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20 of the ultimate things to do in New Zealand

A woman enjoying outdoor activities near a river in New Zealand.

New Zealand is most famous for its extraordinary natural scenery, along with friendly locals, fush and chups and the best rugby team in the world, of course. If you take a closer look, you’ll find plummeting waterfalls, snow-capped mountain peaks, pristine blue waters and gorgeous greenery. From taking a hike in the Abel Tasman to bungee jumping in Queenstown, there’s no shortage of cool things to do in New Zealand – whether you’re a tourist or a local. So, here are just 20 of the ultimate things you can do in the land of the long white cloud…

South Island


20. Hike in the Abel Tasman National Park

Vibrant green waters offset by golden sandy shores? The Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal dream – with kayaking, sailing, swimming and hiking to be enjoyed. Take the iconic Coastal Track or one of the smaller tracks through the greenery, stopping off at picturesque beaches along the way.

abel tasman national park new zealand

Image source:David T / Unsplash

19. Brave the elements on a glacier walk

Taking a helicopter ride over a glacier is certainly worthy of a spot on any bucket list, but hiking along one of these ancient icy formations is an experience like no other. Check out the Franz Josef, Fox or Tasman Glaciers on the South Island for a day you’ll never forget.

Image source:Contiki

18. Plunge from great heights in Queenstown

There’s a reason Queenstown is considered the adventure capital of New Zealand. Adrenaline junkies will have their fill with three different bungee jumps, two swings, a catapult and zip ride experience. The most famous of these, the Nevis Bungy, is also the largest in the country and will see you take the plunge for 8.5 seconds from a height of 134 metres.

nevis swing new zealand

Image source:Contiki

17. Cruise through Milford Sound

You’ve no doubt heard of Milford Sound and the Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed region known for its mountain peaks, waterfalls and overall majesty. Drive the beautiful road into Milford Sound before hopping on a cruise through the waters.

new zealand contiki

Image source:Contiki

16. Have a spa day in Lake Ohau

Nothing says serene like an outdoor hot tub with sweeping views of Mount Cook. At the Lake Ohau Lodge you can indulge yourself in a warm spa pool with a view at the end of yet another adventurous day. You’ve earned it.

Three people sitting in hot tubs on a deck overlooking lake wanaka.

Image source:Contiki

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15. Sample local wines in the Marlborough region

Beloved for their signature wine, Sauvignon Blanc, the Marlborough wineries are a must-visit for a relaxing break in NZ. World-famous wines, coupled with good food, make for a delightful stop on your itinerary.


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14. Seek adventure in Marlborough Sounds

You’ve heard of Marlborough wine, but did you know the region is also home to jaw-droppingly beautiful natural landscapes in the Marlborough Sounds? Sunken river valleys dot along the waterways, with green forests rising from the sea. Swimming, kayaking and hiking are among popular activities, with many keen travellers basing themselves out of accommodation within the Sounds to make the most of the lush environment.

A group of people paddling in a kayak on a lake.

Image source:Contiki

13. Taste the legendary Fergburger

There’s a reason this iconic Queenstown burger joint winds up on every ‘best of New Zealand’ list. From the signature Fergburger to the more unique Cockadoodle Oink burger, the menu boasts delicious eats to try. And who doesn’t love a tourist attraction that revolves around eating? Lines can be long, but it’s well worth it. The Fergbaker sitting just next door offers savoury and sweet treats to devour. Be sure to pick up a Ferg’s Famous Boston Cream Donut or one of their tasty pies for your lineup (or for later).

12. Take a funyak down Dart River

Yes, we said funyak. A unique name for a unique experience! Going funyaking on Dart River means taking an exhilarating jet boat ride up the river, and paddling back downstream in an inflatable kayak. Paddle through pristine glacial waters, take in views of the mountain and forest before enjoying a picnic. Certainly one for the bucket list.

Funyak in Dart River, New Zealand

Image source:Contiki

11. Unwind in Lake Tekapo

In the land of wild adventures and unparalleled action, it’s important to take a breather and really bask in the beautiful nature on offer. Lake Tekapo is the perfect spot to unwind. Let the colourful landscape put you at ease, with views of the bright blue lake and vibrant pinks and purples of the Lupin flowers.

North Island


10. See the glowworms light up Waitomo

One of mother nature’s coolest creatures – the glowworm – lights up the passages of the 30 million-year-old Waitomo Caves. If you think it looks amazing in photos, just wait until you cruise along the caves to see the magical sight for yourself.


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9. Experience the magic of Hobbiton

Calling all fans of Lord of the Rings! It’s no secret that Peter Jackson’s iconic movies were shot in New Zealand, taking full advantage of the local scenery and wild landscapes. But on farmland in the region of Matamata, the fictional town of Hobbiton has been preserved for movie buffs to explore.

Hobbit house in New Zealand, Lord of the Rings filming locations.

Image source:Contiki

8. Hike to Mordor on Mt Ngauruhoe

Another one for LOTR fans – or just nature lovers – this active stratovolcano was the setting for Mt Doom in Mordor. The mountain, in Tongariro National Park, features several walking trails of varying difficulty and is perfect for keen hikers. Scenes for the film were also shot on Mount Ruapehu, another nearby stratovolcano popular among adventurous tourists.

7. Swim in the Bay of Islands

With pristine waters, untouched beaches and more than 140 subtropical islands, this enclave is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand. From diving and snorkelling to walking the trails, the Bay of Islands is a tranquil spot to pop on your NZ itinerary.

bay of islands in new zealand

Image source:Contiki

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6. Go JetBoating in Huka Falls

First, take a pitstop on the footbridge for your Huka Falls photo-op above the Waikato River. Then, say goodbye to dry clothes and hop on a jetboat, where you’ll zoom around the waters doing 360 spins and get up close and personal with the gushing falls.

A woman is standing on a bridge overlooking a river in New Zealand, contemplating the difference between carbon neutral and net zero.

Image source:Contiki

5. Stay in a traditional Māori Marae in Rotorua

Immerse yourself in the ancient traditions of the Māori people, by staying in a marae (a traditional, ornately carved Māori home.) Prepare a hāngi dinner with your hosts and uncover a culture of rich traditions in Rotorua.

A group of people performing a dance in a hut.

Image source:Contiki

4. Go white water rafting in the Kaituna

Outside of Rotorua, the Kaituna River is brimming with plunging rapids – perfect for any white water rafting fan!


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3. Try New Zealand’s best “fush and chups” in Whakatiwai

In a country renowned for its golden hot chips and crispy battered fish fillets, it’s easy to find a delicious serving. But Kaiaua Fisheries in Whakatiwai has to be one of the best. Loved by locals and tourists alike, this spot is well worth the pit stop when driving around the North Island – if not for the stunning ocean views, at least for the parcels of battered goodness.


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2. Brave great heights on the Auckland Sky Tower

If you’re looking for thrills in the city of Auckland, check out the Sky Tower. Take a daring stroll along the perimeter of the tower on the skywalk, or give base-jumping a try with a 192-metre plummet.

sky walk auckland

Image source:Contiki

1. Help the native kiwi bird

Take a behind the scenes tour of the of a Kiwi conservation project at the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua. These are the CUTEST little creatures and you’ll never forget this experience.

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