Tourist Attractions in New Zealand
New Zealand is definitely one of the most amazing countries of our world. It is filled with natural and mostly pristine beauty and holds numerous irresistible attractions. From glowworm-studded dark caves to powerful hot geysers, majestic mountains and superb reefs, New Zealand is a place of wonder indeed. Here you have a collection of some of the best attractions in the wonderful country where January is a hot month.
Located in the southwest area of the country’s South Island, Milford Sound is arguably New Zealand’s most popular tourist destination. It is a beautiful fjord that has been part of many travel tops and lists, receiving awards and titles such as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. It is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site and the Fiordland National Park’s Marine Reserve. People from all over the world come here every year in great numbers: 550,000 to 1 million. This is true despite the remote location of the fjord.
A one-day visit is enough to take in the majestic beauty of the place, but there are companies which offer overnight boat trips as well. A truly inspiring phenomenon that takes place here sometimes is the upward flow of some waterfalls, which happens when powerful winds hit the cliffs and then rush upwards, catching the flowing waters in their way. You can engage in various water sports in the sound, or visit the underwater observatory, from where you can see black corals – a rare sight in such shallow waters.
Bay of Islands
Another one of NZ’s top tourist destinations, Bay of Islands is pretty much what the name says. It is a magnificent area in the northern part of the North Island, very popular for its sailing and fishing opportunities. It is also exciting because of the dolphins that live in its waters and which are not afraid to show up near boats.
What makes the bay even more interesting is its rich history. Maori people lived here first, but then the place became the first permanent European colonization spot, with the Biritsh settling here for good. Now the bay has an impressive tourist infrastructure, attracting numerous visitors annually. They come, stay for a while, and then leave with the best memories and photos.
Once the stuff of legend, the Moeraki Boulders are now an interesting tourist attraction on NZ’s Otago coast. They are scattered along a part of Koekohe Beach and they make excellent subjects for cool photography. They are large natural concrete formations, but the Maori people described them as petrified eel baskets that were scattered across the beach after the sinking of a legendary canoe. With science evolving fast, most legends have been proven wrong, and this one is no exception. The quite impressive spherical rocks were formed some 60 million years ago by the gradual hardening of sea sediments.
The views of Coromandel Peninsula are always stunning. Here you get perfect golden and white beaches, pampering hot pools, rolling hills and cooling bay waters. There are more luxurious resorts and less pretentious ones to choose from on the peninsula, so you can choose a fancy café time or a laidback sand-between-the-toes walk for relaxation. Either one works and they both offer great satisfactions, because nothing beats the views that accompany each experience.
You may have heard of it as Auckland Harbor, but its official name is actually Waitemata. It is the busier of two harbors that offer access to the vibrant Auckland city. Its southwest area is covered by the Motu Manawa Marine Reserve, which includes shell-covered banks, marshes and mangrove swamps. The name of the harbor is a reference to “obsidian glass” and it was inspired by the beautifully sparking waters that resemble the shine of volcanic glass.
Franz Josef Glacier
Located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, on the South Island, the massive Franz Josef Glacier is a main attraction of the West Coast region. It is visited by a couple thousand people every day, who enjoy either guided or independent hikes on the 7.5 mile glacier. Some routes include ice tunnels and are truly spectacular, but the landscape changes slightly every day.
Helicopter tours are another popular way of admiring the glacial views, and there are several local airlines in the area to choose from. The nearby Franz Josef township is a tiny village of only several hundred inhabitants (approx. 350) which offers various accommodation options for tourists. The main season brings as many as 2,000 a night in the village.
Located on the country’s South Island, Lake Wanaka is a wonderful year-round destination. There is no wrong time to visit this place, only different activities to engage in, depending on the season. The first thing that will enchant you is definitely the view. No matter where you look at it from, the lake is spectacular, with clear waters and a dramatic mountain backdrop.
Then there is the unique laidback lifestyle of the Kiwi. The people living here are committed to preserving the pristine beauty of the lake, whose shoreline has remained unchanged over the years, thanks to a special preservation act. You can come here for relaxed weekends, longer vacations or why not the rest of your life. It is genuinely very difficult to resist the attraction of this wonderful place. Swimming, boating, skiing, jetboating, and various adventure sports just make the whole experience even better. Lake Wanaka is an excellent destination for both luxury and budget travellers.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman is the smallest national park in New Zealand, covering 22,530 hectares (55,699 acres). Clear blue-green waters surround it, and many of its shores are covered in beautiful golden sand. For marine life enthusiasts, the marine reserve off the park’s coast is an irresistible destination, where people can scuba dive and mingle with the wonderful creatures of the sea.
