There’s no doubt that New Zealand was my absolute favourite destination I have travelled to. What’s not to love? You’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by green or snowy mountains, rolling hills everywhere, amazing waterfalls, gorgeous treks, and never ending scenery that makes you speechless, or if you’re like me you’re saying nonstop, “woooowwwww” “OH my gosh,” “this is insane!” This place is magical and it should be on every single persons bucket list!
Jamie and I spent 2 weeks in a campervan trying to explore every single thing this country has to offer. 2 weeks is not enough, but it’s enough to get a taste of it and come back again one day! Jamie and I travelled here in September and the weather was horrible. It said online it was supposed to be the start of their spring and September was their driest month. HA! That was a lie and it rained A LOT. People did mention that all the rain for that time period wasn’t normal, so maybe it was just global warming… We did make do with the weather and still had an amazing time. I just felt like we didn’t get the full experience.
I thought I’d put together a list of things you MUST see while visiting here. Somethings we did and some we wish we did. If you want to start from the beginning, go read my New Zealand Travel Guide first.
Take In The Beauty At CastlePoint Lighthouse
This is located in the North Island. We were the only people here, so we really got to take in the peacefulness, along with the gorgeous nature. Get up close and personal with the lighthouse that’s located on a beach. The parking lot is perfect for a lunch spot with great views.
Relax Or Kayak At Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is one of those places you know looks gorgeous, but once you walk right up to it and you see it for yourself it’s just beyond breathtaking and it’s more magical than you ever expected it to be. This place is located in the North Island. You can’t park very close to the cove, there’s about a 30 min trail walk, which is relaxing! Jamie and I went a bit later towards sunset, it was stunning, but the place where we parked our car had a time when it closed, so it was a bit rushed. Definitely take your time here and take it all in!
Get Your Geek On At Hobbiton
Popular attraction to do in the North Island. This is a movie set from “The Lord Of The Rings.” Step inside this fantasy world and enjoy a drink inside one of the hobbit holes. Whether you’re a fan or not, this place is adorable!
Check Out Rotorua’s Thermal Grounds
Rotorua is known for their smelly sulphuric bubbling mud grounds, however it’s pretty neat to see! There are plenty thermal spots to check out. I recommended checking out Wai-O- Tapu, the colours that you see there are pretty neat.
The trees were planted back in the 20th century! If you’re looking for the perfect hike on ground this is a must! The smell, the sounds, the trees are all just stunning and so peaceful. There are a couple different trails to choose from. Located on the North island on the outskirts of Rotorua. Oh and it’s free!
Check Out The Gorgeous Tongariro National Park
This is the oldest national park in New Zealand, which is located on the North island. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a must if you’re a big hiker! They have all sorts of day hikes you can do. The views look insane. Jamie and I did not get to experience this, due to weather. 🙁 We will be back! Last time the volcano erupted was November 2012. The hike can take around 6-8 hours. Make sure you pack and dress appropriately.
Go Whale Watching
Kaikoura, on the South Island is the place known for its wildlife and huge whale population! Check out a tour and relax while you take in the nature of this beautiful spot in NZ.
Ah, the wine in New Zealand is absolutely delicious, BUT you can’t beat the views of the wineries! We didn’t see a lot of wineries when we drove through the North island, I’m sure there are plenty, but getting off the boat to the South Island, it was all I noticed! Signs everywhere and vineyards all around you. I was in wine heaven, that’s for sure! I listed on my NZ travel guide the main wineries we went to, but I will mention it again, because you need to go to these and more!
Rippon– Most stunning place I have ever seen. A fellow Canadian was serving us the delicious wine, while the views were beyond words.
Maude– Chic decor and very tasty wine with a menu to order some noms.
Chard- Very interesting. The building is straight from Europe, but the drive there is NO joke. The driveway is pretty tight for a camper van… Did I mention the driveway overlooks one of the bungee places? Which means, you’re that high!! EEK!
NZ is known for their heart pumping activities! I regret not doing this! Jamie and I had planned on doing the bungee swing, because you’re seated together and they don’t drop you head first. Knowing we wanted to travel for a year, we decided to not do this due to saving more money. This was roughly around $200 each CAD. I know now that it’s totally worth it!
Take A Cruise On Milford Sound
If you want more spectacular things to see, it honestly never ends! The drive to the dock in Milford Sound was just stunning. Crazy mountains everywhere, with little waterfalls sprinkling down. A LOT of signs saying “Be careful due to avalanches”, which was kind of scary! Once you step on that boat, get ready to be “wowed”, as if you weren’t “wow’d” enough. The cruise is totally worth the money!
Visit The Famous Wanaka Tree
This is famous because it’s beautiful and as you can see, unique. A crooked tree in the middle of a river with mountains all around. This willow tree symbolizes hope and endurance. It does get very busy with people wanting the exact same photo, but just ignore it and take it all in.
Hike Mount Cooks Trails
Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain. When driving towards it, you will be stunned! The beautiful blue gatorade water surrounding you with big mountains covered in snow. For us, it was crazy to see the quick weather change as soon as we got right to the park entrance. We got to take the Hooker Valley Trek, but we ended up turning back very soon. The weather of course ruined it, but I’m just so happy we got to experience the walk and the views! And this place is free! How amazing is that!?
The International Dark Sky Reserve is located in the southern town of Lake Tekapo at the Mt John Observatory. Gaze through the solar-system as you use the telescope. There are a couple different packages to choose from. You can even head up to the observatory during the day and see the beautiful views from up top. They also have a coffee shop sitting right on top of a mountain!
Search For The Southern Lights
Yes, they do exist! Obviously only seen in the southern hemisphere. Some places you can find them are Stewart Island, Queenstown off the lake of Wakatipu, Lake Tekapo and some other places. Your best chances is in the winter between March to September, which is usually the best time to see it. It’s also all based on luck!
Relax The Right Way
Onsen Pools in Queenstown is just the ideal way to relax your legs from all that hiking.. OR, just wanting to feel a bit extra. 😉 There are couple different spa packages to choose from.They also have champagne! Just saying…
Hike Roys Peak
Whether you’re an active person or not, you need to make an effort to climb this mountain! It’s the most rewarding thing we did in NZ! It was hard, even for me and I’m very active! It’s worth every breath, sore quads and calves, just go do it! Jamie and I woke up at 4 am to climb. It was magical, even at night. The moon was so bright that it was our flashlight, we even saw a shooting star! We were there in September and I did have a few too many layers on during the hike, however at the top of the mountain it was pretty chilly! Pack all the essentials you think you need for an overall hike around 5 hours! Also you won’t want to pack a ton, due to how steep the incline can be! Water, snacks, TP (just in case), There is outhouse at the top. Extra clothing, or just make sure you have room to store your clothes, if you decide to take some off.
There is something for everyone and there are so many mountains and places in NZ to hike. SO many activities! I recommended taking your time with your trip and actually taking in the nature. Take your photos, but I tried the whole “vlogging” thing and trust me it really does take your time away from the beautiful nature. Again, don’t forget to check out my full travel guide on NZ!
Have you travelled here? If so, what was the highlight of your trip? 🙂