If there is a perfect country for nature lovers, it is New Zealand. We will highlight some of the best places to visit in New Zealand throughout the article. From any cardinal point where you start your route, you will find impressive natural contrasts with amazing flora and fauna. It is the country with the most variety of scenarios in which we have been since it has allowed us to enjoy the fine sand of the desert, the icy ice of the glaciers, the forests in the highest mountains and multicolored lakes.
It is difficult to make a list of the best sites because, given so much variety, it depends a lot on what each one values. In our case, we love the contrasts and visit places that allow us to go free and explore them thoroughly. As a guide, we leave you a list of our Top 10 of New Zealand. A very personal list, made after visiting the country for two months and after thinking a lot to narrow the number to only 10.
There it goes! 10 best places to visit in New Zealand
1. Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga
This beach of 108 km located on the north island is an immensity that leaves you speechless. On one side you have the ocean and on the other, the leafy forest Aupouri and the giant dunes of Te Paki. Both the beach and the cape are very important places in the Maori spiritual culture and are loaded with symbolism.
Cape Reinga, also known in Maori as Te Rerenga Wairua, means “the place where the spirits jump”. The Maoris believe that when you die, your soul sets out on a journey to the underworld through the ninety-mile beautiful beach to reach the tree of more than 800 years that is in Cape Reinga, climb its roots and thus be able to jump into the ocean and return to its homeland ancestral of Hawaiki. Cape Reinga is a sacred and very important place in the Maori culture, which also allows you to enjoy natural spectacles such as the clash of waters between the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific Ocean.
This is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand to know thoroughly the Maori culture. Rotorua is located in one of the regions with the highest seismic activity in the country, causing the city to have that distinctive “rotten egg smell” that amazes people when they arrive. We went to a Maori village where people still live, it was called Whakarewarewa. We arrived a little skeptical and afraid that it was more staging than a real town, but it surprised us for the better. We saw hakas and other typical dances and they explained how they cook using the heat and gases from the hot springs that are there. It is definitely a different experience that we recommend. Without forgetting the obligatory visit to Wai-O-Tapu, the geothermal wonder par excellence of the area.
3. The Poor Knights Islands
Be it here or in the Bay of Islands on the north island, we recommend diving in one of these areas. There are many best places to visit in New Zealand when you want to have diving experiences. Another popular dive site is Milford Sound. For tastes colors but we decided to dive in the north for a price issue (in the south it was more expensive), temperature (the more you go to the south, the colder the water) and clarity (in Milford Sound there is a lot of vegetation, which makes visibility underwater difficult). We went to an underwater observatory so we could see some of the underwater wonders typical of that area without getting wet.
4. The Haast gorge
This was one of the surprises of our trip when we wanted to find the best places to visit in New Zealand. What seems like a mere connection between the glaciers Franz-Joseph and Fox with Wanaka end up being a dream path. This road crosses the New Zealanders Alps and offers unique views. You drive surrounded by forests, lakes and waterfalls, and there are stops every five minutes with places of interest or simply with views that force you to stop. Mandatory stops are the Thundercreek Fall, an immense waterfall, and the Blue Pools, set of natural pools of crystal clear water fifteen minutes from the highway. The latter is the most popular stop since there is a bridge from where you can jump, 100% recommended!
Wanaka is a tiny city, which has everything but without the excessive tourism that you find in its neighboring Queenstown. The city-nature balance is perfect and the center has many things to visit. One of them is the symbolic lone tree of Lake Wanaka, probably the most photographed tree in New Zealand. Wanaka is the last stop of the Haast Gorge, and being so close to the Alps, it offers mountaineering routes that take your breath away. We made the route to Rose Peak, probably one of the best views from the top we have ever seen, but there are many others.
6. Abel Tasman National Park
This national park located north of the southern island cannot be missed if you want to explore the best places to visit in New Zealand. We did a one day route and we loved it. In this country, all national parks are worth visiting, but having limited time you have to organize and choose well. Abel Tasman is different from the rest because it is next to the coast and the mixture of the sea with the lush vegetation and the mountains make it unique.
7. The Catlins
For us Catlins is synonymous with wildlife. Instead of walking on the beach with people, you do it with sea lions. Instead of bathing with tourists, you bathe with people surfing and dolphins playing around. Instead of enjoying the sunsets on the seashore, you enjoy sitting on rocks waiting for the penguins to arrive from their hunting day to feed their young. This area was one of the most remote we visited, but it is definitely worth getting there.
8. Tongariro National Park
Surely it is no surprise that this national park has won the bronze medal in our ranking. Despite being volcanic and not having much vegetation, at least in the first part, the mixture of colors of the craters and lakes do not miss anything. For us, it is the best of the north island.
9. Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook
They are different things but we believe that visiting it as a whole doubles its value. Lake Pukaki is an intense blue characteristic of the glacier water and is of a significant extension. That blue lake with the white mountains of Mount Cook in the background has created a mental image hard to forget. But if you add to that, spend the night on the shore of the lake and watch the sunset … little else can be asked. The road from Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook is half an hour driving and from the road, you see the multiple glaciers of Mt. Unless you are a professional climber, there is only one route that allows you to access the nearest valley of Mt Cook. It is a simple and well-adapted route for everyone, but it is no less attractive. You walk between glaciers, you cross three suspension bridges and, if you have a good day, you see the peak of Mount Cook from all angles. We were curious that people focused on visiting the glaciers of the west coast, which in comparison are much smaller. No doubt better to come to Mt Cook when searching the best places to visit in New Zealand and enjoy not only one but multiple glaciers at the same time! For the most intrepid is the option to go by helicopter and see it from above … there we leave it!
10. Milford Sound
It is touristy and there are many people, but as much as we hate that we could not give the first place to another place. The good thing is that they have everything very controlled and being in such a remote location does not give you a feeling of overwhelming at any time. To avoid crowds we got up early and did a tour on a small boat. We tell you everything in this post in case you are interested. But the charm is not only on the boat or the coast; it is on the way there. For us, it is essential to stop along the way to fully experience the Milford Sound experience. Some of the stops that we liked the most are the following: Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Knobs Flat, Monkey Creek and The Chasm. Each one has its charm and gives you a different perspective of the area. The Mirror Lakes reflect the Miter Peak and on a sunny day, it is a perfect picture.
Those were the 10 best places to visit in New Zealand that we found quite interesting. It has been quite difficult to close this ranking because New Zealand is a paradise for travelers. Many of the sites we have visited have been left out of our top 10 but that does not mean that they are not worth seeing. If you want to know more about some of the places that we have not put here do not hesitate to visit our exclusive section of New Zealand. Oh, and if you also have New Zealand we would love to know what you would add or remove from our top 10. Happy Friday!