Travel from sun-drenched Nelson to the rugged West Coast on this road trip in New Zealand – home to mirror-smooth lakes and unearthly Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
About New Zealand
Whether you're looking for a few weeks of relaxation, epic road tripping, adrenaline, mountain escape, water side living, wine drinking or city living...New Zealand offers all of the above to the highest of standards. Yes, it's a little further a plane ride away for most people, but it is so worth it. New Zealand is probably one of the most photogenic countries on earth. It feels like you are passing through the set of a movie when traveling the country. There aren't many places in the world that can compete with the adventure and landscapes that New Zealand has to offer. Welcome to the "Adventure Capital of the World"!
The country of New Zealand is actually made up of an estimated 600 islands in the south-western Pacific Ocean - two main islands (the North Island and South Island), one smaller island (Stewart Island) and a series of much smaller islands. While not a large country exactly, New Zealand spreads about 1,600 kms. from the top of North Island to the bottom of South Island. When you think of New Zealand, a few things immediately spring to mind: The Lord of the Rings, the fact they're pretty good at rugby, volcanoes and lots of sheep.
Official site : https://www.newzealand.com
New Zealand has four distinct seasons, each with their own unique draw to visiting during that time. You’ll see all kinds of blossoms in bloom in the spring, festivals, outdoor excursions, and adrenaline-pumping activities in the summer, vibrant foliage in autumn, and powdery snow for an epic ski season come wintertime. Being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the mirror opposite of those in the north. You’ll have the best chance of comfortable weather and fewer crowds in early spring (September – October) and in autumn (March – May). The climate in New Zealand can be described as extremely variable and you can find pretty much everything from dry to subtropical, with the exception of true tropical climates. In just one day, you can experience all four seasons, so go prepared!
Languages : English, Maori
Currency : [NZD] New Zealand Dollar
Timezone : GMT +12
Airports : Auckland Airport [AKL], Wellington International Airport [WLG]
Annual Number of Visitors : 3.8 million (2019)
VISA : https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas
If you want to avoid the crowds but still take advantage of the incredible weather and more affordable prices, head on a New Zealand vacation in the shoulder season of spring or fall. New Zealanders love recycling. If you don’t recycle properly, you can get fines! When going to beaches, read the signs with the dos and don’ts so you’ll know what you can and can’t do. Kiwis are astoundingly friendly – they’ll stop for a chat, help you with directions, want to know why you’re visiting New Zealand, where you’re going and how long you’re staying. Driving in New Zealand is safe and fairly easy – it has clear road rules and an orderly manner on the road. Tipping is not expected in New Zealand. Tax is included in the ticket price of all goods in New Zealand. Travelling in New Zealand is not particularly cheap. If you’re well-planned and sensible though, it is well within the reach of most travellers.
Local Culture, Mountains, Beaches, Local Cuisine, Hiking, Camping, City, Off the Beaten Path, Landmarks/Sights, Walking Tours, All Water Activities, Scuba/Snorkelling, All Active/Outdoor, Mountain Biking, Family Friendly, At Sea, Peace and Quiet, Romantic, Roadtrip, Fishing, Trekking, Golf, Adventure, Skiing, Off Roading, Bird Watching, Diving, Whale watching, Boats, Sailing, Canoeing, Kayaking, Caving, Hunting, Shooting, Motorcycling, Quad Biking, Mountaineering, Nature, Surfing, Tramping, Wildlife, Flightseeing, Skydiving, Bungy Jumping, Volcanoes, Whitewater rafting, Paragliding, Horse Riding, Packrafting
Wonder at the dazzling beauty of millions of stars in some of the clearest, darkest night skies in the world! Go on a Journey of Discovery to the limits of outer space exploring the amazing features of the southern skies. New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to see the stars and the Mackenzie region of the South Island has been recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Tekapo and Mount Cook are considered to be the best spots as they have a strict control on light pollution. Queenstown is another great spot for stargazing, in particular from the top of the Skyline Gondola.
Experience Maori Culture
Immerse yourself in Maoritanga, or the culture, traditions, language, history, music, dance, and legends of the tangata whenua — the people of the land. The Polynesian settlers arrived in New Zealand between 1250 and 1300 CE, and, over time, they developed their own culture, language, mythology, crafts and performing arts. Every place in Kiwiland has its Maori name displayed proudly, Maori handicrafts sell well and visitors are welcomed with the Maori greeting kia ora. One in seven people in New Zealand is from Maori descent, and almost 90% of Maori live on the North Island in places like Northland, Auckland, Waikato, and the Bay of Plenty. For the best Maori cultural shows, head to Rotorua.
