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Everyone has a list of places they want to visit and explore before they kick the bucket.

From small things like quirky restaurants in hidden corners of faraway towns to giant metropolitan cities or sweeping countrysides, the world is full of sites to see and we only have so much time to see it all.

There are some places, though, that are breathtakingly beautiful and full of rich history that are often overlooked by many world travelers. A common country that falls in this category is New Zealand.

Often overshadowed by its larger, sunnier Australian neighbor, New Zealand is a small island country with an abundance of wildlife, astonishing views, and inspiring culture. Other-worldly in its natural beauty, this unique destination is also incredibly accessible due to the recent uptick in tourism.

With international acclaim, travel options to suit every interest, and helpful online resources like Cultured Kiwi, there are hundreds of reasons to add New Zealand to your travel bucket list. Still need convincing? Here are a few highlights.

4 Reasons to Add New Zealand to Your Travel Bucket List

The Literal Beginning of Adventure Tourism


If you’ve ever decided to get out of your comfort zone and try something like bungee jumping, you have New Zealand to thank for this trend.

It was in New Zealand that the first commercial bungee jump took off, letting locals and tourists alike take a courageous dive off Kawarau Bridge.

This spirit of adventure is widespread throughout the country, with other popular activities such as jet boating, ski planing, and even Zorbing (which is a ridiculous but incredibly fun recreational activity that’s worth looking up if you don’t know what it is).

All this and so much more waits for travelers in New Zealand. Camping and hiking are also common in the beautiful natural surroundings. If extreme adventuring and outdoor fun is your cup of tea, this is definitely the trip for you.

Fear not though, comfort lovers, there are also stunning cities full of interesting museums, cafes, and delicious wine.

Image credit: AJ Hackett Auckland Bridge Ocean Bungy

The Beautiful Legacy of Māori Culture

Maori Culture New Zealand

Many people have seen videos of the iconic Haka ceremonial dance circling the internet, and this cathartic, moving performance originates from the native Māori people of New Zealand.

Largely, the Māori community is excited and open to share their rich history and unique culture with travelers who come with an open mind and an eagerness to learn.

You can visit numerous cities, a major one being Rotorua, to see cultural shows and performances and visit many historical Māori sites such as Tane Mahuta and Te Papa Museum.

The incredible country of New Zealand would not be what it is without the influence of the Māori people, so learning about this culture is a great way to experience the country as a whole to its fullest in your time there.

Image: Den C (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Incredible Natural Wonders

Piha Beach New Zealand

Almost any direction you turn in New Zealand, there is an incredible view. Whether the ocean, the mountains, or the incredible fjords, the entire country is speckled with natural wonders.

Fiordland National Park offers outstanding views of the south island and is known for its iconic, intricate glacier-carved fjords. You can even journey up the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in a combination hike and helicopter excursion, allowing you to experience the natural beauty from all angles.

In terms of beaches, Auckland alone has 29,000 kilometers of coastline, with hundreds of beaches, all within easy reach. And they’re all very different, from idyllic white-sand beaches to rugged black sand plains like Piha beach.

Coromandel is another spot for incredible beaches, a peninsula in the north (and the location of the stunning Cathedral Cove), with 400 km coastline and one of the most  popular summer destinations in the country.

Nerd Out, Tolkien-Style

While it may not be every person’s favorite story, no one can really argue against exploring the filming locations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

With so much of the filming done in New Zealand, there are cinematic treasures buried all across the islands. You can literally visit Hobbiton and explore hobbit holes, follow the iconic trek to Mordor, and take a tour of the special effects studios that brought Tolkien’s tale to the big screen.

Who would say no to that?! New Zealand has become so famous for its ties to Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, that the fantasy has spread into pop culture, and the iconography is everywhere; from key chains and postcards to themed Kiwi pokies.

With so much adventure, incredible culture, and breathtaking natural beauty, New Zealand truly deserves a spot on every travel bucket list.


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

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.



  1. Hands down Meg; this was the prettiest country I visited. Not even close. Plus we stayed in Opotiki by the Bay of Plenty so spent serious time in Maori country, learning a ton about their culture. Guys who were 6-6 and 400 pounds walking through New World grocery store with tats all over their face. So cool. Like WWE characters. Loved it.

    • An easy country to fall in love with that’s for sure! I loved following your NZ updates Ryan :) So much of the country still to explore, I can’t wait to get back, especially to spend more time with the Maori :)

  2. This blog post makes me even more excited to get to NewZealand to kick off 2019!

    • You’ll have such a fabulous time! 2019 will be here before you know it :)

    • That’s true, so stoked ?

  3. New Zealand is certainly incredible. Excited to be going back next year for a full South Island road trip and hiking.

    As is Ryten, Norway, where I’m very sure that image of a cliff ledge, beach and crags is.

    • Sounds fabulous Andrew, I hope you have an incredible return trip :)

      Thanks for the heads up on the photo of Ryten. I’ve replaced it under natural wonders with one we took ourselves of the black sand beach in Piha :) That’s what I get for outsourcing the images!

      Appreciate the heads up :)

  4. Wow! So cool, I didn’t know that first commercial jump started in New Zealand. And yes LOTR begs you to go to NZ right away!

    • Fun fact for the day :D! So glad you enjoyed the post, NZ is an amazingly special place :)

  5. beautiful photo, I live in NZ and I don’t recognise it, can you tell me where is it? :)

    • Hi Kira, which photo? :)

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