Do you want to know about all the best things to do and see while you’re in New Zealand? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
My TOP 10 Favorite MUST-DO Activities in NZ
One of the reasons I love New Zealand so much is because I love all of the hiking opportunities. NZ has everything from short walks to multi-day camping hikes to mountaineering!
Not sure what hikes you should tackle? Check out my blog about the 50 BEST Hikes in all of New Zealand!
There are a couple of top hiking destinations to visit if that’s what you’re into. Check out my other blog articles below:
- The BEST Hikes in Queenstown
- The BEST Hikes in Wanaka
- The BEST Hikes in Milford Sound
- Tongariro National Park
- Mount Aspiring National Park
- Roy’s Peak Hiking Guide
- Mount Cook National Park
Ziplining (or flying fox as it is called here!) is a top New Zealand activity, in the most adventurous country in the world. So that’s saying something!
After all, who doesn’t love soaring through the sky at high speeds, watching forest canopies, cliffs and lakes unfold right under you? Sign me up! You can even glide above waterfalls (my fav!), do a tandem zipline with a friend, or embark on an epic zipline obstacle course.
You can go ziplining in many different places around New Zealand, but to keep it simple, I’ve listed by favorite zipline experiences below:
- Rotorua Canopy Tour – This zipline tour in Rotorua is one of the top-rated in the country! You’ll experience a total of 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) of ziplines, including a 400-meter (1,300-foot) tandem zipline, as well as swing bridges, walks on cliffs above the forest top (the only cliff walk like this in NZ!), and even an 18-meter (60-foot) decent for the ultimate daredevils. You can book this zipline tour from Rotorua online here, or, you can even book this tour with transport from Auckland online here.
- Zipline Adventure in Queenstown – This zipline tour in Queenstown is epic, offering views from up on Bob’s Peak, towering above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu! You can choose from three different zipline tours depending on the kind of experience you’re looking for. The Kea tour features the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline, which you’ll cross at high speeds. If you want something more family-friendly, go for the leisurely Moa tour. You can see all the options and book this tour online here!
For more info, read my blog about ziplining in New Zealand including all the places you can go to zipline!
3. Visit Hobbiton
If you’re a “Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit” fan, then visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set is a must-do while in NZ. You’ll wander around the Shire, checking out various Hobbit Holes before visiting the iconic Green Dragon Inn pub.
Hobbiton is located in Waikato. The closest city to Hobbition is Hamilton, which is 45 minutes away. Hobbiton is also commonly visited on day trips from Rotorua, Auckland, or Tauranga. Auckland is 2 hours away while Tauranage and Rotorua are about an hour away.
You can either drive yourself to Hobbiton and then join the tour that starts there (a tour is required), or you can book a tour with transport from Auckland, Rotorua, or Tauranga. Some of the best Hobbiton experiences you can have are:
- Classic Hobbiton Movie Set Tour – This is the standard tour option that you can do if you drive yourself. It is the most basic tour, but also the most popular. You should reserve your spot in advance as it does sell out during peak months. You can book online here.
- Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves from Auckland – This tour is the best option if you’re looking for a Hobbiton tour from Auckland. I love this tour because it also includes a visit to Waitomo Caves, where you’ll see the magical glow worms! You can secure your spot online in advance here.
- Hobbiton Movie Set from Rotorua – This tour is perfect if you need transportation to Hobbiton from Rotorua. You’ll also benefit from live commentary as you wind your way through the scenic New Zealand countryside. Lunch at The Party Marquee is also included, so you won’t go hungry! You can check availability and book the tour online here.
- Hobbiton Move Set from Tauranga – This small-group tour includes round-trip transportation in an air-conditioned van from Tauranga to Hobbiton, as well as the standard Hobbiton tour option. There’s live commentary on board to help you make the most of your trip, and you’ll even get to try a cider or beer at the Green Dragon Inn. You can check prices and book online here.
For more info, read my blog about the 15 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Hobbiton.
4. Whitewater Rafting
New Zealand is perhaps the best location in the world for whitewater rafting. Here, you can find many rivers of varying difficulties which traverse alpine landscapes, rugged gorges, lush forests, and groves bustling with wildlife.
