Friday, March 19, 2010

Top 10 Places to Visit in New Zealand

New Zealand has so many outstanding places to visit that it is difficult to choose among them. We know that your vacation time is both brief and valuable. Our recommendations for the best places to visit will help you find the right place for your vacation in New Zealand.

Be sure to note that the period of the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere is the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. During our summer, the Kiwis are experiencing winter. So if you want to ski in Queenstown, July and August can be the heart of the season. If you are not a skier, don't let the concept of winter stop you from taking your summer vacation in New Zealand, since the snow usually stays at the higher elevations.

A trip to New Zealand should cover the country's two major islands, known simply as the North Island and the South Island. Both islands are interesting, but we recommend that you spend the majority of your time on the South Island, which, in our opinion, is pretty close to paradise.

1. Fiordland National Park

This park is part of the South Westland World Heritage area and is New Zealand's largest national park and one of the largest in the world. The scenery in Fiordland is nothing short of stunning, with deep fiords, steep mountains, raging waterfalls, and lush rain forests.

Fiordland is also home to Milford Sound described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and Doubtful Sound which many say is even more spectacular. Another major attraction are the spectacular walks including the world famous Routeburn and Milford, the latter being billed as the finest walk in the world in the early twentieth century by London Spectator in England.

In addition there is the mighty Sutherland Falls which is one of thousands of waterfalls in the park, and one of the highest in the world, amazing diving, dolphins, seals, and rare bird life. If all this doesn't convince you to visit, then there is also Mitre Peak a mountain that rises to the staggering height of 1 mile straight out of the ocean. Fiordland is however one of the wettest places on earth and when it rains, thousands of waterfalls put on quite a show. (Imagine countless raging waterfalls side by side thundering into the salt water of the sea.)
Mitre Peak Mountain

On a fine day the landscape is so other worldy that you would think that you were in the movie Lord of the Rings, which is no exaggeration given that much of the movie was filmed here.
Fiordland is situated in the Southland region.
Milford Sound has been rated the number one travel destination in the world as voted by users of Tripadvisor. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World, and it is currently in the final list for the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Beautiful Milford sound view

Milford Sound is located in Fiordland National Park. It was incorrectly named a sound, as it is a fiord. A fiord is a valley which has been inundated by the sea, as the result of glaciers eroding the valley floor in the past, below todays sea level.
Milford Sound is the most accessable of 14 fiords and arguably the most spectacular, although many think that Doubtful Sound is even better. It is certainly much bigger, but is harder to reach.
Boat trips on Milford Sound take you out to the Tasman Sea and back. The trip passes many spectacular waterfalls falling from huge cliffs. The boat gets close enough to some waterfalls allowing you to hold a cup in the air to collect what is known as the worlds cleanest water. Seals can be seen sunbathing on the rocks and dolphins often ride the wake of cruise boats that travel through here.
Milford Sound is certainly a visible spectacular work of nature but what is not obvious is what lies beneath the water. The first few feet of water in the fiord is darker fresh water which is runoff from the melting snow on the mountains that flows through lush rainforest and down the steep cliffs into the fiord. Below that layer of fresh water is the salt water of the Tasman Sea. This unique combination of fresh and salt water tricks deep sea plants in to growing closer to the surface than otherwise and this provides divers are rare opportunity to see them. Divers can also be rewarded with a rare black coral that is unique to this area.

2. Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest National Park, but contains the sunniest climate together with the best coastal scenery in the country. The Park is famous for the many superb white sandy beaches and coves that look out onto the clear waters of the Tasman Sea. Beyond the beaches, the park is covered in lush rain forest and Manuka, which is a type of tea tree. The Abel Tasman walk is a great way to see this park, it takes 3-5 days to complete. Sea Taxis are also available and can drop you off at any number of beaches within the park. This gives you the complete freedom to do a full or partial trek, or alternatively you can spend your time just relaxing on the beaches of your choice.
Kayaking at Abel Tasman

Kayaking is a popular alternative way to see this superb park as you have access to all the beaches, including those that the walk misses out on.