Visit Middle Earth
Middle Earth, also known as the Alexander Family sheep farm outside Matamata, is a movie set visit like no other, the location of which was found by Peter Jackson and his scouts while on a helicopter flight above the area. Explore some of the most famous Hobbit dwellings, learn more about the sets the filmmakers created to bring Tolkien’s world to life and take pictures galore. Hobbiton will impress not only die-hard fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but also anyone with an interest in filmmaking, the great outdoors and drinking.
Swim with Dolphins
Just off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the small town of Kaikoura is home to the Dusky Dolphin. This species is known for being small and very playful. They are quite the acrobats, and can often be seen doing flips out of the water! You are encouraged to “act like a dolphin”; a.k.a. make loud noises, swim in circles and dive down if you feel comfortable. You never know how long it will take to find the dolphins, as they are completely wild. Approaching and interacting with humans is entirely up to the dolphins. If for some reason, a particular group of dolphins aren’t feeling playful, they’ll swim away.
Everyone knows that New Zealand is famous for its sheep. In fact, there are more sheep in the country than people. When heading on a New Zealand vacation, you’d be missing out on an iconic part of the culture if you didn’t go see a sheepdog show, where the sheepdogs show off their prowess by herding the sheep back into their pens. Anyone who likes dogs will appreciate how intelligent and gorgeous the sheepdogs are. If you’re travelling with children, a sheepdog show is even more of an essential; your kids will love it.
When you watch the beautiful shots and videos of New Zealand, the vibrant hues of the landscape almost jump off the screen. The good news is that Middle Earth (aka New Zealand) is just as stunning as it looked in the films. There are beautiful places all over this world, but the landscapes in New Zealand are a cut above. Few places in the world can compare with what you will see here. One of the amazing things about this country is how such a huge diversity of landscapes can be packed into such a small nation. It’s hard to believe that towering snow capped mountains with ancient glaciers can exist on one end of New Zealand, while volcanic sand beaches and tropical rainforests exist on the other.
One third of the landmass of New Zealand is protected conservation area, which means that the national parks are pristine and unspoiled. New Zealand is also a great destination for marine life enthusiasts. There are opportunities to see whales, seals, penguins and dolphins in their natural habitat. The country’s most famous animal is the Kiwi, a flightless nocturnal bird, which has become a national symbol of New Zealand.
New Zealand isn’t just beautiful to look at – it is an endless playground of fun activities and adventures. New Zealand is famous for being one of the best destinations in the world for skydiving. If you really want to go beyond your comfort zone, try bungy jumping. If adrenaline sports aren’t your thing, then there are plenty of more relaxing activities to try as well. Sightseeing can be experienced by sailing in New Zealand, combined with activities like fishing, diving, swimming with dolphins or even whale watching. Kayaking provides a perfect opportunity to explore New Zealand’s beaches, lakes, and rivers.
When you visit New Zealand, it won’t take long before you find out just how passionate most Kiwis are about rugby. Rugby matches are played throughout New Zealand at all levels, from schoolboy rugby games on public parks to club and international-level rugby played at purpose-built stadiums in major cities. Then why not embrace New Zealand’s favourite pastime while you’re visiting. New Zealand has no shortage of sports bars and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t screen rugby matches during the season. If you can’t get a hold of some tickets, just relax and enjoy the game from the screen-based sidelines.
Volcanoes have helped form New Zealand’s unique landscape which attracts volcanologists and travellers from around the world. New Zealand volcano and geothermal tours offer visitors amazing opportunities to explore active volcanic craters, bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and much more. The North Island has a multitude of volcanoes, some which are better known than others. Volcanic activity on the North Island occurs in the following areas: Central Plateau (Taupo Volcanic Zone), Taranaki, Auckland, and Northland. If you’re into walking, Egmont National Park offers several walks around and on the volcano, while Tongariro National Park in the Central Plateau offers several walks on and around Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro.
