Eating & Drinking
Restaurants, Bars & Cafes
As well as having the lion's share of the nation's best restaurants, Auckland has excellent markets, a plethora of cheap Asian eateries, a hip cafe and bar scene, and wine regions on three of its flanks. And coffee culture is booming (don't tell anyone from Wellington…).
Auckland is, quite literally, a global hotspot: over 50 separate volcanoes have formed this unique topography – and the next one could pop up at any time. Take a hike up one of the dormant cones dotting the landscape for a high, wide and handsome city panorama.
From the calm, child-friendly bays facing the Hauraki Gulf to the black-sand surf beaches of the west coast, to the breathtaking coastline of the offshore islands, beach lovers are spoiled for choice around Auckland.
Bay of Islands & Northland
Beaches & Bays
Beautiful bays line Northland's east coast, making it a favourite destination for families, surfers and fishing fans.
Kauri forests once blanketed NZ's entire north, and in the pockets where the giants remain, particularly in the Waipoua Forest, they're an imposing sight.
Kerikeri & Waitangi
New Zealand was settled top down by both Māori and Europeans, with missionaries erecting the country's oldest surviving buildings in Kerikeri. In nearby Waitangi, the treaty that founded the modern nation was first signed.
Waikato & the Coromandel Peninsula
Beaches & Surf
Find safe swimming and world-class surf at legendary Manu Bay. Beaches on the Coromandel are extremely popular in summer, but glorious isolation can still be yours.
Te Aroha, Cambridge, Matamata and Raglan have great pubs, cafes, restaurants and friendly locals, while Thames and Coromandel Town display their historic gold-rush roots.
Don't miss black-water rafting (along underground rivers) at Waitomo Caves, NZ's most staggering cave site…or just float lazily through amazing grottoes of glowworms.
Taranaki & Whanganui
Isolated Whanganui National Park is steeped in Māori lore. Lording over New Plymouth, Mt Taranaki (Egmont National Park) is a picture-perfect peak with fabulous tramping.
Midsized cities New Plymouth, Whanganui and Palmerston North are usually overlooked by travellers but you'll find fantastic restaurants, hip bars, wonderful museums and friendly folk.
Surf & Sand
Hit Surf Hwy 45 south of New Plymouth for black-sand beaches and gnarly breaks. Whanganui offers remote, storm-buffered beaches, while the Horowhenua District has acres of empty brown sand.
Taupo & the Central Plateau
Lake & Rivers
New Zealand's mightiest river (the Waikato) is born from NZ's greatest lake (Taupo): aquatic pursuits abound (kayaking, sailing, fishing) and hot springs bubble up nearby.
Three steaming, smoking, occasionally erupting volcanoes – Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe – are an imposing sight, and the focus of skiing in winter and tramping the rest of the year.
Skydiving, bungy jumping, white-water rafting, jetboating, mountain biking, wakeboarding, parasailing, skiing – you want thrills, you got ’em.
Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty
The Rotorua landscape is littered with geysers, geothermal vents and hot springs. New Zealand's only active marine volcano, Whakaari (White Island), is 48km off the coast.
Engage with Māori culture in Rotorua at traditional dance and musical performances, haka (war dances) and hangi (Māori feasts).
Paragliding, surfing, skydiving, zorbing, jetboating, blokarting, white-water rafting, mountain biking, kayaking…or just have a swim at the beach.
The East Coast
Follow in the footsteps of early Māori and James Cook along this stretch of coastline, home to the East Cape Lighthouse and Cape Kidnappers' gaggling gannet colony.
Sip your way through Gisborne’s bright chardonnays, then head to Hawke’s Bay for seriously good Bordeaux-style reds and fine winery dining.
Napier’s art-deco town centre is a magnet for architecture lovers, the keenest of whom time their visit for the annual Art Deco Weekend in February.
Eating & Drinking
Museums & Galleries
Crowbarred into the city centre are quality display spaces including the interactive Te Papa museum and internationally flavoured City Gallery Wellington.
With more than a dozen roasters and scores of hip cafes, Wellington remains the coffee capital of NZ. Start with Havana Coffee Works or Fidel's.
Between the boho bars around Cuba St and Courtenay Pl’s glitzy drinking dens, you should find enough to keep you buzzed until sun up.
Marlborough & Nelson
Marlborough Wine Region
Bobbing in Marlborough’s sea of sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir and bubbly are barrel loads of quality cellar-door experiences and regional food.
Not satisfied with just one national park, the Nelson region has three: Nelson Lakes, Kahurangi and Abel Tasman. You could tramp in all three over a week.
The top of the South Island is home to a menagerie of creatures, both in the water and on the wing. Pretty little Kaikoura offers myriad wildlife tours.
The West Coast
Around 90% of its territory lies within the conservation estate. Don't miss Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and the Oparara basin.
Expect dramatic views along hour-long tracks and hardcore epics, like the wind-scoured, wildlife-rich Cape Foulwind Walkway.
The West Coast’s raffish pioneering heritage comes vividly to life in places like Reefton and Shantytown (Greymouth), and in ghost towns like Waiuta.
Christchurch & Canterbury
Christchurch & Akaroa
Earthquakes have damaged Christchurch’s architectural heritage, but the Canterbury Museum, Botanic Gardens and New Brighton St still showcase the city’s history. Nearby, Akaroa proudly celebrates its French heritage.
Tramping & Kayaking
Explore alpine valleys around Arthur’s Pass, kayak on Akaroa Harbour, or visit Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park for tramping and kayaking amid glacial lakes.
Banks Peninsula & the Southern Alps
Descend from Banks Peninsula’s Summit Rd to explore hidden bays and coves, and experience nature’s grand scale: the river valleys, soaring peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps.
Dunedin & Otago
Birds, Seals & Sea Lions
Seals, sea lions and penguins patrol the Otago Peninsula, while rocky Taiaroa Head is the planet’s only mainland breeding location for the magnificent royal albatross.
Bannockburn & Waitaki Valley
Barrel into the craggy valleys of Bannockburn for excellent vineyard restaurants or delve into the up-and-coming Waitaki Valley wine scene for riesling and pinot gris.
Explore the arty and storied streets of Dunedin, or escape by foot or penny-farthing bicycle into the heritage ambience of Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct.
Queenstown & Wanaka
Few places on earth offer so many adventurous activities: bungy jumping, river rafting, skiing and mountain biking only scratch Queenstown’s adrenaline-fuelled surface.
Mountains & Lakes
Queenstown’s photogenic combination of Lake Wakatipu and the soaring Remarkables is a real jaw-dropper. Or venture into prime NZ wilderness around Glenorchy and Mt Aspiring National Park.
Start with lunch at Amisfield Winery’s excellent restaurant, then explore the Gibbston subregion and finish with a riesling tasting at Rippon, overlooking gorgeous Lake Wanaka.
Fiordland & Southland
Cruises & Coast
The star of the deep-south show is remarkable Milford Sound, but take time to explore the rugged Catlins coast or remote, end-of-the-world Stewart Island.
Test yourself by tramping the Milford or Hump Ridge Tracks, or amble easy hour-long trails along the Milford Hwy.
Cruise or kayak around glorious Doubtful Sound, test the surf in Curio Bay or get sprayed by waterfalls in the Catlins.