13 Most Stunning Places to Visit in New Zealand
Aotearoa New Zealand, a diverse, attractive and unforgettable Little Pocket of land in the Southern Hemisphere.
Today we are exploring the 13 most stunning places to visit in New Zealand, on both the North and South islands – and Rakiura / Stewart island! We break it down for you between the islands. Some are more well known tourist attractions and some are more hidden little pockets which we are excited to reveal to you!
Map of New Zealands Places to Visit
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Spectacular Places to Visit in New Zealand’s North Island
Aotearoa New Zealand’s Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island is a stunning land with many, many picturesque wonders to visit and explore. Starting in the winterless Northland, all the way down to our wild and wonderful (and a little windy) captial city – Wellington, we show you all the best bits.
On this list, you’ll find some of the most amazing, must see places to visit, in New Zealand’s North Island – from secluded and tropical beaches, to scenic beauty, to green rolling hills in the wine country, to majestic national parks, Aoteoroa’s North Island sure knows how to turn it on. But first, lets start with the nations National Parks –
National Parks of Aotearoa New Zealand
Aotearoa’s National Parks are absolutely incredible. They are hugely diverse, and spread across the three Islands, Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island, Te Waipounamu / South Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura – many of which are located in the South Island. There are even health benefits to visiting our unreal National Parks – don’t believe it? Read it!
There’s certainly no shortage of beautiful places in New Zealand for trampers/hikers! Here’s a quick look at tourist attractions in all eight national parks, that at least one of which, should be on your list of things to do in Aotearoa New Zealand:
1. Tongariro National Park
This ancient and unique park is located in the middle of the North Island and is famous for its Tongariro Crossing Walk. Not for the faint-of-heart, this invigorating walk home to incredible volcanic landscapes and emerald lakes.
2. Abel Tasman National Park
Located on the northern region of Tasman, in the South Island, this park resembles your dream holiday with stunning golden beaches, lush rainforests, and warm, turquoise waters. It’s the perfect place to relax, rejuvenate and explore nature.
3. Kahurangi National Park
Lesser known, this beautiful park is worth getting the map! It’s not only enormous, extending from the coast which includes a marine reserve, to deep into the dense beech forest, it also touches on two regions – Tasman and the South Islands West Coast, which also contains one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
4. Nelson Lakes National Park
An alpine park, Nelson Lakes is rugged, wild, untouched and completely beautiful! The huge lakes, are set in place with the backdrop of mountainous, native bush and beech tree forests. Breathtaking scenery. This is a must-do escape for anyone needing to decompress.
5. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Heavily famous – Aoraki Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain peak, at over 3,000m.
The mount stands guard over each side of the island – with the West Coast and its stunning, icy glacier country on one side, and the Mackenzie Country with its lakes and towns of Lake Tekapo through to Twizel on the other. This National Park has endless, wonderful activities to offer.
6. Mt Aspiring National Park
Venturing into the South Islands, Otago region, this national park is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. Mt Aspiring National Park is an ideal spot for those looking to get away from it all and spend some quality time in some quality nature.
7. Fiordland National Park
Dramatic. Unforgettable. Drop-dead-gorgeous. Need I say any more? Fiordland National Park provides visitors with awe-inspiring scenery and array of activities to inspire you.
8. Rakiura National Park
Rakiura National Park is located on Stewart Island / Rakiura, the southernmost Island in New Zealand.
This untouched paradise is teeming with wildlife and offers plenty of opportunities for adventure seekers. Enjoy walking Rakiura’s lush trails, take a night time tour to meet some Kiwi in the wild or take a boat tour to get a new perspective of the island and its beautiful coast.
Bay Of Islands
The Bay of Islands is just that – a bay thats home to 144 islands! Imagine the untouched, private beaches!
The area is a sub-tropical region, holding a rich and proud history of Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as, Maori culture, Kauri forest, marine reserves with excellent snorkelling and scuba diving, and incredible kaimoana / seafood.
This region offers breathtaking ocean views, warm ocean water and plenty of friendly dolphins to swim with. Just up the road from Auckland city, If you need a summer vay-cay ASAP, BOI is your destination.
The Coromandel is a large peninsula which stems off from the Waikato region in Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island. It’s known for its soft-white-sand hot water beach, just bring along a little shovel and dig yourself a cosy little spa!
Next up, just north of Hot Water beach is Hahei beach, with crystal clear waters, the famous and, do-not-miss, Cathedral Cove and a marine reserve who’s plentiful waters overlook the Pacific Ocean.
The Coromandel has many towns, the main hubs being Thames, Whitianga and Coromandel (the town).
Central North Island Lakes
From Lake Taupō to Lake Rotorua, there are fresh and inviting lakes, rivers and waterways dotted heavily in this region, making it not only picture-perfect but an excellent holiday spot, especially for water-lovers. Paddle-board, swim, kayak, dive-bomb, lounge around lake-side, its your choice!
We can’t miss the opportunity to also let you know the Blue Springs / Te Waihou Walkway, also belongs to this area, which is one of the purist water sources in the world.
This lakes district is rich in vibrant Maori culture and history, offering you an opportunity to learn more about the local people and experience some of the traditions.
If you’re not convinced yet about the need to most definitely visit the Central North Island Lakes district, I’m not sure we can!
Famous for the Cape Palliser lighthouse and the gorgeous beaches, Castle Point is another of New Zealand’s great surf locations complete with a relaxed and island-life vibe.
Secluded on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, this place is easily reached from both the Wellington region and Hawkes Bay, making Castle Point the perfect get-away destination for any situation – family holiday, romantic weekend, long-weekend with the girls or boy trip to the surf.