Queenstown was carved out of the land by glaciers, rivers and lakes, but it has been shaped by innovative adventurers and pioneers from all over the world who made this place home. Thanks to generations of daring and determined people, Queenstown is now a diverse adventure playground, easily accessed by visitors from around the globe. Visitors arrive from all over New Zealand, and the world, to experience the unique landscapes, to earn the glorious views from nearby hills and surrounding mountain peaks, or to walk remote hiking gems such as the Milford, Routeburn or Hollyford tracks. Today, many of these trails are also enjoyed by cyclists, mountain bikers and marathon runners. Possibly the most famous Queenstown world first is the commercial Bungy operation that launched in 1988, at the historic Kawarau Bridge.
Christchurch, known for its English heritage, is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Christchurch is the gateway to the Canterbury region and the spectacular experiences you will have within the South Island. Flat-bottomed punts glide on the Avon River, which meanders through the city centre. On its banks are cycling paths, the green expanse of Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Christchurch is a modern-day basecamp for exploration, a place of great growth and opportunity. A refreshing urban centre full of new secrets to discover. Christchurch is a city of modern architecture, a rejuvenated urban centre filled with boutique laneways, fresh hospitality and hidden gems. It offers world-class art galleries, street art and creative spaces – the best in the South Island. You can also explore Antarctic attractions and landmarks that celebrate Christchurch’s connections to the frozen continent.
The country’s most-populous city and its largest port, Auckland occupies a narrow isthmus between Waitemata Harbour of Hauraki Gulf and Manukau Harbour. The most-extensive urban area in New Zealand, Auckland also has the country’s greatest concentration of indigenous Maori and has large numbers of Polynesians from other islands in the South Pacific. Incorporated as a borough in 1851, Auckland remained the capital until superseded by the city of Wellington in 1865. A focal point of road and rail transportation, the urban area is also served by New Zealand’s leading international airport, at Mangere.
Wellington is a deeply caring community that enjoys coming together to have fun, celebrate and remember. Exploring the Wellington region is a great way to experience the best New Zealand has to offer all in one compact and easy to discover package. The city is compact enough to cover a lot of ground in just one day, but stay longer and you’ll get the chance to enjoy the best the wider region has to offer. Wellington turns on the charm in a big way during summer, which is only natural for a city that sits between a sparkling harbour and lush hills. A wander around the waterfront is mandatory when you’re in Wellington in summer. Follow the flocks of locals down to the harbour, set your direction and stroll. Top off your Wellington summer experience in some of the city’s finest al fresco eating and drinking spots.
Located in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand’s North Island, the lakeside town of Rotorua draws in visitors for many different reasons. Renowned for its geothermal activity and Māori culture, there is no better place to dive into the fascinating history of New Zealand. For those seeking adventure, Rotorua is home to the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world – with a seven-metre (23-foot) drop it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s also the perfect place to use as a base if visiting Hobbiton – the movie set is a scenic hour-long drive from the centre of the city on the set’s shuttle bus.
Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin is the country’s city of the south, wearing its Scottish heritage with pride. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Dunedin is a region of unique landscapes and fascinating cultural history. Something of a boutique city, Dunedin is small and perfectly formed but packed with fascinating things to see and do. Set in and around what was once a volcanic crater, it is ringed with bush-clad hills that overlook a pretty harbour and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
Fiordland is a place of extraordinary scenic beauty. One of New Zealand’s oldest tourism drawcards, this rugged and remote region offers awe-inspiring landscapes and wide range of recreational activities. It’s a world-class sightseeing destination and a must-do for anyone exploring New Zealand. Numerous short walks and multi-day hiking trails, including three of the New Zealand Great Walks (the Milford, Routeburn, and Kepler Tracks), have earned Fiordland the reputation of one of the world’s finest walking destinations. Fiordland’s West Coast is deeply indented by 14 fiords spanning 215 kms. of coastline. A wide range of boat cruises offer a leisurely way to experience the fantastic landscapes. Fiordland has achieved World Heritage Status.
Marlborough has 20% of New Zealand’s coastline and nearly 80% percent of its wine industry, stretched across valleys. Marlborough is the perfect place for romance, relaxation or adventure, in every season. Climb awe inspiring mountains for breathtaking views, plunge into aquifer fed rivers with pure sparkling waters, and devour some of the best gourmet produce in the country. Discover long hot summers and blue-skied winters, from alpine peaks to the Marlborough Sounds. Discover world class wine, from luxurious resorts to rustic vineyard restaurants. Marlborough’s history is layered with rich stories, significant for all of New Zealand and fascinating in the global context. Its rich history runs wide and deep, from the earliest Polynesian settlers of the Wairau Bar to the first European pioneers who built the towns and planted the first grapevines.
