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Top Spots you must visit on your New Zealand vacation

After the best New Zealand vacation spots? See our top places to visit.

Need a little New Zealand vacation inspiration? Here are some of our favourite places to visit, for incredible scenery and sensational attractions and activities. These are parts of 'NZ' that should be on your itinerary shortlist.

Bay of Island aerial view

Bay of Islands & 'The  Winterless North'

Renowned for its untouched beaches and abundant marine life, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is made up over 140 subtropical atolls. And there's just as many things to do here as there are islands. To name a notable few:

  • Take some time out on one of many remote beaches or swim with dolphins on a Fuller’s Eco experience.
  • Wander through the streets of Russell, the first European settlement and whaling port founded in the 1820s.
  • Have a drink at, the first licensed hotel in NZ, The Duke of Marlborough.
  • Take a short drive to neighbouring town, Waitangi, and learn about, New Zealand's founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi — a contract signed in 1840 between the Maori tribes throughout New Zealand and Britain.
  • For a unique taste of history, take a dive tour of Greenpeace flagship, The Rainbow Warrior. (The ship sunk in Auckland harbour by French saboteurs in 1985 and subsequently moved here for divers' enjoyment)

Before you leave NZ's North there are a few more attractions near the Bay of Islands to consider:

  • Be sure to head up to Cape Reinga, the furthermost point of the North Island.
  • Take a bus tour of Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand’s only ‘sand’ highway.

Recommendation: We recommend at least three days in the North of the North Island to make the most of everything on offer.

Cathedral Cove from the sky

Coromandel Peninsula

Separating the Hauraki Gulf from the Bay of Plenty, the Coromandel Peninsula, stretches 85 kilometres out from the North Island and is home to some of the most diverse scenery in the north. Known for its white sandy beaches, rainforests and volcanic cliffs, the area is mainly populated by holiday towns. There's lots to do:

  • Visit the Driving Creek Railway, originally built to transport clay pottery, the railway takes you through native Kauri Forest and impressive engineering features.
  • Bike the Hauraki Rail Trail a 2-3 day journey across the Hauraki plains and through the Karangahake Gorge, one of the 14 'Wonders of New Zealand'.
  • Walk The Pinnacles — an 8 hour round trip with spectacular views through Kauri dams, tramlines and abandoned logging sites.
  • Visit Hot Water Beach and dig yourself a natural spa in the sand filled with thermally heated water from the ground or head to Hahei and walk, kayak or boat to Cathedral Cove — a huge beachfront cave formed by cliffs of volcanic ash.
  • Visit nearby Mercury Bay and its museum — Captain Cook (visiting on his first voyage to NZ in 1769) anchored to track the transit of the planet Mercury here giving the bay it's European name.

Recommendation: To make the most of your time here, we recommend at least 3 nights in and around Coromandel as well.

Polynesian Spa Mineral Springs, Rotorua

Rotorua

Sporting a rich indigenous history, Rotorua sits within one of the worlds most active volcanic regions. Peppered with natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and steaming geysers, this 'sulfuric city' is a favourite for New Zealand holidaymakers.

  • Rotorua is home to several prominent Maori tribes and the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local indigenous culture.
  • Visit Mitai Maori Village for a meal and cultural performance.
  • Relax at the Polynesian Spa mineral springs, and choose a mud wrap, coconut oil massage or private soak — or perhaps get them all!
  • Visit White Island, New Zealand's most active volcano via helicopter and traverse the crater for a once in a lifetime hiking experience.
  • Make your way to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland with its multi-coloured hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pools.

Recommendation: Book in at least two nights here to see the best of both Maori and volcanic attractions.

Explore the Abel Tasman National Park by kayak

Nelson and the Abel Tasman region

At the top of the South Island, Tasman is one of the fastest growing regions in New Zealand. Its mild climate, spectacular coastal scenery and many marine playgrounds make it a popular vacation destination. Known for its pristine beaches, limestone hills, untouched forests and the renowned Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson and surround are more than worth a visit:

  • See Harwood's Hole — the deepest vertical shaft in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Wander the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. (Stretching 60 kilometres through beachside forest, glittering bays and crystal clear water, this spectacularly scenic hike is dotted with Lodges and campsites)
  • Head over Takaka Hill (also known as Marble Mountain’) and you’ll spot several geological wonders.
  • And don't miss the Te Waikoropupu Springs on the other side of the hill.

Recommendation: spend at least two days here to really experience what this spectacular place has to offer.

Wine tasting in the Gibbston Valley wine cave

Queenstown

Settled on the shores of lake Wakatipu overlooked by, the truly remarkable, Remarkables Mountain Range, Queenstown is celebrated as New Zealand’s adventure capital and surrounded by a bounty of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders. To mention just a few:

  • Visit the Gibbston Valley to sample some of the region's award winning wine. (We recommend stopping at Chard Farm cellar door, visiting Peregrine Vineyard or taking a tour of the renowned Gibbston Valley wine cave.)
  • Take a cruise to Walter Peak Station on, 100 year old steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. (Be sure to do the farm tour for a taste of life in the country!)
  • See historic Arrowtown and take a four wheel drive trip to Macetown, an abandoned gold mining settlement built in the 1800s.
  • Stroll the lakeside walking tracks or ride the gondola for breathtaking views.
  • Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka.