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New Zealand Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth New Zealand travel guide?

Then you’re in the right place!

A trip to New Zealand holds a top spot on the bucket lists of many travelers around the world. From incredible views to outdoor adventures to vibrant cultural offerings, New Zealand makes for a once-in-a-lifetime trip that you won’t soon forget.

With about 600 islands to explore, there are tons of ways to experience New Zealand and thousands of different itineraries you can take, whether you’re setting out on a road trip of the North and South Islands or cruising through the archipelago.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered!

Getting out in nature is one of the top activities for travelers to New Zealand and the country is home to tons of national parks where you can explore the great outdoors.

Looking for some of the country’s most gorgeous beaches? Head to Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island coast, where you’ll find golden shores, towering waterfalls, and tons of great trails — including some of the best New Zealand hikes out there!

The park is also a top spot for mountain biking with trails like the Gibbs Hill Track.

At Fiordland National Park, you can explore a series of gorgeous alpine lakes and forests by water, land, or air. The Milford Track in particular is considered one of the best hikes in the world with tons of great sights from waterfalls to glowworms.

And fans of Lord of the Rings will want to check out Tongariro National Park on the North Island. The park is home to Mt. Ngauruhoe, a 7,516 ft. high stratovolcano that was used as the infamous Mount Doom in the film trilogy.

For more incredible mountain views, head to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, home of the highest peak in the country. The mountain itself may not be for the faint of heart but there are tons of hiking trails around the park that cater to all skill levels.

While visiting New Zealand, you’ll definitely want to learn more about the culture of these storied islands. You’ll find tons of opportunities to engage with the native Maori culture throughout the islands, from museums to artisinal boutiques to cultural demonstrations.

Looking for day trips from Rotorua? Consider visiting the Ohinemutu Maori Village, a historic town with traditional Maori architecture, hot pools, and impressive ships.

You can also join in on a traditional hangi feast in several places throughout the country. Here, you’ll enjoy a classic meal of fish, kumara (sweet potato), and other local foods cooked in a pit dug in the ground for a delicious, smoky flavor.

These feasts also usually feature cultural performances of Maori music and dance. This is one expereince you won’t want to miss!

Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to New Zealand in Oceania.

Note: This ultimate guide to New Zealand travel contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

New Zealand Map

Use this New Zealand travel map to begin planning your trip to this incredible country!

New Zealand map

Click here for an interactive Google Map version of the above graphic.

New Zealand Adventure Travel

Looking for a New Zealand hiking guide or adventure travel tips? These posts can help!

Solo Travel In New Zealand

Traveling alone in New Zealand is an amazing experience!

Best Tours In New Zealand

Explore local culture with a New Zealand tour guide through these unique excursions:

  • Doubtful Sound Wilderness Day Cruise from Manapouri
  • Auckland Dolphin and Whale Watching Eco-Safari Cruise
  • Milford Sound Sightseeing Cruise with Scenic Round-Trip Flight from Queenstown
  • Franz Josef Heli Hiking Guided Tour
  • Lake Wakatipu Scenic Catamaran Cruise from Queenstown

Renting A Car In New Zealand

The best way to travel around New Zealand is undoubtedly by car!

Need a rental car for your New Zealand trip?

Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.

Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have up 10+ tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool!

New Zealand Hotels

Click here to browse the best New Zealand travel hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays?

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for local stays:

New Zealand Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on a New Zealand tour. When visiting New Zealand — or any other country in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your New Zealand travel itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

New Zealand Travel Guide FAQ

Okay, now let’s answer some common Oceania travel questions that specifically pertain to traveling in New Zealand.

Q: What are the best things to do in New Zealand?

A trip to New Zealand is all about taking in Mother Nature’s beauty. The country is full of opportunities for outdoor adventures, from white water rafting to bungy jumping to hiking some of the most beautiful trails in the world. You’ll absolutely want to have a few New Zealand hikes on your itinerary — like the epic Copland Track to Welcome Flat Hut!

