55 Awesome Things to Do in New Zealand


New Zealand – the dream gap year destination, the ultimate country to backpack around and that isolated island nation at the bottom of the world. It’s a tough act to follow.

We’re the land of milk and honey, of golden beaches and alpine glaciers and international visitors just can’t get enough – Just this week New Zealand was named “Best Country in the World” in the Telegraph Travel Awards for the FOURTH YEAR RUNNING.

So in honour of this achievement I’ve compiled this list of my favourite things to see and do in New Zealand that cost less than $50 NZD. Travel shouldn’t discriminate based on budget…

From “hidden gems” to climbing active volcanoes and visiting small seaside paradises, there’s something for everyone. Can’t wait for all my international friends to come visit.

Awesome things to do:

North Island

    • Go to an All Blacks game. Ok, it’s the most expensive thing on this list. But a must-do!
    • Bush walks. Bush walks EVERYWHERE! Best resource for finding them is the DOC website.
    • ^^ hike our native forests then spend the night in a DOC hut
    • Swim under a waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges
    • Do some sand-surfing in Northland
    • Try a Hangi 
    • Dig yourself a spa pool at Hot Water Beach – Coromandel
    • Walk the Hillary Trail
    • Go to the Frank Kitts underground market in Wellington
    • Find a local farmers market and score some cheap grub (food)
    • Walk up Mt Victoria, Wellington at night
    • Go boogie boarding (and don’t ask me why it’s called that). Or learn to surf in Raglan
    • Walk up Mt Maunganui 
    • Walk to the lighthouse at Castlepoint 
    • Spot dolphins from the beach – Northland
    • Lord of the Rings fans – visit the filming locations around Tongariro National Park
    • Climb a volcano for views of the Hauraki gulf – Rangitoto Island
    • Collect yourself a meal of fresh shellfish in Northland – and other parts of the North Island. You might find the famous green lipped mussels, but more likely just pipis – little white shellfish that burrow in the sand. Make sure to wash them properly though otherwise they’ll taste like a mouthful of grit.
    • Swim in a marine reserve at Goat Island
    • Hike The Pinnacles – Kauri Trail, Coromandel
    • Have a free hot water soak in nature at Kerosene Creek, near Rotorua – or visit one of the other natural hot water pools around the country.
    • See boiling mud pools at Kuirau Park, Rotorua
    • View an intricately carved Marae – Maori Meeting House in Ohinemutu, Rotorua, or the rock carvings at Mine Bay in Taupo.
    • Free your inner child and slide down the Rere Rock Slide–  near Gisborne. Or do something similar in the crater of Mt Tarawera
    • Be one of the first people in the world to see the sun rise each day in Gisborne
    • Visit the glow-worm caves in Waitomo
    • Go to New Zealand’s (unofficial) best playground in Levin
    • If you’re a birdwatcher, visit the Gannet Colony in Muriwai or Cape Kidnappers.
    • Visit Te Papa Museum and see the giant squid, Wellington. They’ve also got a great Pixar exhibition at present.
    • Visit the world famous Weta Workshop – at the heart of Wellington’s film industry. Famous for Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Tin Tin. Visiting is free, doing the tour is $25
    • Go to Maketu, see my dad and have a pie from the local pie shop.
    • See seal pups frolicking by the seaside in Kaikoura. BEWARE of their aggressive mothers

South Island

    • Get some crayfish from Nin’s Bin food truck – straight from the sea! There are a handful of amazing seafood caravans along the coast of Kaikoura.
    • Do some stargazing at the Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve – Canterbury
    • Do a day hike in Abel Tasman – my favourite part of the South Island
    • Try the infamous Ferg Burger in Queenstown
    • Be in Queenstown for Winter Fest
    • Visit the Mirror Lakes – the name says everything!
    • Scoff a few Bluff Oysters at the annual oyster festival
    • Do a walk in the Fjiordland National Park
    • Wine tasting in Marlborough (you could even do a biking vineyard tour!)
    • Great Tastes of NZ also offer free tastings of its fruit brandies and schnapps, Lemon Ice, Southern Star Vodka and Blenheim Bay Gin in Blenheim. It’s on MY list!
    • Check out the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
    • Go to the Nelson Busker’s Festival for some ‘free’ entertainment
    • Drive the road to Paradise – yes, there is actually a ‘town’ called Paradise and it’s the most picturesque part of New Zealand!
    • Visit the evocative Tunnel Beach in Dunedin
    • Climb the world’s steepest street – Baldwin Street in Dunedin
    • Meet some Yellow Eyed Penguins and sea lions on a walk at Nugget Point Lighthouse – The Catlins
    • Explore a 160 million year old petrified forest – The Catlins
    • Have a picnic on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown
    • Do one of the Great Walks
    • Visit one of the awesome South Island craft breweries
    • Bonus points for going to Stewart Island. It’s on my own list – but haven’t made it there yet!

As always, this list is ever-evolving. Recommendations from my fellow kiwis most welcome!



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