3. Queenstown

Queenstown sited on the shore of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, is surrounded by the luscious beauty of a mountain chain known as the Remarkables. The town is the focal point for a large and diverse recreational area. Queenstown is a place where you can "sit and think" or participate in various outdoor activities, some of them quite unique. The shopping is OK but limited and cultural attractions are sparse.

Queenstown, New Zealand

For action adventure and scenery Queenstown has it all. This beautiful lake side town is surrounded by mountains and is one of New Zealands premier tourist destinations. It is the home of bungee jumping and jet boating which are both New Zealand inventions. Other action activities include parapenting and white water rafting. Queenstown is also one of the Southern Hemispheres premier skiing destinations and enables skiers from around the world to ski during the Northern Hemisphere's summer. If you are not an adrenaline junkie then Queenstown is still a must see, even if it is to just admire the spectacular mountain scenery while enjoying the many cafes, restaurants, and shops on offer.

Adrenaline rush - Bungy jumping

The 'Adventure Capital of the World' is a reputation well earned. Queenstown is the home of adventure in New Zealand. We have everything that the adventure seeker could ever want - you can bungy jump with the world's original bungy company AJ Hackett Bungy, tandem skydive with NZone 'The Ultimate Jump', go white water rafting with Challenge Rafts or jet boating with Shotover Jet. Or you can combine the excitement with Queenstown Combos.
Queenstown is a 'Natural Theme Park', such are the seemingly endless array of adventure activities and leisure holiday options to choose from. The spectacular geography of the region creates a special atmosphere and unique setting that has made this town famous the world over. As well as the many adventure activities on offer, Queenstown is also home to Lord of The Rings, filmed amid the mountains, lakes, rivers and forests and is the gateway to Milford Sound, Fiordland.

4. Rotorua 

Rotorua is famous for its volcanic activity. The area contains many Geothermal Reserves such as Waimangu, Waiotapu and Whakarewarewa, which are all situated in beautiful natural surroundings. All these reserves have great examples of geysers, boiling pools, hot springs, boiling mud and volcanic terraces and craters. Rotorua also has many beautiful lakes to swim in and plenty of native bush for trekking. Mt Tarawera is also close by and there are tours by 4WD that take you up to the top of this volcano. The view is spectacular and you also have the opportunity to walk down into the crater. Rotorua is also a great area to learn about Maori Culture.
Rotorua is situated in the Bay of Plenty region.

5. Bay of Islands

The subtropical Bay of Islands is the finest maritime park in New Zealand. There are about 150 islands to explore with many superb beaches and secluded bays. The park has an abundance of marine life, including Marlin, Whales, Penguins and Dolphins. The Bay attracts many people the world over including fishermen, golfers and marine enthusiasts and of course tourist who just want to enjoy the subtropical climate and swim in some of the best beaches in New Zealand.
The Bay of Islands is situated in the Northland region.

Bay of island view

6. Mt Cook

Mt Cook and surrounding area is an alpine park that is part of the South Westland World Heritage area. Mt Cook is Australasia's highest mountain and Mt Tasman and Mt Sefton the 2 neigbouring mountains come in at 2nd and 3rd respectively. Mt Cook National Park also has the worlds longest ski run, down the Tasman Glacier. The park doesn't contain many trees or plants, it is best described as a snow covered rocky environment. However Lupins grow well in the mountain soil and these plants come in every colour imaginable which this gives this harsh environment a more gentle and picturesque look. The main accommodation here is the Hermitage Hotel and is also the main departure point to the many scenic walks and Guided Treks in this park.
The Ball Pass is a challenging 3-day alpine crossing of the Mount Cook Range and allows close views of New Zealand's highest mountains. Anyone attempting the crossing without a guide needs to be an experienced mountaineer. There are other walks for those without mountaineering experience or the chance to take a helicopter or plane ride to the top of the Tasman Glacier and back.
Mt Cook National Park is situated in the Canterbury region.
Mt Cook National Park

