If you love nature and everything beautiful that this Earth has to offer, then you need to head to New Zealand immediately.
Knowing where to start with planning a trip here can feel a little overwhelming because there is SO much to see. It helps to understand more about the geography of the country. Two islands make up New Zealand; a North and South Island. Many people love the South Island for its awestruck beauty appeal, but I found the North Island to have just as much of its own charm and excitement.
I’d say you should try and plan for time to do both. If that isn’t an option take a look to see which sights appeal to you most and go from there. You could spend up to 3 months (the time allotted for a tourist visa) or even more exploring because there is just so much to see and do!
- North Island Destination Highlights: (Beaches, wineries, water sports, boating, hiking, caves, hot springs, volcanoes, sunsets and more)
- Bay of Islands
- Waiheke Island
- Coromandel Peninsula: Mount Maunganui
- Lake Taupo
- Tongariro Crossing
- South Island Destination Highlights: (Adventure/thrill seeking, mountains, hikes, wineries, waterfalls, beaches, sunsets and more)
- Nelson/Abel Tasman
- Milford Sound
- Arthur’s Pass
- Mount Cook
- West Coast: Fox Glacier, Hokitika Gorge
- Hamner Springs
The great part about New Zealand is that almost every destination has an iSite Visitors Centre. There you can get information, guidebooks, maps, advice, and coupons for the numerous activities and adventures offered in each city upon your arrival.
How to Get Around:
There are so many options to choose from to wander all of the different sights New Zealand has to offer. We chose to travel by car because we found it to be the easiest for our flexible schedule. However, we did fly domestic from the North Island to the South (although a car ferry from Wellington to Nelson is also available).
- Rental Cars
- This is a super popular way to explore New Zealand. There are some good cost effective companies that make this an easy option.
- Motor Vehicles
- Transfer Car Services (FREE!)
- Transfer Car is a company that offers FREE one-way car rentals. If you have a completely open schedule and can fly where the wind takes you this is a great option for a cost effective adventure in NZ. We found out about this option through one of our Airbnb hosts, however, it was towards the end of the trip so we didn’t get a chance to use it, but it would definitely be a good option depending on your schedule.
- Buy a used car & sell when finished
- I’ve heard of lots of people doing this. If you have an extended amount of time to explore this route could be another good cost-effective option, as you will get most of your money back in the end.
- Another scenic way to see the country is by train. Rail New Zealand is NZ’s scenic travel network.
- Domestic Flights
- Flights are always an option to get between destinations and a few discount airline ticket sites include Grabaseat and Jet Star Friday Fare Frenzy . Although this might seem like one of the easiest ways to get around, you could end up missing out on a lot of the beauty that this country has to offer, so besides flying between the two islands I highly suggest you plan some type of road trip. However if you are stretched for time or dislike road trips, then flights between the cities is always an option!
Where to Stay:
What to See:
If you love wine and relaxing countryside with stunning views….this island is for you! A quick and scenic ferry ride away from Auckland you can find yourself in wine country paradise.
Have you ever wondered what heaven on Earth is like…because I think you might find it here! Hot Water Beach is seriously one of the most amazing places ever. You bring a little shovel (or a “spade” as the Kiwi’s call it) and dig a hole in the sand around low tide (2 hours before/after is the window) and thermal hot water from the Earth literally bubbles up and forms a real-life hot tub for you to sit in and listen to the waves crash right in front of you. Just be sure to check the tides before you go so that you can get to the good stuff and don’t miss out on the best part!
Where dreams come true! Seriously…one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. A gorgeous scenic walk along the coast takes you to stunning beaches and coves that are nothing short of breathtaking!
This stunning beach is located on the northeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula close to the town of Whangapoua. A hidden hike takes you there and the views and beaches are so worth the trip!
This charming town is located on Mercury Bay on the northeastern coast of the peninsula. Nearby to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, this is a great place to stay with some beautiful beaches of its own. Shakespeare’s Cliff as seen below is a beautiful spot for stunning views of the coastline.
Sulphur hot springs are one of the many amazing things this location has to offer and Kerosene Creek is a free spot in nature where you can jump into the hot springs and experience the benefits of this wonderful water without any cost involved!
Spa Thermal Park
Take a ferry over to Abel Tasman for an amazing hike, beautiful beaches, and stunning coastal views.
Wine region. Tasty. Beautiful. Enough Said.
This place literally deserves its own post, but for now this will have to do….without a doubt one of the most stunning wineries I’ve ever encountered! Endless vineyards located on the coast with superior views of the water and so much charm it’s hard to describe how incredible it is.
Glaciers, gushing blue rivers, and endless beauty make this part of New Zealand a must do.
The beautiful town of Wanaka was one of my favorite destinations on the South Island. A cute town, beautiful lake and plentiful hikes make this another NZ must do!
Stunning and renowned for adventure, water sports and vineyards and another favorite destination for the locals, Queenstown is not to be missed.
One of the most scenic places in New Zealand, Milford Sound is a waterfall heaven full of marine life and jaw-dropping views. A boat tour here is definitely a must do!
Christchurch is another main city popular to fly into on the South island nearby beautiful beach towns make this another fun NZ destination.
Located near Christchurch, this charming little French-influenced town on the Bay is a must see.
All in all, what started as a 2-week trip turned into a month and a half and I feel like I could have easily spent even more time exploring all of the amazing things New Zealand has to offer. I’d love to go back again and explore even more of this beautiful country!
What spot are you most excited to see or did you love the most?!