Hire a campervan
If you’re planning to see all of the above (and below), you might look into hiring a campervan. Taking your accommodation with you gives you total flexibility about where and when you see all of New Zealand’s attractions.
Visit Mount Doom in Tongariro National Park The oldest national park in New Zealand is home to three active volcanoes (including the actual Mount Doom), the insanely picturesque Tongariro Alpine Crossing (one of the best one-day hikes in the world), hot springs, boiling mud pools, Maori religious sites, and much more. This is planet Earth at its most astounding.
Go kayaking underground in Waitomo
Head to the west coast and you’ll find Waitomo, a pretty town set against pleasant green hills. It’s only when you head underground that you discover its true wonders: networks of mystical caverns lit by glow-worms, the perfect setting for kayaking, tubing, and canyoning.
Stay out of trouble on Hot Water Beach
The name says it all – dig into the sand of this beach in Mercury Bay and be treated to gloriously hot water welling up from underground hot springs. Make a big enough hole and you’ve got yourself a geothermal bath.
Take a boat tour of Milford Sound
This iconic fiord in the southwest of the island is famous for its impossibly scenic views and placid water. A boat tour is the best way to see towering Mitre Peak, the waterfalls that roar down is sides, and seals, penguins, and dolphins that call it home. Unmissable if you’re visiting New Zealand.
Climb the Franz Josef Glacier
Equip your ice axes and crampons and get out onto the frozen alien landscape of the glacier! Guided tours will keep you safe for one of the most exciting things to do in New Zealand. If you’re feeling flush, you can book a helicopter flight over the glacier to really appreciate its incredible size.
Go kiwi spotting on Stewart Island
This island to the south of South Island might be the best place in the country to get a glimpse of the iconic kiwi bird in the wild. Even if you miss out, the island is an amazing place to experience the wide variety of New Zealand birdlife.
See the pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki
New Zealand’s west coast is gloriously rugged, and Punakaiki sums that up nicely. The strangely layered rocks here are certainly a curiosity, but it’s the ferocious blowholes that will make you appreciate the power of nature here.
Stay late for stargazing at Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for stargazing as the skies are almost completely free of light pollution. Visit Mt John Observatory during the day, and then hope for a clear sky once night falls.