We’ve recently been asked by the Daily Telegraph to choose our favourite activities in New Zealand, and we thought… If you’re planning a New Zealand holiday, why give the Telegraph our insider info when many of our travellers should be able to see our recommendations on our website?

So here you are – our top 25 activities and sights in order of location, travelling north to south through New Zealand.  


Rangitoto Island 

Home to the largest Pohutukawa forest and a vast array of unique plant life, Rangitoto Island is the youngest volcano in the Auckland Volcanic reserve. Emerging from the sea some 600 years ago, it offers a great selection of hiking trails, such as the Rangitoto Island Summit which leads up to a peak where you can enjoy spectacular 360 degree views, taking in the Waitakere Ranges in the west and Hunua Ranges in the east.

With sandy coves, rugged landscapes and plenty of native bush to explore, the Island is a favourite with hikers and nature lovers. Even if you’re not a walker, it’s still a great day trip out of Auckland, and an opportunity to take in some fantastic views back across to the city.

A regular daily ferry service from Auckland Harbour makes it quick and easy to get there in half an hour.

Sky Tower

Head up the Sky Tower for incredible 360-degree views of the city and out towards the Hauraki Maritime Gulf. 

You can also book a meal in the restaurant and enjoy the views from your dining table or if you’re an adrenaline junky, take a SkyJump off the tower.

Auckland Harbour and Sky Tower

Bay of Islands 


The Waitangi Treaty House Grounds is New Zealand’s premier historic site, where in 1840 New Zealand’s most significant document was signed by the British Crown and Maori chiefs – The Treaty of Waitangi.

The Treaty grounds feature the historic treaty house, the magnificently carved meeting house and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe.

We suggest you take the guided tour of all the major treasures – the guides really bring the treaty to life and introduce you to some of the personalities and events that have shaped New Zealand.

There are also cultural performances scheduled throughout the day and an evening Hangi and Concert.

Hole in the Rock Cruise 

Cruise out through the Bay’s pristine islands and along the Cape Brett Peninsula. See the historic Cape Brett lighthouse and majestic Motukōkako – the Hole in the Rock. 

There is a good chance of spotting dolphins during this cruise,too. Stop off at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island where you have time to relax, take a walk or have a swim. 

Bay of Plenty 

Glow Worm Kayaking 

A glow worm kayaking tour is a special and unique experience. It’s true that there are other places in New Zealand that you can see glow worms, and plenty of places where you can take to the water and try kayaking, but this we believe, is the only place where you can do both!


Hot Water Beach 

Pretty much a must do for anyone visiting the Coromandel, is a trip to Hot Water Beach to find hot water bubbling through the golden sands.

The beach is best visited two hours either side of low-tide. If you arrive at high tide the hot springs will be underwater. Spades can be hired at the local shop and you can join the rest of the “diggers” to create your very own spa pool. 

Please note the water can be extremely hot, so you need to be careful where you stand.

En Route to Rotorua 


Lord of the Rings fans will undoubtedly be making a beeline for this picturesque farmland near Matamata during their time in New Zealand, but we think it’s well worth a visit for non-movie buffs too.

Set on a working sheep and beef farm, the 1,250 acres of stunning countryside has been transformed into ‘The Shire’.

Tours take you around the set, exploring Hobbit Holes, hanging out at the Party Tree and the Mill and taking in the scenery, as a guide keeps you entertained with stories and anecdotes about the set and how Hobbiton came to be, as well as sharing local knowledge about the area and the farm itself.

At the end of the tour, and one of the best bits in our opinion, is the visit to the Green Dragon Pub to enjoy a drink in Bilbo Baggins local. Although the pub was burnt to the ground at the end of the third film, it was rebuilt in 2012 along with the 44 other hobbit holes to recreate The Shire.

A place to drink, to meet and to rest your hairy feet!!

