay of Plenty and step foot onto a live volcano! The island is a scenic reserve and is in pristine condition so exploring this island really is an extraordinary experience.
10. See Lake Wanaka
Located in the stunning alps of the South Island, visitors from around the world are drawn to Lake Wanaka, New Zealand’s fourth largest lake, by its outstanding natural beauty.
11. Whale watch in Kaikoura
Kaikoura is a town on the South Island where mountains meet the sea (e.g. the perfect recipe for amazing views!). This picturesque spot is best known for its whale watching tours, New Zealand’s ultimate marine experience.
12. Visit Hot Water Beach
Popular for a patch of thermal water bubbling just beneath the surface of the sand at low tide, Hot Water Beach attracts a ton of tourists all year round. Bring a spade, dig a pool in the sand and relax in your own natural hot tub!
13. Eat and cycle the Tasman Great Taste Trail in Nelson
Looping through the Tasman region’s charming countryside and along its coastline, postcard-perfect views are guaranteed along the Great Taste Trail. Cycle around this stunning area and then treat yourself to visiting an array of wineries, breweries and cafes. I mean, you kinda earnt it, pal…
14. Visit Aoraki/Mount Cook
In a country packed full of amazing hiking opportunities, Mount Cook may offer the best. Standing at 12,218 feet, Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain and the views look unparalleled.
15. Go zorbing in Rotorua
Okay so throwing yourself down a hill inside a giant hamster ball may not be on your bucket list but it definitely should be. Zorbing was born in Rotorua so it’d be rude not to have a go, right?
16. Skydive over Lake Taupo
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, skydiving is always going to be an exhilarating experience. But what can make skydiving even better? Beautiful views, of course! The landscape of Lake Taupo certainly falls under the beautiful category.
17. Attend an All Blacks game
Despite the fact I don’t think I could be less interested in rugby if I tried, I feel like you can’t visit New Zealand and not see an All Blacks game/the haka in person.
18. Climb up Baldwin Street
This may not be the most exciting thing on this list but Baldwin Street in Dunedin is the world’s steepest residential street so it’s gotta be done!
19. Visit Hobbiton
New Zealand is synonymous with Lord of the Rings and if you’re anything like me, you’re a big fan of the franchise. Take a visit to Hobbiton, in the heart of the Waikato, to explore the famous Hobbit Holes and have a pint at The Green Dragon Inn.
20. Explore Christchurch
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and a vibrant city in transition, coping creatively with the aftermath of New Zealand’s second-worst natural disaster.
21. Drive the Forgotten World Highway
While it’s only 150 kilometres long, the Forgotten World Highway is a highly memorable driving experience which takes you across remote and rugged land from Taumarunui to Stratford.
22. Go punting on the Avon River
Hey, there’s no place like home, after all. Christchurch is known for its English heritage and you can even go punting along the Avon River, which meanders through the city centre.
23. Go glamping at Waitomo Hilltop
If you know me, you’ll know I am a huge fan of glamping. Waitomo Hilltop Glamping offers some of the most serene, beautiful views around which you can enjoy from the comfort of their iconic outdoor baths!
24. Walk along Auckland’s West Coast’s black sand beaches
Auckland is home to long stretches of unique, black sand beaches. The rugged, dramatic beauty of these beaches means they have to be on your New Zealand bucket list!
25. Visit (and Zip Line) Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves, beaches and even zip lines, just a ferry ride away from downtown Auckland. If you fancy splashing the cash and doing things with a bit more style, why not visit Waiheke via helicopter?
26. Wander around Hamilton Gardens
Hamilton Gardens is a free public botanical garden in the city of Hamilton on the North Island. This lush tropical garden is Waikato’s most visited tourist destination and for good reason – it’s bloody beautiful!
27. Cruise or kayak the Fiordland Fiords
Fiordland is home to Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Mitre Peak and some beautiful lakeside towns. As one of the southern hemisphere’s great wilderness regions, Fiordland has achieved World Heritage Status. The best way to see the fiords is, of course, by water. So jump onboard a cruise or hire a kayak and see this area of natural beauty from the best perspective possible!
28. Cycle around Lake Pukaki
Lake Pakaki, at the base of Mount Cook, is an iconic New Zealand landscape surrounded by high mountain peaks and other glacier-fed alpine lakes. This area of the country has been used many a time in the filming of The Lord of the Rings.
29. Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge
While not as iconic as the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, Auckland has something very similar. The fully guided tour will take you right to the top giving you a pretty epic 360-degree view of Auckland. For the more adrenaline-inclined amongst us you can also bungee off the bridge!
30. Bathe at Onsen Hot Pools
Videos of Onsen Hot Pools have been making the rounds on Facebook recently and it’s not hard to see why. These hot pools are located high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, providing views over the breathtaking alpine scenery. Open all year round, through rain or shine, they also come with retractable windows so you can convert your pool room from indoor to outdoor and back again at the touch of a button!
31. Go wine tasting in Marlborough
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine growing region and home of the world-renowned sauvignon blanc. So it’d be rude not to try their wine, right? Right??
32. Eye up Sutherland Falls
Sutherland Falls is a waterfall near Milford Sound (boy we really love talking about Milford Sound here, don’t we?) in New Zealand’s South Island. Unfortunately, it’s not too easily accessible but that won’t stop us!
