The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List: The Top 34 Activities in Aotearoa

milford sound nz

As our readers already know, we are big fans of New Zealand and we enjoyed visiting this country in the past several times. It’s a great place to cycle, and there are lots of cycling tours to enjoy, but on this article we are going to create the ultimate bucket list: everything that you can possibly do and enjoy in New Zealand! So far we are at 34 awesome items on the bucket list, but we are not going to stop here, so come back and check often!

hobbiton tours
Hobbiton movie set tours in New Zealand

It’s a lot of fun to explore the Land of the Long White Cloud. It’s incredible to see the variety of landscapes available on this island, from bubbling geothermal springs to rolling green vineyards to ancient forests to glaciers. The country is only slightly larger than the United Kingdom, and the population is only 4.6 million people. This means there are fewer people and more room to explore the outdoors.

stargazing nz tours
Stargazing in New Zealand

We’ve put together a list of 34 of the most interesting and beautiful things to do in New Zealand. Hiking up Mount Doom, exploring a cave full of twinkling glowworms, and attending a Maori feast in Rotorua are among them. These incredible locations are a must-see on your New Zealand travel itinerary.

Here’s the whole thing, in no particular order.

*Save this page and return frequently. We intend to keep adding to it until we reach our goal of “1,000 things to do in New Zealand!”

1 – Hobbiton 

Sir Peter Jackson discovered the ideal location for The Shire and Hobbiton just outside the Waikato town of Matamata. Even if you haven’t seen The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit Trilogies, the movie set is still worth seeing.

2 – Stargazing

New Zealand provides a one-of-a-kind stargazing experience. It has clear skies, dark skies, and breathtaking celestial views. Mount Cook has some of the best stargazing spots on the planet. You can go Big Sky Stargazing at Mount Cook or take a Dark Sky Project tour at Tekapo’s Mount John Observatory. Shooting stars and constellations can be seen in bright, dark skies. Many of the best observatories in the world can be found in New Zealand.

3 – Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach on New Zealand’s North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula is where you can create your own natural jacuzzi out of wet sand. You can rent a spade or bring your own to build a private hot tub with breathtaking ocean views.

4 – Alpine Crossing Tongariro

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand’s most popular day hike, is a nine-hour trek through stunning scenery. Crossing is a 19.4-kilometer hike from Mt Ngauruhoe to Mt Tongariro. Within the UNESCO Dual Heritage Area, it provides panoramic views of active volcanoes and colourful crater lakes.

5 – Whale Watching in Kaikoura

All year, Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination. It is also known for its breathtaking scenery, which includes a rugged coastline that stretches between the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Alps, and snow-capped peaks. This serves as a backdrop for the marine life that is frequently found near the shore.

6 – Poor Knights Islands Scuba Diving

The Poor Knights Islands, located 23 kilometres off New Zealand’s Tutukaka Coast, are a well-known diving destination. The Poor Knights Islands, described by Jacques Cousteau as the best place to dive in subtropical temperate water, are part of a marine reserve that has created a remarkable ecosystem.

7 – Milford Sound

Rudyard Kipling once called Milford Sound, the crown jewel of Fiordland National Park, the “eighth wonder of the world.” Towering peaks, hundreds of waterfalls, fascinating wildlife, and glassy water make up one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Milford Sound provides an opportunity to experience complete silence after the hustle and bustle of the day.

8 – Bungy Jump

Bungy jumping was first introduced in New Zealand. The Kawarau Suspension Bridge is just outside of Queenstown. You can either cross the Kawarau River or the Nevis, which is 134 metres above the valley floor.

9 – Southern Lights

The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a popular and well-loved bucket list item for night sky watchers. However, the Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, is equally spectacular. The Southern Lights, which can be seen from Dunedin, are just above the southern horizon and create beautiful reflections in water. Their beauty will delight photographers.

10 – Bay of Islands 

Because of its turquoise waters and peaceful islands, this bay is a popular tourist destination. It is a popular fishing and sailing location with a long history. It housed one of the largest Maori migration canoes, which sailed from Hawaiki to New Zealand around 700 years ago. The Maori people, who settled throughout the bay and several islands, established many tribes. These settlements were critical to New Zealand’s development and growth. These islands are stunning, and there are numerous ways to explore them. You can rent a yacht or a sea kayak. Keep a lookout for dolphins and whales.

11 – Waiheke Island

If you enjoy wine, you’ll enjoy Waiheke Island. This lovely location is only 40 minutes from Auckland. It’s a great place to spend a lazy day sipping wine and gazing out at the views of olive groves, beaches, and other natural beauty. White sand can be found on the beaches of Oneroa and Onetangi. Swimming is also permitted in the calm waters. Waiheke Island has a thriving arts scene, a cool sculpture park, and hosts cultural events on a regular basis.

