Narrowing a list down to only 18 of the best places to visit in New Zealand is no easy task. With its amazing beaches, spectacular waterfalls and magnificent mountains, it’s probably been on your bucketlist list for a long time. This blog isn’t going to suppress those itchy feet because we both know it – New Zealand is the best and most beautiful country in the world. Everywhere you look is like a postcard and everyone you talk to is your new best mate. Here are 18 reasons why you should get here. Like, now!
1. Muriwai Beach, Auckland
Just a 40-minute drive from Auckland’s City Centre and you can find yourself on the West Coast. Massive black sand dunes, amazing surf and killer sunsets make this one of the best spots you can visit in New Zealand’s biggest “city”. Visit on a stormy day and see why it’s earned its nickname of the Wild West Coast. Don’t forget to check out the Gannet Colony that overlooks two stunning bays and has hundreds of huge birds flying right over your head!
2. Milford Sound
The ultimate New Zealand experience. This has to be hands down the most beautiful place in the entire country – if not the world. Get ready to be completely mind blown by expansive rainforest, towering mountains, hundreds of cascading waterfalls and DOLPHINS! The Sound can be explored by boat, kayak or plane each offering their own unique point of view. You’ll quickly realise not a single image you’ve ever seen compares to how magnificent this place is in real life.
3. Matapouri, Northland
One of the best places to visit in New Zealand if you’re looking for mermaids! OK, that was a lie. But you can find a place here that they would definitely hang out if they existed. Named “The Mermaid Pools” these huge hidden emerald rock pools are so deep you can right on dive in. Top tip: avoid visiting at high tide as the waves can crash over the rocks at an alarming speed and sweep you off your little sunbathing perch!
There’s no better way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city than to hit a cute little surf town. One of the best off-the-beaten track places to visit in New Zealand, Piha is known for its surf and rugged beauty. It sits on the West Coast of Auckland and hosts international surf competitions.
5. Mount Cook
The magnitude of this place needs to be seen to be believed. Taking the Hooker Valley walking track, you’ll be met with dramatic scenes of New Zealand’s highest mountain. An easy journey takes you alongside the rushing Hooker River, over very photogenic swing bridges and offers views of humongous ancient glaciers. If you stand still and listen, you can actually hear the glacier constantly cracking and moving. If you’re short on time, head to Tasman Lake – an easy 20-minute walk from the car park – where you can see Mount Cook reflected in the water and big icebergs just floating on by!
Over the Crown Range from Queenstown lies Wanaka. If you’re looking for places to visit in New Zealand where you can escape the tourist crowds of Queenstown and immerse yourself in a slower-paced mountain town. You can visit the famous Puzzle World, kayak the lake and explore the most incredible walking & biking trails. Nearby you can hit world class snow on the slopes of Treble Cone and Cardrona Ski Resorts. Even if you’re not a skier, the trip up to take in the view will be enough to keep you from ever wanting to go home.
7. Takapuna Beach
Nestled right in Auckland’s urban area of the North Shore you can find this stunning stretch of beach loved by all the locals (and their adorable doggies!). With frequent dolphin and orca sightings in the springtime and so many incredible restaurants right on its doorstep, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Head to the Takapuna Beach Cafe and get some of their famous gelato! Bonus adventure: the island you can see from the beach is a dormant volcano called Rangitoto Island – which you can actually climb to its summit! Well worth the hike with insane views of the entire Auckland Harbour!
8. Great Barrier Island
One of the magical places to visit in New Zealand that not many people make the effort to reach, but the trip is well worth it. A 4-hour ferry ride or a 30-minute flight will see you frolicking on white sandy beaches, jumping off secret waterfalls and chilling in natural hot springs hiding in the bush! More often than not you will find yourself alone while exploring this epic island. To blend in with the locals, don’t bother wearing any footwear and say hello to everyone you see!