As you explore the park you can see lots of fascinating animals, such as the New Zealand fur seal, goats, deer, wild pigs, opossums, and many different birds. There are extensive hiking tracks to adventure on, and even other nearby national parks for those who just can’t get enough.
Wellington Cable Car
One of Wellington’s instantly recognizable symbols, the famous cable car takes people from the city’s main shopping street called Lambton Quay up to a lovely suburb called Kelburn, which is located in a hilly area and which has beautiful views of the city. The ride covers a length of 2,008 feet and it takes visitors 394 feet high.
The funicular railway has been in service for 112 years, taking locals and visitors up the hill for some really great views and other attractions. At the top there is a lovely Botanic Garden, which has several downhill paths that people can take to reach the city center by foot in about 40 minutes. Also at the top there is the Cable Car Museum, which can be entered for free and which holds two of the original cars from over a century ago. You can also visit the Carter Observatory and Planetarium, which can be found in the gardens.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro is the oldest national park in New Zealand and the fourth oldest in the world, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its center holds three active volcanoes, and its borders are roughly followed by roads for easy access. Also around its boundaries there are many towns which await tourists every year.
People come here mainly to see the grandeur of unspoiled nature, but they also engage in various activities like climbing, hiking, snowboarding or skiing. There is also the possibility to go fishing, hunting, rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding across Tongariro. Lord of The Rings fans will definitely love to see the locations where the movie was shot, though they might not recognize the scenery with all that CG modifications. While in the park, keep an eye out for rare endemic bird species, native mammals and other beautiful animals.
If you were wondering what the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand was, now you’ve got the answer: it’s the powerful Huka Falls, found on the country’s North Island. These are the largest and most impressive falls of Waikato River, which drains the largest lake in all Australasia, called Lake Taupo. It is estimated that every second a mind boggling 58,117 gallons of water flow through the narrow gorge of Huka.
What makes the sight truly impressive is the power with which the water rushes down. The river is normally about 330 feet wide, and then it narrows suddenly to some 50 feet, while crossing a hard volcanic ledge. The result is a spectacular struggle of waters colliding together and rolling over to create dangerous rapids. The Maori aptly called the falls Huka, which means “foam” in English.
Located in the West Coast area of the South Island, the 8.1 miles long Fox Glacier is one of the few to go down into a rainforest, ending only 980 feet above sea level. The Fox name has nothing to do with the cute little animal, as one might expect, but is was given after the country’s Prime Minister Sir William Fox visited the site in 1872.
This is one of the world’s most accessible glaciers, attracting many visitors every year – approximately 1,000 people a day during the peak of the tourist season. The walk across it is relatively easy, but only if you take guided tours. Adventuring beyond the safety barriers is dangerous and has led to deadly accident before. Helicopter flights over the glacier are also an amazing way to admire its majesty. In case you were wondering, the Franz Josef Glacier is not far away from this one.
Waiheke is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, approximately eleven miles from Auckland. It is the third most densely populated island in the country, after the large North and South Islands. Aside from the permanent residents, there are also many people who have holiday homes here, and if you see some pictures of this place you will certainly understand why.
Easily accessible, it offers tons of entertainment and relaxation opportunities. People come here for lots of different reasons, because the island has a little bit of everything for everybody: bars and entertainment spots, art galleries, conference facilities, dreamy wedding settings, vineyards, diving centers, sailing boats and pretty much anything you can wish for. It is virtually impossible to get bored here, but it is also completely possible to just unwind and forget about the world for as long as you want to.
For over a century, the spectacular geysers and alluring hot springs have attracted countless visitors to Rotorua. The city is known as NZ’s thermal wonderland, and it is no surprise that tourism represents its main industry. It is located on the shores of Lake Rotorua, over a geothermal hot spot.
There are plenty of things to see and do here: visit one (or all) of the fourteen nearby lakes, see the Hamurana Springs, discover the Sulphur Bay, relax in various hot pools, be amazed by volcano activities and geothermal activities, play golf around mud pools, or just enjoy some amazing spa treatments. The city is also home to historic architecture and botanical gardens that make up a perfect backdrop for daytime walks. Mountain biking enthusiasts certainly know Rotorua for its many exciting bike trails.
Wellington Botanic Garden
About 62 acres (25 hectares) of native forests and extensive plant collections make up the wonderful Wellington Botanic Garden. Numerous native plants live together with beautiful species brought from other parts of the world for protection, education and inspiration. You can get here with the century-old Wellington Cable Car. Deemed a Garden of National Significance, it is frequented by tourists and locals alike, because it offers many relaxation and fun opportunities.
