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It’s known as the Adventure Capital of the World for good reason. New Zealand, with its breathtaking scenery, offers visitors a voyage of discovery on so many levels. Whether you wish to seek out rare endemic plants and animals, engage in extreme sports, or simply introduce your tastebuds to cuisine unlike any other, New Zealand offers something for everyone.

While it would be impossible to place everything New Zealand has to offer into one “Best Of” list, the following attractions are my personal favourites and recommendations that will suit every type traveller.

This is a bucket list destination sure to provide you with an unforgettable holiday, so much so that you will leave the country with a determined mindset to return. So without further ado, let’s dive into what makes New Zealand so special.

Things to do in New Zealand

City: Sky Tower

Standing at 328 metres, Auckland’s Sky Tower is the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building. It offers a main observation deck, sky lounge, and revolving restaurant, and, for the more adventurous of things to do in New Zealand, you can experience SkyWalk and Sky Jump.

With Sky Walk, you make your way along the edge of the Sky Tower’s pergola, securely harnessed nearly 200 metres in the air.

Sky Jump offers even more adrenaline pumping action as you base-jump off New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure by way of a safe guide-cable-controlled system where you can reach speeds of up to 85kph.

Would you jump?

skycity-auckland-sky-tower-during-the-day

Photo courtesy of Sky City Entertainment Group

Relaxation: Rotorua

Located in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity where one can relax in the geothermal Polynesian Spa facility. This is a great place to recoup after hiking the wilds of New Zealand, and a fabulous choice of destination for NZ honeymoons.

Of course there is no shortage of excitement in Rotorua as well. Velocity Valley Adventure Park offers extreme adventures such as jet boating, freestyle bike airbags, bungee jumping, and super swings. Head to ZORB New Zealand to tackle wet and dry zorbing tracks.

Dessert: Giapo

Giapo is an absolute must-do when visiting New Zealand. What you’ll discover is unlike anything you’ve ever had before. The one-and-only Giapo location is on Gore Stree, Downtown Auckland.

Be wowed by incredible edible masterpieces (Sky Tower ice cream anyone?) and unbelievable culinary mashups like the uber-popular and delicious Yorkshire pudding or pani puri ice creams.

These days it’s easy to stumble across gelaterias serving countless wacky creative flavours, but Giapo is on another level. You’ll still be able to sample and choose from an exciting lineup of creative, seasonal local ice cream flavours which you probably never heard of, – but beyond that, the Giapo team is doing things very differently. This is much more than an ice cream counter.

You’ve Never Seen Ice-cream Like This!

From way you choose your ice cream, the way the kitchen prepares each and every order, the detailed presentation of each ice cream, not to mention the wow factor of Giapo’s flagship creations, it’s a complete revelation about what ice cream can be. This is likely to be the best ice cream experience in the world.

A variety of options makes Giapo just as delicious no matter your dietary requirements or sense of adventure: you’ll find milks made from almond, macadamia or coconut plus as well as cows milk, you’ll find buffalo, sheep and even deer milk (yes, it’s a thing!) on the menu.

Much like staying in a 5 star hotel, at Giapo you feel doted upon and pampered with genuinely kind staff on hand to serve you. Whether you are going for a city walk or coming out from a restaurant, my advice is to hit this place.

If you think ice cream is one of the best things ever invented, just wait til you experience Giapo. It will blow your mind more than any ordinary ice cream-induced brain freeze!

Easter egg anyone?

The one-and-only Giapo location is on Gore Stree, Downtown Auckland.

Wildlife: Zealandia Sanctuary

Located just outside of Wellington, you can witness some of New Zealand’s most rare and endangered wildlife in the world’s first fully fenced urban eco-sanctuary.

The 225 hectare Zealandia Sanctuary, with its nearly 9km fence, keeps out introduced predators, providing a safe habitat for endemic birds like the kaka, tui, and little spotted kiwi as well as reptiles like the prehistoric looking tuatara.

Explore the hiking trails by yourself or take part in one of their several tours led by knowledgeable guides. A large portion of the reserve is wheelchair accessible, making it available to be enjoyed by all.

Legend: Moeraki Boulders

Along the South Island’s Otago Coast, lie massive spherical boulders that are strewn along Koekohe Beach. According to Māori legend, they symbolise the remains that washed ashore from the wrecked Āraiteuru, the canoe that is said to have brought the ancestors of the Ngāi Tahu people of the South Island.

The spherical boulders weigh in at several tonnes and reach over two metres in width. They provide a setting that is a photographer’s dream and simply makes a wonderful spot to sit and take in the beautiful coastline.

The boulders are located about an hour’s drive north of Dunedin, the South Island’s second largest city where you can witness colonies of albatross, sea lions, and rare yellow-eyed penguins.

