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Is New Zealand Worth Visiting?

Yes! New Zealand is worth visiting. New Zealand truly is a spectacular country and perhaps my favourite part of the world. The people are friendly, and the landscapes are stunning. It is a small country full of big adventures.

New Zealand is made up of 2 major islands, and several smaller ones. From beaches to mountains, thermal pools to glaciers it is a country of contrast and variety. You can slide down sand dunes in the north and go skiing in the south

Whether you want adventure, relaxation, culture or nature Aotearoa (as New Zealand is called in the Maori language) has it all.

Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook are some of New Zealand's spectacular natural wonders

15 Reasons To Visit New Zealand

1. Maori Culture

Maori culture is a significant part of all aspects of New Zealand life. Kiwis of all ethnicities commonly use Maori words in daily speech. Rotorua is the best place to discover traditional Maori culture, with tours including a traditional Maori feast and cultural performances. 

➡️ Check out Mitai for the best Maori experience in Rotorua.

2. Adventure

One of the things that New Zealand is best known for is its adrenaline-inducing activities. This is especially true of Queenstown in the South Island. From jetboats down the Shotover River to skydiving over the lake, Queenstown is a haven for adrenaline junkies. Check out my Queenstown post for more information on New Zealand’s adventure capital.

Skydive in Queenstown

3. Landscapes

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The country is home to a stunning variety of landscapes. 

The Coromandel Peninsula, the Remarkables mountain range, Milford Sound, the Moeraki boulders, Lake Tekapo, Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park, and Cape Reinga are all highlights, along with many, many others. If you are a fan of hiking there is no shortage of spectacular routes to see some of this amazing country.

Moeraki boulders on New Zealand's South Island at sunset

4. Wine

Most of the wine that comes out of New Zealand is from the Marlborough region at the top of the South Island, but are other wine regions in the country that are less famous.

Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Auckland all produce great wine, but it’s hard to get hold of them on the other side of the planet. When in New Zealand try out some of the wines from these lesser-known regions – you may not be able to find them anywhere else.

5. Lord Of The Rings

New Zealand’s film industry is very important to its economy, especially thanks to Peter Jackson’s trilogies of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Much of the industry is centred around Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city.

There are many Lord of the Rings-themed tours around the country, and you can even visit Hobbiton. Even if these films aren’t really your thing, joining a film tour can be a great way to see parts of the country that might otherwise be difficult to get to.

6. Wellington

Red cable car from downtown Wellington up to the botanic gardens with the city in the background.

Wellington is a fairly small city but still an excellent one to visit. Take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens and walk back down past rose gardens and native plants.

Visit Te Papa Museum. Head over to the Miramar Peninsula to visit the Weta Cave and explore the New Zealand film industry. Grab a coffee and meander down Cuba Street to browse shops and cafes.

Wellington has a lot to offer for a city of its size. It feels more arty than other New Zealand cities such as Auckland and Christchurch, the cafe culture is thriving and there are lots of great restaurants.

7. Geothermal Activity

New Zealand’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire leads to some beautiful geothermal attractions. Check out Hot Water Beach in Coromandel to dig yourself a little pool and sit next to the Pacific ocean in the hot water.

One particular highlight is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua. One of the strangest things about the city of Rotorua is the occasional waft of rotten egg smell. This comes from the hydrogen sulphide produced by various areas of geothermal activity in the city.

It’s not the best-smelling place on the planet, but it’s worth overlooking that to focus on what’s in front of your eyes rather than your nose. 

8. Wildlife

The distance of New Zealand from other parts of the world has led to the existence of a few species that are not found anywhere else – most notably the Kiwi, a nocturnal flightless bird.

The kiwi is a symbol of New Zealand and also the nickname for New Zealanders. Visit the Kiwi Park in Queenstown to get a glimpse of these New Zealand icons, along with other native species.

Another favourite wildlife stop is in Oamaru, a small town on the east coast of the South Island. Oamaru is home to a colony of Little Blue Penguins, and every evening you can go to watch them return from the ocean. The numbers vary according to season, but in New Zealand’s summer, you can watch up to 200 of these little birds waddling back to their homes.

A Little Blue Penguin on a pebbled beach.

9. Stargazing

New Zealand is a great place to experience the night sky, and this is especially true of the area around Lake Tekapo. It’s in one of about 20 dark sky reserves worldwide, most of which are in the Northern Hemisphere, so Tekapo is an ideal place to watch the southern night sky.

You can see a lot simply by stepping outside at night, but the best views can be had through a tour at the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory. 

10. Gateway To Antarctica

New Zealand is one of the locations where expeditions to Antarctica start from, and so the International Antarctic Centre near Christchurch gives visitors a chance to explore some of the history and experiences of Antarctica.

Try out the storm room to experience a -18c Antarctic storm each hour. Be taken for a ride on a Hagglund – an all-terrain vehicle around a track set up like some of the landscapes that Antarctic explorers will encounter.

