Sparsely populated but easily accessible, New Zealand is a dream destination for visitors craving escape.
The country possesses stunning natural beauty, from raging rivers and placid lakes, to jagged mountains and rolling pastures, to active volcano zones and laid-back beaches. Adventure abounds in a wide variety of death-defying escapades and athletic pursuits. Māori history is honoured and native culture infuses much of modern day life.
Though nature is the main attraction of New Zealand, the country’s city life is also vibrant. Auckland and Wellington boast beautiful harbours. Christchurch and Dunedin cling fiercely to their colonial heritage. Napier and Nelson are home to some of the nation’s most memorable art and architecture.
With such a wealth of options on offer, there are New Zealand holidays to suit every type of tourist. Find your ideal itinerary below.
For The Adventurer
Much has been written about New Zealand’s endless supply of adventure (including by yours truly here at D’Marge). The country is a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities to get your adrenaline pumping, most famously in the South Island’s Queenstown.
Your choices include, but are not limited to: skydiving, whitewater rafting, quad biking, boating, ziplining, bungee jumping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, cycling, paintballing, archery, clay target shooting, skiing, surfing, road tripping, paragliding, and even touring a live volcano. If you can name it, someone somewhere in New Zealand is doing it.
Be sure take maximum advantage of your surroundings by exploring some of the country’s most unique adventures. A few of our favourites include trekking the nine Great Walks, tramping across the Franz Josef Glacier, and voyaging through the sublime glowworm caves.
For The History Buff
New Zealand is a young country by some standards, but its history is rich and rewarding to discover.
No visit to the country is complete without experiencing Māori culture. Rotorua is a hub of today’s indigenous life, and hosts multiple cultural experiences like traditional dances and meals. Popular destinations include the villages of Whakarewarewa, Tamaki, Ohinemutu, and Mitai, as well as the Māori Arts & Crafts Institute in Te Puia.
The Hamilton and Waikato region has also been a significant area for the Māori for centuries. Sites of historic importance abound throughout the region, including the official residence of the reigning Māori monarch. Come during February for the Kawhia Kai Festival, an annual celebration of traditional Māori food and culture.
For The Culture Vulture
Fancy yourself a patron of the arts? Satisfy your highbrow needs at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the largest art institution in the country, or a performance of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Other top cultural offerings include the Auckland Museum, Te Papa, Canterbury Museum, Otago Museum, and the eccentric World of WearableArt & Classic Cars Museum.
When it’s time for entertainment of a slightly lower brow, visiting a Lord of the Rings filming location is a must. Over 150 real New Zealand sites were used to bring Middle-earth to life, along with carefully constructed sets. Cinemaphiles can book multi-day tours that visit a variety of locations or choose their favourite to explore in depth. Hobbiton is hands-down the favourite for Tolkien fanatics.
For The Foodie
Flavours speak louder than words when it comes to experiencing a new country, city, or culture. New Zealand’s culinary scene is booming, with plenty of lamb and seafood on the menu.
Kiwi gastronomy has roots in the British culinary tradition, so don’t miss trying the fish and chips and the pies while you visit. More modern iterations of classic New Zealand fare draw influence from Californian and Australian cuisine. The country’s meat and shellfish are especially high quality, as are the dairy products and stone fruit.
To sample Māori food, look for a hangi – a traditional meal in which the food is slowly cooked using heated rocks buried in a covered pit. The earth oven is used to prepare meats (pork, beef, lamb, shellfish, fish), a variety of vegetables, and even puddings.
A gourmand’s New Zealand holiday would be incomplete without a visit to wine country. The nation is one of the world’s top producers of Sauvignon Blanc, and is also known for its Chardonnay and Riesling. Palates that prefer red should sample the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.
The North Island’s main wine regions are Northland, Auckland, Waitkato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, and Wairarapa. The South Island’s are Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury/Waipara Valley, and Central Otago.
For The Romantic
Grab your loved one and make your New Zealand holiday an adventure-for-two. The country is well-stocked with romantic resorts and hotels (including one so remote it can only be reached by helicopter) and the stunning scenery is guaranteed to set hearts a-flutter.
Heat things up with a visit to one of New Zealand’s natural hot pools. Hanmer Springs, Glacier Hot Pools, and Queenstown’s Onsen Hot Pools are a perfect way to unwind (bonus points if you throw in a massage).
A more adventurous couple can soar to new heights together aboard a scenic helicopter flight or a hot air balloon. Try the gondolas in Queenstown, Rotorua, or Christchurch if you prefer to be closer to terra firma. And if you love the sky but can’t bear to let your feet leave the ground, visit the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve for some of the clearest stargazing on earth.
For The Lad(s)
All bets are off: it’s a lads’ holiday and you plan to go big. Along with risking a limb or two at the standard adventure spots, gather the boys to watch the All Blacks perform their pre-match haka and prove why they’re rugby legends.
Try your hand at sport at one of New Zealand’s superb golf courses. We named Cape Kidnappers one of the best in the world. Kauri Cliffs, Paraparaumu, Tara Iti, Titirangi, Wairakei, Millbrook, The Hills, Kinloch, and Jack’s Point are also top options.
To unwind after a busy day of physical exertion, try your luck at one of country’s casinos or drink your way through the hundreds of beers that call New Zealand home on a brewery tour. Note: we don’t recommend the casinos if you’ve already had the beers.