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25 Most BEAUTIFUL Places to Visit in New Zealand (that You Can’t Miss!)

25 Most BEAUTIFUL Places to Visit in New Zealand (that You Can’t Miss!)

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New Zealand is one of my favorite countries in the world. First off, it’s stunningly beautiful – in fact, I think it wins hands-down as the world’s most beautiful country. And secondly, there is so much to see and do In New Zealand, you will never be bored here!

As a local, I’ve been lucky enough to explore all of New Zealand. From the stunning beaches on the North Island to the mountains and lakes of the South Island, I’ve seen it all. And once you read this list I’m sure you’ll have no doubt as to why I’ve decided to call New Zealand home.

From my time in New Zealand, I’ve come across several places that are not only amazing but showcase a huge variety of landscapes and experiences. These 25 places most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list!

Starting with the south island, this list has it all!

Beautiful Places on the South Island

1. Queenstown

Southern Discoveries cruise on Lake Wakatipu during sunset in Queenstown
The sunsets in summer as the best!
Scenic views from a flight in Queenstown

I may be biased because I live here, but I think Queenstown is the most beautiful place in all of New Zealand. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations on the South Island and it’s obvious why – this small town is surrounded by beauty!

Queenstown sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, and Walter Peak. A short drive or walk away, you’ll find some amazing hiking trails and stunning remote lakes (I love Moke Lake). There are tons of things to do in Queenstown, so it can be hard deciding on what activity to choose! But, by picking a few hikes, adventure activities (like the Luge), and trying out great restaurants and craft beer, you’ll be able to get a small taste of it all.

There’s a huge variety of activities in Queenstown it’s one of the reasons I love this town so much. The award-winning wineries, breathtaking road trips, epic hikes, bike trails are just a few. One of my favorite things to do is go on a Lake Wakatipu scenic cruise, you’ll get great views and it’s a very relaxing activity. Plus if you add on a visit to Walter Peak High Country Farm, kids love getting to see all the animals!

Queenstown isn’t exactly the cheapest town to visit and with so much on offer it can be easy to splurge whilst on vacation here but my detailed guide to free things to do in Queenstown blog is sure to save you a ton of money. If I’m really honest the best thing about Queenstown is the great outdoors and thankfully that’s free!

Related Read: If you plan to spend a few nights in Queenstown (I highly recommend doing so), then check out my blog on the best places to stay in Queenstown

2. Wanaka

The famous Roys Peak viewpoint at sunrise
The epic viewpoint on Roy’s Peak!

The quirky town of Wanaka is located just over an hour’s drive from Queenstown via the Crown Range highway. Wanaka also sits on the shores of a stunning lake promptly called Lake Wanaka – which in my opinion, is the most beautiful lake in New Zealand.

Wanaka is equally as beautiful as Queenstown but only attracts a fraction of the crowds. So, it’s a great choice if you want a vacation away from the hustle and bustle. One of the best things to do in Wanaka is to simply grab a coffee and take a stroll along the lake to #thatwanakatree.

Another great free thing to do in Wanaka is to hike Roy’s Peak. This day hike is famous for the gorgeous views from the summit! If you’re after a shorter hike then drive to Mt Aspiring National Park and hike the easy trail to Diamond Lake.

Fun fact for you, Wanaka is the craft beer capital of New Zealand! There are more breweries per capita here than anywhere else in New Zealand. My favorite is Rhyme and Reason Brewery!

I highly recommend spending the night so you can take in a few of the amazing tours in Wanaka like visiting wineries, cruising on the lake, and even skydiving! If you need help finding a hotel, read my blog about where to stay in Wanaka to choose the perfect place!

3. Glenorchy and Paradise

bailey dresses up on a Lord of the Rings Tour from Queenstown to Glenorchy
I loved the tour even though I’m not the biggest LOTR fan!

Glenorchy is a town surrounded by pristine landscapes and untouched wilderness. There are so many amazing things to do in Glenorchy such as the Glenorchy Walkway, hiking the famous Routeburn Track, doing a jet boating tour, and taking a drive out to Paradise.

The Glenorchy-Paradise Road is a 13 kilometer stretch of gravel road every visitor to New Zealand should explore. Along the way, you’ll get to see what paradise on earth looks like. The scenery here has some serious Lord of the Rings vibes. My top tip – get a photo with the Paradise sign!