Hiking enthusiasts will definitely want to visit Queenstown, known as the “adventure capital of the world”. Trek famous South Island hiking trails like the Queenstown Hill Walking Track, the Moonlight Track, or Jack’s Point. Whatever your level of hiking skill, there’s a trail for you.

On Milford Sound, you’ll find some of the most gorgeous fjords in the Southern Hemisphere. Explore the Sound and the surrounding mountains by kayak, boat cruise, or even a scenic flight.

In Northland, you can enjoy gorgeous subtropical beaches and seaside towns. Check out some of the local marine life on a dive or just catch some rays and watch the surfers do their thing at spots like 90 Mile Beach.

You also can’t pass up any opportunity to experience the culture of New Zealand during your trip.

In Rotorua, you can learn more about the Indigenous Maori culture while soaking up the health benefits of the local hot springs. Take in a cultural demonstration at the Tamaki Maori Village, featuring traditional dances and customs (like the famous Haka) and enjoy a hangi feast. You can even stay overnight in a traditional wharemoe (sleeping house) for a truly immersive experience.

The country is also home to tons of great museums that tell New Zealand’s story. The Auckland Museum in Auckland features tons of Aboriginal art as well as artifacts from the country’s long history.

Of course, any Lord of the Rings fan will want to visit some of the locations featured in the famous film trilogy.

The Hobbiton Movie Set in Waikato is probably one of the most popular LOTR attractions, featuring a 1,250-acre re-creation of The Shire, home to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. See if you can fit in one of the tiny Hobbit homes and enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn.

You can also visit the Weta Cave Workshop in Wellington, where props, costumes, and creatures from films like Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and District 9 are created by some of the most talented creators in the world. You can even take a special effects makeup class and try your hand (pun intended!) at creating realistic-looking wounds for the camera.

Q: What is the best month to visit New Zealand?

New Zealand’s summer season (running December through March) is widely considered the best time to visit. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities during this time, with warm temperatures and sunny days.

You can expect temperatures in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit throughout the rest of the year, making New Zealand a great place to visit year-round.

The South Island does see some snow in the winter months (June through September), making it perfect for skiers.

Q: How much should I budget for a trip to New Zealand?

The average traveler spends about $129 USD per day in New Zealand on accommodations, transportation, food, activities, and other travel expenses.

Your biggest expense will likely be your flights to and from the country, which can vary in cost depending on your departure city. Keep an eye on flight aggregator sites like Kayak and keep your plans flexible to get the best deal.

Q: Where should I go for my first trip to New Zealand?

A great place to start on your first trip to New Zealand is Auckland, the country’s largest city. You’ll likely end up flying into Auckland Airport as it is the largest airport in the country, so the city makes a great jumping off point for any tour of New Zealand.

Aside from it’s metropolitan vibe, there are tons of natural wonders to explore in the Auckland area. Take a day trip out to Rangitoto Island, a voclanic island with tons of great hiking trails and lava fields to explore.

You can also hike Mount Eden, a dormant volcano offering incredible views of downtown Auckland.

Sailing enthusiasts will want to check out the yachts and boats at Viaduct Harbour, a lively marina that’s also home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. The Hobbiton Movie Set is also an easy day trip from Auckland and a must-see for Lord of the Rings fans.

Located on New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is the place to go to see some of the beautiful sights the country has to offer and experience Maori culture first-hand.

There are tons of opportunities for adventure in the Rotorua area, from stand-up paddleboard tours on Lake Rotorua to tree walks in the redwood forests. With so many things to do, you won’t have to worry about getting bored!

Worn out from so much activity? Head to one of the local hot springs for a dip in the healing waters and a classic mud treatment that will leave your skin feeling like new.

There are also tons of ways to experience Maori culture in Rotorua as well, from cultural tours to ancient archeological sites to traditional feasts and performances. Rotorua truly has definitely something for every kind of traveler.

Wellington, the country’s cultural and political capital, is also a great place to visit on a first-time trip to New Zealand. The city has a lively arts scene and is home to New Zealand’s film industry, making it the perfect spot for culture-minded tourists.

