“Must Do’s” in New Zealand


I have visited New Zealand twice for two months each already. Now, I would like to look back on the hightlights of my both stays according to the motto: What must not be missed in New Zealand?

North Island

Even though I was not that thrilled personally (during my visit in early November 2008, i.e. in spring), I still would like to include the Bay of Islands in this list. Quite a lot of people I met were really excited about them. I can also imagine that this area is really fantastic when the weather is better, e.g. in midsummer. In Waitangi, located in this region, you can also get to know the Maori culture a bit, e.g. with a cultural show in the evening.


Coromandel Peninsula

The Coromandel Peninsula and/or Great Barrier Island should not be missed. Both regions boast wooded hills and beautiful beaches far away from the well-trodden tourist paths. However, at least for the former region, you will need your own set of wheels.

For adventurous traveler, a caving trip in Waitomo is highly recommend. If you can afford it, consider the seven-hour "Lost World Epic". For me, this tour was a truly memorable experience.



Rotorua should also be included in any New Zealand itinerary. On the one hand, you can pay a visit to any of the volcanic parks in the area (for example, the best-known and most-visited Wai-O-Tapu, or the Waimangu Valley). On the other hand you, can also get to know the Maori culture (and cuisine) during a Hangi (if you have not done so already in Waitangi).

Finally, the Tongariro Crossing is probably the best day hike on the North Island. It is not really difficult, but (with a distance of about 19 kilometers, and six to eight hours) obviously longer than what the average tourist is accustomed to.

South Island


Torrent Bay

Less challenging is a hike in Abel Tasman National Park. You can explore this park also by canoe, or even in a small day cruise. Whatever mode of travel you choose, you should spend at least a day exploring the almost Caribbean-like beaches of this park.

If you want to get an idea ​​what tramping in New Zealand really is about, you should hike the Inland Pack Track from its northern end to the Ballroom Overhang. This route requires unbridged river crossings, and in the end you are even tramping in the middle of the river valley itself.


Glacier hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

A glacier hike at Franz Josef or Fox Glacier is a must for reasonably fit travelers. Alternatively, you can also explore the glaciers by helicopter or airplane. As far as I know, some operators even offer a glacier landing. So, you can enjoy the glacier experience even without great physical effort.

My favorite place in New Zealand was Wanaka. Unfortunately, this time (in summer), the place was very crowded. With your own wheels, however, you can enjoy this beautiful region also from the nearby quiet settlement at Lake Hawea.

For adrenaline junkies, a visit to Queenstown is a must, of course.


Milford Sound

A visit to Milford Sound should be included in any New Zealand itinerary. I can recommend flying in from Wanaka: This route leads over the stunning Mount Aspiring National Park. From Queenstown, bus-plane-combos are available, but the flight route is not as spectacular (or so I am told). If you are driving yourself, make sure to have enough time for stops along the route, especially for the two-and-a-half-hour trip up to Key Summit from The Divide.



If you have a car or a camper, you should not miss the Catlins. This region offers a great variety in landscapes (from stunning coastline to wooded hills with numerous waterfalls) and an abundance of wildlife. Alternatively, bus travellers can visit the Otago Peninsula (near Dunedin) by guided tour to see fur seals, penguins and even albatrosses.

The Mount Cook Valley is worth a visit even if you do not want to climb the mountains. Also on shorter hikes, you can discover glacial lakes with icebergs, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the highest peak in New Zealand.



A bit further North, in Arthur's Pass National Park, the hike up to Avalanche Peak is probably the best day hike in the South Island.

Just to the East of Christchurch (which is, at least currently, not worth a visit after the earthquake of February 22, 2011), there is the Banks Peninsula, which boasts very idyllic green hills (at least in the early summer, before any droughts) around a natural harbor, and numerous picturesque little towns.


I have deliberately omitted any multi-day hikes from the above list. The aforementioned destinations should be doable by almost all travelers. In a four-weeks vacation, it is just about possible to visit all of these destinations – provided that you have a car or a camper, and are willing to travel at a very high pace. Five to six weeks are certainly more relaxed. This would also allow for some rest days (e.g. because of bad weather) every once in a while.

If you do enjoy hiking, though, I highly recommend to include one (or more) multi-day hike(s) in your itinerary. For me, such multi-day hikes were the absolute highlight of my stay this year, as already mentioned before.

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