While there are lots of different places around New Zealand where you can go whitewater rafting, I’ve narrowed it down to the absolute best rafting experiences:
- Most Adventurous Whitewater Rafting – This whitewater rafting experience in Rotorua is world-renowned. When you join this tour you will actually raft over a 7-meter waterfall – the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world (if that doesn’t give you bragging rights, I’m not sure what will!) For adrenaline junkies, this is a must-do in NZ. Be sure to book your spot online in advance here.
- Most Unique Whitewater Rafting – This whitewater rafting tour is at the Waitomo glow worm caves. They actually call it “blackwater rafting” because you’re rafting in a cave only lit by the millions of glow worms all around you – this is a super unique tour that is highly rated. You can read all the details about it and book online here.
- Best Classic Whitewater Rafting – This whitewater rafting tour in Queenstown is a ton of fun. It is more of your traditional type of rafting tour, where you spend a couple of hours on the river navigating some difficult rapids mixed with calm and scenic sections. You can learn all about it and book online here.
5. Wine Tasting
New Zealand is famous for its delicious wines – and for a relatively small country, it has an impressive selection! In fact, there are more than 700 wineries to choose from.
Some of the best wine regions to check out in New Zealand are:
- The Gibbston Valley/ Otago – My hometown doesn’t disappoint when it comes to wine. The Otago Wine Region is one of the best and most beautiful. This Gourmet Food and Wine Tour from Queenstown is a delicious option. It includes visits to three of the subregions – Gibbston Valley, Bannockburn, and Cromwell, passing by tons of scenery along the way. This tour is a foodie’s dream with loads of food and wine tastings. You’ll also get a peek into New Zealand’s largest wine cave at Gibbston Valley Winery while you sample a few wines. You read all the details and book this wine tour from Queenstown online here.
- Marlborough Sounds – With the South Island’s beautiful beaches, bays, and islands, it’s no wonder the Marlborough Sounds is one fabulous place to drink wine. This full-day tour is a great way to hit a few wineries, make friends, and not worry about the hassle of organizing anything. I visited 6 wineries along the way, including a lunch stop at the stunning Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen for an amazing, seasonally-inspired lunch. This tour is popular for a reason, so book your spot ahead of time here!
- Waiheke Island – Located only a short ferry from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a tiny wine region that’s easily explored on a day trip from Auckland. On this tour, I visited 4 boutique vineyards with a minimum of 3 tastings per spot. Since Waiheke has so many vineyards, they switch up the destinations daily, but don’t worry – they are all fantastic! You’ll need to reach the ferry terminal by 10:35 am for your 6-hour excursion. So if you’re looking for an island escape (with wine!), book your tour online here.
For more detailed info, read my blog about the top wine regions to visit in New Zealand.
6. Scenic Cruises
There are many different scenic cruises you can do around the country with the top cruises being:
- Milford Sound Cruise – This Milford Sound cruise stands out from the others for a few reasons. The first is that it includes a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. The second reason is that this tour includes a kayaking excursion, during which you’ll paddle through the calm waters of the fiord, spotting rare wildlife. You can check availability and book online here including the optional extras.
- TSS Earnslaw Cruise in Queenstown – I absolutely love cruising on the historic and gorgeous TSS Earnslaw ship on Lake Wakatipu. The best tour is this cruise, which comes with an incredible dinner and farm tour. Alternatively, this lunchtime cruise is a good daytime option.
- Auckland Sunset Dinner Cruise – For a beautiful view of Auckland, you can’t go wrong with this sunset cruise! Not only will you get to take in the amazing scenery, but it also includes a gourmet 3-course dinner. You can check availability and book online here.
- Maori Rock Art Carving Cruise – This sailing yacht cruise will take you from Taupo to the famous Maori Rock Carvings in the lake. That’s right, this incredible carving can only be seen with a cruise. You can check availability, details, and book online here.
7. Road Trips
One of the best parts about traveling around New Zealand is the incredible road trips! As you drive from one destination to the next, you can explore the most remote attractions – not to mention the views from the road!
