Top 30 Things to Do in New Zealand

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Small but diverse, New Zealand’s the perfect holiday destination for anyone on the quest for beauty and variety.

With every kind of landscape you can imagine, unique wildlife, adrenaline-pumping activities fresh food and world-class wine, you’re never too far from your next adventure.

Here’s the ultimate Kiwi bucket list with the top 30 things to do in New Zealand.

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1. Peek Through Hobbit holes

Where: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata 3472

In Matamata, the Shire lives on. Visit Hobbiton – a magical medieval world in miniature – then sink a drink at the Green Dragon Inn.

Hobbiton, the Shire, Matamata. Photo by Tom Hall
Hobbiton, the Shire, Matamata. Photo by Tom Hall

2. Bungy Jumping

Where: Nevis Bungy, Queenstown. Kawarau Bridge Bungy, SH6, Gibbston Valley, Queenstown.  The Ledge Bungy, Queenstown. Auckland Bridge Bungy, 105 Curran Street Extension, Westhaven Marina, Herne Bay. Taupo Bungy, 202 Spa Road, Taupo.

Dive off a bridge attached to an elastic cord and live to tell the tale, in the birthplace of bungy. Or take things feet-first with a canyon swing instead.

Classic Kiwi Bungy Jump. Photo by Phillip Wong
Classic Kiwi Bungy Jump. Photo by Phillip Wong

3. See a White Kiwi

Where: 85379 State Highway 2, Mount Bruce 5881

Pop into Pukaha Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre north of Wellington, where you can see New Zealand’s only white kiwi in captivity. Manukura, whose parents both carried the recessive white feather gene, lives in the nocturnal kiwi house with a North Island brown kiwi called Turua.

Little White Kiwi. Photo by Manukura Little White Kiwi on Facebook
Little White Kiwi. Photo by Manukura Little White Kiwi on Facebook

4. Scuba Diving

Where: Tutukaka, Northland

The Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve in Northland was once rated by explorer Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dives in the world. The islands are the remnants of a group of ancient volcanoes. Here, you can explore the world’s biggest sea cave – Riko Riko – and a glorious abundance of plant life and marine creatures underwater.

Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, Northland. Photo by saspotato
Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, Northland. Photo by saspotato

5. Give Your Legs a Workout Along Baldwin St

Where: Baldwin St, Dunedin, 9010

Run or walk up Baldwin St in Dunedin, the world’s steepest. Afterwards, reward yourself with a pint at one of the city’s many excellent pubs.

Baldwin St, Dunedin. Photo by Dunedin NZ
Baldwin St, Dunedin. Photo by Dunedin NZ

6. Sail to Mine Bay

Where: 23 Whakamoenga Point, Acacia Bay, Taupo 3377

Take a kayak or boat tour around Lake Taupo’s western bays to see the huge Maori rock carvings. Only accessible by boat, the giant Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay are best viewed up close from a kayak. Take a tour around Lake Taupo’s western bays to see this majestic marvel – more than 10m high – up close.

Mine Bay, Lake Taupo. Photo by Abaconda Management Group
Mine Bay, Lake Taupo. Photo by Abaconda Management Group

7. Walk on the Bridge to Nowhere

Where: Whanganui National Park 4392

You can get to the Bridge to Nowhere by foot, jetboat, or canoe. In the heart of Whanganui National Park, this concrete bridge looks completely out of place, with no roads on either side. After settlers abandoned the area, forest grew back, blotting out all other signs of civilisation. Catch a jetboat to the bridge from either Pipiriki or Whakahoro and then walk the rest of the way.

Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park. Photo by Department of Conservation
Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park. Photo by Department of Conservation

8. See the Moeraki Boulders

Where: Koekohe Beach, 7 Moeraki Boulders Road, Hampden 9482

You can’t drive along the coast between Christchurch and Dunedin without stopping at the gigantic Moeraki Boulders. These mystical rocks are almost perfect spheres, lying out on the beach and nestled into the cliffs. On your way out, stop to say hi to the llamas on the other side of the fence around the carpark.

Moeraki Boulders. Photo by Jeremy Taylor
Moeraki Boulders. Photo by Jeremy Taylor

9. Zorbing

Where: 149 Western Road, Ngongotaha, Rotorua 3010

Strap yourself into an enormous plastic ball and roll on downhill. Zorbs can reach speeds of up to 50km per hour!

Zorbing. Photo by planetgordon
Zorbing. Photo by planetgordon

10. Jetboating

Where: Shotover Jet, Gorge Road, Queenstown 9300

Originally developed for rural residents to get around, today jetboats are more commonly used for tourist thrills. Don’t count on staying dry…

Jetboating. Photo by David Bakker
Jetboating. Photo by David Bakker

11. Blokarting

Where: Muriwai Surf School, Muriwai 0881

Picture a wind powered land yacht with three wheels, and you’ve got yourself a blokart – perfect for racing along the beach.

Blokarting. Photo by Duncan Blair
Blokarting. Photo by Duncan Blair

12. Float Through Glowworm Caves

Where: 39 Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo Caves, Otorohanga 3943

Hop into an inflatable inner tube and go rafting through Waitomo’s underground caves lit only by glowworms.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Photo by 2il org
Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Photo by 2il org

13. Pelorus Mail Boat

Where: Jetty 1, Havelock Marina, Havelock 7100

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the Pelorus Mail Run visits isolated homesteads around the Marlborough Sounds, keeping up a decades-old tradition. Plus, you might get lucky and spot dolphins, seals or penguins!

Pelorus Mail Run, Nelson. Photo by Shellie Evans
Pelorus Mail Run, Nelson. Photo by Shellie Evans

14. Shweeb

Where: 1335 Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotaha, Rotorua 3040

Speed freaks rejoice: now you can hoon around a racetrack in a tiny pedal powered pod!