Another one of the best things about Glenorchy (funnily enough) is the scenic drive from Queenstown. In fact, this drive is often named as one of the most beautiful drives on the South Island. This epic road trip travels along the edge of Lake Wakatipu with beautiful stops such as Moke Lake, Bob’s Cove Track, and Bennetts Bluff Lookout.

And if you don’t have a car, there are some incredible Glenorchy tours from Queenstown that take care of every detail so you can just enjoy the views – and boy is the scenery here amazing!

You should spend at least half a day exploring Glenorchy. To me, this region is even more beautiful than the Queenstown area and hands-down one of the most stunning places to visit in New Zealand!

4. Mount Cook National Park

Bailey hikes up to the Mueller Hut in New Zealand
On the way up!
Bailey in the Muller Hut area stands on a rock with Mount Cook in the background
At the Mueller Hut!

Mount Cook National Park is the home of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook. The national park is surrounded by the most beautiful mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers, and hiking trails in New Zealand. It’s paradise on earth for any outdoor lover!

There are lots of amazing things to do in Mount Cook but one of my favorites is the hike to the Mueller Hut. The Mueller Hut overlooks Mount Cook, Hooker Lake, Mueller Lake, Mueller Glacier, and more. This alpine hut is the ultimate viewpoint and a bucket-list-worthy place to spend the night. The hut does have to be booked in advance in summer, so get in early if you want to stay the night!

Other popular hikes in Mount Cook include the Hooker Valley Track, Sealy Tarns Trail, and the Tasman Glacier viewpoint. If hiking isn’t your thing then you can go stargazing, or take a scenic flight through the mountains.

Related Read: The drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook is an epic road trip and one of the best experiences on the South Island! You can also join a tour from Queenstown to Mount Cook to make it easy!

5. Lake Pukaki

Bailey looks over at Mount Cook National Park from Lake Pukaki Viewpoint
What a beautiful country!

If there was ever a competition of the bluest lake in new Zealand, it would be between Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo (next on this list.) To be honest though, I’d vote for Lake Pukaki every day of the week. This alpine lake is fed right from the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers and it shines a turquoise blue color I’ve never seen in any other lake in NZ!

Lake Pukaki is located just past the turn-off onto Mount Cook Road (on the drive from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook) and although you’ll see the lake on your right as you drive into the park, be sure to stop at this parking lot. Here, you can enjoy the Lake Pukaki Shoreline Walk. From the edge of the lake, you’ll be able to truly admire the colors and views with Mount Cook in the distance. There are also freedom camping spots here that are marked on Google Maps.

6. Lake Tekapo

Views of lupins and Lake Tekapo on the south island of New Zealand
Lupin season in Lake Tekapo is one of the best times to visit!

Lake Tekapo is a small town located near Mount cook National Park. The town was made famous by the gorgeous lake and its unbelievable blue color.

For such a small town there are so many things to do in Lake Tekapo. This gorgeously photogenic town has a population of just over 500 and it’s one of the most popular stops on the road between Christchurch and Queenstown.

Some of my favorite activities in Tekapo include star gazing from a hot pool in one of the only Dark Sky Reserves in New Zealand and visiting The Church of the Good Shepherd (one of the most beautiful churches you will ever lay your eyes on). There are also some great cafes and restaurants in Lake Tekapo with even better views to enjoy, as well as scenic flights, jet boat rides on the lake, and more!

Why not spend a night in Lake Tekapo and explore this magical area even taking day trips to the nearby Mount Cook National Park. There are lots of nice hotels and hostels in Tekapo to choose from!

Related Read: Continuing on your road trip to Christchurch, then, check out my detailed blog post on the best stops between Lake Tekapo and Christchurch

7. The Catlins

Koropuku Falls in the Catlins
Koropuku Falls is my favorite waterfall in The Catlins!

The Catlins is such a neat place! Located in the deep south, this area is famous for its beautiful coastline and a seemingly endless number of waterfalls. To truly enjoy this region, you really should spend a night or two in the wild and rugged Catlins. It’s the road-less-traveled and gives a true sense of the South Island. There are penguins, sea caves, a very photogenic lighthouse, and like I said, lots and lots of waterfalls.

Some of my favorite stops include Curio Bay, Koropuku Falls, Cathedral Caves, Purakaunui Falls, and McLean Falls. All these attractions can be visited on a road trip from Dunedin to Invercargill with a recommended overnight stop in Curio Bay to see the rare yellow-eyed penguins. Curio Bay is also a popular stop if you’re driving from Queenstown to Dunedin via the Southern Scenic Route.

Related Read: Heading to Dunedin? Check out the best places to stay in Dunedin!

8. Arthur’s Pass

Bailey at the summit of Avalanche Peak in New Zealand
Avalanche Peak!
Bailey looks out at the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall on Arthurs Pass
Devils Punchbowl Waterfall on Arthurs Pass

Arthur’s Pass National Park is a bucket list place to visit in New Zealand. I’m almost certain you’ll fall in love with the scenic drive through Arthur’s Pass in the middle of the park. This gorgeous drive is one of only three mountain roads that travel through the Southern Alps from east to west. Along the way, you’ll take in breathtaking views, explore hidden waterfalls, and even stretch your legs on some epic hikes.

The best hike and one of the best things to do on Arthur’s Pass is Avalanche Peak. This challenging day hike takes you high above the pass to summit Avalanche Peak. From the top, you can take in the breathtaking views and feel as though you’re on top of the world!

An easier hiking trail is the Devil’s Punchball walking track a 20-minute trail that takes you to one of the most powerful waterfalls in New Zealand at a huge 131 meters tall!

9. Franz Josef (town and glacier)

Bailey at the Franz Josef valley viewpoint
The glacier viewpoint!
Peters Pool in Franz Josef
Peters Pool in Franz Josef

You may have already heard of Franz Josef – it is easily one of the most well-known tourist destinations in New Zealand. Many visitors come to Franz Josef to explore Franz Josef Glacier. There are two ways you can see the glacier. The first is via the free and short viewpoint trail and the second is to hop on a glacier trekking tour via helicopter. The helicopter tour is a bucket-list experience and one I loved!

Other things to do in Franz Josef include hiking the Alex Knob Track – one of the best hikes on the South Island. The trail takes you high above the valley to peer down at Franz Josef Glacier. It’s a difficult hike but the views along the way and from the viewpoint are worth it.

In the town of Franz Josef, you need to visit the Franz Josef Hot Pools. These beautiful hot pools are tranquil and relaxing and cost just $29 NZD per adult. There are 3 large communal pools and each one is at a different temperature. For a truly romantic experience, pay $100 for their private soak.

On top of the amazing things to do, Franz Josef is a very convenient town to stay in when exploring the wild and rugged West Coast. Take a road trip from Queenstown to Franz Josef before spending a few nights in town. Then, head north driving from Franz Josef to Punakaiki. This epic region is filled with beautiful places just waiting to be discovered!

Related Read: A great way to see many of the amazing places on this list is on a multi-day guided tour in New Zealand!

10. Milford Sound

A boat travels right up to Stirling Falls in Milford Sound
Oh the waterfalls!
Bailey smiles at the Camera on a Milford Sound cruise with a waterfall in the background
Obviously yes!

Milford Sound is the most famous fiord in New Zealand and is without a doubt one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand. It was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago and the fiord’s steep cliffs and unique marine life make it a must-visit.

Would you believe that one million tourists visit Milford annually!?

Milford Sound is most commonly visited from Queenstown on a group day trip. These tours include transport there and back as well as a cruise through the sound. It’s a long day, taking around 13 hours total because the journey to Milford from Queenstown is almost 4 hours each way. This tour wouldn’t be my first choice as I found it very long with lots of driving.

Instead, I recommend booking this tour that includes a scenic flight one way from Milford back to Queenstown. A scenic flight over Fiordland National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! This way, the driving time is cut in half but you also get to enjoy the beautiful road to Milford. In fact, one of the best things about Milford Sound is the drive there from Te Anau.

Alternatively, consider spending the night in the closest town of Te Anau, approximately 118 kilometers away, or at the luxurious Milford Sound Lodge just around the corner. On your way to Milford, be sure to stop at all of the best attractions on the road from Queenstown to Milford Sound. These include gorgeous lakes, viewpoints, and hikes.

Of course, you can also visit Milford Sound on a longer road trip, like the journey from Christchurch to Milford Sound is one of my favorites! Then, once you arrive in Milford just be sure to book a cruise so that you can actually see it all.

This particular boat cruise is my personal favorite because it is on a smaller boat, meaning you get even closer to the action. The commentary on board is super interesting, and the views of waterfalls, mountain peaks, and wildlife are sure to make this one of your most memorable activities in all of NZ!

11. Fiordland National Park

Doubtful Sound cruise
What a magnificent place!

Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s most visited national parks and a personal favorite of mine. Of course, the most famous thing to do here is to visit Milford Sound, but there are a ton of other attractions to see too.

One of the most famous sights in Fiordland National Park is Doubtful Sound. This stunning and hard-to-reach national treasure is the perfect alternative to Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is actually the largest fiord in Fiordland National Park and although not far from Te Anau, accessing Doubtful Sound requires a lot of effort and can only be done on an organized tour.

You can either choose to leave from Queenstown or self-drive to Manapouri. From Manapouri, you’ll take a ferry across Lake Manapouri before hopping on another bus into Doubtful Sound. From here you’ll finally board your boat and enjoy a scenic trip through Doubtful Sound. Then on the way back, you’ll do it all again! It’s an adventure, to say the least! I actually wrote blogs on the best Doubtful Sound cruise from Manapouri and Te Anau and the top Doubtful Sound tour from Queenstown to help you decide!

You can also do an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound which is pretty spectacular. This overnight tour means you’ll see this special place with almost no one around and get to watch the sunrise. You’ll have a private cabin, the chance to kayak (which I loved – you get closer to the wildlife like penguins!), and overall have so much more time to soak in the scenery. It’s easily one of the best Doubtful Sound tours if you’re looking to unplug and relax among nature for a while.

Other stunning attractions in Fiordland National Park include Mirror Lakes, Lake Marian hiking track, the Milford Track, Pop’s View Lookout, and The Chasm. All of these places can be visited from Te Anau, also known as the gateway to Fiordland.

12. Mount Aspiring National Park

Views of Rob Roy Glacier from the trail
What a view!

There’s so much to do in Mount Aspiring National Park and it is one of my favorite National Parks in New Zealand. The park is home to rewarding hikes, unique activities, and jaw-dropping scenery. Unlike other national parks around New Zealand, Mount Aspiring is a bit of a mystery.

Named after the highest mountain in the area, Mount Aspiring, the park covers a huge portion of the Southern Alps and is located very close (as the crow flies) to Wanaka and Glenorchy. The park is huge at 3,562 square kilometers (1,375 sq mi)!

Mount Aspiring National park is most famous for its beautiful hikes including Brewster Hut, Routeburn Track, and Rob Roy Glacier Track. There are lots of other attractions in the park including one of the most famous canyoning experiences in New Zealand and Roaring Billy Falls.

Most people will explore the park from Wanaka, however, you can access one side of the park from Glenorchy too.

Fun fact: Many scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in Mt Aspiring National Park.

Related Read: You’ll drive through the middle of Mt Aspiring National Park on a road trip from Wanaka to Franz Josef.

13. Abel Tasman National Park

Bailey poses for a photo at a viewpoint along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track in New Zealand
What a stunning place!
Stunning views of Abel Tasman National Park, NZ
Of course!

One of my favorite places to visit during the summer is Abel Tasman National Park. Not only does its location on the northern end of the South Island provide much-needed sunshine, but the pristine beaches here are some of the best in New Zealand. If you think the North Island has all the best beaches, you’re wrong!

Abel Tasman National Park is home to the Abel Tasman Coast Track which is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks. Hiking the trail takes between 4 to 5 days to complete and follows the coastline visiting secluded bays and beaches along the way. However, most tourists don’t hike the full trail, instead, they hike it in sections on day trips from Nelson.

There is also a huge range of tours to the park and one of my favorites is the boat cruises. On them, you’ll explore the calm waters and visit beaches for a picnic lunch and a refreshing swim. It’s good exercise and really fun! We have more tour recommendations in Abel Tasman if you’re looking to join one while you’re here.

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14. Marlborough Sounds

A seal in the Marlborough Sounds on the south island
Can you spot the seal in the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds?

Located at the very north of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds is home to abundant wildlife like kiwis, dolphins, sea lions, penguins, and more. The Marlborough Sounds are best explored on a scenic cruise from the town of Picton and on these cruises, you’ll explore the sounds in search of wildlife.

Part of this tour is the chance to visit a predator-free island to look for penguins while enjoying a nature walk. You may even spot the elusive kiwi on your walk as the islands are used by the DOC in conservation efforts to raise kiwis before being released in the wild elsewhere!

Besides the above, you can also explore the town of Picton and take a drive along the coast from there, I promise you’ll be blown away by the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds! It’s also one of the best wine regions and the wine tours in Picton are well worth it if you’re a wine lover like me!

Note: You’ll cruise through the Marlborough Sounds if you take the ferry from the South Island to the North Island. You will get some nice views from the ferry, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to the actual scenic cruise experiences. These tours are on smaller boats that weave around the islands and spot wildlife.

15. Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders at sunset on the South Island
Have you ever seen something like that before!

The Moeraki Boulders are one of the most-visited tourist sites in New Zealand around 30 minutes from Oamaru. Would you believe there are about 50 large spherical boulders scattered along the beach – some of these boulders are up to two meters tall! Even more unique, some have cracked open like eggs, others are still intact, but one thing is for sure…they’re weird!

Did you know – hundreds of years ago, according to a local Maori tale, these giant boulders were washed up on the beach by the voyaging canoe Araiteru when it was wrecked after hitting land. 

Visiting the boulders only takes an hour or so and the best time to photograph the boulders is at sunrise or sunset. There is a café nearby with parking and access to the beach. They do require a small fee to use the beach access though. If you don’t want to pay, you can also access the boulders via the DOC parking lot nearby. Just be sure to look on Google Maps and go to the public parking area, not the café.

As far as interesting places to visit in New Zealand go, Moeraki Boulders is a clear winner!

Beautiful Places on the North Island

16. The Coromandel Peninsula

Bailey and her mum relax at Hot Water Beach
Me and my mum having a drink at Hot Water Beach!

Famed for its gorgeous beaches, the Coromandel Peninsula is one of the must-visit destinations on the North Island. Located only 2 hours from Auckland, this popular region is the perfect place for a beach getaway in New Zealand.

Some of the best activities on the Coromandel Peninsula include a visit to The Lost Spring Geothermal Spa in nearby Whitianga, kayaking to Cathedral Cove (a beach made famous from The Chronicles of Narnia movies), or digging your own hot water pool at Hot Water Beach.

Digging your own pool sounds pretty crazy but this phenomenon is possible thanks to some thermal vents underneath the ground that heat the ocean water above. You need to visit Hot Water Beach 2-hours on either side of low tide in order to dig the spa without the waves crashing on you, and be prepared for crowds. 

On top of that, the Coromandel is home to a small boutique wine region, and I myself just love visiting Mercury Bay Estate Winery to enjoy a glass with magnificent views.

17. Bay of Islands

The Hole in Rock attraction in the Bay of Islands
We sailed through that hole on our Hole in the Rock boat cruise!

Northland is, in my opinion, the number one beach destination in New Zealand. This large region is home to hundreds of pristine beaches and if you want to see the best it has to offer, head to the Bay of Islands.

The Bay of Islands is exactly what the name suggests – a huge bay filled with lots of small islands. On a cruise through the bay, you can stop at remote beaches to snorkel with the marine life and even find a beach to yourself to relax on.

A popular boat tour here takes you out to the famous Hole in the Rock. This cool rock formation is in the middle of the ocean and boats actually drive through the tiny hole. The most famous cruise in the Bay of Islands is the dolphin-watching tour. In the bay, there are huge pods of dolphins and your chances of seeing them are really good!

No visit to the Bay of Islands is complete without a trip (you can catch the ferry from Paihia) to historic Russell.

Some other great things to do in the Bay of Islands include Waitangi Treaty Grounds (to learn about Maori culture) and visiting Urupukapuka Island.

Note: The drive from Auckland to the Bay of Islands/Paihia is incredibly scenic with tons of attractions to check out along the way. Rent a car in Auckland and give yourself a couple of days to enjoy this road trip!

18. Waiheke Island

View of the vineyards on Waiheke Island on a wine tour
The real reason I come to Waiheke is for the wine!

