Auckland Sydney for beginners? We prefer 'Seattle minus the rain', infused with vibrant Pacific Islander culture.
Wellington All the lures you’d expect in a capital city, packed into a compact CBD and hillsides dotted with Victorian architecture.
Christchurch Re-emerging post-earthquakes with energy and verve, largely due to the determination and resilience of proud locals.
Dunedin Exuding artsy, boozy ambience (so many students!) and close to superb wildlife-viewing opportunities on the Otago Peninsula.
Napier Art deco and Spanish Mission architecture, complemented by new restaurant openings and a relaunched museum and gallery complex.
New Plymouth The perfect urban hub, with fab galleries, cool cafes and bars, and accessible wilderness.
Queenstown bungy Strap yourself into the astonishing Shotover Canyon Swing or Nevis Bungy, and propel yourself into the void.
Abel Tasman Canyons Swim, slide, abseil and leap down the Torrent River torrents.
Waitomo black-water rafting Don a wet suit, a life vest and a helmet with a headlamp, and rampage along an underground river.
Skydive Franz Get an eyeful of glacier from 19,000ft, NZ's highest jump (you'll see Aoraki/Mt Cook, too).
Extreme Auckland Check out SkyWalk and SkyJump at the Sky Tower, and EcoZip Adventures – adventurous thrills with views.
Canyonz Negotiate cliffs, waterfalls and streams as you climb and abseil through pristine NZ bush near Thames.
Rafting the Buller River A classic rafting experience served by excellent operators based in Murchison.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds In the Bay of Islands, where Māori chiefs and the British Crown signed the contentious Treaty of Waitangi.
Arrowtown Gold rush–era town crammed with heritage buildings and the remains of one of NZ’s earliest Chinese settlements.
Oamaru Victorian Precinct Beautifully restored whitestone buildings and warehouses, now housing eclectic galleries, restaurants and artisan workshops.
Te Papa Wellington's vibrant treasure-trove museum, where history – both Māori and Pākehā – speaks, sparkles and shakes.
Waiuta South of Reefton on the South Island, explore the rusty relics of a ghost town, abandoned to nature in 1951.
Shantytown Embrace gold-rush nostalgia at this authentic recreation of an 1860s mining town, south of Greymouth on the West Coast.
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum Human settlement on the South Island, told through interactive displays and a 100,000-object collection.
Rotorua Catch a cultural performance featuring a haka (war dance) and a hāngi (Māori feast), with traditional song, dance and storytelling.
Footprints Waipoua Explore the staggeringly beautiful Waipoua kauri forest on Northland's west coast with a Māori guide.
Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre Learn about traditional Māori rock art in Timaru before exploring remote sites around South Canterbury.
Hokitika The primary source of NZ pounamu (greenstone), home to master carvers of stone, bone and paua in traditional Māori designs.
Toi Hauāuru Studio Visit this Raglan studio for contemporary Māori carving, visual arts and tā moko (tattooing).
Okains Bay Māori & Colonial Museum This nationally significant collection includes a replica wharenui (meeting house), waka (canoes) and more.
Stewart Island The end of the line! Catch the ferry to Oban and get lost for a few days.
Karamea Lesser-trodden marvels like the Oparara Arch and secluded Scotts Beach reward tramps on the northern West Coast.
East Cape Take a few days to detour around this very untouristy corner of the North Island.
Whanganui River Road Drive alongside the Whanganui River past Māori towns and stands of trees, remnants of failed Pākehā (European New Zealander) farms.
Forgotten World Highway A lonesome, forested 150km between Taumaranui and Stratford (or the other way around).
Opononi & Omapere Clear waters, tranquil settlements, the North Island's northwestern coast is seriously understaffed – just how we like it.
Molesworth New Zealand's largest cattle farm traverses some seriously remote terrain – take a Molesworth tour.
Haast Chat to fishermen and drive to lonely Jackson Bay on the South Island's land of no phone signal.
Milford Track A justifiably famous 'Great Walk', Milford features 54km of gorgeous fiords, sounds, peaks and raindrops.
Routeburn Track Those with plenty of 'Great Walk' kilometres in their boots rate the Routeburn as the best of the bunch.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing Be dazzled by ultramarine crater lakes and marvel at steam-huffing volcanic vents on this challenging trail.
Mt Taranaki short walks Hardened trampers can scale the summit but strolling its photogenic flanks is equally rewarding.
Banks Peninsula Track Rolling hills and picturesque bays along 29km of volcanic coast...unleash your inner geologist.
Lake Angelus Track Yes, the zigzag up Pinchgut Track is a bit of a rude awakening, but the views along Mt Robert Ridge last all day.
Old Ghost Road Bike it or hike it, this engaging West Coast trail oozes history.
Queen Charlotte Track The joys of camping (sea breezes, lapping waves, starry nights) or luxurious lodges. Either way, you win.
Pubs, Bars & Beer
Wellington Garage Project and Golding's Free Dive, just two of 20-something craft-beer dens in the capital (thirsty politicians?).