Wellington is also home to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, a large (free!) museum featuring exhibitions on the country’s natural history, Maori culture, art, and more. If you want to dive into the story of New Zealand, this is definitely the place to go.

Just an hour outside of the city you’ll find Wairapapa, one of the top wine regions in the country. You can book a tour to hit a few vineyards in one day or explore the region by bike. Just be sure to bike responsibly after all those wine tastings!

Q: What should I avoid in New Zealand?

As you would when visiting any other country, avoid disrespecting the locals. This is particularly important if you are interacting with the native Maori people at all during your trip. Be aware of lands that are sacred to the Maori people and be particularly respectful when visiting these sites.

It also helps to learn a few Maori phrases before or during your trip — you’ll often see signs written in both English and Maori throughout the country.

Also, be aware that New Zealand and Australia, while often grouped together by travelers, are two very different countries. You’ll see this first-hand if you get a chance to visit both countries. You won’t make any friends in New Zealand by comparing the country to her neighbor, so keep any comments about Australia to yourself.

Considering the digital nomad lifestyle? Don’t expect to get a ton of work done in New Zealand, particularly outside of the cities.

Internet service throughout the country is spotty at best, particularly in the countryside. Don’t rely to heavily on digital maps and other services to get around either. Instead, go old school and bring maps or print out directions when you can.

And if you’re expected to check in with work or folks back home at all during your trip, let them know you might not be as easy to reach as usual, particularly when you’re out in more remote areas.

Hate being limited to a short (or ridiculously long) wine list when dining out? Avoid being limited to a restaurant’s wine selection by bringing your own bottle.

Most restaurants in New Zealand allow you to bring your own wine in for a small corkage fee. This will save you some cash on your dinner bill and ensure that you get to drink wine you actually like.

Tipping also isn’t the norm in restaurants in New Zealand. You can feel free to tip for particularly exceptional service, but know that it’s not expected.

Q: Is New Zealand safe to travel?

New Zealand is widely considered one of the safest countries for travelers. Violent crime is extremely rare and while petty crime like pickpocketing does happen in popular tourist areas like Auckland, it’s relatively uncommon. As in any destination, it’s good to always be aware of your surroundings and keep any valuables close to you and out of view to avoid pickpockets.

Q: How long can a tourist stay in New Zealand?

Travelers visiting New Zealand on a NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) can stay for up to three months in one visit (six months for visitors from the United Kingdom) and no more than six months in a 12-month period. Travelers on a Visitor Visa can stay in the country for up to nine months in an 18-month period.

Q: Do I need a New Zealand travel visa?

Travelers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and most countries in Europe (specificially the European Union) do not need a visa to enter New Zealand.

Visitors from visa waiver countries do need to obtain a NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before traveling to New Zealand, though. You can request an NZeTA online on the New Zealand Immigration website or via the NZeTA app; the application costs NZD $12 ($8.34 USD) if you apply online or NZD $9 ($6.26 USD) if you apply on the app.

You’ll also pay NZD $35 ($24.33 USD) for an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy at the same time as your NZeTA. Visitors from countries not on the visa waiver list will need to apply for a visitor visa before traveling to New Zealand.

It’s recommended to view your country’s New Zealand International Travel Information page for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit requirements. You can also contact the New Zealand Consulate-General.

Q: Where is New Zealand?

New Zealand is an island country featuring numerous smaller islands and two main islands, including the the North Island (Te-Ika-a-Maui) and the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu), which are separated by the Cook Strait.

The country is located in the South Pacific Ocean in the region of Oceania.

Q: Are credit cards accepted in New Zealand?

Credit cards — particularly Visa and Mastercard — are widely accepted around New Zealand, though it is always wise to carry some cash for smaller establishments and in case of emergency.

Q: Can you drink the tap water in the New Zealand?

It is safe to drink the tap water in New Zealand, though do double check with your hotel to be safe.

Q: What is the local currency in New Zealand?

The local currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, which is also sometimes known as “the kiwi”.

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