New Zealand highlights...?

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific New Zealand highlights...?

Last Post This thread is marked as being about New Zealand
1. Posted by scotsman (Respected Member 128 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!


I have a confession to make, I know practically nothing about New Zealand... It's terrible I know. So help me, please!

What places/sights/sounds/smells should I not miss in Kiwi-land?

Thanks in advance,


2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5293 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

It's really hard to give a good answer to this without knowing more about what you are looking for. Everyone has different highlights.

My top destinations that I'd want to have recommended to me based on my own preferences (beautiful nature and awesome hikes) are Lake Tekapo, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers on the west coast, including (or maybe especially) the surrounding rainforest, Tongariro National Park with especially the Tongariro Crossing, Milford Sound and Mt. Cook National Park.

3. Posted by hey_monkee (Respected Member 430 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

The top tourist spots are Queenstown in the South Island and Rotorua in the North. Both have lots of adventure tourism stuff and Rotorua is also known for its Maori culture:)

4. Posted by nzbluebird (Budding Member 2 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

New Zealand is quite diverse for such a small country and it depends on your own preferences. If you're into touring around looking at lovely landscapes, then renting a car is probably the best way to go (or to be a cliched tourist and rent a camper van (shudder))! As a South Island girl, I'd say the best spots are:

1. Fiordland which is a world heritage area and has lots of big lakes and fiords formed by glaciers 2 million years ago, and lots of waterfalls. You can do day or night-over cruises into Doubtful, Dusky and Milford sounds, the latter being the easiest to travel to as you can drive directly to Milford Sound through some spectacular scenery.

2. Westland to see Fox or Franz Josef Glaciers which you can get guided walking tours on the latter. Brilliant white glaciers near sea level in the middle of dense native rainforest. On the other side of the mountains are more glaciers in Mt Cook National Park but these are covered in sediment and also quite special with big lakes with icebergs in them :) You can do kayaking on Lake Mueller close to the glacier ice cliff (its awesome) or do a boat cruise on Lake Tasman (both of which are actively calving icebergs from glaciers into them).

3. If you're an adrenalin-junkie and want to throw yourself off a perfectly good bridge, then Queenstown is the destination of choice. All manner of things like bungee jumping, jet boating, gold panning, and a whole lot else to get your heart racing. If jet boating is your thing I'd recommend Kawarau Jets rather than Shotover as the latter has been having problems with boats over the last year ...

If you're more into tastes there are some quintessential kiwi things you may want to experience: a white bait patty from Hokitika (tiny fishes bound with egg and flour and deep fried), the wild food festival held annually in Hokitika (March); a mutton pie (not sure this is best for those watching their cholestrol but its something of an icon); a bottle of L&P (local soda); and a bag of pineapple lumps (chocolate covered sweets: for best impact freeze them and then try to dislocate your jaw eating them).

Of course if you're a bit more cultured you may want to extensively sample from New Zealand vineyards and do a few tours. Locally I prefer the Central Otago wines which are increasing their reputation for some very nice reds, but there are plenty of wine districts including Malborough, Hawkes Bay, Canterbury, etc.

Lastly, I'd say make sure you indulge in some local kiwi music, hang out in some local pubs and if you're lucky enough to be somewhere that serves it try some Emmerson's or Monteith's beer!

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 9, 2006, at 11:17 PM by nzbluebird ]

5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5293 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Quoting hey_monkee

Rotorua is also known for its Maori culture:)

Isn't it rather known for its Maori tourist trap activities, which have very little if anything to do still with real Maori culture? :)

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 10, 2006, at 5:14 AM by Sander ]

6. Posted by Philymop (Full Member 110 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Another great place is Lake Taupo in the North Island, not only is it beautiful, but you can go skydiving there, which is one of the best things I have ever done. There are obviously other places to jump out of planes, but there are so many companies at Taupo that I think you will get the most competitive rates there.

As mentioned, Queenstown is great fun, and if you're there for winter the ski fields are open.

If you're into scenery then take a few days to drive down the Catlins on the south coast of the South Island, you can see penguins and sea lions and heaps of stunning scenery. The Catlins drive ends at Invercargill, which I would avoid, bit odd that place....

There is also Marlborough which has loads of vineyards, hire a bicycle and go around sampling their wares, leaves you a bit wobbley and saddle sore at the end, but great fun along the way!

The last place I'll mention is Wellington, I'm normally not big on cities but I would definitely recommend a few days there, you can go on a guided tour of the parliament which is much more amusing that it first sounds.

Have fun, I love NZ, one of my favourite countries in the world and I'm so jealous that you are getting to go there whilst I'm stuck in the grim UK....

7. Posted by scotsman (Respected Member 128 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Cheers for all the advice folks. All suggestions are appreciated and I specifically left the start of the thread quite general so as to get as many suggestions and opinions as possible. So thanks again.


8. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5671 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Well, lots of the places are mentioned already, but I can at some:
1. Kaikoura, mainly to do a whale watch tour if you are in to that.
2. Bay of Islands: islands, beaches, but nothing really more
3. Coromandel: like bay of islands, but smaller.
4. Abel Tasman National Park. Very nice hikes over there, from half a day to several days, very nice surroundings.

And then probably some less visited places like Napier (art deco) and Mount Taranaki, both on the north island.

Or maybe visit some more remote islands, like Stewart Island (night tours looking for kiwi) or the Chatham Islands.

Have fun, Michael.

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 10, 2006, at 11:54 AM by Utrecht ]

9. Posted by Purdy (Travel Guru 3546 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I really would suggest you do a thread search on this topic - l know its been asked a few times and some members have really given quite detailed advice about things to do and see in New Zealand.

I found it really helpful!


10. Posted by phileas (Respected Member 67 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Please don't forget the North Island!!! Most people seem to visit NZ south island and disregards the north. Granted the north is more spectacular, bigger scenery, mountains and the like, adrenaline sports and such.

I found my most rewarding time to be in the north, my favourite spots in the north are:

- Gisbourne, the East Cape and round to Whakatane for some 'real' maori culture (such a cynic Sander! ;)
- diving at the Poor Knight Islands & Rainbow Warrior
- cape reinga & 90 mile beach

see my blog for a detailed account of where I went if you want to know an itninery.

Oh, the south island also rocks particulary Abel Tasman and the surrounding beaches.

Also listen to Heather as there's reams of this stuff on this site and more.

you'll have an awesome trip, enjoy!!