New Zealand: the highlights

It’s the middle of the travel and tourist season in New Zealand and many people will be enjoying the bounty that NZ has to offer. If you are one of those lucky peeps but can’t decide what to do or perhaps you’re limited in time then please consider these sweet ideas. After 5 weeks or so in NZ at the end of last year these treats topped our list. Enjoy!


Tongariro National Park – this is a National Park with not 1 or 2 but 5 volcanoes to see! The scenery is outstanding – sometimes dark and foreboding yet sometimes bright and green. We did the Northern Route circuit hike over a few days which was a good way to see the park but there are other options to go out and about too*. The visitors centre was very good for advice so head out there and enjoy the view. 

* FYI if you are planning overnight hikes you need permits in advance. 


Lake Taupo and Rotorua – another volcanic thermal area in the North Island. It’s a good place to learn about Maori culture and relax in the hot pools. There are lots of thermal pools to go to and they vary a lot from fancy indoor ones to landscaped open air ones to free ones in the local park. It’s pretty good, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.


Wellington – my favourite city in NZ. Good pubs, good food. If you’re a bit of a movie buff go to Weta Caves where they made some of the special effects for ROTR and Hobbit. It was a really good behind the scenes tour with very little touristy crap. Definitely recommended.


Wildlife – NZ is one of the best places I’ve been for viewing wildlife in the wild. If you’re at all interested in that these places were tops.

Kaikoura – a great place for whale watching. The town is small and relaxed and has some good big crayfish to eat.

Tauranga Bay Seal Colony – a monk seal colony on the West Coast. We were very lucky that we got to see babies being born! To be fair you can see the seals all over the place but this was my favourite place as it was uncrowded and easy to get a good look at the seals.

Oamaru – penguins! We saw yellow eyed and the tiny fairy blue penguins here. The blue penguins are very cute. Go see them 🙂

Okarito – this is where we saw our only kiwi in the wild. We went on the kiwi tour and spent the night searching for them with a guide. Even though the kiwi only appeared for a minute it was a great experience and well worth it.


Milford and Doubtful Sounds – everyone will tell you to go to Milford Sound and they’re right it’s stunning. The drive down from Te Anau is well worth savouring as well. We kayaked in Milford which we think was a good way to see it but the cruises looked nice too. We cruised in Doubtful Sound instead. Most people don’t go there as it’s more remote but we really enjoyed it and were glad we did both Milford and Doubtful as they are both beautiful.

There you have it – our top tips for NZ. If anyone of you wants more tips or specifics on any of these I’d happy to share. Happy Travelling.

All photos from Ian Carvell’s New Zealand set on Flickr.


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