Ever wanted to travel to New Zealand? keep reading!
After my couple visits exploring this magical country, I have finally put together a list of my MUST SEE spots in all of New Zealand.
Before I get into my Top 10 spots to travel to in New Zealand, I have a whole page on my blog dedicated to different places around the country so check that out here.
To really enjoy a lot of the spots I’m about to mention you should rent a car. If you’re looking for a really good deal head to Transfer Car NZ. The only downside with them is you can’t really book far ahead of time as the whole idea with the company is they let people rent cars really cheap (or for free!!) in return of them helping the rental company relocate their cars.
Let’s start with the South Island
Starting with the South Island, because the South Island is so much more memorable… oops! Although both the North & South Islands have stunning scenery, the larger mountain ranges, fjords and Mt. Cook are in the South.
# 1 Otago Peninsula –
If you get one thing out of this blog post, let me say how incredible & memorable the Otago Peninsula is. The Peninsula is just a short drive outside of Dunedin, a small city on the East Coast of the South Island. The peninsula is known for their abundance in wildlife: the rare yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and New Zealand sea lions to name a few. It’s also famous for the immense about of hidden beaches.
You could spend a whole day alone just on this peninsula. There is a couple main roads that take you on a loop around the entire peninsula. Let me warn you, it is very windy and hilly but there’s ample amount of spots to pull off and enjoy the view.
I may be a bit bias as I studied abroad in Dunedin, but nonetheless its a spot that is sadly often forgotten *tear*.
*pro tip* if you don’t have a car you can still easily enjoy the peninsula by booking with a tour company.
# 2 Beaches around Dunedin –
Tunnel Beach, Brighton Beach, and St. Kilda are my personal favorites. But there are many more!
I have a couple older posts exploring them in more detail:
Tunnel Beach – if I had to pick one go here
Honestly just go to Dunedin and spend a couple days in that area alone. TRUST ME you will need it!!! There is endless beaches to explore & so much unique wildlife!! Also if geology or rocks peak your fancy, there’s a lot of cool beaches to admire that too.
# 3 Baldwin Street –
Known as “The Steepest Residential Street in the World” ahead of San Francisco. It is within walking distance of Northern Dunedin, but there’s also the bus system to make the walk a bit shorter.
*pro tip* this spot is very touristy! I mean full bus loads of tour groups, so keep that in mind when choosing when to go.
It’s not only a nice brisk up hill walk, but a form of entertainment stopping here. I think the funniest part of visiting here is seeing all of the tourists try to drive their rental car up to the top of the hill.
# 4 The Caitlins –
The final stop on the East Coast of the South Island before moving to the West – The Caitlins. Before traveling, I had no clue this area existed to be honest. This region encompasses the entire southeastern corner of the South Island.
This is another spot that you really need a car to explore, or you can join in with a tour company. There’s many, many beaches and spots within the Caitlins to see but I’ll name my favorites.
Above is the fossilized remains of an old forest in Curio bay and below is around Nugget Point.
# 5 Queenstown –
Queenstown is landlocked on the Western side of the South Island. It’s located right in the center of some of the longest mountain ranges in all of New Zealand.
A very touristy place, but still a MUST. Queenstown itself is probably the most touristy area in all of NZ, in my opinion. Regardless, the area itself is so breathtaking that it’s impossible not to add it to this list.
Regardless of the time of year, there is the STUNNING mountain ranges lining the lake and surrounding areas. I HIGHLY recommend dropping the money on going up the tram to the top of one of the mountains. It’s the one tourist attraction that really is a must.
Moving to the North Island
# 6 Napier –
Located on the East Coast of the North Island, Napier is inspired by the 1930s Art Deco period. The town itself has a small airport to fly into, or it is about a 4 hour drive north from New Zealand’s capital, Wellington.
I have already done an entire post on Napier here, but I couldn’t help but include it in this list. The entire town is filled with stunning architecture; it’s just a nice town to explore and walk around.
# 7 Craggy Mountain Range –
Craggy Range is a smaller mountain range not far from Napier, New Zealand mentioned above. As you can see from these photos, the range itself is so unique and breathtaking.
What brought me here specifically was a winery WHICH WAS INCREDIBLE so if you want to sip on some great wine while overlooking this mountain range then head to Craggy Range Vineyards. Out of all of the wineries I’ve visited in NZ, this one was by far the most memorable and personable.
Like a lot of the other spots mentioned, I’m sure there are many wine tours that go around and explore this area. The Hawkes Bay Region is one of the top wine regions in New Zealand.
# 8 Coastal Walkway –
Now that we’ve appreciated the east of the North Island, let’s head to the west!
The Coastal Walkway runs along New Plymouth, New Zealand, it’s a series of paths that connect to wrap around the coastline. New Plymouth also has a small airport and the walkway itself meets downtown for easy access.
What’s great about it, is you can start the path at any point and still get gorgeous views of rocky beaches and (if you’re lucky) Mount Taranaki.
These pictures don’t completely do it justice as I had horrible luck with the weather for the most part.. There is supposed to Mt. Taranaki (this gorgeous, dome, dormant volcano) through the end of those white arches.
So insert this mountain (when I had good weather) in that white archway & call it a day 🙂 But seriously, it’s just such a peaceful walk and theres some insanely cool tide pools that get exposed during low tide. New Plymouth PRIDES themselves on the Coastal Walkway it’s so cute!
#9 Mount Monganui –
Moving to the north part of the North Island, we have Mt. Monganui.
The towns surrounding Mt. Monganui are nice but the mountain itself is the real destination in my opinion. You can do around a 2-hour hike to get to the top (which I keep bugging my boyfriend that we have to do at sunrise) and I’m positive the few is absolutely stunning.
I found this little peninsula to sit an watch the sun set down behind the mountain.
# 10 Hobbiton –
Last, but certainly not least, Hobbiton. I have a whole post going more into detail about my experience at Hobbiton here. Hobbiton is located a couple hours southeast of Auckland, in the middle of vast farmland and rolling hills (I completely get why Peter Jackson chose here as a filiming location)
Even if you don’t care for the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies, I still think this is really worth the money. Before going here, I honestly barely watched part of one movie…. oops. There’s so many tour options to get here and explore (from Auckland, Rotorua, etc).
Each tour even includes a free drink at the Green Dragon!
*pro tip* try to go for the final tour of the day: I did and we got offered all the extra beer that was already poured for free.
Thanks so much if you’ve read this far. I’ve been meaning to put this list together for a while now & I had so much fun putting it together. ANY questions at all about New Zealand or ANY travel questions please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave it in the comments! I want this to be helpful for you.
Have you ever wanted to travel to New Zealand?
What places on the list sound most interesting to you?
Lots of love,