Lake Matheson, New Zealand
Adventure Travel Ideas New Zealand Oceania

Top things to do in New Zealand

Although I’m a Wandering Kiwi I am reminded time and again how much New Zealand has to offer lovers of beautiful and unique landscapes.

So I would like to share a photo essay of my favourite scenes and experiences enjoyed over many adventures in New Zealand.

So let me take you on a New Zealand road trip, starting in the North Island and working our way south…

Ahipara beach, Northland, New Zealand
Ahipara is a tiny community in New Zealand’s far north. It’s not called the “winterless north” for nothing and as you can see the beaches are top class, clean and empty. There’s a decent backpackers on the beach and the fish ‘n’ chips are great. The perfect place to start your New Zealand trip.

Piha beach, New Zealand

On the west coast of the North Island you’ll find a series of black ironsand beaches that are beautiful and quite wild. This is Piha, about an hour from Auckland, very popular with surfers and Kiwi daytrippers.

Whanganui Bay, Taupo, New Zealand
One of my favourite places in New Zealand is Whanganui Bay, on Lake Taupo’s southern shores. It is secluded by native bush and home to a tiny settlement of local Maori. I love rock climbing here and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere beside the sparkling water.

Blue Lake, Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

As we continue our tour of the top things to do in New Zealand, it’s time for the Tongariro Crossing. This famous New Zealand hike in the central North Island is celebrated as one of the world’s best day walks and the vividly coloured lakes in the midst of the volcanic landscape of New Zealand are not to be missed (no photoshop required).

Mt Taranaki, New Zealand
Taranaki is tucked away to the west of New Zealand’s North Island and the mountain rises out of green dairy farming country. This is one of the few places where you can be climbing the snowy summit of a mountain and then surfing at the beach on the same day.

Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington is my favourite city in New Zealand and the “harbour city capital” is busy with excellent cafes and a thriving cultural scene.

Blue Lake and upper Sabine Valley, New Zealand

Moving to the South Island it’s all about lakes and mountains. This is the unimaginatively named ‘Blue Lake’ in the Sabine Valley, part of the Nelson Lakes National Park. If you’ve done any of New Zealand’s deservedly-popular-but-busy-in-summer Great Walks you may appreciate getting away from the tourists in this magnificent piece of country.

Church of Good Shepherd, Tekapo, New Zealand

The colours, the water, the barren hills and the distant snow-capped peaks; Lake Tekapo offers some of New Zealand’s most iconic scenery and best photo opportunities at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Stopping here is an essential part of any New Zealand South Island tour.

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

The foot of Lake Pukaki offers the first chance to glimpse New Zealand’s highest mountain – Aoraki or Mount Cook – if the weather is kind that is…

Beech forest, Dart Valley, New Zealand

An example of the South Island’s rich and beautiful beech forest – here in the Dart Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park. The Rees-Dart circuit is another great hiking track that gets less footfall than the Great Walks.

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka is another favourite place in New Zealand to spend time walking, climbing and enjoying the lake. It’s a wonderful alternative to the tourism centre of Queenstown.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Right down in the south-west corner of New Zealand the Fiordland National Park is unmissable. This is a shot of one of the many magnificent waterfalls plunging into the Sounds, taken from the cruise boat from Milford.

West Coast New Zealand

The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is like a different world: rugged scenery and tiny, isolated communities. Tourists come to see the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers (some of the world’s most accessible) but the wild coastal landscape and laid-back pace of life is equally attractive.

Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Lake Matheson on the west coast of New Zealand is famous for reflecting the backdrop of mountains so I got up early and waited patiently while the ducks made ripples in the water.

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

This shot is taken high, high above the Franz Josef Glacier on the west coast. We helicoptered into a mountain hut and stayed a week, climbing and enjoying the views. This is the sunset across the glacier neve. At dawn from up here you can see the shadows of the mountains cast across the Tasman Sea far below.

I’ve visited over 50 countries around the world now (and counting) but New Zealand is still pretty hard to beat (at rugby or landscapes).

By Natasha von Geldern

Ultimate One-Month New Zealand Travel Itinerary 

Family-friendly New Zealand Travel Itinerary

A Two-Week South Island Travel Itinerary

What country would you pick as the world’s best travel destination?

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  1. Wow this is one helluva great write up for the greatest travel destination in the world…and I live here. Thanks Natasha, and the buzz in our country at over the past 7 weeks and at the moment with the Rugby World Cup has been so vibrant and friendly. Been a blast meeting so many people from around the world.

  2. Thanks for the amazing photos, Natasha. I’ve always wanted to go to NZ, but those pics have just raised it a few notches on my Bucket List!

    Beautiful blog.

  3. Stunning photos, beautiful landscape, wonderful guided tour..Thank you.

  4. You may be right….New Zealand might be the best travel destination…or maybe the best place to live. I’ve never been there, but I hope I’ll make it soon.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I’ll be there for Christmas this year for the first time in many years 🙂 Perhaps one day I’ll live there again. It is a very special place.

  5. Nathanael Boehm

    And this is why we moved to NZ … too much to try and fit into a 2-week holiday. We’ve been here 9 months and I’m still content exploring Arthur’s Pass and the foothills: Mt Oxford, Mt Thomas, Korowai-Torlesse, West Coast … just back from a weekend at Mt Cook and in a couple of weeks will be heading further down south and then Milford Sound at the end of the year for another couple of weeks – yay!

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Ha ha yes there is a lot to see and do and you have found the answer! So glad you’re enjoying yourselves. I definitely recommend the Rees-Dart and Sabine-Moss tramps when you get around to it. Keep on having fun 🙂

  6. Ah, yes. New Zealand is a place I have to see and hike.

  7. Great photos. I am headed to NZ from California in a few weeks, can’t wait. Maybe you can offer me some tips, especially regarding a cheap budget and place to fly in to.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Hi Nick, Auckland or Christchurch are the main places to fly in to. I’d recommend hiring a car to tour around – go for a one rather than one of the big car hire places. NZ is well supplied with good backpacker hostels or as you are going into summer you could camp to save $$. Hope you have fun!!

  8. Great article. And very nice website. This was my list of the top 10 places in New Zealand I have visited The only country I think that beats New Zealand – largely because of its history – is France

  9. Remind me why you’re not living there… such a beautiful place.

  10. I totally agree, although New Zealand has a bunch of issues I’d love to see smoothed over. It is, however, certainly one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, countries in the world!

  11. Excellent photos and this is why I call New Zealand home. Absolutely stunning!

  12. Hi, if you go to NZ I would suggest Mount Taranaki as well. I know many travellers who skiped this area but it’s really beautiful (that’s where they shot the ‘last samurai’ with Tom Cruise). Looks like Mount Fuji.

  13. wow!! If I didn’t already want to visit New Zealand, this certainly would have convinced me of it! But as it is, it’s already high up there on my “want to visit” list. Can’t get over the water in the Tongariro Crossing, either!

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