Things to do in New Zealand are a huge number of things to do in New Zealand – why do you think so many people stay for weeks, if not months, in this amazingly diverse, exciting and vibrant country? From adrenaline sports through to stunning scenery, every day in New Zealand can yield a new adventure, if you are proactive enough to go and find them. At Total Gap Year, we like to make things easy for you though, so below you’ll find 15 experiences that you have to do while in New Zealand…

  • Queenstown. The adventure capital of the world, and the place every gap year traveller should visit. You’ll find bungee jumping, paragliding, abseiling and much more here. There’s also loads to see and do for those with less of an adventurous streak, as well as some breath-taking scenery.
  • Aoraki/Mount Cook. This is the highest mountain in New Zealand and part of the spectacular Southern Alps. While you might not equal Sir Edmund Hillary and make it to the top, the views from down below are pretty amazing. The traditional Maori name is Aoraki, although Mount Cook is more commonly used.
  • Bay of Islands. Bay of Islands is the place to go if you are looking for amazing scenery, big game fishing and some awesome surfing. You’ll also see a huge amount of ocean wildlife, and also make sure you take the chance to visit both Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock, which is found on Piercy Island.
  • Mauao. Considered incredibly important to the local Maori people, Mauao is an extinct volcano found at the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. It is incredibly picturesque and is also the site for a number of adventure activities, such as rock climbing and paragliding. Nature lovers among you will also love the diverse amount of bird species found there.
  • Island. Don’t let the fact that this is New Zealand’s most active volcano put you off, because when you arrive on this island you’ll be stunned by the scenery, wildlife and history. Boats leave for the island regularly and plane/helicopter trips can also be organised, although these can be pricey. It’s also a great place for diving too.
  • Waitomo Caves. Found near Te Kuiti on the North Island, this cave system is a major tourist attraction. These caves are most famous for the spectacular sight of thousands of glow-worms all illuminating the caves at once, as visitor sail underneath them on boats. Words really can’t describe the beauty and serenity of this experience.
  • Tongariro Crossing. This is widely regarded as one of the best short hikes on the planet, offering fantastic views across the North Island. The trek only lasts one day and takes in volcanic peaks and beautiful lagoons – but pack some warm clothes, as this trek can get pretty cold!
  • Rotorua. At Rotorua – one of New Zealand’s most famous destinations – you’ll experience nature as you’ve never seen it before. Geysers, mud pools and springs are found in abundance, while the forests and lakes are also sights to behold. Rotorua is also famed for its Maori heritage, and offers a number of activities centred around the Maori culture.
  • Whale Watching. New Zealand offers some of the best whale watching in the world, with an abundance of Sperm Whales and other species around the shore. The best spot to head for if you want spectacular scenes of whales is Kaikoura, found on the South Island, although the Bay of Islands also has a number of whale watching trips as well.
  • Christchurch. Christchurch is the second biggest city in New Zealand and is surrounded by natural beauty, such as the Pacific Ocean and the Canterbury Plains. It offers loads of great places to eat, drink and party, as well as loads of activities, including skiing and spectacular walks in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
  • Wanaka. Wanaka is a town on the South Island, famous for being a more serene alternative to Queenstown. You’ll find activities such as skiing, hiking and mountain biking in abundance here, all of which take place in the stunning scenery of the Otago region. It is also one of the best places to base yourself if you want to take a trip to Mount Cook.
  • Abel Tasman National Park. This national park borders the northern shores of the South Island, and is home to glorious beaches, soaring cliffs and great weather. Most people head there to complete the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track, which runs for 55km and usually takes 3-5 days to complete. Don’t worry: there are campsites and huts!
  • Kayaking. There’s only one way to see the coastline of New Zealand in all its glory, and that via a sea kayak. The aforementioned Abel Tasman National Park is the best place for this, although you can also jump on a kayak in places such as the Bay of Islands, Auckland and Queenstown. Expect to pay around NZ$140 for half a day.
  • Franz Josef Glacier. Franz Josef Glacier: one of the most stunning places in the world, let along New Zealand. Imagine a glacier that has formed amongst lush forest and that stretches for 12km. Now imagine a helicopter flight onto the glacier (essential to avoid the unstable face), and a guided tour of this spectacular location. Everyone should visit this place.
  • Milford Sound. Perhaps the most iconic tourist hotspot in New Zealand, Milford Sound was once described by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World. This fiord plays host to a plethora of wildlife, but it is the stunning natural beauty that most people come to see: waterfalls, crystal clear water and amazing lush forests can all be seen from your boat.
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