Top things to do in New Zealand: The ultimate travel bucket list

The answer is invariably ‘everywhere’. This is a destination packed with highlights, and every city, town and village has a story to share and something special within its grasp. So putting together a definitive list of the must-dos was no mean feat. However, here are ten top things to do in New Zealand that should be on the radar for every first-time visitor. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.

Reach for the horizon from Sky Tower in Auckland

The perfect way to take in Auckland’s surrounding beauty, the iconic Sky Tower not only offers a bird’s-eye view but is also home to Orbit 360 – New Zealand’s only revolving restaurant – along with the acclaimed Sugar Club and Sky Café. Soaring 328 metres above ground, enjoy panoramic views of the city and stunning Hauraki Gulf as you stroll along the tower’s exterior SkyWalk. Thrill-seekers can take it to the top at SkyJump for a heart-pounding 192-metre bungy jump from Sky Tower’s outside platform.

Need a place to stay?

You’ll find plenty of modern, spacious accommodation at the Quality Hotel Lincoln Green, a scenic drive from the beautiful west coast beaches and sporting the popular Good Home Gastro Pub.

Take the plunge with SkyJump. Image: Mark Downey

Cruise the sublime Bay of Islands

New Zealand’s Northland region covers much of the North Island above Auckland, and regional capital Whangarei makes a great base for road tripping to sublime highlights like the Waipoua Kauri Forest, Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga. But for many visitors, the jewel in the region’s crown is the shimmering Bay of Islands. This aqueous wonderland beguiles travellers with its myriad waterways, and getting out on a boat during your visit is a must. Fullers Great Sights’ Hole in the Rock Cruise will have you saying g’day to resident dolphins (and even the occasional whale), before cruising through a sea cave on Motukokako Island. The cruise departs from Paihia, which is just on an hour’s drive from Whangarei.

Must See: The best beaches in New Zealand

Need a place to stay?

Comfort Hotel Flames Whangarei offers a fabulous location overlooking Whangarei Harbour, and adjoining rooms that are ideal for accommodating families. For those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka on the Northland east coast. It’s just 30 minutes by car from Whangarei, and features stylish accommodation options with a coastal vibe.

Cruise through the Hole in the Rock. Image: InterCity Group

Admire the might of the Huka Falls

The powerful Huka Falls near Taupo is one of New Zealand’s most mesmerizing natural spectacles. Get up close to the falls on a boat cruise and witness the sheer force of the cascading waters as they plunge 10 metres from a volcanic channel into the Waikato River. It’s no wonder this location is a photographer’s dream location! You can also view the dramatic scene from a footbridge at the top of the falls – or follow the walk from the Huka Falls Lookout by walking the Spa Park to Huka Falls trail, an easy one hour walk.

Need a place to stay?

To enjoy the majesty of Huka Falls Taupo has some perfect accommodation options. Quality Suites Huka Falls is ideally situated close to this spectacular natural beauty. Quality Inn Acapulco is another great option, centrally located close to activities in Taupo.

Feel the spray from the Huka Falls in Taupo. Image: Bigstock

Learn the history of the Art Deco architecture in Napier

Located on the North Island’s east coast, Napier will take you back in time with its stunning Art Deco architecture. After being struck by an earthquake in 1931, the city was rebuilt in the fashionable deco style of the 1930s – as well as in other styles including Spanish Mission, the Prairie Style, Stripped Classical, and the International Style The annual Art Deco Weekend attracts visitors from around the globe, featuring vintage cars, fashion shows, and jazz music. In 1985 the city formed an Art Deco Trust in 1985 and today offers a range of guided walking tours. 

Related: An unexpected underwater playground off NZ’s north-east coast

Need a place to stay?

Quality Inn Napier is centrally located and an ideal option for exploring the town’s charms. Close to Westshore Beach, Comfort Inn Westshore Beach is another great option situated near Ahuriri Estuary Wildlife Reserve.

An old car parked outside a cinema that was built in Art Deco style following a major earthquake in 1931. Napier, New Zealand.
Step back in time to the Art Deco era in Napier. Image: iStock

Channel your inner All Black in Palmerston North

If you’re a sports enthusiast, you won’t want to miss the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North. Recognized as the home of New Zealand rugby, the museum showcases the rich history of the sport with exhibits that include memorabilia, interactive displays and insights into the cultural significance of rugby in New Zealand. Learn the history of the game in New Zealand, and test your own on-field skills in the ‘come and try’ section. Not just one of the best things to do in Palmerston, but a national treasure. 

Need a place to stay?

Located on The Square in the heart of Palmerston North, Quality Suites Central Square offers easy access to cafes and restaurants and is a short walk to city attractions (including the New Zealand Rugby Museum).

Comfort Inn Kauri Court is located just south of the city centre and offers a range of guest amenities, including free parking.

Wellington to Palmerston North road trip
New Zealand Rugby Museum. Image: Palmerston North City Council

Unpack the box of treasures at Te Papa in Wellington

As the nation’s capital, Wellington has plenty to offer culture lovers, but the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (which loosely translates as ‘treasure box’) should be at the top of the to-do list. Located on the waterfront, the museum’s collection of artworks and artefacts is vast and you’d need to spend a week to really do it justice. General entry is free, but it’s worth investing in tickets for a couple of the excellent daily guided tours (which can be booked online). They’re fantastic value and a great way to break the collection down into chewable chunks. Challenge your perception of Māori cultural heritage in the contemporary art halls.

Need a place to stay?

The Quality Hotel The Angus, located in Lower Hutt CBD, is surrounded by some of Wellington’s finest sights and attractions. Enjoy a meal at the hotel’s popular Angus Conservatory restaurant.  

Take a walk on the wild side on Stewart Island

Situated at the southernmost point of the South Island, Stewart Island is a haven for nature lovers. Almost entirely designated national park, this sanctuary of forests, golden beaches, and abundant wildlife is just a short ferry or air ride from Invercargill. Home to the famous Rakiura Great Walk (32 kilometres and generally done over the course of three days), there are also around 300 kilometres of other walking tracks featuring breathtaking views and encounters with native bird species.

Need a place to stay?

Whether you are basing yourself to explore Stewart Island or marvel at the Invercargill Aurora Australis, the ideally located Comfort Inn Tayesta is just a three-minute drive to the CBD and close to surrounding attractions.

Meet the locals on Stewart Island. Image: Matt Crawford

Plan your New Zealand adventure with Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels has you well and truly covered in New Zealand with a superb range of accommodation options to suit every budget. Search online and book direct for the Lowest Price Guarantee.

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