Things to do in New Zealand Moeraki Boulders

Photo credit: russellstreet

Adventure: Waitomo Caves

Located on the North Island, Waitomo offers up more than just caves. In addition to its glowworm caves, it offers sinkholes, underground rivers, waterfalls, and other natural wonders.

Above ground, check out Marokopa Falls, Mangapohue Bridge, and the Otorohanga Kiwi House located a short distance away.

Below ground, abseil or zip-line through the darkness of the caves or try your skills at blackwater rafting. Weave, float, climb, and jump your way through the subterranean abyss of Ruakuri Cave.

Nature: Fjordland National Park

This National Park is famous for it being home to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is consistently rated as New Zealand’s top attraction and was considered the eighth Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling.

Visited by nearly a million people annually, Milford Sound can be accessed by boat, road, or scenic air flight. The park is home to some of NZ’s great walks, including the well known Milford Hiking Track which passes through mountains and temperate rain forest.

The 50+km hike runs from Lake Te Anau to the Milford Sound, where hikers may come across southern brown kiwi birds and the rare flightless kakapo.

Milford Sound NZ

Photo credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ

OUR FAVORITE NZ TRAVEL GUIDES. CLICK TO LOOK INSIDE ↓

New Zealand Travel Guide

Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand 

New Zealand Travel Guide

National Geographic Traveler

New Zealand Travel Guide

101 Coolest Things to Do in New Zealand

INSPIRED? PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    29 Comments

  1. Super list Meg!

    In Timaru now, where we did:

    – Mount Cook (WOW!!!!!!)
    – Lake Tekapo
    – Shag Point Fur Seals
    – Moeraki Boulders

    We visited Opotiki for a month and saw a 2000 year old tree there. One of the 20 most famous trees on earth.

    We visited Auckland for a night and walked by the tower. We also spent a day in Rotorua.

    Heading to Christchurch in 2 days, then off to a house sit at Paekakariki.

    Magical country!

    Ryan

    • That would be an awesome niche travel blog! Visting the most famous trees in the world. I remember visiting the worlds oldest rubber plant in Malaysia…was a bit disappointing haha. Damn expectations!

    • Thanks Ryan! So glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like you’re having an epic tour of New Zealand – and that you’ve hit our whole list 😀

      Totally agree with you Jub, there are actually some really fascinating trees around the world – really would make for a cool travel blog!

  2. I am about to go to New Zealand and Giapo was already on my list.

    • Fabulous Alex! I would fly back to Auckland just for that ice-cream – Giapo was a definite highlight. Have an amazing trip – and let us know which ice-cream you pick :D!

  3. I haven’t been to New Zealand but I want to visit and at a minimum see Fjordland National Park and the Moeraki Boulders. It looks stunning!

    • Some of the most stunning landscapes in the world – it’s so magical! Hope you have the chance to travel soon 🙂

  4. Awesome! Thanks so kindly, MM!! I am like 15 days away from my journey to your side of the planet. I have planned things that I have never done before. LOL Well, I am willing to try. I am most looking forward to celebrating my 47th birthday on Great Barrier Island, NZ, under the dark starry sky!! 😀

    • You’re welcome, I’m glad we could share a couple of ideas before you got there! It sound like it’s going to be an incredible birthday – happy birthday in advance!! Looking forward to hearing about your trip 🙂

  5. Really incredible M M

    • Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  6. Way cool, and I’m so glad you didn’t say “the _ top things to do”, haha

    • Lol not a fan of numbered lists? I figure this way I can keep updating and adding to the list for when we head back and I’m not locked into a specific number 😀

  7. New Zealand is fantastic. Definitely time for a return visit soon.

    • Absolutely! One of those countries you can keep returning to 🙂

  8. I can’t wait until I get there.

    • Thank Diego! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  9. I haven’t been but it’s there on top of my bucketlist along with so many other places.

    • Fabulous Helena! I hope you have the opportunity to cross it off your bucketlist at some point soon 🙂

  10. I’ve never been in New Zealand but it is definitely going on my bucket list for the grand walks and for the scrumptious and very creative ice cream and so much more.

    • Awesome Alice! Glad we could inspire you to consider a trip! 🙂

  11. We are presently in Wellington where we’re house-sitting for a month,then plan on touring South island for 10 days. It’s a huge challenge planning where to go since there’s so much to see and do. Thanks for any tips.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Gabrielle, and awesome to hear that you’re having a fabulous time in Wellington! The South Island is truly incredible – you’re right, the most difficult thing is narrowing down where you want to go! I would definitely recommend including a visit to Fjordland National Park and Milford Sound though, it’s one of those not to miss!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Leonardo 🙂

  12. Great post! Some good stuff about New Zealand here. I spent a year there and wrote a post of the best things to do in every region of Mew Zealand, Check it out!

    • Glad you had a fabulous time in NZ also Nick – thanks for sharing your post too 🙂

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