12 – Lake Taupo 

Lake Taupo, which is nearly the size of Singapore, is a magnificent body of water. It was formed over two thousand years ago by a massive volcanic eruption. The geothermal currents have warmed the lake, making it calm. As a result, it is ideal for fishing, boating, and swimming. The Craters of the Moon are an amazing place to visit. Through the steaming craters and boiling mud pools, you can see evidence of the lake’s geothermal formation. It is a popular North Island stop. While driving, you can stretch your legs and gaze out at the tranquil waters.

13 – Te Papa Museum

The Museum of New Zealand, Wellington (also known as Te Papa) is a forward-thinking cultural institution that is a pioneer in interactive visitor experiences. This waterfront museum provides information about Maori history, New Zealand’s natural environment, and a variety of other topics. Te Papa hosts a number of creative events, including lectures, performances, and other activities. Traveling art exhibitions can also be found all over the world.

14 – South Island Brewery Tour 

Kiwi beer is unquestionably the best! South Island has a thriving craft beer scene, so it’s no surprise that many breweries offer brewery and taproom tours. Stoke’s Dark Beer from Nelson is one of our favourites, so it was fantastic to finally get to visit their brewery for a private tour.

Greymouth is also the location of the Monteith’s Brewery tour. Pour your pint and select from a variety of Kiwi food options. On a matchday, we also recommend visiting the Emerson Brewery in Dunedin.

15 – Waitomo Glowworm Caves 

As you glide through this cave, look up at the ceilings and walls. A glowing galaxy of tiny light points, reminiscent of stars twinkling in the darkness, will be visible. It is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors have been awestruck by the glowworms since the late 1880s. The cave is about two hours south of Auckland on North Island. There are numerous boat tours that take you through these magical and surreal caves.

16 – Huka Falls

A thundering waterfall of 220,000 litres/second flows over Huka Falls as the Waikato River flows through a narrow canyon. Jet Boat rides are the most thrilling activity available. They will take you through the water, zooming along the surface and bringing you close enough to feel the cool spray from the falls. The Spa Park to Huka Falls Trail also takes you through beautiful native forests and stunning viewpoints, with the sound of rushing water never far away.

17 – Napier 

Napier is special to me because it is where Lee and I met and fell in love (at the old Napier prison). In 1931, an earthquake destroyed Napier, a small town on the North Island’s coast. It was completely rebuilt in Art Deco, the era’s most popular style. It will be a magical experience to walk down streets lined with pastel-colored geometric facades. Art Deco Days is a celebration in which vintage cars cruise the streets and people dress up in flapper and zoot suits.

18 – Mount Maunganui  (“The Mount”)

A large lava dome formed around two to three million years ago by the upwelling of Rhyolite lava from New Zealand’s North Island’s Bay of Plenty region. Mount Maunganui, as it is now known, is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand’s north. The picturesque mountain and its neighbouring town of the same name draw visitors from all over the world because of their excellent hiking, swimming, and surfing, as well as great dining and relaxation. The breathtaking views from the mountain’s summit, as well as the two beaches, one facing Pilot Bay and the other facing the ocean, are well worth the effort.

19 – Rotorua 

Rotorua smells far better than it appears. When you get close to Rotorua, you can smell the eggy-fart sulphur smell. This strange odour is caused by geothermal hotsprings and geysers, which have drawn visitors for over a century. The bubbling mud pools, steaming cauldrons, and a 30-metre-high geyser rising from the earth can all be seen from boardwalks.

The Maori people of Rotorua are well-known for their spectacular cultural performances. You can also attend a traditional Hangi feast, in which meats (pork, lamb, beef, or shellfish) are buried underground for hours with hot rocks while the tribes perform the Haka (a war song).

20 – Milford Sound

This breathtaking natural wonder is featured in nearly every South Island tourism video and brochure. It’s simple to see why. As you cruise through the fjord by boat, you will see thousands of feet of cliffs rising out of the sea. According to Rudyard Kipling, it is the world’s eighth wonder. The waterfalls that cascade down the rock faces look even more spectacular when it rains. These fjords were formed by ancient glaciers and can be explored via boat cruises, sea kayaking, diving, or helicopter flight.

21 – Lake Wanaka

Relax in the crystal-clear waters of the country’s fourth-largest lake for a while. This lovely part of the South Island is ideal for fishing, hiking, golfing, and wine tasting. The nearby mountains and rapid rivers allow for adventure tourism such as jet-boating and skiing. This beautiful lake is situated in a U-shaped valley formed by glacial erosion.

22 – Doubtful Sound

After Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is New Zealand’s second most popular tourist destination. It was named after Captain Cook, who was unsure whether he could navigate it on his ship. It is not a sound, but rather a beautiful natural wonder. It is not possible to drive here, but Milford Sound can be reached by boat. If you’re lucky, you might see Fiordland Crested Penguins or New Zealand fur seals.

23 – Lake Wakatipu 

The unusual rise and fall of Lake Wakatipu’s water level is caused by The Remarkables mountain range rising from the shoreline. This is Maori folklore. Matau, a Maori giant monster, is said to be sleeping at the bottom. His heartbeat is represented by the rise and fall of the water.