As you enter the Wairarapa region, you can feel yourself relax amongst the stunning natural scenery. Located just over Remutaka Hill from the capital and bustling city side, Wellington, Wairarapa is easily accessible, making it the perfect get-away or place to stop for awhile as you venture down through the country – especially for wine lovers.
Wairarapa is known for its world-class vineyards and wineries, beautiful green surroundings and adorable little towns.
7 Awe-Worthy Places to Visit in New Zealand’s South Island
The South Island of New Zealand is a stunning place to explore, with towering mountains, crystal clear rivers and lakes, lush rainforests, and miles of unspoiled coastline.
The South Island is hugely diverse in its landscapes, which are forever changing as you travel from place to place, making it so exciting to see whats next.
The South Island is like no-other with awe-inspiring places to explore; Here are some of our favourite places to visit in New Zealand’s south island:
Marlborough and the Sounds
Think: warm turquoise waters, kaimoana (seafood), secluded beaches, native forest and wineries everywhere, plus in summer – stone fruit season – eat your heart out.
Home to The Queen Charlotte track, a multi-day hike by water, there are also many, many other beautiful walks to inspire your strength, confidence and put a little pip in your step, or maybe take a kayaking tour to check out the sounds fro a water view perspective.
Hire a holiday home with a private jetty, or bike in the vines from wine tasting to wine tasting. Honestly, Marlborough and the sounds is your oyster.
Tekapo, Glacial Lakes and the MacKenzie Country
The MacKenzie Country, in the central South Island, is a stark difference to the previous landscape of Marlborough, making a statement of its own. Gentle rolling hills, large flat areas of sun-beaten earth, then, interrupted by enormous, strikingly-vibrant blue waters of the many glacial lakes, popping colours of the lupins, and the awesome, majestic Southern Alps dominating in the distance.
This alpine area often gets snow in the winter in the towns and is home to three of Aotearoa New Zealands, quintessential ski fields. A nice finisher to a day skiing is rejuvenating in Tekapo’s hot pools at night. Also – Winter, plus MacKenzie Country, equals – some of the best stargazing in the world. Romantic eh?
In summer you can go picnicking, fishing (salmon galore), kayaking mountain biking or paddle boarding or get that Insta pic with the Church of the Good Shephard, lake and Mount Cook.
Here at Little Pocket, we like to refer to this area as Glacier Country, as it covers several regions and districts and is filled with breath-taking glaciers, glacial lakes and ancient landscapes, formed by ancient glaciers.
Tekapo and the MacKenzie Country form part of Glacier Country, but the extent of this area goes to the West Coast – the other side of Aoraki Mount Cook. Fox glacier and Franz Josef glacier are the two most prominent and well-known glaciers but there are several others around also.
Tasman Lake, still with huge ice burgs from the glacier that once was, is a stunning place to visit. Whether you’re into outdoor and adventure sports or just want to take in a scenic ride with some breathtaking views, the Glacier Country has something for everyone.
Otago Lakes District
The South Islands Otago Lakes District is a stunning district of New Zealand that’s filled with incredible lakes, mountains, and valleys.
The Otago Lakes District is vast, with many towns, lakes and rivers, and is very good at owning the season it is in.
Winter is a wonderland with snowy mountains covered in ski fields and restaurants topping up their mulled-wine pots constantly; In summer the lakes are the playground, with people everywhere diving in and only coming out of the water for a real-fruit ice cream which is made from locally grown produce.
Spring is colourful and fun, with the blooming of cherry blossoms and bulbs – daffodils and tulips are the hot faves; and in Autumn the lakes district is set alight with golden and fiery trees about to loose their leaves for the winter.
The biggest city nearby is Dunedin, and its amazing Otago Harbour. The towns and their associated lakes in the area are:
Te Anau and Fiordland
The township of Te Anau is the gateway to the undisputed magic of Fiordland, along side its smaller-town side-kick, Manapouri.
These two little towns shouldn’t be overlooked just as a place to stay or pass through, they belong to some of the friendliest locals, relaxed kiwi culture, two more of Aotearoa’s fabulous lakes – Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri – as well as several of New Zealands Great Walks, and many other amazing adventure activities too, such as exploring for glow worms and scenic evening cruises on the lake.
Located in the region of Southland, these towns are easily reached from both Queenstown and Invercargill alike.
Fiordland holds Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, and the Milford Track. It is also home to some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenes and wildlife such as dolphins and whales, Mitre Peak, literally endless waterfalls and this National Park even recently re-discovered a bird, the Takahē, which was thought extinct.
The park is some of the most protected, untouched and densely natural areas in the country. Truely an unforgettable place to visit in New Zealand.
Located not too far from the cities of both Dunedin and Invercargill, The Catlins is a rugged, wild and beautiful stretch of coastline in the south-east corner of New Zealand’s South Island. This is an excellent place for both a calming weekend or a relaxed day trip.
Known for its seclusion, stunning scenery, untamed forests, and diverse wildlife, it is a very relaxed place to get-away from it all and take a big deep breath!
The Catlins is blessed with low-population which also means low light pollution, making it an incredible place to sit on the bonnet of your car at midnight, and watch the southern lights dance for you.
With stunning coastal beaches, dense native forest, picturesque waterfalls, and amazing wildlife spotting opportunities, make sure to include the Catlins in your itinerary, and you will be sure to take home with you some unforgettable memories.
We hope this article has left you feeling excited, inspired and more aware of the vast opportunities of both New Zealand tourist attractions and the lesser know little pockets just sitting untouched, awaiting your presence. Aotearoa New Zealand might be small, but landscape is hugely variable, with many micro-climates and amazing little places to take your breath away and inspire you towards living with more freedom, confidence and fun.
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