Located only a short ferry from the city center, Waiheke Island is a place with beautiful beaches, gorgeous bays, and amazing wine. The best part is you can explore much of the island by bike so as a visitor you don’t need a rental car. You can choose to visit Waiheke on a tour from Auckland but I recommend getting a place to stay and spending a night or two here.

On Waiheke Island, I loved visiting the many wineries by bike. A short and easy bike ride will take you to several wineries. It’s a beautiful way to spend the day, and the best part is you work off the calories from the wine along the way!

My other recommendations for things to do on Waiheke Island include wandering the sculpture park, relaxing at the beach, kayaking or paddleboarding, and just enjoying the cute and fun town of Oneroa.

If you’re staying in Auckland, be sure to save time to visit Waiheke Island! It’s one of the best things to do in Auckland, after all.

19. Wellington

Bailey walks up Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset with magnificent views of Wellington, New Zealand
We drove up but you still have to walk a bit!
Bailey walks down some steps at Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington
Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington

Of all the cities in New Zealand, Wellington is my favorite. As the capital of New Zealand, Wellington is filled with interesting things to do. It’s home to the Museum of New Zealand or Te Papa Tongarewa. Here you can enjoy fascinating exhibitions completely free. It’s easy to spend at least half a day at Te Papa and it’s easily the best museum in NZ!

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Wellington is the tall, steep hills that surround the city. This provides the perfect place to take in the views of the city you can either hike or drive up Mount Victoria to take in these views. Or my personal favorite, take the cable car from the CBD up to the botanical gardens.

Wellington is a hip city full of lively streets, amazing restaurants, and bars. One of my favorite things to do in Wellington is simply to take a walk down quirky Cuba Street and stop for lunch or excellent coffee. Pick a bar on a sunny day or visit one of the many breweries!

If you want to do a little more exploring, head outside of Wellington CBD by renting a car in Wellington (I use Discover Cars) and hitting the road. There are some really great day trips from Wellington including Cape Palliser and Red Rocks where you can see seals!

If you plan on visiting the South Island, then Wellington is where the two ferries to the South Island leave from. If you haven’t used them before, be sure to read my guide on catching the ferries!

20. Lake Taupo

Walking along a pathway along the edge of Lake Taupo, nZ
Lake Taupo!

This small town of Taupo sits on the shores of Lake Taupo which is New Zealand’s largest lake. Here you can enjoy lots of amazing tours and activities that make it one of the most famous places to visit in New Zealand. In fact, Taupo is actually home to New Zealand’s highest skydive at 16,500 feet.

For another adventure activity, you can go jet boating at Hukka Falls or white water rafting down the Tongariro River which is considered one of the best places to go white water rafting in New Zealand. Those who love to relax will also enjoy Taupo. Take a cruise to see the famous Maori rock carvings – these are truly impressive!

Once you’re done exploring Taupo, the next thing to do is take a road trip to Rotorua via the Thermal Explorer Highway. Along this stretch of road, you can visit places such as Craters of the Moon, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, Te Puia, and more. These are all unique destinations that are also very pretty.

Related Read: Taupo is also a great starting point for a road trip to Wellington! There are a few possible routes and all of them have some incredibly scenic stops.

21. Mt Taranaki

A man at the Pouaki tarn with a reflection of Mt Taranaki in Egmont National Park, NZ
The Pouakai Tarn!
Sunrise at the Pouakai Tarn, New Zealand
Just stunning!

Mount Taranaki is undoubtedly one of the most impressive natural landscapes in New Zealand. This giant free-standing volcano is truly beautiful and can be viewed from afar. It’s located in Egmont National Park/Te Papakura o Taranaki not far from the city of New Plymouth.

For arguably the best view in all of New Zealand, consider a hike to Pouakai Hut. This is without a doubt one of my favorites hikes on the North Island. The hut is famous for being only 10 minutes from the Pouakai Tarn – a small alpine lake that showcases breathtaking reflections of Mt Taranaki.

The hut used to operate on a first-come-first-serve basis, but thanks to its massive popularity it’s now advance bookings only! Worth noting is The Pouakai Hut is part of the three-day Pouakai Circuit in Egmont National Park, a circuit loop hiking trail around Mount Taranaki. 

You can also ski on Mount Taranaki at the Manganui Ski Field. It’s famous for being the place where you can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon.