Queenstown The only place in NZ where you can head out for a big Monday or Tuesday night and not be the only one there.
Auckland The country’s biggest city is developing as a hoppy hub: head to Galbraith’s Alehouse, Hallertau or Brothers Beer.
Nelson Home of NZ hops, Nelson boasts its own craft-beer trail featuring a host of breweries and legendary inns.
Dunedin Glug at Speight's and Emerson's breweries and brilliant bars in NZ’s best university town.
Hamilton Local craft beers are hugely popular around Hood St nightlife precinct; try Craft, Wonder Horse and Little George.
Mike's Taranaki's finest craft brews a short jaunt from New Plymouth.
Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn The best pub in Christchurch.
Eating in Auckland New restaurants, ethnic culinary enclaves and a growing food-truck scene all make Auckland NZ’s eating capital.
Central Otago vineyard restaurants Eye-popping scenery combined with the best of NZ food and wine.
Christchurch city scene The big southern CBD restaurant and bar scene is burgeoning (again).
Bluff oysters Guzzle silky, salty oysters between March and August; time your visit for May's oyster festival.
Wellington Night Market Foodie fun after work on Friday, then again after your lazy Saturday.
West Coast whitebait Whitebait fritters, bound in egg, are a South Island obsession. Try them on pizza, too.
NZ lamb Carnivores won't want to miss NZ's best-loved meat; Queenstown's local-minded Public Kitchen & Bar is a good place to start.
Coromandel seafood Fresh succulent seafood...make a day of it at September's Whitianga Scallop Festival.
Marlborough The country’s biggest wine region just keeps on turning out superb sauvignon blanc (and other varieties).
Martinborough A small-but-sweet wine region a day trip from Wellington: easy cycling and easy-drinking pinot noir.
Waiheke Island Auckland's favourite weekend playground has a hot, dry microclimate: perfect for Bordeaux-style reds and rosés.
Central Otago Responsible for much of the country’s best pinot noir and riesling; drink some.
Waipara Valley A short hop north of Christchurch are some spectacular vineyards producing equally spectacular riesling.
Hawke's Bay Warm days shift into chardonnay nights on the sunstroked East Coast.
Karekare Spellbinding black-sand beach, an hour's drive west of Auckland, with wild surf (Eddie Vedder nearly drowned here!).
Hahei Iconic Kiwi beach experience on the Coromandel Peninsula, with mandatory side trip to Cathedral Cove.
Wharariki No car park, no ice-cream vans… This isolated stretch near Farewell Spit is for wanderers and ponderers.
Manu Bay New Zealand's most famous surf break (seen Endless Summer?); there's not much sand, but the point break is what you're here for.
Abel Tasman Coast Track No need to Photoshop this postcard paradise – these golden beaches, blue bays and verdant hills are for real.
Wainui On the North Island's East Coast: surfing, sandcastles, sunshine… The quintessential beach-bum beach.
Curio Bay Sure, it gets chilly on the South Island – but bodacious waves keep surf bunnies flocking to this arc of golden sand.
Treble Cone Everything from challenging downhill terrain to snowboard half-pipes, within striking distance of Wanaka.
Coronet Peak The Queenstown area's oldest ski field, just 18km from town; night skiing on Friday and Saturday.
Cardrona More skiing in the Wanaka area, with slopes to suit all levels of experience.
Whakapapa & Turoa The North Island's biggest and best ski fields wind down Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park, easily accessible from Taupo.
Canterbury From Mt Hutt and Methven’s après-ski buzz, to smaller fields like Ohau, Round Hill, Porters and Broken River.
Milford Hwy Gasp at alpine peaks, sigh along thrilling forest-wrapped roads...the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the world's finest.
Pacific Coast Hwy Māori historical sites and dazzling beaches hem this road through a long-lost corner of the North Island.
The Great Coast Road Overhanging cliffs and otherworldly rock formations on this route along the wild, windswept West Coast.
Forgotten World Hwy Be lulled by this lonely road, undulating between Stratford and Taumarunui.
Arthur's Pass Between Canterbury and the West Coast, the Southern Alps' highest pass is a feat of daredevil engineering.
Southern Scenic Route Allow a week to do justice to this meandering route between Queenstown and Dunedin.
Otago Farmers Market Organic fruit and veg, robust coffee and homemade pies in Dunedin; stock up for life on the road.
Nelson Market A big, busy weekly market featuring everything from bratwurst to vegan cheese.
River Traders Market Whanganui's riverside market is a Saturday-morning fixture with up to 100 stalls.
Harbourside Market The ulterior motive for visiting this weekly fruit-and-veg market is the multi-ethnic food stalls and adjacent artisan City Market.
Otara Flea Market A taste of the South Pacific in Auckland.
Rotorua Night Market Thursday night hoedown in downtown Rotorua. Food, drink, buskers…it's all good.
Hastings Farmers Market One of the original, and still one of the best, farmers markets in NZ.
Christchurch Farmers Market Local cheeses, organic fruit and craft beer beside historic Riccarton House.