It won’t take much to convince you that New Zealand is one of the most spectacular places on earth. Visiting New Zealand, you’ll be mesmerized by unique volcanic landscapes in North Island. You’ll fall in love with magical mountains & crystallines lakes in South Island. Whatever your travel style, you need to save a spot for New Zealand on your bucket list.
Most are familiar with the country’s Anglo-Saxon heritage. But it’s the indigenous Maori culture that gives New Zealand’s its unique flavour among former British outposts. Travelling throughout New Zealand, Maori influences are ever-present. You’ll see them in New Zealand’s art scene. Or when its world-famous national rugby team, the All Blacks, challenge their competitors with a traditional haka dance. You may even hear the Maori language echo on the streets.
Not sure where to begin planning your trip to this fascinating country? Get some ideas with this New Zealand travel guide…
Looking to explore other countries in the region? Check out our Oceania Travel Guide for more destination ideas & tips!
When to visit New Zealand
Although “close” to Australia, weather in New Zealand is nothing like its neighbour’s. New Zealand boasts a temperate climate. It features four distinct seasons and all the “fun” weather swings that go along with. Kiwis often joke that you can experience all four seasons in one day in New Zealand. It’s not far off the truth!
Choosing the best time to visit New Zealand depends on what you’re planning to do. For most travellers, the summer months between December and February present the best weather the country has to offer. This, of course, also brings thicker tourist crowds. With it, you’ll also face higher prices and strained availability in New Zealand’s most popular destinations.
Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to August) are also fantastic times to go to New Zealand. In these seasons, still experiencing enjoyable temperatures. You’ll also avoid the heavy summer crowds.
Where to go in New Zealand: The best places to visit
It’s impossible to pinpoint what you’ll find when travelling in New Zealand. One thing’s certain: For experiencing nature, New Zealand is one of the finest destinations on the planet.
With its fjords, glaciers, lakes, and mountains, South Island gets much of the attention. But the scenes of North Island are as unique and enchanting. Visiting New Zealand, you can walk through otherworldly volcanic landscapes. You can relax to a fine glass of wine in a picture-perfect vineyard. You can paddle along ragged coastlines in a sea-kayak. Or you can tramp (the Kiwi term for hiking) through the most divine mountainscapes on earth. Whatever you’re looking for, have at it in one of the these top New Zealand travel destinations.
Need help getting started? Check out these New Zealand travel resources:
Few cities in the world can stake claim to a more beautiful piece of real estate than Auckland. New Zealand’s biggest city is wedged on an isthmus between the Tasman Sea and South Pacific Ocean. (With a liberal sprinkling of volcanic mountains thrown in.) The views from every corner of Auckland are nothing short of spectacular.
Many travellers set their sights elsewhere in New Zealand. (And, perhaps, with good conscience). But Auckland isn’t a city you’ll want to miss either. It’s a superb base for tackling some of North Island’s finest scenery. The Auckland area is full of lush rainforests and sea-swept beaches. Not far away, you’ll even find bubbling geothermal parks and boutique amily-run wineries.
Ready to plan your trip to Auckland? Here are a few travel resources…
- One Day in Auckland: Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Auckland
- Where to Stay in Auckland: The Best Hotels & Areas
- Best Day Trips from Auckland
- Best Beaches in Auckland
- Best Hikes & Walks in Auckland
- Auckland Wineries & Vineyards
- Waiheke Island Day Trip
- Waiheke Island Wineries & Vineyards
- Rangitoto Island Day Trip
- What to See & Do in Coromandel
- What to See & Do in Waitakere Ranges
- What to See & Do at Bethells Beach (Te Henga)
- What to See & Do at Muriwai Beach
- What to See & Do at Piha Beach
- Te Henga Walkway
Christchurch is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in New Zealand’s south. By design, Christchurch often finds its way onto South Island itineraries.
The city was once the most important showcase of English heritage in New Zealand. Unfortunately, Christchurch suffered through two earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. They left much of the city’s historical heart all but destroyed.
These days, Christchurch is on the mend. Once again, the historic city is welcoming guests to discover its post-quake restoration. Today, Christchurch teems with hip modern architecture, cool boutique hotels, and forward-thinking art.
Not only is Christchurch the perfect gateway to South Island, it’s great base for exploring the Canterbury region. Canterbury is dotted with small resort towns and blissful natural scenery. The region combines everything New Zealand is famous for. From relaxing hot springs to stunning mountainscapes to picture-perfect vineyards, it’s here.
Ready to plan your trip to Christchurch? Here are a few travel resources…
- Best Things to Do in Christchurch
- Best Hikes & Walks in Christchurch
- Where to Stay in Christchurch: The Best Hotels & Areas
- How to Get from Christchurch to Queenstown
Although it’s the second-biggest city on South Island, Dunedin is often overlooked by travellers. Instead, they beeline to more famous adventure-heavy & nature-focused destinations. It’s a shame. Dubbed the “Edinburgh of the South,” Dunedin is the breadbasket of Scottish culture in New Zealand. It’s one of the most youthful & energetic cities in the country.
