Things to Do in New Zealand: A Guide to New Zealand's Best Activities

New Zealand is one of the world’s most widely visited tourist destinations and with a country packed with incredible experiences, things to do in New Zealand encompasses a whole range of activities.

From being home to the world’s adventure sports capital in Queenstown to the stunning natural and scenic beauty of the breathtaking Milford Sound, the rich cultures of the Maori community, to the real-life set locations of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, New Zealand is ripe with experiences for everyone. 

1. Hiking/Tramping

Wairapa Lighthouse
  • New Zealand is known the world over for being home to some of the planet’s most amazing scenic landscapes and the Kiwis are equally known for enjoying their backyard to its fullest extent. New Zealanders are particularly fond of going on multi-day hikes through trails that carve through national parks across the country.

  • Known locally as tramping, it is one of the favourite things to do in New Zealand for tourists and locals alike. This prompted the Department of Conservation to set up lodges for trampers to stay in during their adventures. 

  • A collection of the best tramping trails across New Zealand is known to locals as ‘The Great Walks’ and this collection includes trails of varying lengths and difficulties from across national parks in the country.

  • Walks like the Abel Tasman Coastal Track and the Routeburn Track give visitors unrivalled peeks into the beautiful landscapes around the Abel Tasman National Park and the Milford Sound, respectively.

2. Adventure Sports

Kawarau River Bungy
  • Queenstown is regularly touted as being the Mecca for all things adventure sport-related in New Zealand and features often on itineraries that offer pride of place for adventure sports.

  • Arguably regarded as the birthplace of the bungee jump, leaping off a bridge into the chasm of the River Kawarau flowing below at AJ Hackett has long been a bucket-list entry for lots of visitors to the resort-town. Adventure sports in Queenstown is amongst the most popular things to do in New Zealand.

  • Sky-diving over Lake Wanaka, close to the resort town of Queenstown is also another hugely popular tourist activity. SCUBA diving and snorkelling around the Bay of Islands area is a massively popular activity and takes advantage of the stunning marine life of the region.

  • White water rafting around the Rotorua region and even going black-water rafting, white water rafting’s lesser-known and underground variant, in the Waitomo Caves, which are famous for their glowworms.

  • Hiking and exploring the vast frozen wilderness around the Fox and the Franz Josef glaciers are other adventure sports that are hugely popular amongst visitors. Helicopter rides that give you amazing vantage points of the beautiful sweeping views of the glaciers from a bird’s eye view.

  • Mountain biking the beautiful rolling landscape around the Marlborough Sounds is another amazing way to experience the undulating hills of the region too.

  • Skiing and snowboarding around Mount Hutt or any of the other ski resorts, close to the Pinnacles mountain ranges are also popular sports amongst both visitors and locals wanting to take advantage of the fantastic snow conditions in New Zealand. 

3. Food

Hangi Feast
  • Food in New Zealand is a rich amalgam of the various influences that come together to make New Zealand cuisine. Although many people would assume that New Zealand cuisine and Australian cuisine would be almost the same but there are significant differences.

  • New Zealand is also blessed with some of the world’s freshest produce. With over 14,000 km of coastline, the country is known for being home to some of the freshest and tastiest seafood, making it the ideal seafood travel destination.

  • Regions like Kaikoura, which literally means ‘Crayfish food’ in Maori, are known for being havens for seafood lovers around the world.

  • New Zealand is also hugely famous for its high-quality beef and cattle and therefore roast lamb paired with fresh and seasonal produce is one of the most popular dishes in the country.

  • One of the most famous dishes in New Zealand is the traditionally prepared Maori dish known as the Hangi. It is meat, potatoes, and other vegetables that are steam cooked using the geothermal energy emanating from beneath the surface of the earth.

  • Left in an earthen oven for over 8 hours makes it incredibly tender and is surely one of the most memorable experiences that visitors will have in New Zealand.

  • Rotorua is among the best places to experience a traditionally prepared Hangi meal. Another relic of the British influence that can be clearly seen in New Zealand is the proliferation of great fish and chips eateries and barbecue restaurants around the country and is very popular amongst the local and tourist population.

  • Finish the hearty meals favoured by the Kiwis with some of New Zealand’s most famous desserts, Pavlova, a meringue-based pastry dish, or classic Kiwi hokey pokey ice cream.

  • New Zealand is also widely renowned for the vast vineyards that populate the Kiwi countryside that create arguably, some of the finest pinot noirs and Sauvignon Blancs in the world. 

4. Maori Culture 

Maori Village
  • One of the most important aspects of Kiwi culture is how important and how significant an impact the Maori culture has on contemporary Kiwi lifestyles.

  • The Waitangi Treaty Grounds constitute among the most important sites for the foundation of New Zealand as a nation.

  • The museum at the site offers visitors the chance to learn about how the various communities including the Maori people and European settlers came together to an understanding of how the country should be founded and is sure to be a learning experience for the entire family. 

5. Stargazing 

  • Among the most popular activities and things to do in New Zealand is stargazing. The South Island is home to the region’s only globally recognized International Dark Sky Reserve found within the Mackenzie Basin.

  • The region within the Mackenzie Basin found within the Mount Aoraki National Park region is home to some of the darkest and least affected by light-pollution over this 4300 sq. km. area

  • This lends itself to having some of the best places in the country for stargazing and makes it among the ideal places to encounter the Aurora Australis in New Zealand as well. 

6. Hobbiton/Lord of the Rings

  • New Zealand has also long been famous for being the set location for both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies.

  • Tourist attractions like Hobbiton that have kept the set locations for the Lord of the Rings as they were and transformed them into major tourist attractions.

  • This is where visitors can see where their beloved Hobbits and creatures of Tolkien’s fantasy came to life on the big screen.

This post was published by Ken Chiramel

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