Te Puia 

Five minutes from central Rotorua, Te Puia is a 60-hectare site that celebrates not only the geothermal wonderland that the area is famous for, but also the incredibly rich heritage and culture that has made Rotorua one of the leading cultural centres in New Zealand.

Here, you’ll also be able to visit The New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, which is home to the National School for Wood Carving, Weaving and Stone Carving, and visit a Marae to watch a cultural performance.

Waimangu Thermal Valley 

The Waimangu Thermal Valley, located 14 kms south of Rotorua, was created by the eruption of Mt Tarewa on 10 June 1886 which ripped a hole through the landscape, destroyed the Pink and White Terraces (one of the wonders of the world at that time) and buried the village of Te Wairoa with the loss of 150 lives.

Today, you can enjoy an easy walking tour through the valley from the Visitor Centre and café. Stop en route to see the geothermal features which have such evocative names as Echo Crater, Frying Pan Lake and Cathedral Rocks. At the end of this downhill walk you can take a boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana viewing the geothermal sights that can only be seen by boat.

There are a number of different excursions to thermal areas near Rotorua, but we think a visit to Waimangu Thermal Valley is one of the best – guided or self-guided, it’s a walk amidst native bush and a unique ecosystem which you will thoroughly enjoy.

Napier and Hawkes Bay 

Art Deco Guide Walk Around Napier 

In 1931 a 7.8 on the Richter scale earthquake hit 15km north of Napier. The Earthquake lasted two and a half minutes and destroyed most of the town.

Taking inspiration from the architectural fashion of the time, Napier was reconstructed in a style that reflected the Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical fashion of the 1930’s.

As a result, Napier is now probably the best-preserved Art Deco town in the world, the colourful buildings, bold arches and geometric design bringing the streets to life.

We think the best way to see the town is on a walking tour organised by the Napier Art Deco Trust and guided by volunteers. The tours leave the I-Site at 10am and 2pm from the Art Deco Centre and take around an hour as you meander down Marine Parade, under the iconic Norfolk pine trees and through the streets of the town, taking a look inside some of the buildings as well as admiring them from the outside. 

Grape Escape Wine Tour 

With over 100 vineyards and 80 wineries, Hawkes Bay is the first stop on the classic New Zealand Wine Trail, and a perfect opportunity to sample some of the country’s finest wines.

The last thing you’ll probably want to be doing is driving when you’re visiting the wineries, so we really recommend a wine tour of the local vineyards to make the most of the region’s wonderful wines.

Tongariro National Park 

Tongariro Crossing

Considered to be “the finest one day walk in New Zealand”, this is without doubt a stunning traverse of the volcanic terrain of Mt Tongariro. Among its highlights are steaming vents and hot springs, old lava flows, beautiful water filled explosion craters and stunning views. On clear days you can see Mt Taranaki in the west, Mt Ngauruhoe, Lake Taupo and beyond.

Your first point of call for this walk should be to the excellent visitor centre located just across the road from the Tongariro Chateau. Here you’ll find exhibits of the topography of the park and the history of Maori and European settlement. Most importantly you should consult the Ranger guides regarding the weather conditions for the walk and book your transport.

This is a trek over steep volcanic terrain and a reasonable level of fitness is required.


Te Papa 

You could spend a whole day exploring all six floors of Te Papa and still not have time to see it all!

Opened in 1998, and with over 1.3 million visitors passing through the doors each year, the museum is New Zealand’s National Museum and a must see while visiting Wellington.

Abel Tasman National Park 

Explore Abel Tasman National Park 

 “I can’t believe Nelsonian’s get to wake up to this amazing paradise every morning”
– Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s only coastal national park – and its golden sandy beaches and turquoise waters make it one of the best in the world.

The sheltered bays are popular for cruising, sailing and sea kayaking and on land, the Abel Tasman coastal path follows the coastline through lush native bush, over limestone cliffs and across wide sandy beaches.