It’s also another place where you can see the Little Blue Penguins – a small number of these penguins that are too injured to survive in the wild are cared for by specialist veterinarians.

11. World’s Best Train Journeys

There are two excellent train journeys in New Zealand which are sightseeing experiences more than a commuting mode of transport. The Northern Explorer takes you from Auckland to Wellington. The full journey is about 11 hours, travelling most of the length of the North Island

The most spectacular train journey however is the TranzAlpine, often considered one of the world’s best train journeys.  It’s a 5-hour journey through the Southern Alps mountains between Christchurch and Greymouth in the South Island.

See the plains of Canterbury, the famous Arthur’s Pass in the mountains, and end on New Zealand’s west coast – a part of the country that is often overlooked.

Bright blue river running through forest from the TranzAlpine train.

12. Cardboard Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral was perhaps the most famous landmark in Christchurch until the 2011 earthquake which damaged much of the city and killed 185 people. The cathedral sustained significant damage and large parts of the building including the spite were destroyed.

A temporary replacement was built in 2013, using cardboard as one of the main materials for construction. It’s a beautiful building, created as part of the city’s recovery from a devastating event. 

The Cardboard Cathedral with geometric stained glass panels in Christchurch.

The regeneration of Christchurch included a few inventive solutions to get the city back on its feet. These included the Restart Mall, with shops housed in shipping containers until it closed in 2018, but the Cardboard Cathedral remains. 

13. Auckland

Chances are you will fly into Auckland – it’s New Zealand’s biggest city and main international airport. There are lots of great things to do in Auckland, from eating at the revolving restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower, jumping off the top of the Sky Tower, or exploring nearby Waiheke Island. Visit Auckland Museum and wander down Queen Street.

However, given how much there is to see across the country, try not to allocate more than 2 days to Auckland unless you have at least 3 weeks in New Zealand.

Auckland Marina with the Sky Tower in the background at sunrise.

14. Coffee

Kiwis take coffee very seriously, especially the flat white. 

Flat whites have made their way into other parts of the world, however, I have found very few places in other countries to get an authentic version. If you order one from Starbucks or any other chain in another part of the world, it won’t be anything like the original.

New Zealand and Australia both claim the invention of the flat white, but there is no shortage of places in either country to get very good coffee.

Tip: If you normally drink an Americano, the New Zealand equivalent is often called a Long Black

15. Rugby

The New Zealand All Blacks have often been considered the most successful team across any sport in history. I’m not generally a sports fan, but I do occasionally watch rugby, especially if the All Blacks play, and they are amazing to watch.

Given that the population of New Zealand is significantly lower than other major rugby countries, they manage to produce some incredible players. One of the only things I regret about my time living in New Zealand is that I didn’t see them play at their home in Eden Park.


6 Best Things To Do In New Zealand

Black and white image of Milford Sound on a cloudy day.

📍Milford Sound

One of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, Milford Sound is one of those places that makes New Zealand worth visiting. Take a tour from Queenstown to enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the South Island and then a cruise through the Sound itself. Alternatively, spend a night in Te Anau and drive a rental car to Milford Sound yourself.

Tip: If you do drive from Te Anau make sure you fill up your car with fuel before you leave – there is a limited supply in Milford Sound.

📍 Waitomo Glow Worms Tour

Take a tour through the Waitomo Caves and see the caverns lit up like the night sky by thousands of glow worms. It’s an extremely popular attraction on the North Island so make sure you book early to grab one of the limited slots. You won’t regret it and it’s one of those superb experiences that makes New Zealand worth visiting.

➡️ Book your glow worm tour tickets here

Glowworms haning from the ceiling of a cave.

📍 Wine Tour

Make the most of the wine region around Queenstown by joining a day tour. Let someone else take care of the driving and directions while you make friends with other visitors and sample some of the best wines in Central Otago.

I particularly recommend tours like this to solo travellers. After your first few sips, it’s much easier to strike up a conversation with the other members of the tour, and a great way to spend a few hours being social if you are travelling alone.

➡️ I recommend this small group wine tour – book tickets here ⬅️

📍Franz Josef Glacier

You will find the World Heritage Site on the west coast of the South Island. Take a heli-hike tour of the Southern Alps and explore Franz Josef Glacier. You do need a moderate level of fitness for this one, but it’s a great way to visit one of New Zealand’s famous natural wonders.

📍Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa is the national museum in Wellington and houses a collection spanning Maori cultural artefacts, natural wonders and the development of New Zealand from an untouched land to the modern country of today. There are also story and activity sessions available for children.

Entry to the main collection is free, and Te Papa is in the centre of Wellington by the waterfront.

📍Dolphin and Whale Watching

Enjoy a half-day tour from Auckland on a quest to find marine mammals. Whether it is spotting a whale from a distance or watching dolphins swim alongside the boat, jumping and playing, seeing these animals in the wild is something special.

