Whenever I travel and people learn I’m from New Zealand they often tell me how much they want to visit some day, and the question I usually get next is, “What are the best places to see?” Because it’s one of the most photogenic places on earth with thick native forests, mountains, beaches, glaciers, thermal regions and fiords, there’s lots to see and do if you’re a nature fan. Trying to narrow my list down to my favorite five was no easy task but I think my picks give a balanced view of the best of New Zealand.
This magical little place lies just off the coast of Auckland, though you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different world. The weather is warm and sunny most of the year, the locals are laid back and friendly, there are beautiful beaches dotted all around, and there are numerous vineyards for you to visit and taste some of the best wine New Zealand has to offer.
Queenstown has a reputation as the party town of the South Island, but there’s much more to it than just bar crawls and disco pubs. Located on the edge of gorgeous Lake Wakatipu and bordered by the Southern Alps it really is as pretty as a postcard. Once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing there’s an activity to cater for everyone. Some of the most popular include; hiking, jet boat rides, bungee jumping, horse riding, cycling, skiing/ snowboarding, trout fishing, sky diving and scenic helicopter flights, and wine tasting.
According to Maori legend, the Coromandel were the first place people to settle in New Zealand, and understandably they never left. The Coromandel has some of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand (in fact New Chum beach has been voted one of the world’s top 10), including Hot Water Beach – a place where you can dig a hole in the sand and enjoy a warm bath courtesy of naturally occurring hot springs under the ground.
The sounds are actually a collection of drowned valleys that have created a stunning scenic landscape. There are some fantastic coastal hikes through native forest where you can see and hear many of New Zealand’s native wildlife while witnessing stunning views over Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. You can also take a cruise through the sounds where you’ll spot nesting seals and penguins, and see dolphins surfing alongside the boats. For the more adventurous, there are mountain biking tracks and the opportunity to sea kayak amongst the mountains reaching beaches that are only accessible by boat.
Lonely Planet dubbed Wellington as “the world’s coolest little capital” and it definitely lives up to the title!
With a vibrant food scene that caters to all budgets and tastes and a craft beer scene that rivals the best anywhere, foodies love it here. Wellington is the cultural hub of New Zealand. You can visit the national museum Te Papa (see our featured image); peruse numerous art galleries, watch up and coming bands, and catch a play at one of our many theatres. And, if you’re a LOTR fan there are many film locations that’s within easy reach of the city.