New Zealand Guide
New Zealand Guide
For those who love the outdoors, New Zealand is the trip of a lifetime. The diversity of beautiful landscapes is staggering and the country is readily accessible for travelers. Of the two main islands, the North Island is impressive, particularly its thousands of miles of coastline, but the South Island holds the wild terrain that has made the country famous.
A certain Hollywood trilogy thrust New Zealand further into the public eye, but the atmoshpere has remained largely intact. Queenstown is now the world’s capital of adventure tourism. The silhouette of Milford Sound is recognized around the world. Still, traveling in New Zealand is enchanting and it’s easy to separate from the crowds. Within a short distance of the most popular natural attractions are pristine pockets of wild country that few people see.
That is one reason why New Zealand is so ideal: within a compact area it caters to the most ambitious outdoorspeople, those looking to relax, families, trampers (tramping is the local term for hiking), surfers, skiers and snowboarders, and just about everyone else. The Kiwis couldn’t be more amiable, and against the backdrop of robust and living Maori history, there is no place more magnificent than New Zealand.
For the towns in New Zealand that are prime for exploring the outdoors, including Queenstown, Wanaka, Te Anau, and Rotorua, see our New Zealand’s Best Adventure Towns.
For a breakdown of adventure activities in New Zealand, including hiking, surfing, mountain biking, cycling, kayaking, and paddleboarding, see our New Zealand Adventure Directory.
When people imagine New Zealand, the scenery of the Fiordland Region often comes to mind. Situated in the southwestern corner of the South Island, Fiordland is dominated by the verdure of rainforests blanketed in ferns, the snow-capped Southern Alps, and imposing bodies of water such as Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Aside from the tiny settlements of Manapouri and Te Anau, the area is and always has been... Read More
World-renowned Milford Sound is the pearl of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. The 15-kilometer length of mysterious dark waters is lined by 4,000-foot rock walls, the peaks of which remain snow-capped during all but the warmest summer months. Pockets of fog, rain, and sunshine move quickly through the area transforming its personality from one moment to the next. Milford Sound is pure New Zealand... Read More
Otago on the South Island is one of New Zealand’s most varied regions, from high alpine terrain to remote coastline and almost everything in between. The outdoorsy towns of Queenstown and Wanaka are most popular but there also are a number of off-the-beaten destinations such as Central Otago and the Catlins. Whatever your pace, Otago has places to match. The western portion of Otago is mountainous... Read More
The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island has a way of sneaking up on travelers and becoming one of their favorite destinations in the country. Just up the road from Queenstown, Fiordland, and Milford Sound, this country can make your head spin with how quickly the terrain changes and what lies nearby. North from Queenstown, the road splits and the scenic Highway 6 heads toward the West Coast (Highway 1 is the other north–south artery and runs... Read More
On the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island is the warm coastal region of Abel Tasman. Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s smallest and most visited parks, renowned for pristine beaches, turquoise water, and dramatic granite outcroppings. Given the area's mild weather and ease of access, Abel Tasman is a great place to visit any time of year. Sea kayaking is a terrific way to explore Abel Tasman... Read More
Located at the top of the South Island east of Abel Tasman National Park, the Marlborough Sounds are as easy-going as anywhere in New Zealand. Most of the wooded hillsides and peaceful bays are inaccessible by road, leaving the only means of transportation by boat or by foot (and sometimes by bike). More, the local seafood is fantastic—Havelock is world famous for mussels and hosts the annual Havelock Mussel Festival in March... Read More
Tongariro National Park on the North Island is a place far removed from the lush rainforests of the South Island, yet this volcanic wonderland is among New Zealand’s most striking landscapes. Established in 1887 as the first national park in the country and only the fourth in the world, the three mighty volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu are big, readily accessible, and active. In fact, the famed trail of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing... Read More
Rotorua is a land of geothermal pools, lakes, and steaming geysers located in the heart of the North Island’s Taupo Volcanic Zone. The region was the birthplace of tourism in New Zealand—in the 19th century people flocked to the Pink and White Terraces that were covered over by the eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886. Rotorua also is a cultural center with a long indigenous history and Maori currently make up over one-third of the population. Rotorua now... Read More
The laid-back Coromandel Peninsula juts out east of Auckland separating the Hauraki Gulf and Pacific Ocean. It is known for white-sand beaches, lush native forests, and small towns with an alternative lifestyle that make it hard to believe New Zealand’s largest city is just two hours away. The center of the peninsula is forested and mountainous—the Coromandel Range rises to almost 900 meters—and the two coasts contrast significantly... Read More
The Bay of Islands is a peaceful, subtropical micro-region located on the northern tip of the North Island. All together, the area is home to 150 islands, over 800 kilometers of coastline, countless bays and inlets, and plentiful marine life. The Northland region enjoys New Zealand’s warmest weather, often called the “Winterless North.” The Bay of Islands is where many New Zealanders go to vacation and own second homes... Read More
New Zealand’s Northland region, often referred to as the Far North, stretches to the uppermost tip of New Zealand’s North Island. Bordered to the west by the Tasman Sea and to the east by the Pacific Ocean, this slender sub-tropical peninsula is known for long expanses of remote coastline. Much attention is paid to the Bay of Islands, and rightfully so, but other opportunities abound for exploring this unique arm of the country... Read More