Race around an airborne track in the Shweeb!
Race around an airborne track in the Shweeb! Photo by Shweeb

15. Skydiving

Where: All over New Zealand

If you’re going to jump out of a plane, you may as well do it in the most beautiful country on earth. Skydiving over snowy mountains, turquoise lakes and lush forests is an experience you’ll never forget.

Skydiving. Photo by Michael Napoleon
Skydiving. Photo by Michael Napoleon

16. Dig Your Own Spa

Where: Hot Water Beach. the Coromandel 3591

Head to Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel at low tide, bring a spade and dig yourself a natural hot pool in the sand. There’s nothing quite like it.

Hot Water Beach, the Coromandel. Photo by Nick Thompson
Hot Water Beach, the Coromandel. Photo by Nick Thompson

17. Enjoy a Hangi

Where: Tamaki Maori Village, Highlands Loop Road, Ngakuru, Rotorua

Feast on food cooked the traditional Maori way – in an underground oven. Meat and vegetables come out with a unique and delicious smoky tinge.

Hangi. Photo by einalem
Hangi. Photo by einalem

18. The Longest Place Name in New Zealand

Where: Wimbledon Road, Porangahau

In the Hawke’s Bay there’s a little hill known as “Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu” – or Taumata Hill for short. It’s New Zealand’s longest place name and one of the longest in the world!

NZ's longest place name. Taumata Hill for short. Photo by sa steve
NZ’s longest place name. Taumata Hill for short. Photo by sa steve

19. Tongariro Crossing

Where: Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Wanganui 4691

Walk among emerald lakes, steaming craters and moody volcanic peaks. This one-day walk is world famous, or you can go the whole hog and hike the 3-4 day Tongariro Northern Circuit.

Tongariro Crossing. Photo by Harry Lund
Tongariro Crossing. Photo by Harry Lund

20. Sail Through the Hole in the Rock

Where: Maritime Building, Marsden Rd, Paihia, Bay of Islands

Centuries of wind and waves have carved an 18m hole at sea level into Piercy Island in the Bay of Islands. When conditions are right, jet boats can blast right on through the hole!

Hole in the Rock, Bay of Islands. Photo by Ronald Woan
Hole in the Rock, Bay of Islands. Photo by Ronald Woan

21. Swim with Dolphins

Where: Maritime Building, Marsden Rd, Paihia, Bay of Islands

Get up close with these playful creatures in the warm waters of the Bay of Islands.

Swim with Dolphins in the Bay of Islands. Photo by je mcgowan
Swim with Dolphins in the Bay of Islands. Photo by je mcgowan

22. Whale Watching

Where: The Whaleway Station Whaleway Road, Kaikoura 7340

Kaikoura Whale Watch is one of the best places in the world to spot sperm whales; the continental shelf drops off steeply into underwater canyons not far off the coast.

Kaikoura Whale Watching. Photo by pablo
Kaikoura Whale Watching. Photo by pablo

23. Glacier Hiking

Where: Westland Tai Poutini National Park, 13 State Highway 6, 7856

The West Coast is glacier country; here, ice giants cascade almost to sea level. Hike up to the face of Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier or take a helicopter ride to land on the ice.

Glacier Hiking. Photo by lwtt93
Glacier Hiking Photo by lwtt93

24. Milford Sound

Where: Fiordland National Park, Te Anau 9640

Often described as the 8th wonder of the world, Milford Sound is breathtaking from any angle. Take a boat cruise through the fiord or try kayaking, diving or flightseeing.

Milford Sound. Photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn
Milford Sound. Photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn

25. Kayaking

Where: All over New Zealand

Pick up a paddle and get out on the water. New Zealand is packed with waterways, from dramatic fiords to peaceful lakes, sheltered harbours and rushing rivers, and of course the vast oceans surrounding this island nation.

Kayaking. Photo by Department of Conservation
Kayaking. Photo by Department of Conservation

26. Sand Duning

Where: Himatangi Beach, Manawatu 4891. Te Paki, Kaitaia, Northland

Head to Himatangi Beach in the Manawatu region or Te Paki in Northland with a boogie board and race down the giant sand dunes.

Sand Duning. Photo by Virginie Cheysson
Sand Duning. Photo by Virginie Cheysson

27. Cycle the Vines

Where: March Hare, 18 Kitchener Street, Martinborough

You can’t beat a sunny afternoon biking through the country and calling into local vineyards to sample their offerings. Places like Martinborough boast dozens of wineries all within easy distance of one another.

Martinborough vineyards. Photo by Sarah-Rose
Martinborough vineyards. Photo by Sarah-Rose

29. Muriwai Gannet Colony

Where: Takapu Refuge Walk, Muriwai 0881

Out on Auckland’s wild west coast you’ll come across this spectacular colony, where more than 1000 pairs of gannets nest every year between August and March.

Muriwai Gannet Colony. Photo by Kevin Cheng
Muriwai Gannet Colony. Photo by Kevin Cheng

30. Hot Pools

Where: Tekapo Springs, Hanmer Springs, Kerosene Creek

Enjoy a soak in a natural hot spring or a thermal pool at the likes of Tekapo Springs, Hanmer Springs, or Kerosene Creek among others in Rotorua. Rotorua’s also known for bubbling mud pools and shooting geysers – it’s a hotbed of geothermal activity.

Hot pools. Photo by hockadilly
Hot pools. Photo by hockadilly

Featured image by Tom Hall

Top 30 Things to Do in New Zealand was last modified: January 26th, 2017 by Esther Goh
Author: Esther Goh (56 posts)

Writer and digital specialist hooked on travel and food. Calls Auckland home but desperately misses Mexican and Italian cuisine. Esther blogs at NZ Muse.