12 Places to Visit in New Zealand

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, odds are you are having a hard time narrowing down what to see and do.  For our two week trip we planned on seeing both the North AND South Island, making it even more difficult!  Here are 12 of the beautiful places we went that I recommend you do, too.

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WAIHEKE ISLAND

WAIHEKE ISLAND

Waiheke Island is an island off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand, reachable in 40 mins by ferry. It is known for it’s beautiful beaches and boutique wineries offering breathtaking sea views and top-notch tastings.

WHAT TO DO ON WAIHEKE ISLAND:

  • Wine tasting, of course!  Read my full recommendations here
  • Have lunch at Casito Miro (make reservations)
  • Have dinner at Cable Bay

WHERE TO STAY:

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

 
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ROTORUA

ROTORUA

Rotorua, also located on the north island, is known mainly for being the thermal wonderland of New Zealand.  To be honest, the town itself is nothing to write home about.  The draw is definitely the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.

WHAT TO DO IN ROTORUA:

WHERE TO STAY:

 

WAITOMO

Glow worms caves! They are actually maggots, but you will learn about then when you go.  Prior to visiting I had a handful of friends tell me that it is a tourist trap and I actually could not disagree more. 

WHAT TO DO IN WAITOMO:

  • The Black Labyrinth tour with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.  You jump backwards down waterfalls and it is SO MUCH FUN.  Definitely worth it and not a tourist trap.
 
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TURANGI

TURANGI

Turangi is a very small town located on Lake Taupo, well known for it’s fishing.  If you plan on doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing it is a great place to stay as it is very close.  We stayed here instead of in Taupo and really enjoyed it!

WHAT TO DO IN TURANGI:

  • Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the most popular day hike in New Zealand!
  • Stay in the woods at Creel Lodge
  • Grab breakfast at the very cute Creel Tackle House & Cafe on your way out
 
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WELLINGTON

WELLINGTON

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and located on the southernmost point of the North Island.  It’s a fun city with lots of great restaurants and bars as well as many museums and other cultural experiences.

WHAT TO DO IN WELLINGTON:

WHERE TO STAY:

Booking.com
 
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TEKAPO

TEKAPO

Tekapo is a small town between Christchurch and Mount Cook. It is home to Lake Tekapo which often has shockingly blue waters and you have likely seen it on Pinterest many times surrounded by purple lupin flowers, which unfortunately were not in bloom while we were there.  It's worth a quick stop along your road trip to snap some pics.

WHAT TO DO IN TEKAPO:

  • Star gaze! It is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve
  • Stop by the Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Visit Lake Tekapo
 
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TWIZEL

TWIZEL

Twizel is a small town just south of Lake Pukaki and a great place to stop for a bite to eat if you are on a road trip to Mount Cook! Especially since we learned the hard way that there are almost no dining options in Mount Cook.  It is pronounced “Twy-zel” not “Twizzle”.

WHAT TO DO IN TWIZEL:

  • Grab breakfast and/or lunch at Shawty's. So good that we went for lunch on our way to Mount Cook and for breakfast on our way out! 
  • Stop by stunning Lake Pukaki on the way, of course
 
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MOUNT COOK VILLAGE

MOUNT COOK VILLAGE

Mount Cook Village is home to Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand! The village is beautiful but very remote and small with limited options for dining and sleeping. 

WHAT TO DO IN MOUNT COOK VILLAGE:

  • Walk the Hooker Valley Track
  • Visit the Tasman Glacier
  • Consider a helicopter tour - there are a lot of good options
  • Save an appetite and grab dinner at The Alpine Restaurant buffet at The Hermitage Hotel Mt Cook.  It's a bit pricey but good 

WHERE TO STAY:

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

  • Hiking the Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park
 
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WANAKA

 

 

WANAKA

Wanaka is an extremely charming resort town and was easily one of the highlights of my New Zealand trip! 

WHAT TO DO IN WANAKA:

WHERE TO EAT:

WHERE TO STAY:

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

 
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QUEENSTOWN

QUEENSTOWN

Queenstown is a wonderful town near the southern end of the South Island.  It is known for having a large amount of adventure sport options such as bungee jumping and jet-boating.  There are also many vineyards where you can wine taste.

WHAT TO DO IN QUEENSTOWN:

  • Day trip to Milford Sound (more below)
  • Walk around Queenstown
  • Bungee jump if that is your thing
  • Try jet-boating - I recommend Skippers Canyon Jet
  • Take the Skyline gondola to the top of Queenstown and luge (it’s like Mario Kart in real life!)

WHERE TO EAT:

WHERE TO STAY:

Booking.com
 
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MILFORD SOUND

MILFORD SOUND

Despite the name, Milford Sound is actually a fiord and is located on the coast of the South Island a few hours west of Queenstown.  It is often called the 8th wonder of the world and is something you should absolutely not miss!  You can visit either as a day trip from Queenstown or go and stay there.  Do note that if you are planning a day trip and on doing so via flight, they often get canceled due to weather.

WHAT TO DO IN MILFORD SOUND:

  • Book some kind of boat tour and cruise around the sound
 

NUGGET POINT LIGHTHOUSE

While I didn’t actually make it here myself, I can tell from the photos alone that it’s worth the trek.  It’s one of the most iconic places in New Zealand and if you can find a way to fit it in your schedule, I definitely would.  I unfortunately could not but I plan to visit if I ever make it back to New Zealand!

 

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