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The Best New Zealand Activities

It’s no secret – New Zealand is an outdoor lover’s paradise. But you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to make the most of the country. There are New Zealand activities for everyone on offer, no matter your adventure level.

Our favorite New Zealand activities are:

  • Caving
  • Maori cultural experiences
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • Cruises in Fiordland National Park
  • Geothermal spring visits
  • Glacier helicopter flights and hikes
  • Sea kayaking
  • Bike-to-wine tours
  • Jet-boating

Read on to learn more about these top New Zealand activities.

The Best New Zealand Activities

1. Caving

glow worm caves new zealand
Waitomo Glowworm Caves

You can’t visit New Zealand without seeing our famous glowworms. And no, they are nothing like fireflies – glowworms cling to the ceilings of caves throughout the country, creating the impression of an underground galaxy of stars.

Those who enjoy a slower pace of travel will love the boat tours at the Waitomo and Te Anau glowworm caves, while extreme adventurers won’t want to miss the adventure caving at Waitomo.

2. Experiencing Maori culture

maori culture
Te Puia Rotorua

The Maori culture is very much alive in New Zealand, with traditions, communities, and sacred places still prominent. The North Island is where most Maori architecture is concentrated, while the South Island has long been the gathering ground for their prized Pounamu (jade).

Rotorua is the best destination for experiencing Maori culture, from hangi dinners to hakas, while those looking for an off-the-beaten-track cultural encounter would love staying at the marae on the banks of the Whanganui River (only accessible via kayak or canoe).

3. Swimming with dolphins

Swimming with the Dolphins Bay of Islands
Explore NZ Swim with the Dolphins

For animal-lovers and conservationists alike, New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to swim with dolphins. Here you interact with wild pods that choose to approach the dolphins swimming vessels, creating an entirely natural experience where the well-being of the dolphins is foremost. The Bay of Islands and Akaroa are two destinations where you can enjoy this unique opportunity.

4. Cruising through a fiord

queenstown to milford sound
Milford Sound Nature Cruise

Fiordland National Park is one of the world’s most dramatic regions. Vertical peaks, torrential rainfall, untouched wilderness, lush rainforest, and unique species combine to set this world heritage area apart.

The best way to experience Fiordland is by cruising through the dramatic fiords. Try kayaking or hiking through the vast wilderness for an even more hands-on experience, or soak in the majesty of your surroundings on an overnight cruise. Milford Sound is the most iconic fiord, while Doubtful Sound is the most impressive.

5. Soaking in geothermal springs

You might think you know what hot springs entail, but New Zealand is out to prove you wrong.

Rotorua has our country’s highest concentration of geothermal springs (albeit accompanied by a pungent sulphur smell), but with the islands sitting at the confluence of two continental plates, you are never far from a geothermal region. Some of the most unusual hot springs experiences include:

  • Digging your own hot pool at Hot Water Beach – at low tide, scoop away the sand to discover pockets of hot water bubbling up (Coromandel Peninsula)
  • Relaxing in the series of natural hot pools outside Welcome Flats Hut on the West Coast after hiking for six hours (Copland Track, south of Fox Glacier)
  • Squeezing through a warm-water slot canyon on your way to a natural hot pool surrounded by lush native bush (“The Squeeze,” New Zealand RiverJet)

6. Walking on a glacier

glacier helicopter tours new zealand
Southern Lakes Helicopters

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to see a glacier (before it’s too late). There are glacier experiences to suit every adventure level, from helicopter flights with short glacier landings (Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, and Tasman Glacier are some of the best destinations for these) and heli hikes through to heli ice climbing excursions and full-on mountaineering trips that ascend glaciers (Brewster Glacier is a classic guided mountaineering tour).

7. Kayaking the coastline

kayaking north island new zealand
Cathedral Cove Kayaking

With so much coastline to explore, it’s hard to avoid getting on the water in New Zealand. And kayaking is the most intimate way to experience the dramatic waterfront. Some of the most classic kayak trips are in Abel Tasman, home to seals and golden-sand beaches, where you can stay overnight at the huts along the way and arrange a return boat ride from any point along the famous coastal walk. Fiordland also offers epic kayaking excursions, from one-day jaunts to multi-day camping trips. And if you want to see the blowholes and sea caves of the Coromandel region, there is no better way to access these than by kayak.

8. Biking to a winery

Biking is a huge sport in New Zealand, with challenging and incredible trails scattered throughout the country (winners include the Otago Rail Trail, the 42 Traverse, and the Old Ghost Road). If you aren’t ready to tackle some of the more demanding terrain, a gentle bike through one of our wine regions is a great place to start.

The Marlborough wine region offers the best rewards for the least effort – 20 wineries are located within 5 kilometers of the small town of Renwick, and the best part is that the land is completely flat. (Double bonus? Most of the wine tastings are free.)

And if Marlborough is a bit too out-of-the-way to fit into your holiday, Queenstown also has a fantastic bike trail through the Gibbston Valley (known as the Valley of Vines).

9. Jet-boating up a dramatic river

shotover jet
Shotover Jet

Jet-boating was invented in New Zealand, so there’s no place more fitting to enjoy the thrill of zipping up a scenic river. The Shotover Jet in Queenstown is the most famous (and for good reason, as the turquoise Shotover River is lined by dramatic canyon walls), while the jet boats in Rotorua combine river sights with geothermal wonders. And you can’t get more scenic than the Dart River Wilderness Jet, which travels deep into the wilds of Mt Aspiring National Park (in an area which Lord of the Rings fans may recognize as Isengard).

Experience the top New Zealand activities

Book a New Zealand holiday package to experience these top activities. Many of our holiday packages include these activities, or you can add your favorites.

Contact us now to begin planning your New Zealand holiday.


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