From its handsome Victorian and Edwardian buildings to its quirky bar & restaurant scene, there’s plenty to do in Dunedin itself. For many travellers though, the true reason for a stay in Dunedin is its natural attractions. The city is an excellent base for exploring the beautiful Otago Peninsula and all its natural goodness. Nearby, you’ll get to experience New Zealand’s penguin colonies and rugged southern seascapes.
In case you weren’t aware: New Zealand’s got an adventurous side. (And understatement of the year goes to…) Nowhere is that spirit stronger than in the thill-seeker’s paradise of Queenstown. Looking for a surge of adrenaline? Visiting this small South Island staple is a right-of-passage. Surrendering to its call will put all of the world’s most heart-pumping activities on your agenda from bungy-jumping to zip-lining to zorbing (if you gotta ask…)
While many visit Queenstown to send their hearts racing, more subdued travellers will have their day as well. For its small stature (in population, not popularity), Queenstown is surprisingly hip. The city’s home to a superb food & drink scene. You’ll also find over 200 vineyards within less than 40 minutes from the city centre.
And lest we forget the hiking: Queenstown’s also one of the best places in New Zealand to do that. Ringed around Queenstown, and Lake Wakatipu upon which the city sits, are a multitude of tramping trails. They range from short & easy to long & advanced.
Ready to plan your trip to Queenstown? Here are a few travel resources…
- Best Things to Do in Queenstown
- Best Day Trips from Queenstown
- Best Hikes & Walks in Queenstown
- Best Queenstown Wineries & Vineyards
- Where to Stay in Queenstown: The Best Hotels & Areas
- Queenstown Skiing Guide
- Lake Wakatipu: History, Activities & Attractions
Even if Auckland is its most famous destination, visitors to North Island know: Rotorua is where its at. Rotorua is New Zealand’s most popular geothermal area. It showcases some of the country’s most compelling and unique natural scenery.
Rotorua was once one of the most sacred places in Maori culture. The area was revered for its Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters) hot springs. There’s still a large Maori contingent in Rotorua. The Maori represent a third of Rotorua’s population. They spice up the town’s cultural fabric with unique events and performances.
You’ll discover better amenities elsewhere on North Island, but the views around the town are unbeatable. Visiting Rotorua is a must to round out your appreciation of New Zealand’s North Island.
Ready to plan your trip to Rotorua? Here are a few travel resources…
Taupo is one of the premier adventure destinations of the north. It’s a favourite stop for travellers embarking on an epic North Island itinerary. The town sits upon the shores of its namesake Lake Taupo. It offers a multitude of activities for adventurers from cycling to hiking.
While not yet as popular among travellers as Rotorua, Taupo is on an upward trajectory. It’s becoming one of the coolest towns on North Island for chillin’ out, thanks to a burgeoning hip eating, drinking & accommodation scene.
Ready to plan your trip to Taupo? Here are a few travel resources…
Wanaka is often overshadowed by Queenstown to the south. But the town has long been one of South Island’s up-and-coming adventure destinations. Much like its more popular rival, the lakeside town of Wanaka is primed for adventure. Its surroundings burst with blissful mountainscapes begging to be tramped through.
While still holding onto its small-town roots, Wanaka has everything you’ll need to enjoy a stop here on your South Island adventure. As its popularity rises, Wanaka is coming into its own. Today, it’s home to a wide array of hip restaurants & funky watering holes. They’re perfect for relaxing after an adrenaline-fuelled day on the trails.
Ready to plan your trip to Wanaka? Here are a few travel resources…
Auckland may be New Zealand’s biggest city. But Wellington might well be the country’s biggest surprise. New Zealand’s capital city is hemmed into the eastern fringes of a harbour-side peninsula by mountain. Much like Auckland, Wellington sports a spectacular geographic location. And it begs for exploration.
As far as capital cities go, Wellington is quite small. Its population that doesn’t even crack half a million denizens. In spite of its smaller stature, Wellington punches well above weight in the hip factor. The city is chock-loaded with art galleries, microbreweries, craft beer bars, and cafés. It’s the perfect combo for a happenin’ social scene that keeps travellers and locals alike enthralled.
Ready to plan your trip to Wellington? Here are a few travel resources…
- Best Things to Do in Wellington
- One Day in Wellington: Itinerary
- Best Hikes & Walks in Wellington
- Where to Stay in Wellington
Other destinations in New Zealand
Transportation in New Zealand
For most international travellers, the best way to get to New Zealand is by air. The busiest international airport in New Zealand is Auckland Airport (AKL). It’s the main international & domestic hub for New Zealand’s national carrier, Air New Zealand. It also serves as a hub for international airlines like Virgin Australia and Jetstar Airways.
If you’re on a tighter schedule, travelling around New Zealand by air might be a good option. Air New Zealand offers the most routes to major destinations around the country. Air travel is often more expensive than land transportation in New Zealand.
For most travellers, getting around New Zealand by bus is the best option. Bus transportation in New Zealand is efficient, budget-friendly, and comfortable. There’s an added bonus, too. When travelling by bus, you’ll get a chance to see the natural beauty of New Zealand at its best.