Cloe Matheson is a writer from New Zealand with a passion for all things travel and adventure. She enjoys experiencing different cultures, trying local food and exploring new places. You can often find her at a local café typing away while enjoying a good cup of coffee. See more of her work here.
Busy composing your ultimate itinerary for New Zealand? We’ve made up a list of the best tips and tricks for NZ travel below, from the people in the know – so stop dreaming, and get exploring this beautiful land of the long white cloud!
1. Check out the Cosmopolitan Centres
New Zealand boasts a handful of larger cities which all cultivate a unique metropolitan identity. Million-strong Auckland is a melting pot of culture and activity, while the compact and easy-to-walk capital Wellington is full of hip cafes, and art culture for those wanting a taste of Antipodean Europe. Skip over to the South Island to acquaint yourself with the historical charm and current post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch, or descend even further to check out Dunedin’s gothic architecture and famed chocolate factory.
2. But make the Provinces and Small Towns your Destination
Want to know the best way to appreciate New Zealand? Hire a car, stock up on mince pies, and do a roadie around the periphery of NZ. Both the North and the South Island offer innumerable quirky townships for your road-tripping pleasure, and you’ll get a chance to speak to some of the country’s typically understated people.
For example, a small city like Napier might not be on your radar, but its unique art-deco vibe makes it a place of note. Picturesque mining town Cromwell (in the Central Otago region) is another must-see, as are Coromandel in the higher North Island and hippie haven Takaka in the Tasman.
Photo by Mattinbgn
3. Cross the Cook Strait (and other Bodies of Water) by Boat
Crossing the body of water that separates the North and South Island via ferry is a Kiwi convention; board in Wellington and get off at quaint sea-side town Picton before deciding where you want to travel from there.
Indeed, many of New Zealand’s natural gems are accessible only by water, so a boat day-trip will prove as an essential component of your trip. Start with Milford Sound, the beautiful South-Island fiord with waterfalls straight out of Eden.
Photo by Phillip Capper
4. Visit the Adventure Capital(s)
The whole country is stocked full of activities related to watersports and climbing, but Queenstown takes the cake as the bungee-jumping, jet-boating, sky-diving, luging capital of New Zealand. And we can’t neglect the snow: Queenstown’s four major ski fields make it a vital destination for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts alike.
Photo by Robert Young
5. Go to a Sports Game
Even if you’re not a fan of New Zealand’s world #1 rugby team, the All Blacks, you’ll get something out of going to a national rugby game. Whether in the Auckland’s Eden Park or Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, you’ll find yourself won over by the passion of the crowd.
6. Make a Beeline for the Botanic Gardens
All of New Zealand’s larger cities cultivate gorgeous botanic gardens. Hamilton Gardens, with its myriad themed zones (think English wildness and Japanese zen), is sure not to disappoint, while the expansive Christchurch Gardens are regularly voted one of the best things to do in NZ.
7. Sample the Culture
New Zealand’s Maori people form the backbone of the national culture. If you’re interested in New Zealand’s fascinating Maori history and its fraught story of European settlement, plan in a trip to Waitangi or visit a local Marae for traditional hangi (ground-cooked food).
Photo by Sarah Stewart
8. Take in the Scenery
To get up close and personal with the country’s uniquely rugged topography, you’ll want to make a beeline to at least one of NZ’s national parks. Tongariro, a massive nature reserve carved out of the central North Island, is our pick – there, you’ll find not one but three active volcanoes, including Mount Ruapehu with its famed ski slopes.
Photo by Marcus Holland-Moritz