The Catlins, the spectacular coastal stretch between Balclutha and Invercargill, boasts a rugged beauty and untouched quality that is magnetic. Here you’ll find a world of native forests fringed by high cliffs, deserted sandy beaches, sparkling bays, cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes, blowholes, caves, picturesque lighthouses and even a petrified forest. These environments are home to an array of fauna, from native birds, to seals, sea lions, dolphins, and penguins. The Catlins’ natural landscapes are enthralling and the wildlife is extraordinary.
Few places in the world have such a broad representation of the Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission, and Art Deco styles within such a confined area, which is why the city has deservedly become known as the Art Deco Capital. Napier is home to many fine wineries, fabulous restaurants, bars and cafes. The boutique shops are a must visit and the beautifully transformed Marine Parade is well worth a stroll. For the ultimate Art Deco experience, book an Art Deco Vintage Car Tour – you’ll be driven around Napier’s suburbs in style, visiting iconic landmarks and learning about how the wider city was affected by the earthquake.
Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua
The history and culture surrounding the Whakarewarewa Forest, the variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, diverse range of exotic tree species, mix of native undergrowth, panoramic views, and proximity to lakes, thermal areas and the city centre have made The Redwoods and Whakarewarewa Forest one of Rotorua’s most spectacular natural assets and one of the city’s greatest treasures. Over 5,600 hectares of forest awaits you to enjoy and explore at your leisure. If you love the outdoors and want to experience nature at its best this area is definitely for you!
Tamaki Māori Village, Rotorua
Journey back to a time of proud warriors and ancient traditions with Tamaki Māori Village, the most award-winning cultural attraction in New Zealand. Tamaki has become an iconic brand in tourism – a leading force that pioneers and inspires through authentic and meaningful cultural experiences that the world continues to applaud and celebrate. At the heart of Tamaki Māori Village are three pillars – Mana Whenua (The Land), Mana Tangata (The People), and Mana Atua (The Spirit).
Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata
Experience the real Middle-earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set, where, in the heart of the Waikato region, you can step into the lush pastures of the Shire, as seen in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Fall in love with the Alexander family sheep farm, just as acclaimed director Sir Peter Jackson did, as you journey through the unequivocal beauty of the land, with the mighty Kaimai Ranges towering in the distance. You will be fully guided around the 12 acre set; past Hobbit Holes, the Mill and into the world-famous Green Dragon Inn, where you will be presented with a complimentary, exclusive Hobbit Southfarthing beverage to conclude your own Middle-earth adventure.
Marlborough Sounds, Marlborough
The Marlborough Sounds is made up of four distinctly different Sounds – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, Pelorus, and Mahau, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. The winding waterways of the Marlborough Sounds make for brilliant boating, fishing, diving and wildlife viewing including dolphin watching. Explore the Marlborough Sounds, where 1500km of winding coastline is home to secluded bays, historic sites, marine reserves and precious island sanctuaries, which foster kiwi and other native species. Cruise or kayak your way through the Marlborough Sounds, home to dolphins, whales, seals and seabirds.
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, Marlborough
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim brings to life the heroes of World War One aviation with an unparalleled collection and dramatic lifelike scenes. The Centre was built by aviation enthusiasts who wanted to share their passion with others. The museum’s roots were laid in the late 1990s with the arrival of two Chinese Nanchang trainers, which caught the public’s interest and the establishment of the Marlborough Warbirds Association. Soon other heritage aircraft were drawn to Marlborough’s ideal flying weather and environment, and people began asking to see the growing collection stored at Omaka.
Coronet Peak, Queenstown
Adored by locals, Coronet Peak’s easily accessible roller coaster terrain and excellent facilities make it the premier winter playground in New Zealand’s adventure capital. With the Peak’s 280 hectares of skiable area, snow sports centre, kids’ programmes, rental department and retail offerings, there is something for everyone. Accessible by 16km sealed road just 20 minutes from central Queenstown makes it so easy to get your fix. An extensive state -of-the-art, fully automated snowmaking system boosts Mother Nature’s snow helping coverage during the season, from the beginning of June to early October.
Queenstown Bike Park
Ranging from beginner, green trails right through to advanced double black, the Queenstown Bike Park has something to offer every mountain biker, including a huge 6 km run. Grab yourself a gondola pass and challenge yourself to world-class downhill mountain bike riding at the Queenstown Bike Park.