33. Go kayaking at Abel Tasman
New Zealand is home to many beautiful national parks and one of those is Abel Tasman, located near the city of Nelson at the top of the South Island. The best way to see the beauty of this natural wonder, and its many coves and beaches, is by kayak!
34. See the Maori Rock Carvings in Mine Bay
Take a kayak or boat tour around the scenic Western Bays of Lake Taupo to see the huge Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay. The story behind the carvings is an interesting one. In the late 1970s, carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell had completed his 10-year training period with Maori elders. To mark the occasion, he came to his grandmother’s land at Taupo and did this carving.
35. Ride the Otago Central Rail Trail
The Otago Central Rail Trail is one of New Zealand’s most famous cycle trails located in the South Island. Also ideal for walking and horseriding, the trail spans over 94 miles and offers breathtaking views of the vast, open spaces of Otago.
36. Ride the Wellington Cable Car
Whilst it doesn’t sound too thrilling, riding Wellington‘s cable car is one of the must-dos in “the Coolest Little Capital in the World”. I’ve heard down the grapevine that the views at the top are nothing short of fantastic!
37. Jump off the Auckland Sky Tower
Yeah, the views from the Sky Tower are supposedly great and all, but you know what’s even greater? Hurling yourself off the tower. Not for the faint-hearted, visitors to the city can base-jump by wire at 53 miles an hour off the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand. This type of bungee jump is hard to come by so this should absolutely be on your New Zealand bucket list!
38. Visit Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is one of the most northern points of New Zealand and it’s definitely on my New Zealand bucket list. At the Cape, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a spectacular swirl of currents. Maori consider Cape Reinga the jumping-off point for souls as they depart on the journey to their spiritual homeland so the site is very sacred.
39. Take the TranzAlpine Train
If anyone’s a fan of scenic train rides, you will LOVE the TranzAlpine Train. All aboard for great views! The TranzAlpine train runs from Christchurch (on the east coast) and Greymouth (on the west coast) of the South Island, crossing the Southern Alps at the famous Arthur’s Pass.
40. Visit Mt. Maunganui
Mt Maunganui is a city in the North Island, located across the harbour from Tauranga. The mountain in the city is actually called Mauao, not Maunganui: standing 232m above sea level, this iconic landmark is treasured by Maori and locals alike and offers breathtaking views of the city. Definitely worth the climb!
41. Jetboat down Huka Falls
By now we know that New Zealand is paradise on earth for adventurers and adrenaline junkies. Huka Falls is an eleven-metre high waterfall found in Lake Taupo, where the water is an amazing, crystal clear blue (or at least it looks that way in photos!). Whilst you could walk or cycle around the falls, why not jetboat down them instead for unique water-level views?
42. Do a Lord of the Rings Tour
New Zealand is, of course, famed for being the home of Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings movies. At the top of everyone’s New Zealand bucket list should be something somewhat LoTR related. When in New Zealand, I’d love to embark on a LotR filming locations tour covering sights such as Kaitoke National Park, Nelson Tasman, Canterbury, Mackenzie Country, the Southern Lakes and Fiordland.
43. Visit Mt. Taranaki
Mount Taranaki is New Zealand’s most perfectly formed volcano found in Egmont National Park on the North Island. Be warned though: the Mount Taranaki summit should only be attempted in good weather by experienced trampers with proper equipment.
44. Visit Cathedral Cove
You’ve probably seen photos of Cathedral Cove littered across Instagram because it’s arguably one of the most picturesque spots in The Coromandel, a peninsula on the North Island. The cathedral-like arch gives the whole area a real air of grandeur.
45. Explore Rotorua’s Thermal Parks
New Zealand is well famed for its volcanic activity. If you want to witness some geothermal wonders first-hand, visit Rotorua where you will find a whole host of colourful geothermal parks, geysers and pools. Eat your heart out, Iceland!
46. Visit Dunedin
Our New Zealand bucket list is almost dun. Get it? Bad joke? I’ll escort myself out… Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island and it is filled with abundant wildlife and beautiful heritage buildings.
47. Hike the Milford Track
Aaaaand we’re back to Milford Sound. Shock horror! Experience one of the finest walks in the world as you journey along valleys carved by glaciers, wander through ancient rainforests and admire cascading waterfalls.
48. Explore Auckland
Auckland is one of the North Island’s major cities so it definitely warrants a visit!
49. Go to Weta Workshop in Wellington
Weta Workshop is a world-leading design and effects facility servicing the world’s creative industries. By embarking on a tour of Weta Workshop you can really immerse yourself in the filmmaking experiences in New Zealand.
50. Dive in the Poor Knights Islands
The Poor Knights Islands are one of the world’s top dive locations so obviously they had to make it onto my New Zealand bucket list! The Poor Knights offer an extraordinary variety of underwater experiences where you will see a myriad of subtropical fish while swimming past drop-offs, walls, caves, arches and tunnels.
So what did you think of my New Zealand bucket list? Is there anything I missed out? What would you love to do if you had the chance to visit New Zealand? Please let me know in the comments below!
READY TO SAVE MONEY FOR TRAVEL?
Get access to my free eBook filled with tips and tricks to help YOU save money to travel the world.