Some of my favorite road trips in New Zealand are:
- The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound
- The drive from Christchurch to Queenstown
- The drive from Wanaka to Queenstown
- The drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef
- Arthur’s Pass
- The drive from Auckland to Paihia
- The drive from Taupo to Rotorua
Of course, if you want to enjoy road-tripping in New Zealand, then you’re going to need wheels! Check out my blogs about renting a car in New Zealand, renting a motorhome in New Zealand, and renting a campervan to learn all about your options.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve organized a special discount code that will get you 5% off if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! 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! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
8. Scenic Flights
What better way to see New Zealand than from the sky?! Of course, like many of these top activities in New Zealand, there are a few places where scenic flights are especially, well, special! Consider a scenic flight in the following destinations:
It’s no secret that Queenstown is ridiculously beautiful. It’s surrounded by dramatic scenery, including the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu, the Southern Alps, glaciers, and the Remarkables mountain range (which certainly lives up to its name).
This particular heli tour in Queenstown is my top pick because it should work for most budgets and itineraries. I also love the fact that the entire route is based on the pilot’s favorite places. So it’s a helicopter tour with a local expert!
Milford Sound is easily one of the most beautiful destinations in New Zealand – and the world. It’s a beautiful and untouched fiord on the South Island known for its towering mountains, gorgeous waterfalls, and rare wildlife.
This 2-hour helicopter tour takes you from Queenstown to Milford Sound and includes two unique landings. One is atop Mount Tūtoko, the highest mountain in Fiordland National Park. The second landing is in Milford Sound so you can take in the dramatic landscape from the ground.
Mount Cook National Park:
Mount Cook is known as “the cloud piercer” because of its immense height. At 3,724 meters (12,218 feet) tall, it’s the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It goes without saying that flying over it is an incredible experience!
This specific Mount Cook helicopter tour is the perfect introduction to the area. On this 20-minute flight, your helicopter will soar over the Ben Ohau Range. You’ll even have time for an alpine landing, usually with snow on the ground.
For thrill-seekers, why not take a scenic flight to the next level with a skydive?! Skydiving is extremely popular in New Zealand, so if you’re up for it, consider one of the top skydiving experiences in the country:
- Skydiving in the Bay of Plenty
- Skydiving in Franz Josef
- Skydiving in Queenstown
- Skydiving in Mount Cook
10. Hot Springs
Okay, now that you’ve done a ton of adventuring and exploring, it’s time to relax in some hot springs (or “hot pools” as they call them here in NZ.)
Personally, I love having a nice relaxing soak after a long day of hiking or touring, so I’m always looking for a hot spring no matter where I am. Luckily, there are lots of good hot springs around New Zealand, with some of my favorites being:
- There are a few different hot springs in Queenstown – read all about them here
- The Secret Hot Pools in Rotorua offers private pools in the forest
- The Polynesian Spa in Rotorua is a lakefront public hot springs with multiple mineral pools
- Spa Thermal Park at Otumuheke Stream in Taupo
- Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools
Blog Articles to Help You Plan Your Trip
Overview blogs about New Zealand:
- The BEST Things to do in New Zealand
- The Top Places to Visit on the South Island
- The Top Places to Visit on the North Island
- The BEST Hikes in New Zealand
- Best Places to go Skydiving in New Zealand
- The Top Wine Regions in New Zealand
- Guide to Skiing in New Zealand
- The BEST Things to do in New Zealand in Winter
- The BEST National Parks in New Zealand
- Where to see the BEST Waterfalls in New Zealand
- The BEST Beaches in New Zealand
- The MOST Beautiful Places to visit in New Zealand
Practical advice for traveling New Zealand:
- Guide to Renting a Car in New Zealand
- Guide to Renting a Motorhome in New Zealand
- Guide to taking the Ferry to the South Island
Top Activities in major destinations:
- Top Things to do in Auckland
- Top Things to do in Rotorua
- Top Things to do in Tauranga
- Top Things to do in Taupo
- Top Things to do in Wellington
- Top Things to do in Picton
- Top Things to do in Christchurch
- Top Things to do in Mount Cook
- Top Things to do in Queenstown
- Top Things to do in Wanaka
- Top Things to do in Franz Josef
- Top Things to do in Dunedin