The Best Things to Do in New Zealand
Collected by AFAR Editors , AFAR Staff
Come explore New Zealand's natural wonders—on foot, on bike, in a camper van, at the fully-extended end of a bungee cord—and meet the (exceedingly friendly) locals. For a small country, there's an almost overwhelming number of things to do. But, to get you started: Lord of the Rings fans should head straight for their middle earth in Hobbiton. Adventure fans can get their wheee on ziplining on Waiheke Island. Nature fan? Go do some whale watching. But, no matter what you love to see, make sure you learn about Maori culture. The culture is at the center of the beauty of New Zealand.
Dunedin Railway Station, Anzac Square, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Departing from Dunedin's glorious bluestone-and-stained-glass railway station—built between 1903 and 1906—the Taieri Gorge Railway negotiates tunnels, wends through river gorges, and traverses heritage viaducts across deep and rugged...
234 Hereford St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
Following a powerful earthquake in February 2011, the Christchurch Cathedral was severely damaged, and while there is an ongoing ideological and economic debate over whether or not the Gothic-style church can, or should be, repaired, the Anglican...
Stewart Island / Rakiura, Southland 9818, New Zealand
At the far south end of the country, Stewart Island is a rugged and isolated addendum to New Zealand's two main islands, and it's a superb place to get a glimpse of the country's national bird, the kiwi, in the wild. Sunset trips with Bravo...
Great Taste Trail, Tasman, New Zealand
New Zealand has no shortage of physically challenging bicycle rides through spectacular and remote backcountry, but the Tasman District's Great Taste Trail is designed for travelers seeking a more leisurely immersion in the flavors of this area....
Kapiti Island, Wellington 5032, New Zealand
Around one hour by car north of Wellington, Kapiti Island has been a protected wildlife reserve since 1897. Measuring less than eight square miles, the island can only be visited with a licensed tour operator; Kapiti Island Nature Tours...
East Cape, Gisborne 4087, New Zealand
The far-eastern tip of New Zealand's North Island, and one of the first places in the world to see the light of a new day, East Cape is a rugged and isolated location that's off the radar for most visitors to the country. It's remote, but getting...
326 Main St, Palmerston North, City Centre 4410, New Zealand
The All Blacks—New Zealand's beloved national rugby team—are an integral part of the country's psyche, and the only side to have been crowned World Champions three times. Even if you're not a huge fan of the fast, open-running sport...
126 Broadway, Matamata 3400, New Zealand
Welcome to Middle Earth in the South Pacific, and an ideal stop for traveling fans of the author J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie trilogies. Near the rural town of Matamata—itself a destination for its LOTR-inspired...
Tau Henare Dr, Waitangi 0293, New Zealand
Opened in 2016, New Zealand's Museum of Waitangi offers innovative and interactive exhibits showcasing the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between more than 500 Maori tribal chiefs and the British Crown representing the country's colonial...
Grange Rd S, Hahei 3591, New Zealand
Part of the spectacular wind- and ocean-eroded shoreline of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, Cathedral Cove, on New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula, is reached via an undulating coastal track that takes around 40 minutes to hike. To avoid the...
Great Barrier Is, Great Barrier Island 0991, New Zealand
Located 55 miles from downtown Auckland, Great Barrier Island is a rugged and off-the-grid kind of place. A population of less than 900 relies mainly on self-generated solar electricity, and because there are no street lights, the island's...
150 Trig Hill Rd, Waiheke Island, Auckland 1081, New Zealand
89 Quay St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
With a prime waterfront position on the edge of Auckland's inner harbor, The Lighthouse is one of New Zealand's newest and most interesting public art projects. Erected in 2017 as a replica New Zealand 'state house,' a popular form of social...
8-14 Madden St, Auckland, Wynyard Quarter 1010, New Zealand
First developed when the city hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2011, the harborside Wynyard Quarter has quickly become a favorite destination for Aucklanders. Restaurants, cafés, and bars are especially popular on weekends—standouts...
Pouakai Track, Egmont National Park 4391, New Zealand
In a country featuring some of the world's more popular multiday hikes, the Pouakai Crossing around the iconic volcanic cone of New Zealand's Mount Taranaki is a more convenient one-day adventure. The Taranaki region's Egmont National Park does...
70 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
Opened in 2017 as a new addition to New Zealand's National Library, the He Tohu (The Signs) exhibition showcases three of the country's most important historical documents. Each of the three deeds continue to inform contemporary New Zealand...
42 Queen St, New Plymouth 4310, New Zealand
A thrilling tribute to world-renowned New Zealand kinetic artist Len Lye (1901–1980), New Plymouth's Len Lye Centre is an integral part of the excellent Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. From the outside, the center's stunning architecture of...
State Highway 45, Taranaki, New Zealand
Located on the western edge of New Zealand's North Island, the Taranaki region is less visited by travelers than other parts of the country, but the combination of its wonderfully symmetrical volcanic cone and its cavalcade of surf beaches makes...