International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch
The International Antarctic Centre is the only specialised Antarctic attraction in the world. It provides a fun, interactive and informative way to learn about life on one of the most hostile continents in the world. It’s the closest you can get to Antarctica without actually travelling to the ice! At the International Antarctic Centre you can experience real snow and ice, survive an indoor Antarctic storm, and watch Little Blue Penguins.
Kawarau Bridge Bungy, Queenstown
As you shuffle out to the edge of the bridge, heart pounding and mind racing, remember this – you’ve found yourself at the World Home of Bungy. This is the original. The world’s first commercial Bungy operation opened at the Kawarau Bridge in November 1988. Many people have come and gone, on a mission to push the limits and test themselves. Visitors flock in from around the world to take part, in what is recognised as the birth of adventure tourism in New Zealand. Time for you to make the same leap of faith!
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's, Auckland
Opened in 1985 by New Zealand underwater adventurer Kelly Tarlton, Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s is one of the top things to do in Auckland with kids or without! Situated just outside Auckland CBD, Sea life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium houses thousands of marine animals from hundreds of species, including sharks, penguins, turtles, stingrays, seahorses, fish and much, much more. It is also home to the largest penguin colony in the Southern Hemisphere and is New Zealand’s only turtle rescue centre.
Great Barrier Island
Not only is Great Barrier Island a place of incredible beauty, it’s also the first island in the world to be designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary – joining only ten other locations. The island is off the grid and with minimal outdoor lighting, it’s a dream destination for star-gazers to take in the stunning night skies. The beaches range from sweeping expanses of pristine surf on the east coast to sheltered harbours, sandy shores and secluded coves on the west coast.
Sky Tower, Auckland
Located smack dab in the middle of Auckland’s Central Business District is New Zealand’s tallest building. Standing 328m high, the Sky Tower is an icon of Auckland’s sky line and is the adrenaline hub of the city. When you head over to the bustling SkyCity Plaza, you know you’re in for something seriously exciting. There are two awesome activities you can enjoy when visiting the SkyTower. SkyJump gives you 11 seconds of pure adrenaline as you plunge 53 floors down at a speed of 85 kph. and reach the ground 192 m down. With no handrails to separate you from the 192 m drop, you can do the adrenaline-fuelled Skywalk designed to get your heart racing while you take in those epic 360-degree views of the City of Sails.
Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland
MOTAT, Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology, is New Zealand’s largest transport, technology and social history museum. Spread across 40 acres, MOTAT will take you on an interactive journey to explore and discover the achievements that have helped shape New Zealand, from the 1800s to today. The MOTAT experience is a rich learning environment for all ages and tells stories about New Zealand’s involvement in the development of transport, technology and innovation.
New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland
The New Zealand Maritime Museum is the place where the stories of people and the sea are preserved, shared and explored with visitors. The Museum houses one of the nation’s most important heritage collections which covers the breadth of its relationship with the sea; from the Great Pacific Migration a thousand years ago to the cutting edge of modern technology and design used in America’s Cup and modern yachting.
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum is one of New Zealand’s first Museums. The Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people. The Museum is a war memorial for the province of Auckland and holds one of New Zealand’s top three heritage libraries. It has pre-eminent Māori and Pacific collections, significant natural history resources and major social and military history collections, as well as decorative arts and pictorial collections.
Rainbow's End, Auckland
Since 1982 New Zealand’s premier Theme Park has been delighting family and friends with the biggest and best rides in town. Rainbow’s End started with a set of bumper boats and a big dream in the middle of 7.3 hectares down the end of the Southern Motorway. 38 years later with over 20 rides and attractions, it’s still chasing the rainbow with new developments. Rainbow’s End is one of Auckland’s favourite places to escape from the everyday and experience thrilling moments with loved ones, creating special memories and traditions.
Since opening on 17 December 1922, Auckland Zoo has evolved to become an active conservation organisation and has welcomed over 28 million visitors. Auckland Zoo is a winner of national and international awards and is at the leading-edge of wildlife research, conservation work and innovative zoo design. Auckland Zoo is home to 135 species and over 1,400 animals.