9. Mahurangi West
A little-known place and somewhere I have only just discovered myself! Many people pass by this turn off on their way North from Auckland. If you can’t make it to the Bay of Islands on your trip, this is as close as you’ll get without the big drive! Hidden away here you’ll find stunning views & clear waters. There is a perfect little campground right on Sullivans Bay beach – the most amazing spot to watch the sunrise from your tent!
10. Cathedral Cove
While this is a top spot to hit on your New Zealand trip, it can get a bit crowded so it is well worth a sunrise mission! Head to the very right-hand side of the beach to find a fresh waterfall trickling down the cliffside – the perfect way to rinse off after a salty swim! Also, don’t neglect the other bays you will pass on your walk back. Stingray Bay and Gemstone Bay are just as beautiful in their own way, and because people often don’t make the effort to visit you can have them all to yourself for a swim. Gemstone Bay is amazing for snorkelling, so take a snorkel & mask!
11. Russell, Bay Of Islands
As the first permanent European settlement, Russell’s original street plan from 1843 still stands and features some of New Zealand’s oldest historic buildings – some of which now house cute cafes and delicious restaurants. Russell is also the gateway to a stunning enclave with more than 140 subtropical islands. Imagine crystal clear waters, dolphins, incredible fishing and starry skies so bright you won’t believe your eyes.
12. Owharoa Falls, Karangahake Gorge
It wouldn’t be a successful road trip if you didn’t make a stop in the Karangahake Gorge to ogle the gorgeous Owharoa Falls. These are super easy to get to (right next to the road) making it an easy stop off on your travels! Perfect for a swim on a hot summers day!
13. Whangarei Falls
Many visit this picturesque spot to take their gram pics and just leave. But a lesser known secret is that you can actually climb in behind these falls! Head there nice and early to miss the crowds and if you’re lucky the rising sun will hit the water in just the right spot and you’ll be covered in rainbows! Take care climbing over the slippery rocks while getting in behind the falls!
This is the ultimate adventure playground. Surfing, mountains, great walks, snowboarding & sunsets – Taranaki has it all. The highly recommended Pouakai Crossing is a must-do. This full day hike will take you past the Pouakai Tarns – on a calm day you can see Mount Egmont reflected in the water and it’s crazy beautiful! #sahgoodfodagram
15. North Head
Another sneaky spot in Auckland that you can hit to escape the busy city. Located in the suburb of Devonport lays home to an underground system of old war tunnels built for WWII. Grab a torch and explore underground or frolic above on the grassy hills. On top of these hills you can see 360-degree views of Auckland. Be sure to take some flattened cardboard and have a go at grass surfing down the banks!
16. Roys Peak
If you’re keen for a mission, this 6-hour return hike is worth every step you take. Making the effort will reward you with some serious lactic acid build up and epic views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, the Matukituki Valley and Wanaka (given it’s a clear day!). Be prepared for rapid weather changes here – take appropriate shoes and warm windproof clothing. You can get sun, rain, wind, sleet and snow in the space of just a few minutes!
What a view! 📷 @hayden.griffiths
No list of “best places to visit in New Zealand” would be complete without Queenstown. Renowned for its adventure activities (bungee jumping anyone?) thousands of tourists flock to see this incredible town every month and it’s not hard to see why. Heading up the gondola presents you with the most amazing views of the Southern Alps and the luge is also worth a nudge. Imagine flying down a mountainside on a small cart with The Remarkables mountain range as your view. Too. Much. Fun!
18. Tongariro National Park
Sitting in the middle of the North Island you can find New Zealand’s oldest National Park. This area has 3 volcanos including Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu – a huge active stratovolcano that you can ski and snowboard on in the winter! If you’re looking for places to visit in New Zealand from Lord of the Rings, then you might recognise Mount Ngauruhoe, which goes by the name of Mount Doom in the movies. For any hiking enthusiasts, the Tongariro Crossing is another must-do during the spring & summer months!
🇳🇿 Know some more off-the-beaten track places to visit in New Zealand? Leave a comment below 👇
📷 All images are by Lola Photography unless credited otherwise.
About The Author
Lola is a photographer and traveller from New Zealand. Follow her adventures over on Instagram at @lola.photography.