The large playground area attracts parents with children, the winding paths attract joggers, and the various plant collections invite everybody else. Some of the most spectacular are the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, the Victorian glasshouse, the Begonia House, and the Main Garden, whose sometimes flicker with tiny glowworms at night. You may also want to see the many sculptures in the garden, the duck pond and the Carter Observatory.
Only about 2.5 acres big, Goat Island is very close to the North Island coast, within the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve. It is easily accessible and represents an almost irresistible attraction for passionate divers. The reserve receives over 200,000 visitors every year, and it has plenty of fascinating underwater things to show after 35 years of protection.
Goat Island and the reserve make up an excellent setting for memorable family vacations. Being close to Auckland (about an hour drive), the island is also often chosen as a day-long or weekend destination by people who just want to enjoy the natural beauty of NZ, far from the busy roads of the city. Its inviting beaches and the clear waters will certainly do the trick of making you forget about your mundane worries.
The largest lake by surface in NZ is Lake Taupo. It covers 238 square miles, with a maximum length of 29 miles and a maximum width of 21 miles. Its origins date back to approximately 26,500 years ago, when a supervolcanic eruption created the lake’s caldera. Today it is a highly visited place, with the busiest tourist seasons being summer and the time round Christmas and New Year.
The Taupo Township and the lake attract about 2 million people annually, because they make up a fun and exciting place for vacationing. One of the most popular activities in the area is skydiving, but you can also engage in less adventurous activities if you want to. Cyclists know of this place as the host of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, a round-the-lake tour that can take as many as 10 hours to complete.
Orana Wildlife Park
This is the country’s only open-range zoo, and a place where people get locked in cages if they want to meet the ferocious animals. While we wouldn’t normally recommend getting close to a pack of lions, the circumstances are very different in this case. For about $25 you can get inside a very large and safe mesh cage together with a couple of park keepers and watch how the giant felines enjoy lunchtime. Obviously, you will not be the food, only the adrenaline-filled watcher.
This is probably the closest you will ever get to real life lions and still be safe, so such an experience is definitely worth your time and money. But there is more to the wildlife park than that. Spreading over 80 hectares, it is home to 70 different species and approximately 700 animals in all. You are guaranteed to enjoy every minute of your visit.
Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve
The fascinating Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve stretches from the northern side of Hahei Beach to another amazing reserve called Cook Bluff Scenic Reserve. By this point you might have realized already that New Zealand is a country of endless natural beauty and breathtaking views – both on land and under water. If you are a fan of the latter category, then you will adore Cathedral Cove.
Snorkelers will find themselves exploring the waters for hours in search for various fish and other marine forms of life. There are marker buoys in the water, which indicate the various habitats that flourish within the bay, and which also carry useful information about the creatures that you are most likely to find around them. If you like to get even more personal with the underwater environment, then scuba diving is the thing for you. You will be amazed by reef systems and sponge gardens, as well as schools of curious fish that may follow you around in your adventure.
The South Island holds the Southern Alps; and where there are mountains, there are bound to be a few spectacular passes as well. Lewis Pass is one of the three main crossing points of the majestic mountain range and it is traversed by State Highway 7 between the Canterbury and West Coast regions. People come here for the views and the numerous hiking opportunities, ranging from short walks to tramps that go on for over three days. On your adventures you will come across some really amazing sceneries, with refreshing rivers, beautiful lakes, and bushy areas.
Kaikoura is located on South Island’s east coast, approximately 111 miles from Christchurch. Visitors can engage in numerous activities, land based or marine. The town has a rich and interesting culture and history, giving tourists various exploration opportunities. You can go whale and dolphin watching, and with the proper gear you may even get the chance to swim with seals and dolphins in their natural environment.
If you prefer to stay on land, then you can try horse trekking, motor biking, or just some relaxing walks by the beach. You can also treat yourself to a nice wine tasting experience and then a relaxing spa session. Kaikoura has something for everybody, so you can be sure that you and your loved ones will have a great time here, regardless of age and preference in entertainment.
This one is definitely among our favorite attractions in New Zealand. The entire Waitomo area is filled with unforgettable sightseeing destinations, and it is a place of wonder, excitement and adventure at the same time. The world renowned Waitomo Glowworm Caves are impressive beyond words. Fascinating boat trips will take you into a realm where you don’t need to see the sky to enjoy a starry-night-like experience, because countless glowworms do the trick instead.