7. Westland National Park

This National Park is part of the South Westland World Heritage area and is famous for its 2 glaciers, Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier. These glaciers are unique as they are the closest to the coastline of any glacier in the world outside of the polar regions, which means that they are not only accessible but the climate is much warmer compared to other glacial sites in the world. The park is also covered in a lush ancient rain forest and is backed by steep cliffs and mountains. It seems like a contradiction when viewing the glaciers from a rain forest, and it is this phenomenon that makes this area unique. The rugged coastline is only a drive away and there are some great views of the glaciers and mountains reflecting in some of the lakes in the area. Westland National Park also has many activities on offer such as a trek up one of the glaciers or a helicopter ride up to the top of the Southern Alps and back. If you want nature and spectacular scenery, and you don't mind rain then Westland National Park is a must see.
Westland National Park is situated in the Westcoast region.
Westland National Park

8. The Tongariro National Park

Tongariro is a World Heritage Park and one of the oldest National Parks in the world. The park contains 3 active volcanos that are situated in a desert like landscape. The area gets regular snowfalls in the winter as it is situated at high altitude. Mt Ruapehu is the largest volcano and home to most of the ski fields in the North Island. However this volcano erupts regularly and last erupted as recently as 1995 and 1996. Another volcano, Mt Ngauruhoe is right next to Ruapehu.
Mt. Ruapehu Ski field
The Tongariro Crossing is a tough one day walk that comes recommended, and shows off the best that this park has on offer. National Geographic has classed it as one of the top 10 one day walks in the world.
The Tongariro National Park is situated in the Taupo region.
The Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park

9. Coromandel Peninsula 

This area is blessed with a superb climate and contains some of New Zealand's most scenic beaches and coastline. There is even a thermal beach here called Hot Water Beach, which has volcanic heat rising through the ground. All you have to do is dig a hole in the sand and wait for it to fill up with water, and presto, you have your own spa pool. Inland this area is covered with extinct volcanos which provide many good views. These volcanic cones and the surrounding area are covered in temperate rain forest, so the terrain is ideal for tramping (trekking). The forests contain the tallest fern trees in the world, some reaching heights of 20 metres or more. The abundance of fern species in the Coromandel gives the area a subtropical look and feel.
The Coromandel Peninsula is situated in the Coromandel region.
Coromandel Peninsula

10. Kaikoura 

Situated on the East Coast of New Zealand's South Island is the seaside town of Kaikoura which overlooks majestic mountains which are snow capped for many months of the year. In the waters off the coast an abundantly rich habitat for marine mammals and seabirds exists. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where whales can be seen all year round. In addition, dolphin swimming, seal swimming, fishing, diving, shark diving, and a large number of both land and water based activities are available.
Kaikoura is situated in the Canterbury region.


  1. Nice Pics. Thanks for sharing such a good post. Definitely it will
    help people to plan a New Zealand trip. By the way I used to find
    and compare prices on hotel, airfare, and car rental from various
    companies throughout the United States and world.

  2. Beautiful pictures & great information.I have visited New Zealand & i have visited Queenstown there.Many places i haven't seen in New Zealand so i am now planning a trip to visit New Zealand again.
    working in new zealand

  3. Hi thanks for the comment, I will post some of my photos and video for South Island trip last June 2011. Day 1 - Christchurch to Akaroa, then CBD strolling, Day 2, Christchurch to Lake Tekapo to Queenstown to Te Anau, Day 3 - Te Anau to Milford Sound then to Queenstown. Day 4 - aftershock in Christchurch. It's amazing journey, it's fun to be with nature and forget about problems.

  4. Wow these pictures are awesome! Did you do any jet boating in New Zealand? I had a look at the Buller Canyon one, but I have heard that it can be quite dangerous? Well, I am not the adventure junkie anyway.