Reasons to travel to New Zealand

New Zealand has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s an escape unlike any other, with snow-capped mountains, vast glaciers, rolling hills, and copious quantities of wine.

It’s a country secluded in the corner of the globe that takes some preparation to visit. After all, flights aren’t cheap here. The cost of a round-trip flight from the United States is almost always over $1,000 USD, and the trip can take up to 23 hours.

And after you’ve arrived, the nation is far from budget-friendly. While tourism has increased in recent years, New Zealand remains a stunning and untouched country.

Christchurch has recovered from the earthquakes and is now a desirable place to be; Wanaka still has amazing hiking; the glaciers were as breathtaking as ever; the woods were still home to delightful walks; and Kiwis were just as enjoyable and welcoming as ever.

To conclude, if New Zealand isn’t already on your bucket list, it should be. Here are the top 10 reasons why to visit and things to do in New Zealand that you shouldn’t skip to help you plan your trip:

1. Explore Abel Tasman National Park – New Zealand

In some respects, approaching Abel Tasman is similar to visiting Thailand. Beautiful beaches and turquoise water make it feel like you’re in the tropics rather than New Zealand. With giant ferns, massive, lush trees, and a temperate climate, the hiking is stunning. The Abel Tasman Coastal Walk, a 60-kilometer hike and one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, is also located here.

Secure a kayak if you want to go off the park’s hiking trails. This will allow you to visit the area’s unique small coves and beaches.

It’s better to visit the park for an overnight or multi-day trip because it’s too far away from Nelson to do it justice in a single day.

River in Abel Tasman National Park - New Zealand
River in Abel Tasman National Park

2. Glacier Trekking on Fox and Franz Josef

The glaciers are the reason why everyone comes to Franz Josef. Hiking the glaciers in this area lives up to the hype and is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The ice caves and walks have been closed due to climate change, as the glaciers have receded and are melting rapidly.

The only way to trek on the glaciers right now is to take a heli-hike. They are pricey (485-499 NZD), but I believe the helicopter trip, trekking, and overall experience are well worth the money.

Sunset At Franz Josef Glacier - New Zealand- New Zealand
Sunset At Franz Josef Glacier

3. Do an Extreme Sport in New Zealand

New Zealand is the world’s adventure capital, with most visitors blowing their budget on a variety of thrilling events ranging from bungy jumping to skydiving to white-water rafting.

A plethora of adventures to choose from, including skydiving almost anywhere, Shotover jets (rocket-like vessels that zip through shallow rivers), ziplines, and bungy jumps in Queenstown, as well as caving, zorbing, transalpine climbing, paragliding, and much more. If you can do it outside, you can do it in New Zealand.

Paragliding near Auckland - New Zealand
Paragliding near Auckland

4. The Hiking of Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The track takes you to the location where The Lord of the Rings’ Mordor was filmed, making it one of New Zealand’s finest day hikes. The 19.4-kilometer walk is easy in sections (the beginning and end) and steep in others (especially the section after “Mount Doom”), providing a good blend of difficulty levels. It’s also one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

Panoramic view on one of the Emerald Lakes - New Zealand
Panoramic view on one of the Emerald Lakes

5. Learn About Maori Culture

Maoris were the first colonists in New Zealand, settling between 1320 and 1350 from Polynesia. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about their culture and heritage. They are welcoming and proud people. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Tane Mahuta, and the Te Papa museum in Wellington are all truly spectacular if you want to see Maori cultural performances.

A tour of a traditional village, exhibits, and a meal are normally included in 2.5-hour shows. Ticket prices range from NZD 99 to NZD 150.

Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo - - New Zealand
Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo

6. The Wellington

Everyone speaks about Auckland, but Wellington is where the real magic happens. This city has a quirky personality thanks to its architecture and multicultural feel. Wellington is a city with a distinctive style.

It has a vibrant nightlife, numerous art galleries and caf├ęs, a lovely harbour (best viewed from Mount Victoria, which offers panoramic views of the city), and is easily walkable. Make it a priority of visiting the Museum of Wellington, Te Papa, and the Great War Exhibition, among others.

Wellington city and harbour from Mount Victoria - New Zealand
Wellington city and harbour from Mount Victoria

7. The Glow Worms Cave

The Waitomo glow worm cave is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. It’s hyped and touristy, but it’s still awesome. You walk or abseil into the darkness and float down the (extremely cold) river while looking up at caverns filled with “lights.” It’s like staring at the stars, but they’re really gnats that glow when they attract food due to a chemical reaction.

The 3-hour rafting trip costs about 150 NZD, while the 5-hour trip costs around 260 NZD. Tickets cost about 55 NZD if you just want to walk around the caves and see the glowworms.

Under a glow-worm sky - New Zealand
Under a glow-worm sky

8. Queenstown

The city exudes such a flamboyant, outdoorsy vibe. Even though it has become extremely common and crowded, I cannot articulate how much I adore Queenstown. It is surrounded by majestic hills, has narrow streets and walking lanes lined with eateries, a stunning lake, numerous trails and parks, and Queenstown Hill, which stands like a majestic overlord watching over the area.

Queenstown at dusk - New Zealand
Queenstown at dusk

9. The Hobbits

New Zealand is a must-see for fans of The Lord of the Rings. This is where all of the shooting took place, and you can take Lord of the Rings tours around the country to see Fangorn Forest, Gondor, and the spot where Frodo breaks the one ring. The majority of the sets have been removed, but a small portion of the Shire and a few hobbit houses remain on the North Island.

You’ll need to take a trip to see Hobbiton. Tours are approximately 2 hours long and cost 89 NZD for adults and 44 NZD for children under the age of 16.

Movie Set created for filming The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies
Movie Set created for filming The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies

10. Explore the Fiordland

The Fiordland region, located in New Zealand’s southwestern corner, is one of the country’s most pristine and remote areas. The vast majority of it has never been touched by man, with massive mountains, deep lakes, raging rivers, untamed forests, and resplendent fjords. Except for a few spots where vessels and planes will land, the government has declared the land off-limits, meaning that it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

The Milford and Doubtful Sounds, the Milford and Keppler Tracks, and numerous camping and hiking opportunities can all be found in this area. Come here if you want to see New Zealand’s natural beauty away from the crowds.

Mitre Peak is the iconic landmark of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park - New Zealand
Mitre Peak is the iconic landmark of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park

11. Explore the Stewart Island

It’s a small, out-of-the-way place. Stewart Island is located off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, at the very bottom of the nation. It’s a spot where Kiwis have summer homes and go to get away from the hustle and bustle of, well, Auckland, I suppose. The town is small, with just a few structures and a coastline dotted with private homes and boats.

Visit here to see dolphins and participate in one-day or multi-day treks. If you aren’t a hiker, you won’t need more than a day or two here, unless you really want tranquilly, in which case you can remain indefinitely.

View across Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island, New Zealand

12. Vibe in Christchurch

Christchurch has recovered and developed into a brand-new community, despite being heavily damaged by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The old Christchurch was stagnant, but the new one is a breath of fresh air. It now has a fresh sense of optimism and liveliness, as well as funky bars, more markets, new restaurants, stores, and exhibits. Locals are making the most of this opportunity to improve Christchurch. It’s a new day in the neighborhood, and I’m excited about where it’s headed.

Christchurch Gondola and the Lyttelton port from Port Hills
Christchurch Gondola and the Lyttelton port from Port Hills

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