If you want to get a better look at these amazing little creatures, you can do so in the Ruakuri Cave, after descending an impressive spiral entrance. Ornate decorations can be seen in the Aranui Cave, where stalactites and stalagmites reach towards each other like intricate gothic structures. For those of you who love adventure, the dark Ruakuri Cave offers with super-exciting black water rafting experiences. The cave has become an underworld wonderland, in which people of all ages have fun in a dark glowworm paradise.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
About 19 miles from Auckland, the Tiritiri Matangi Island is tiny but not insignificant. On the contrary, its one square mile of land is an open nature reserve that lures in some 30,000 visitors annually. Its main attraction is the vibrant bird life, some of the most important species that live here being the takahe and kiwi birds – both extremely cute and beautiful.
Because the Maori people believed that the island was actually the float of an ancestral fishing net, they called it “tossed in the wind”, which is the English translation for Tiritiri Matangi. In order to save the many species living on the island, volunteers helped plant countless trees and shrubs to help the environment regenerate after human intrusion. Endangered bird species were reintroduced to the healed habitat, and threats like the Polynesian rat were removed. The sanctuary is now flourishing and people can bask in the multitude of bird songs that are very rarely heard on the mainland.
Fiordland National Park
The largest national park in NZ and one of the largest in the world covers 1.2 million plus hectares and is called Fiordland National Park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can find it on the South Island, right next to the Mount Aspiring National Park. Quite interestingly, it represents one of the least explored areas of the country – because it’s not exactly easy to cover that many miles of land.
There are approximately 310 miles of walking tracks across the park, but that’s actually nothing compared to the vastness of the reserve. Human activities and development in Fiordland are strictly controlled, so as not to defeat the purpose of the park, which is to protect the environment. Being so large and unexplored, people speculate that some of the species that are thought to be extinct may still live here somewhere. The beautiful takahe bird that was thought to no longer exist was found back in 1948 in a remote area of Fiordland.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Te Papa Tongarewa loosely translates to “the place of treasures of this land” and it’s a really appropriate name for the national museum and art gallery of NZ. It is located in Wellington and it is open 365 days a year. Entry is usually free, but some short-term activities and exhibitions may require tickets. The various collections span five areas, namely History, Art, Maori, Natural Environment and Pacific. The museum is famous for being a bicultural institution that is at the same time fun, innovative and scholarly.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
As the name suggests, the national park is dominated by Aoraki Mount Cook, which is the country’s highest mountain. Other impressive peaks of the Southern Alps also contribute to the majesty of this place, where snow-covered peaks dominate the environment. It is a preferred destination among ski enthusiasts, especially because they can take helicopters and small aircrafts to high places in a matter of minutes and then enjoy thrilling rides down.
You don’t need to be a winter sports lover to visit the park, because you can also enjoy miles and miles of established walking routes that introduce you to the majesty and beauty of nature. Flightseeing tours are also a great way of exploring the park, as you get to enjoy comprehensive tours of the glaciers, mountains and everything else.
A huge collection of sea-flooded valleys make up the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. They are located at the northern end of the South Island and cover approximately 2,500 square miles of sounds, peninsulas and islands. They were formed by a combination of two natural phenomena: the rising of the sea levels and the subsidence of the land. According to Maori legend, the masses of land that seem to float above the water are the prows of the sunken canoes (locally referred to as wakas) of Aoraki, the mythical son of the Sky Father and Earth Mother.
Waiotapu means “sacred waters” in Maori, which is understandable given the special properties of the waters in this place. Located at the southern part of the Okataina Volcanic Center in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, the area is dotted with colorful hot springs, geysers, and boiling mud pools. It is an active geothermal zone that spreads over about seven square miles.
Obviously, the interesting geothermal features have been attracting people for many years, and they still have. Waiotapu is a protected scenic reserve, but there is one tourist operation in the reserve, which operates under a concession and is known as the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
The Sky Tower telecommunications and observation tower is located in Auckland City and it stands 1,076 feet tall. It is the tallest freestanding building in the entire Southern Hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the city. About 1,500 people visit the structure on average every day, attracted by its imposing stance and the breathtaking views that it offers.
There are two restaurants at the top, one of which is a revolving structure that completes a full revolution every hour, some 620 feet above the ground. The tower also holds a café, three observation decks, a brasserie-style buffet, and a SkyJump platform, from which adrenaline junkies can jump down 630 feet, reaching speeds of up to 53 miles per hour in the process. One of the Sky Tower’s coolest features is the 1.5-inch thick glass flooring of the main observation deck, from which the more daring visitors can enjoy stunning views straight down.