22. Tongariro National Park

Bailey high up on the crossing looks down at the valley with Mount Ruapehu or Mount Doom on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
What a view!
Mount Ruapehu or Mount Doom on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
That’s Mount Doom from LOTRs!

Tongariro National Park has it all – volcanoes, New Zealand’s biggest ski field, and lots of Lord of the Rings film locations. It is home to Mordor from the movie franchise as well as Mt Doom. In fact, you can walk the exact spots where Frodo and Sam took the ring to be destroyed – pretty crazy right!?

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an epic hike with many tourists traveling to New Zealand especially to complete this hike. Volcanoes, bright blue lakes, and Lord of the Rings film locations are just some of the highlights. Don’t be fooled by its popularity though, it’s a challenging day hike! It’s especially popular with LOTR fans, because as mentioned, it’s the setting for Mordor. On this hike you’ll pass Mt Doom but please don’t climb to the top as it’s a sacred place for the Maori people.

Other things to do nearby include a visit to Taranaki Falls, Tawhai Falls, and the hike to the Tama Lakes.

23. Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Glow worms in the Waipu Caves in New Zealand
Like a starry night’s sky!

Glow worms have become a big attraction in New Zealand and it seems almost everyone has them on their New Zealand bucket list

The Waitomo Caves are the most popular place to see glow worms in New Zealand. Located near Hobbiton on the North Island, the caves can only be accessed on a tour but you’ll get to see one of the highest concentrations of glowworms in New Zealand. A basic tour here starts from $50 NZD per person.

Unfortunately in the section with the most glow worms, you are not allowed to take photos simply because it can ruin the experience for others. So, don’t let the above photo turn you off the Waitomo Caves – you’ll see way more glow worms!

24. Hobbiton

Bailey nocks on the door of Hobbit Hole at Hobbiton Movie Set in NZ
No one was home!
Bailey walks up to the door of a Hobbit Hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand
Such a cute place!

Without a doubt, Hobbiton – one of the most picture-perfect places to visit in New Zealand, just had to be on this list. In fact, the Lord of the Rings movies are responsible for bringing most of the recent tourism to New Zealand. Visiting the set of the famed movie series is really cool as it’s such a well-crafted movie set.

Tours of Hobbiton run every day at several different start times. In the summer, you should book in advance, especially if you need a specific time slot. My recommendation, if you’re booking a Hobbiton tour from Auckland, is to either go in the morning or late afternoon. Not only is it cooler but there will be fewer people around and the experience will be more personal. Around lunchtime, the tours are usually fully booked!

If you want more of a unique experience here, there is a dinner tour, breakfast tours, and more. These tours give you a much better experience but do cost a lot more!

Related Read: Hobbiton is one of the best road trip stops on the drive from Hamilton to Rotorua or Auckland to Rotorua!

25. Volcanic West Coast – Piha, Bethells, Muriwai Beaches

Bailey climbs Lion Rock at Piha Beach
Up Lion Rock I go!
View of Piha Beach and Lion rock, New Zealand
Just stunning!

Some of the best surf beaches in New Zealand include Piha, Muriwai, and Bethells Beach near Auckland. In fact, if you’re a keen surfer I highly recommend visiting these three beaches. 

Piha Beach is one of the most popular beaches in New Zealand and as mentioned, is very popular with both surfers and swimmers. From the beach, you can hike up to Lions Rock for an epic view.

Muriwai Beach is home to a large gannet colony (sea birds) that between the months of August and March occupy the cliffs at the beach.

And finally, Bethells Beach is home to some great surf, caves, and even some volcanic sand dunes you can explore.

Taking a trip from Auckland to the volcanic west coast is a must in my opinion. Here you can get a taste of the rich mineral sands created by volcanos that help this region thrive! It’s breathtaking and unique!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey poses for a photo on a park bench in Hamilton, NZ
Thanks for reading!

Wow, that turned out to be some list! And if I’m honest I could easily double it to 50 most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand. However, these are by far my favorite! They have made living here an absolute dream and I really hope others fall in love with New Zealand as I have!

I hope I’ve helped narrow down your must-visit list of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.

Thanks so much for reading! If you found this guide to the most beautiful places in New Zealand helpful then be sure to browse around. I have so many more great articles for you to check out! Some of my favorite places to write about include Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Wanaka!

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