Butterfly Creek, Auckland
Butterfly Creek is a privately owned NZ business. The first stage of Butterfly Creek opened in late 2003 and development has continued at a great pace since then. There is nothing like Butterfly Creek in NZ where visitors can experience a huge range of attractions from zoo exhibits to fun attractions including a train, playground and café. Part zoo exhibits and part fun attractions, Butterfly Creek offers a unique and fun visit for everyone.
At Snowplanet, one of Auckland’s top attractions, you’ll find over 8,000 square metres of the real thing. So you’ve got heaps of room for skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing and games. It doesn’t matter whether you have never seen snow before, or you’re a seasoned pro. Snowplanet features a beginner’s ski slope for those who are still learning, as well as a full feature terrain park for those who know their stuff. If you’re not so keen on Skiing and Snowboarding then there is Snow Tubing, which is fun for everyone.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Founded in 1863 with the planting of an English oak tree, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are extensive and contain an impressive array of plant collections that delight at any time of year. The New Zealand Gardens are an important feature of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and a special place to visit. These Gardens were established at its present location in the early 1900s. Over several decades this garden has evolved into a fine collection of hundreds of New Zealand species including the iconic silver fern. There are multiple conservatories in the Botanic Gardens filled with fantastic collections of plants.
The Christchurch Gondola is one of the must do tourist attractions in Christchurch and you will never forget your Gondola experience. It gently lifts you nearly a kilometre to the top of the Port Hills, almost 500 metres above sea level. Experience stunning 360° views from the summit. To the west, gaze across the sparkling cityscape of Christchurch, over the Canterbury Plains to the high peaks of the Southern Alps. To the south and east are the dramatic views of Banks Peninsula, Lake Ellesmere and Lyttelton Harbour formed in a sunken volcanic crater.
The only Wildlife Park in the world you can meet New Zealand’s Big 5; the National symbol Kiwi, the cheeky Kea, ancient Tuatara, bush parrot the Kaka and the very rare Takahe. Close encounters of the ‘wildlife kind’ are a Willowbank trademark. Feed the eels or relate to the lemur. Make friends with the livestock breeds unique to New Zealand. Willowbank is based 20 minutes from the city centre and 10 minutes from Christchurch International Airport.
Wellington Cable Car
Every 10-15 minutes, the historical bright red Wellington Cable Car departs from Lambton Quay and makes it way up into the hills of Kelburn. On the five-minute journey upwards, the Cable Car rises 120 m over a length of 612 m, travelling through tunnels and offering spectacular views of the city below. While it may be one of the more interesting ways to get to work for some, there’s art, too. Murals can be found at the terminal, while the journey itself is broken up with active light installations throughout two tunnels. It’s one of Wellington’s most popular tourist attractions.
The sound of native birds in every tree in town can be heard thanks to some forward-thinking folk who created a pioneering sanctuary that’s turned back time on Wellington’s native environment. The world’s first fully-fenced ecosanctuary, Zealandia is an incredible slice of wilderness and isn’t what you’d expect to find a few minutes’ drive from the central city. Zealandia, a pest-proof ‘urban island’, is the closest thing you’ll ever find to being in New Zealand before humans were here.
Weta Workshop, Wellington
Tucked away in Miramar, a short drive from Wellington’s city centre, Weta Workshop crafts physical effects for some of the world’s most renowned films and TV shows. The design and manufacturing facility combines cutting-edge technology with hand-crafted artistry to serve up Oscar-winning props, costumes and creature effects. And, best of all, they open their doors to fans who want to see exactly how the magic is made.
Mount Victoria, Wellington
The best way to get your bearings of the city is by checking out the views from the top of Mount Victoria, or Mt Vic, as the locals call it. Rising 196 m above the city, the Mount Victoria Lookout has stunning panoramic views of Wellington city, harbour and hills. You can drive to the top of Mt Vic or walk there via one of the many trails in the Town Belt. Take a picnic with you, settle in on the hillside and relax while watching ferries and cruise ships sail into the harbour and planes fly in and out of the airport. Mt Vic is also one of the best spots in the city for taking in a sunrise or sunset.
Putangirua Pinnacles, Wellington
Put on your sturdy walking shoes and embark on this half-day journey to a stunning location captured in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King. Explore the spectacular Putangirua Pinnacles on one of three trails that will take you up close and personal with these spellbinding ancient rock formations. These large stalagmite structures are located on the Wairarapa Coastline near Cape Palliser.
