Of all the beautiful places in the world that you should add to your bucket travel list, New Zealand should be at the top! With so many amazing things to do in New Zealand, you’ll need to plan your trip wisely. From visiting the pristine beach destinations like Milford Sound or Abel Tasman National Park, to exploring the epic mountain destinations like Lake Wanaka and New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the natural beauty of New Zealand is astounding.
With many fun things to do in New Zealand with kids, like the Auckland Zoo, or taking a tour of the curious Waitomo Glowworm Caves, there is definitely many fun destinations for the whole family. Browse our great list of things to do and don’t miss out on all the great experiences and destinations that New Zealand offers.
1. Milford Sound
Milford Sound is an incredibly beautiful glacier-carved fjord located on the coast of New Zealand’s south island. Thought by many to be New Zealand’s top tourist attraction, Milford Sound has definitely earned this top spot with nearly 1 million visitors each year. Featuring many epic waterfalls that cascade down the steep fjord cliffs, you can often see whales, bottlenose dolphins, seals, and even penguins throughout the fjord waters.
Even though Milford Sound is only accessible by a 2-hour boat trip, that doesn’t stop hordes of visitors from making the trek to see this amazing display of pristine New Zealand beauty. We’d recommend this as one of the top things to do in New Zealand south island.
2. Mount Cook
Another epic South Island destination, Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak measuring 12,218 feet tall. Great views of the mountain and hikes to surrounding lakes can be accessed from the mountain town of Mount Cook Village. An example of the great geographical diversity of New Zealand, Mount cook is part of a series of formidable mountain peaks running along the Southern Alps and Mount Cook is a popular climbing destination for elite climbers.
3. Bay of Islands
If you are into sailing or fishing, then you need to know about the Bay of Islands. Situated near the tip of the North Island, this broad natural bay is dotted with over 100 islands and is home to beautiful beaches and pristine water. It’s not hard to see why the Bay of Islands is a favorite destination for sailing, diving, and fishing for locals and visitors alike.
The Bay of Islands is also the historic location of the early indigenous Maori settlements as well as the site of the first European settlements. This makes the Bay of Islands not only a place known for its natural beauty but the historic birthplace of New Zealand culture.
4. Lake Tekapo
The remote and huge Lake Tekapo is a popular destination that is located to the south of the great Southern Alps and created from the drain-off from these great mountains. At 32 miles wide, this sprawling lake provides wide views of the snow-covered peaks, and the remote landscape of inland New Zealand. The township of Lake Tekapo is located on the southern shore of the lake and is a great spot to find local restaurants, shops, and comfortable accommodations if you plan on spending some time exploring Lake Tekapo and the surrounding area.
5. Sky Tower
One of the top things to do in Auckland, Sky Tower stands high above the Auckland skyline and provides an epic view of the city and surrounding region. This 1,076-foot tall tower features an observation deck where visitors can take in the view and a restaurant with delightful 360-degree views. If you are a thrill-seeking type, you’ll be happy to know about SkyJump, a popular tourist attraction at the top of the tower that gives you the chance to jump off the tower and fall 630 feet connected only by a cable. If you’ll be visiting Auckland, this should definitely be on your todo list.
6. Abel Tasman National Park
To experience more of the pristine beaches, waterfalls, and hiking trails of New Zealand, we recommend a visit to Abel Tasman National Park. Though this park is considered the smallest of all the national parks of New Zealand, it certainly is one of the more popular. From Kayaking to Waterfall hikes, to camping near pristine beaches, this national park packs big fun. Located on the north tip of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is well-known for its peaceful and serene environment and perfect if you are looking for a low-key destination to unwind and enjoy some water activities.
7. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Created long ago by volcanic activity, the Waitomo Glowworm caves is a mysterious and fun destination on the North Island that you don’t want to miss. Located 2 hours south of Auckland, the Waitomo Glowworm caves is part of a series of limestone caves that are filled with curious subterranean formations created over thousands of years. that visitors can see the highlights on an amazing guided boat tour. The most famous part of the caves called the Glowworm Grotto features a cave with a ceiling crawling in glowing cave worms and gives the impression of a night sky full of living stars. This is definitely a must-see thing to do in New Zealand north island.
8. Franz Josef Glacier
To experience one of the many living glaciers in New Zealand, you should visit the Franz Joseph Glacier. This glacier is located on the west coast of the South Island and is probably the most visited glacier in New Zealand. The most popular way to experience the glacier is via a guided helicopter tour that lets you see the glacier from above and also lands on the glacier to allow for exploring the top of the chaotic jumble of ice and rocks.