You can head out to the park on a day trip (we suggest you leave your vehicle at your accommodation and take the coach out to Kaiteriteri, the small resort from which the boats depart to cruise up the coast). You can get off at different stopping points and enjoy a walk to the next bay, have a picnic or a swim and wait for the boat to pick you up on its return along the coast. 

There is also the possibility of kayak trips along the coast, or if you’d prefer, three or five-day guided walks or you can walk independently carrying your own gear into the lodges, which have to be pre-booked with the Department of Conservation.


Whale Watching

Kaikoura is the best destination in New Zealand if you’ve always dreamt of going whale watching, and with an 95% chance of spotting one of the these majestic mammals on a Whalewatch tour, it’s well worth booking a trip out onto the water during your time here.

As well as whales, a typical Whalewatch tour may encounter fur seals, pods of Dusky dolphins and the endangered wandering Albatross. You might also see migrating humpback whales, blue whales and Hector dolphins – much depends on the time of year you visit and of course, there is an element of luck as to how many sightings there are on your trip.

Just a word of advice – we do advise taking motion sickness tablets prior to this trip if you suffer from sea sickness, it can be a bit choppy!

Whale in Kaikoura bay, New Zealand


A Walking Tour of the City 

The Otautahi Highlights walk departing from the Clock Tower at the Arts Centre is both a great historical walk, but also a very contemporary informative guide to the devastation and rebuilding of the city following the earthquake of February 2011. 

The TranzAlpine Train

The TranzAlpine Train is well regarded as one of the world’s most famous train journeys and travels a magnificent route across the South Island between Christchurch and Greymouth – taking in some of the country’s best scenery en route.

The train leaves Christchurch at 08.15am, heading west over the Canterbury plains before ascending through the breath-taking river valleys and gorges of the Waimakariri River towards the Southern Alps and on to Arthurs Pass. There’s a short stop off before you reboard and continue on through the Otira gorge and the lush alpine rainforests to Greymouth, arriving at 1.05pm.

The journey is a great inclusion as part of a New Zealand tour, especially if you’re on a self-drive holiday as it gives you a chance to take a break from driving and make the most of the scenery. We usually recommend it as part of a South Island itinerary (from Greymouth, you can pick up a rental vehicle and continue down the West Coast and on to the glaciers). However, it’s also possible to take a day trip on the train from Christchurch to either Arthurs Pass or Greymouth, and return to Christchurch in the afternoon.

All the carriages have central heating and air conditioning, and provide exceptional views from panoramic and side windows. Each saloon carriage includes a GPS triggered commentary at your seat via headphones plus information displays and videos about the history and features of each area you travel through. We thoroughly recommend this trip!

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers 

One of the most iconic West Coast features, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are unique in that they provide some of the most accessible Glaciers in the world.– there aren’t very many glaciers that you are able to walk to from the local town!

Many travellers choose to take a guided tour to really experience the glacier environment in all its glory and either walk, take a scenic helicopter flight, or elect to take a Heli-hike and combine the two.

Heli-hikes are a spectacular way to get right up on the glaciers and explore the areas that you can’t access on foot, though it’s worth bearing in mind that flights can be cancelled if the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park 

Wanaka is one of our favourite New Zealand towns, located in the beautiful scenic area of Mount Aspiring National Park with a wide variety of walks for all abilities beside the lake and into the mountains  

Rocky Mountain Diamond Lake Trail Walk 

Described as the best half day walk in New Zealand (and we wouldn’t argue with the title) this is a relatively easy walk to a viewing platform above Diamond Lake. From the Diamond Lake viewing platform you can take the upper-level circuit that winds its way to the top of Rocky Mountain, and you have the option of the east or west track routes up. To make the most of the stunning views of Lake Wanaka below you, we suggest taking the west track up and returning on the east track.


Adrenaline Activities 

Queenstown is the home of the original Bungy Jump and you can book a trip out to the Bungy Jumping centre at the Kawarau Bridge. Here, you can indulge in a whole number of different experiences including tandem bungy Jumps and zip line rides. Night-time bungy jumping and ledge swings can also be “enjoyed” from the ledge site near the top of the Skyline Gondola.