Milford Sound, Fiordland
Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road. It is approximately 16 kms. from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available in 1½ to 2 hours cruising time. Visitors to Milford Sound will not be disappointed – it is truly spectacular, with scenery that has remained unchanged throughout the ages. Wet or fine, Milford Sound is incredibly grand.
Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, Fiordland
Hidden under the surface in Harrison Cove is a unique and beautiful environment – in the middle of Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, the Underwater Observatory enables you to experience the magic of this special world, previously the exclusive realm of divers. Descend 64 steps (10 metres) underwater into a large, fully air conditioned viewing area where large windows with excellent optical clarity open your eyes to this deep underwater haven. Unlike an aquarium, the fish are free to come and go; it’s the people who are contained.
Fiordland National Park, Fiordland
A cherished corner of the world where mountains and valleys compete with each other for room, where scale is almost beyond comprehension, rainfall is measured in metres and scenery encompasses the broadest width of emotions. Established in 1952, Fiordland National Park is now over 1.2 million hectares in size, and encompasses mountain, lake, fiord and rainforest environments. The variety of habitats in Fiordland support a diverse range of flora and fauna, with many developing in relative isolation leading to a high rate of endemism, or plants and animals that have evolved to be completely unique to this area.
Doubtful Sound, Fiordland
Sometimes called ‘the Sound of Silence’, there is a cloistered serenity within Doubtful Sound. The fiord is rich in flora and fauna, New Zealand Fur Seals and Fiordland Crested Penguins can be seen on many of the small islets at the entrance of the fiord. At 421 m deep, Doubtful is the deepest of the fiords and is long and winding with three distinct ‘arms’ and several outstanding waterfalls in the area from Deep Cove to the open ocean, a distance of around 40.4 kms.
Nugget Point, The Catlins
The 47 hectare Department of Conservation Wildlife Reserve at Nugget Point has dramatic views of “The Nuggets”, rocky islets that surround the steep headland. These wave-eroded rocks, which are likened to the shape of gold nuggets, can be easily seen and photographed from the viewing platform at the Nugget Point Lighthouse. The well-maintained pathway to the lighthouse is an easy 20 minute walk from the car park and is suitable for all ages. Along the way you may see the large breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals on the rocks at sea level to the left of the track and also below the lighthouse.
Royal Albatross Centre, Dunedin
The Royal Albatross Centre is operated by the Otago Peninsula Trust, New Zealand’s first private charitable conservation trust. Visit the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world. Learn fascinating insights into these majestic monarchs of the sea from expert guides. Go into the exclusive observatory and have the chance to view these charismatic birds raising their young. On a breezy day, you may even see them fly by with their huge 3 m wingspan – a sight you’ll always remember.
Larnach Castle, Dunedin
New Zealand’s only castle is an important and much loved piece of Dunedin history. Larnach Castle has been carefully restored to its original Victorian grandeur, and its beautiful rooms and gardens are open to the public 365 days a year. The castle boasts a 3,000 square foot ballroom, which hosts high tea at 3 pm every day, and a tower commanding sweeping views of the Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle is located 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Dunedin.
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, Waitomo
Discover an ancient world 30 million years in the making and marvel at Mother Nature’s light display as you glide silently through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto. Experience the serene ambience as you enter this galaxy of tiny living lights. The glowworm is unique to New Zealand, making the Waitomo Glowworm Caves an absolute must-do. See thousands of these tiny creatures as they radiate their unmistakable luminescent light in a subterranean world.
Ruakuri Cave, Waitomo
Ruakuri Cave is an experience that must be seen to be believed. Offering a captivating blend of the most compelling subterranean experiences (including glowworms), it will leave you open-mouthed, awe-struck and humbled by the sheer majesty of nature. Begin the tour by journeying down through the spectacular, man-made spiral entrance, marvel at the softly folding shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries while listening to the distant thunder of subterranean waterfalls.
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
The Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes. This is one of the West Coast’s most impressive natural wonders. Keep your eyes open as Hector’s Dolphins like to play close to shore. Part of the Paparoa National Park, the Pancake Rocks are accessed by the easy Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk right in the centre of Punakaiki.
Moeraki Boulders, Moeraki
The Moeraki Boulders are a group of large spherical “stones” on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. These boulders are actually concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs. The boulders are one of the most fascinating and popular attractions on the South Island. They originally started forming in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago, and the largest boulders are estimated to have taken about 4 million years to get to their current size. Some of the boulders weigh several tonnes and the largest ones can be over 2 m wide.