9. Waiheke Island
A short ferry ride from the Auckland harbor, Waiheke Island is a wonderful scenic island that you should definitely see if you are spending time in Auckland. Voted as the fifth top region to visit in the entire world by a top travel organization, this 32 square mile island is a popular vacation spot for local New Zealanders and is home to only 9,000 permanent residents. With some popular events, such as an international jazz festival and wine festival, the island is a relaxing and pristine destination and well worth your time to visit.
10. Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka is another great lake destination in the interior region of the South Island. The huge lake offers fun activities like boating, swimming, and fishing and is a favorite vacation spot for many local New Zealanders. Lake Wanaka and the surrounding region was made famous as it is a popular film location for many popular movies such as Lord of the Rings, and Mission Impossible. For fun lake activities on the South Island, we’d suggest a visit to Lake Wanaka.
Located near the town of Rotorua in the Okataina Volcanic Centre, the Wai-O-Tapu region is filled with volcanic pools heated and colored by intense geothermal activity deep beneath the earth. This area consists of a series of natural hot springs and natural geysers that you can explore on a guided or self-guided tour and is a very interesting natural phenomenon to witness in person. One of the most popular pools is called the Champagne Pool and is famous for its interesting colors that are caused by the bacteria that grow in the super-heated waters. For an unusual thing to do in New Zealand North Island, we’d suggest a visit to the curious Wai-O-Tapu.
12. Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park is a large national park on the North Island that is home to many historic Maori sites and multiple active volcanoes. The main activities that are popular here are skiing in the winter months at one of the local resorts, hiking in the summer months, and climbing in the expansive volcanic mountain range. If you are looking to experience and explore the more remote beauty of the North Island, we’d absolutely recommend a visit to Tongariro National Park.
13. Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, covering a massive 238 square miles and is located in the volcanic region of the North Island. Another popular tourist destination, this lake is home to some ancient Maori rock art that can be visited by boat or kayak. Some popular things to do at Lake Taupo are taking an exciting jet boat tour of the mighty Huka Falls, river rafting on the Tongariro River, or taking a sailboat cruise around the lake for a relaxing tour. With so much to do and see at Lake Taupo, it’s a family-friendly destination and offers many fun things to do in New Zealand with kids.
14. Te Puia
For a glimpse into New Zealand’s past, you should visit Te Puia, a destination in the city of Rotorua. A popular tourist destination that showcases ancient Maori culture, including Maori dance performances, weaving exhibits, boiling mud pools, and guided tours of the healing geothermal hot-springs of the area.
15. Canterbury Museum
For a visual journey through New Zealand’s past, we’d suggest a visit to Canterbury Museum in Christchurch on the South Island. This museum is located in the Historic Cultural district of Christchurch and features many exhibits such as the Natural History Center for kids, The Antarctic Gallery showcasing the early explorations to Antarctica, and the Bird Hall which showcases beautiful displays of native birds and much more. We’d recommend the Canterbury Museum as a great thing to do in Christchurch with kids.
16. Auckland Zoo
A great thing to do in New Zealand with kids, the Auckland Zoo is located in downtown Auckland on the North Island. This full-featured zoo showcases over 1400 animals from 135 different species. Some of the popular attractions at the zoo include an Africa exhibit featuring cheetahs, baboons, lions, and giraffes, and a South America exhibit featuring spider monkeys, turtles, and alligators. For a great family-friendly thing to do in Auckland, the Auckland Zoo is one of the top options.
17. Huka Falls
Huka Falls is a cool and easy-to-access series of waterfalls that flow into New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo. Flowing at an incredible pace, this waterfall doesn’t cover much elevation, but makes up for it in the sheer volume of water shooting down the rocky canyon. Being close to State Highway One, you can easily experience the falls by foot and walk out over the top of the falls on the footbridge. One of the main tourist attractions related to the falls is taking a jet boat ride on Lake Taupo that takes you up close to the base of Huka Falls – watch out, you will get wet!
18. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Located in the heart of Christchurch on the South Island, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are an interesting destination. With multiple themed gardens like the Herb Garden, the Rock Garden, the Water Garden, and the Central Rose Garden, this 21-acre area showcases thousands of exotic and local plants. The visitor center also has some interesting exhibits showing the history of plants and New Zealand gardening in general. If you are looking for something unusual to do in Christchurch, then we’d suggest a stroll around these interesting gardens.
19. Auckland War Memorial Museum
Known as New Zealand’s top museum, the Auckland War Memorial Museum in downtown Auckland is much more than just a war memorial. With areas dedicated to natural history, the history of New Zealand, and military history, this historic museum is located on a prominent hill with beautiful views of the city and the ocean. For those who want a deeper look into the history of New Zealand, we’d suggest the Auckland War Museum as a perfect destination to learn more.
20. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Another interesting New Zealand Museum, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. This museum features a wide variety of rare items and which makes the museum title translations of “Container of treasures” so appropriate. The museum’s History Collection features many rare and historic dresses and textiles that date back many centuries. In addition to many other cultural relics, there is also a massive collection of over 300,000 fossil specimens. One such specimen is the world’s largest colossal squid that weighs 1,000lbs and is over 14 feet in length.
21. Mount Taranaki
Mount Taranaki is an impressive and snow-capped volcano on the North Island’s west coast and reaches 8,261 high. Since it looks curiously similar to Japan’s famous Mt. Fuji and has actually been in the backdrop of some films such as “The Last Samurai” among others. It is possible to hike to the top of the mountain, and in the summer months many people make the trek up and down within a single day.
22. Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is a special South Island destination that features a beautiful collection of wooded mountains valleys, crystal blue lakes, living glaciers and covers an area of around 1,300 square miles. Popular with hikers, there are thousands of amazing trails at the end of the access roads, and most of them lead to epic scenic lookouts. There are so many activities you can do here, from taking an exciting jet boat tour up the Blue River, to paddleboarding the crystal clear lakes, to a guided climb up a waterfall. For that love active outdoor activities, we’d highly recommend exploring Mount Aspiring National Park.
23. Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tours
If you like the Lord of The Rings Movies, then you’ll be excited to know that you can actually visit the Hobbiton movie set from these films. Located near the town of Waikato on the North Island, this amazing preserved movie set is built on a family-run farm where the current owners still operate a livestock ranch. The 2-hour guided tour operates daily and visitors get a full immersion into the film’s Hobbit town and can even have a meal before or after the tour at the “Shire’s Rest” cafe. Learn all about this magical New Zealand destination and book your tour today.
24. Larnach Castle
Known as “New Zealand’s Only Castle” this private residence-turned-tourist-attraction is an interesting spot to visit on the South Island city of Dunedin. With over a 100,000 visitors per year, this “fake” castle was built as a private residence for a wealthy businessman in 1874. Larnach Castle includes 7 acres of impeccably manicured gardens and is situated high on a peninsula with breathtaking views of the valley and ocean below. If you are visiting the city of Dunedin, then we think you should add Larnach Castle to your todo list.
25. Hamilton Gardens
Located south of Auckland in the town of Hamilton, the Hamilton Gardens is a sprawling and diverse 54-acre garden that sits on the banks of the Waikato River. within the garden there 21 themed areas represented that demonstrate a diverse mix of cultures, religions, and art styles. As it’s free to visit, the Hamilton Gardens is one of the top tourist destinations in the region, with over 1 million visitors each year. If you’re venturing outside Auckland and are looking for a relaxing and free thing to do, then we’d suggest a visit to these stunning gardens.
26. Coronet Peak Ski Area
If you are visiting the Queenstown area, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Coronet Peak Ski Area. With great activity options all year round, this ski resort area offers skiing in the winter and hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Only 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown, It’s easy to visit and enjoy some mountain activities.
27. Nelson Lakes National Park
Just another of New Zealand’s stunning and wild national parks, the Nelson Lakes National Park covers nearly 400 square miles and is a popular camping, fishing and hiking destination on the South Island. With two large pristine mountain lakes at the heart of this park, there are many rugged outdoor adventures to be had. If you are looking for a great camping or hiking experience, we’d recommend exploring the Nelson Lakes National Park.
28. Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium
For another fun thing to do in Auckland, we’d recommend visiting Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. This unique aquarium features many different exhibits, including the Antarctic Ice Adventure, Shark Tunnel, Turtle Bay, among others. If you’re brave enough, you can even do a cage dive with live sharks! This is definitely a great thing to do in New Zealand with kids.
29. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
The most traditional art gallery in New Zealand, The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tomaki is located in the heart of downtown Auckland and showcases over 15,000 works. Featuring artworks from around the world and from a variety of time periods, including many paintings from the European masters. For the art lover, there is no better destination than in New Zealand for viewing rare works of art from around the globe
30. Cape Reinga
If you want to visit the place where New Zealand ends, then you must visit Cape Reinga. You can visit the lonely Cape Reinga Lighthouse, or drive the scenic Ninety Mile Beach, or even climb the epic sand formations at the Te Paki Sand Dunes – There are plenty of things to see and do at this remote destination, and even though it’s quite a drive, it will be well worth your time.