This tour is run by the Maritime Museum and in the interest of animal welfare they do not lure animals to them by providing food. This ensures that they don’t become dependent on the boats. Instead, the tour goes looking for the animals wherever they choose to be that day.

Dolphins jumping out of the water near Auckland, New Zealand

This does mean that there are no guarantees of sightings, but if you don’t see anything you will get a voucher to return another time. I would do this on your first day in Auckland to allow for a second chance if they don’t come out to play.


Where To Stay In New Zealand

I recommend using Booking.com when looking for accommodation, but here are a few suggestions.

Auckland

📍The Grand by SkyCity is part of the complex housing Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower. It’s in the centre of Auckland and is a great place to start your adventure, especially after a long flight.

📍LyLo Auckland is a budget-friendly hostel in central Auckland with both dorm and private room options.

Wellington

📍QT Hotel is directly by Te Papa Museum in the centre of Wellington. It has artwork throughout the hotel, a great restaurant and eclectic rooms.

Queenstown

📍Novotel Lakeside is one of the most convenient options in Queenstown. It’s directly by the lake and in the centre of the town.

For more Queenstown options, I have a dedicated Queenstown accommodation post.

Person paragliding with yellow parachute over the Queenstown and the lake with mountains in the background.

How Many Days Do You Need To See New Zealand?

I would recommend a minimum of 2 weeks. You’ll likely need a day or two to recover from jetlag, and given the distance you will have travelled it’s worth visiting New Zealand for at least 2 weeks to justify the travel.

To see the highlights of this amazing country check out my ultimate 14 day New Zealand itinerary Alternatively if you would prefer to focus on the South Island, check out this Picton to Queenstown itinerary.

3 weeks or more will allow you to truly enjoy the highlights of this beautiful country at a more relaxed pace.

If, however, you only have a week to spare, I would recommend that you focus on the South Island to see some of the more spectacular landscapes.


What Is The Best Time To Visit New Zealand?

As New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the opposite of the home countries of many visitors. I would say the best time to visit New Zealand is the summer – December to February. Experience a warm Christmas, and make the most of sunny days hiking, biking, and enjoying their beaches.

If you visit in July – September you can enjoy Winter activities such as skiing, but summer is a better bet overall.


FAQs: Visiting New Zealand

If you are still on the fence about visiting New Zealand (although surely the reasons above were enough to convince you!), here are some answers to common questions.

What is New Zealand famous for?

Wine, Lord Of The Rings and rugby. Kiwis make stellar wine, produce some of the best rugby players in the world, and New Zealand is the setting of the incredible landscapes of the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit films.

Is New Zealand Dangerous?

New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world, and consistently ranks near the top of the Global Peace Index. There are some potential hazards in New Zealand such as earthquakes but generally it is not a dangerous place to visit.

What does a trip to New Zealand cost?

This is a difficult question to answer as it depends so much on your chosen activities, accommodation and transport. Flights are generally expensive, simply because it is far away but by keeping an eye on websites such as Skyscanner you can find good deals.

You can save a lot on accommodation costs by hiring a camper van or staying in hostels. New Zealand has many excellent hostels that are very safe for solo travellers, so it’s not necessary to stay in a hotel if you are alone.

Activities such as skydiving and day tours can be expensive but aren’t necessary to enjoy your stay. It’s not a cheap place to visit but there are many ways to cut down on costs by choosing budget-friendly options.

Is New Zealand better than Australia to visit?

I believe New Zealand is the better choice, primarily because there is more variety in a smaller area and it is easier to get around to different areas. The climate is much milder than Australia’s so you still get warm summers without sweltering heat.

I would also note that while Australia is infamous for its variety of dangerous and/or poisonous animals, there are very few dangerous animals in New Zealand.

What are some reasons NOT to visit New Zealand?

There is genuinely only one reason I can think of why New Zealand shouldn’t be on top of your travel list. It’s very far away from pretty much everywhere. Even its closest neighbour, Australia, is a 3 1/2 hour flight away.

I can promise you that New Zealand is worth visiting, but if the idea of a long flight fills you with dread, then I won’t blame you for reconsidering.

Camper van by the side of a road with mountains behind.

Conclusion: Is New Zealand Worth Visiting?

Definitely! New Zealand is absolutely worth visiting. It is one of the most beautiful countries on earth, with friendly people. great food and wine and utterly breathtaking scenery.

I hope the information here has persuaded you that no matter what you are looking for when you travel, New Zealand can offer it to you. It’s one of my favourite places and somewhere I’ll keep returning to.

Road towards mountain with clouds drifting across in front.

Other Posts You Might Like

21 Best Things To Do In Queenstown

14 Day New Zealand Itinerary

Best Day Trips From Queenstown

Picton to Queenstown Road Trip

Best Places To Visit In The South Island

Best Places To Visit In The North Island

Is Queenstown Or Auckland Better To Visit

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