Other activities on offer include parapenting, zip lining and white-water rafting. 

TSS Earnslaw 

If such thrills and spills are not really your thing, then take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the 110 year old steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. This is a wonderful way to see the scenic beauty of the area at a slower pace. The cruise takes ninety minutes and departs at 10am in the morning and 2pm in the afternoon.

You can visit the engine room and see its giant steam engines at work, view the collection of historical photos in the mini museum, check out the bridge or even join a sing-along with the pianist. Or if you’d prefer, kick back and enjoy a wine or beer or some café-style food at the on-board Promenade Café and Bar.

You can choose to do a cruise, combined with a visit to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a guided farm tour, horse trek, barbecue lunch or evening dining. The farm tour includes morning or afternoon tea and time with the farmer rounding up sheep from the hill paddocks and watching a sheep shearing demonstration. This trip lasts 3 and half hours, departing at the same time from Queenstown as the standard cruises.

Milford Sound 

An absolute must-see for most travellers – one of the world’s greatest Sounds.

Our suggestion would be to take the Nature Cruise which, at two and a half hours, is about an hour  longer than the scenic cruise. This has the added advantage of having a specialist nature guide on board to point out all the natural features – from waterfalls to sheer rock faces and help with wildlife spotting  of dolphins, seals and, when in season, the rare Fiordland crested penguins.

There are several different ways of getting to Milford Sound – you can either take the coach from Queenstown or Te Anau, or at considerable extra cost, you can combine the coach journey with a flight or fly in both ways.

If you are travelling from Queenstown, we don’t advise a return coach journey since it makes for a very long day; better to overnight in Te Anau or to enjoy an overnight cruise.

Neither do we advocate driving to Milford – the drive can be arduous at times and you’ll miss some of the stunning scenery you can view through the panoramic coach windows.

Doubtful Sound 

A truly memorable experience of your time in New Zealand would be an overnight cruise on the magnificent Doubtful Sound.

Cruise the fiord, weaving through hidden coves and mystical waterways. Then, as evening draws near, the anchor is dropped at a sheltered mooring enabling you to explore the shoreline by kayak or small boat with one of the on-board nature guides. Afterwards you can enjoy an excellent three course meal – we’re always amazed by the quality – before you bed down for the night in your twin-bedded cabin with en suite facilities.

The next day, the skipper will stop the motors and you’ll enjoy the sounds of silence, only broken by the birdsong and rushing waters of waterfalls in this truly primeval landscape.

View of the Doubtful Sound from the deck of a cruiseship

Mount Cook 

Hooker Valley Day Walk 

You only have to walk a hundred yards or so along the Hooker Valley trail that leads directly from the Hermitage hotel, before you leave most of the crowds behind to enjoy the magnificent scenery ahead of you.

Take water and a day pack with sunscreen and snacks with you and follow the well graded path that winds through the bush to the campsite. Cross open tussock that leads to the memorial for climbers and guides lost on Mount Cook – you’ve then three sturdy swing bridges to cross as you make your way to the glacial lake for a close view of the mighty mountain.

The full walk takes four hours (you can reduce time and mileage by starting from the campsite car park rather than the village) but don’t feel you have to walk all the way to the lake – the views on a clear day are stunning in themselves – you can just turn back and retrace your steps when you’re ready and take refreshments in the Hermitage café. 

Hanmer Springs 

After all that activity as you travel across New Zealand, you probably need a touch of rest and relaxation, we recommend taking a day trip from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs

Here you can indulge in a huge array of spa treatments, or simply relax and soak up the scenery in one of the outdoor natural thermal pools. It’s a great place to unwind and take some time out!

We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring our top 25 bucket list New Zealand destinations! If you’re planning a New Zealand holiday in 2024 or 2025 and you’d like to know more about any of the activities or sights we’ve listed, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help!