My Top Places to Visit in New Zealand
It’s coming up to summer and by extension the school holidays so I thought I would round up my top places in the country. Now I think you can’t really go wrong anywhere here but these are my top places to visit in NZ, in no particular order. However if you can only visit one of the islands definitely go see the South Island, it is by far the prettiest part of NZ.
Arrowtown holds a special place in my heart as this is where I go every year for my birthday, it’s a small settlement in the South Island a short drive from Queenstown. Everyone says Queenstown’s the place to go and I’d agree if like me you don’t have access to a car. But if you can drive or bus Arrowtown’s one of the best. There are wineries on the drive if you’re into that and the bus stops immediately outside Amisfield. You can visit the Chinese Settlement and the Museum and learn about how Otago was founded and the gold mining the area became renowned for. My favourite spots is to pick a café, we chose a different one each time, and sit and watch the river slowly go past. It is absolutely stunning in winter but be warned that the roads can get very slippery and although it is gritted, it’s limited to the main streets and not the sidewalks if you want to get off the main road. I’ll also mention that it costs 15 each way and if you’re gonna be catching buses regularly you should get a weekly pass for forty-something.
I included this because a, I used to live nearby and b, it’s an awesome spot. It’s home to the Waitomo Caves in the Waitomo (lit. water holes) district which is halfway between two Waikato Towns, Otorohanga and Te Kuiti. Although there are the famous glowworm caves at Waitomo there’s also Ruakauri (Den of Dogs, according to local language) and blackwater rafting if you want to be adventurous. The Caves themselves are pretty good if you’ve never been in them or in something like them. Thousands of glowworms light up the ceiling and you can even see their little threads hanging down.If you chose to stay in either town it’s about and hours drive to Rotorua and about 40 minutes to Hamilton
Almost the birthplace of New Zealand. That distinction is held by Waitangi and technically Russell if you wanna go by the first capital. Paihia is a tourist resort with pretty much everything on your door step. Lots of awesome cafes and restaurant line the main waterfront road. Family tradition has it that we always have lunch at least once at the Thai restaurant on the main drag.
You can take the ferry over to Russell and have lunch on the Duke of Marlborough, which holds NZ’s first liquor license. A good restaurant is Sally’s on the waterfront. You can also take the Russell mini tour and be taken around the area and up to the Flagpole. And if you want my tip, head down to the Community hall, then back from the beach. There’s this little collection of shops they have amazing food there.
Back in Paihia you can take boat trips out to the Hole In The Rock, go on dolphin and whale watching tours, taking a fishing boat or even have dinner on the water. There is also a bus tour that takes you up to Cape Reinga and then along 90 miles beach and back to Paihia.
I was originally tempted to put this under Arrowtown but I argued the fact that it’s in an entirely different region. Milford Sound is probably the most famous place in NZ, in my opinon. Most people from out of the country would probably recognize the famous Mitre Peak. You can either drive there, watch out for avalanches in winter though, or catch a bus from Queenstown, which if you’re staying in a main location they might be able to pick you up from the door. Most bus tours also include a boat trip of the sound, which isn’t really a sound it’s a fjord, hence the region being name Fjordland
If you follow my blog you might know all about tiri, as I have been a volunteer there for a few years now. Basically if you want to know what New Zealand would have looked like pre-civilisation, aside from trekking into the depths of Fiordland, this is pretty close and it has most of the birds as well. Although I can’t guarantee any birds I would say you’re most likely to see bellbirds, tuis and takahes. Although usually I do see most of them, the stitchbirds, saddlebacks, robins and kakariki a wee bit more uncommon. There are kokako, one of the most beautiful birds I think, quail, fantails and riflemen you’re somewhat less likely to see them. We do have moreporks and kiwi which you will need to stay the night to stay but sometimes you can spot moreporks sleeping in trees on the side of the track. But tiri isn’t only birds we have amazing plants. All the punga ferns on the island are silver ferns, there are massive pohutakawa on the sides of the cliff and a little bit further on on the long track.
These are my top places to visit in New Zealand, I’ve tried to spread them out across the islands and places people are more likely to be visiting. They’re worthwhile seeing during any time of the year, though be aware that they can get very busy in peak times. Leave a comment if you’re wanting to visit here or have already!