This naturally stunning location, which resembles a lightning bolt from the sky, inspired Peter Jackson to film Lord of the Rings. He used it in several scenes in The Lord of the Rings, including Amon Hen.

24 – Abel Tasman National Park

The park was named after the first European explorer to visit New Zealand, Abel Tasman. It is situated between Tasman Bay (Golden Bay) and Tasman Bay in the north of South Island. You’ll be amazed at the stunning turquoise waters and golden sandy beaches of this coastal national park.

Many activities are available here, including hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track through native bush along the coast, visiting “Split Apple Rock,” taking tours through the park, and sea kayaking in the protected bays.

25 – Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier is yet another South Island natural wonder. It is located on the West Coast of “Glacier Country,” just a short drive from Queenstown. This remote and beautiful location provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the few glaciers that end in lush rainforest 300 metres above sea level. It’s easy to get to, and you can walk up to the terminal face. You can also go ice hiking or flying sightseeing. This ancient ice river is well worth seeing up close!

26 – Mount Cook National Park 

Mount Cook is the main attraction of Mount Cook National Park. It is also known as Aoraki and has a height of 3,724 metres. Clouds frequently obscure the mountain’s summit. However, if you are fortunate enough to see the peak through the clouds, you may see it on occasion.

Hooker Valley Walk is a fantastic hike. It’s simple and lovely, but not too difficult. This simple trail takes you through the Hooker Valley to Mount Cook’s glacier lake. Another great option is Governors Bush Walk. It winds through an old temperate rainforest, complete with thick ferns and twisting trees.

27 – Queenstown 

Queenstown, on the South Island, is surrounded by the rugged peaks of The Remarkables and the sparkling waters of Lake Wakatipu. In Queenstown, you will not be bored. The city has a thriving arts and culture scene, excellent restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife. You can also engage in a variety of adventurous activities such as bungy jumping, skiing, snowboarding, and hiking. This is a must-see on any tour of the South Island. It is possible to jump out of a plane and glide slowly down above the glistening lake and snow-capped peaks.

28 – Weta Workshop Wellington 

Weta Workshop, Peter Jackson’s special effects studio, features creature scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as other lesser-known Kiwi films.

Bert the Troll, the Biiiiiigggg Bert, starts the adventure outside. After that, you’ll be taken on an hour-long tour of the workshops, which are filled with tonnes of movie props. You can shop for limited-edition merchandise in the gift shop or watch the short film on special effects in cinematography at the end.

29 – Cathedral Cove 

This Cathedral with a Difference in the Coromandel region of the North Island offers peace and tranquillity. This captivating cove has appeared in numerous films, including the Tales of Narnia film.

Only accessible by a hillside or sea walk (canoeing tours available) – plan your trip to coincide with low tide so you can walk through the cave-like structure to the beautiful sandy beach on the opposite side.

30 – Whales, dolphins, and seals at Kaikoura

Alicante, a small coastal town, is well-known for its whale-watching tours. Despite the fact that the town is still in recovery from the recent earthquake, it is well worth a visit. If you go out on the ocean, you will most likely see hundreds of dolphins “dancing” in the waves, as well as a whale.

It is a lovely location to enjoy the ocean views and boardwalks. The Kaikoura BBQ Seafood Kiosk is an absolute must-see on any visit to Kaikoura.

31 – Ride the Queenstown Skyline Gondola

Take a cable car up Bob’s Peak for unobstructed views of Lake Wakatipu, the valleys, and beyond for Queenstown’s most’sedate’ adventure.

Watch the Ledge Bunky-ing brave souls (you can tell by their screams), eat lunch at Stratosphere Buffet Restaurant, or ride the luge (a sledge on wheels). This is an excellent activity for families travelling to New Zealand.

32 – Auckland Sky Tower

Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower was built in 1997. At the time, it was the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. Locals love it and despise it in equal measure. It can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

At the top of the tower, there is a 360-degree cafe and a revolving dining room. There are two options for thrill seekers: a sky jump from the tower (similar to a bungee, but without the bounce), or a skywalk outside the tower (great fun!).

33 – Take in the views from Mount Eden’s summit

Mount Eden, Auckland’s highest volcano cone, provides breathtaking views of the city and the Hauraki Gulf. The focal point is a large volcanic crater formed by the most recent eruption. It has a history of over 15,000 years.

In recent years, the roads to the mountain’s summit have been closed to traffic. It’s a short hike, usually through sheep country, but it’s well worth it. We frequently see couples having picnics with wine. But remember to return all of your trash.

34 – Interislander ferry 

The distance between New Zealand’s north and south islands is about 22 kilometres. There is no bridge, as one might expect. As a result, the only way to travel between them (other than flying) is by ferry. This is a must-see on our bucket lists for New Zealand. The views are breathtaking, especially as you travel through the sounds surrounding Picton Harbour.