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Gap Year New Zealand :: essentials :: destination guide

New Zealand Destination Guide

New Zealand is a fascinating country, full of riches for the adventurous traveller - stunning cities, amazing natural scenery and adrenaline sports galore. From the beautiful Bay of Islands to towering mountains, icy glaciers, bottomless fiords, steaming geothermal mud pools, unspoilt coastlines and sub-tropical rainforests: this country has it all!

Here is our list of the most popular tourist destinations across the North and South Islands. The country is just a little larger than the UK and so covering both islands is possible as well as advisable. There is loads to see and do across the land, but these are the hotspots we recommend that you make part of your journey:

:: Auckland
Auckland is NZ’s most cosmopolitan city and the main arrival gateway. It’s the largest city in the land and it oozes culture and vibrancy. Nestled between two harbours, the City of Sails offers a huge range of nightlife, activities and shopping. Whatever you’re into, you won’t go short in Auckland.

:: Rotorua
Rotorua is the North Island’s tourist capital and there are plenty of drawcards: its rich Maori heritage, spouting geysers and adventure activities galore – try the Zorb or Schweebing! It’s also the place to soak in bubbling mud pools and cleanse that skin.

:: Taupo
With a lake the size of Singapore, a stop-off in Taupo will leave you feeling refreshed. It’s a pretty area right in the heart of the North Island with activities such as rafting, fishing and skydiving on offer. The nearby Tongariro National Park, NZ’s oldest National Park, is home to two of NZ’s largest ski areas as well as the challenging Tongariro Crossing hike.

:: Wellington
Wellington is NZ’s capital city and is well known for its cultural and artistic vibe. With its cafe culture, alternative nightlife scene and funky shops, Wellington is well worth a visit. The Te Papa musuem, NZ’s biggest, is a must-see! On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the South Island across the harbour.

:: Abel Tasman

A trip to New Zealand would not be complete without a visit to a National Park and the Abel Tasman NP is one of the best! With glittering golden sandy beaches, sparkling turquoise water and spectacular ocean views, there’s no better place to go hiking or kayaking.

:: Christchurch
Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, is often referred to as the most ‘English’ of cities with its gardens, river and parks. It’s host to an international airport so travellers often start or finish here. There are plenty of reasons to hang around too – Cathedral Square, the beaches, dolphin watching to name a few.

:: West Coast
The South Island’s West Coast is full of geological gems such as lush rainforests and towering glaciers. A full-day’s walk on Fox or Franz Josef Glacier is often cited as a highlight of any trip to NZ. Winter can be the best season for this as the skies are beautifully clear and there are less visitors around. It’s also worth checking out the stunning mirror lakes of Lake Matheson and Lake Mapourika, ideal for a spot of hiking or kayaking.

:: Queenstown / Wanaka
Queenstown is the adventure capital of NZ, if not the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s worth setting aside some time in your itinerary to experience the adrenaline freely flowing here. The activity options are endless - bungy jumping, jet boating, paragliding, white water rafting, skydiving, river surfing, canyon swinging and much, much more! Nearby Wanaka has plenty to offer the traveller as well and is a little more laid-back.

:: Milford Sound
A trip to Milford Sound is one of the must-do experiences on every traveller’s list. It was once described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and the scenery of fiords and mountains is simply stunning. The journey there is equally breathtaking!



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