Pit New Zealand against any other country on Earth in a game of Top Trumps, and it’ll doubtless claim an effortless victory. Known locally as the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand is a country whose sheer natural beauty sees it regularly top lists of the most beautiful places on the planet — and its cities, culture and local people aren’t too shabby either.
If you’ve a New Zealand cruise in the pipeline, here’s a shortlist of 25 things you must do during your visit — or the next, depending how much you can squeeze in.
1. See the Penguins of the Otago Peninsula
Penguins? In New Zealand? You heard right. The best place to see these beloved flightless birds is the Otago Peninsula, a slender finger of land within a short distance of Dunedin.
2. Visit a Black Sand Beach in Auckland
With it being volcanic, the area surrounding Auckland is home to a number of black sand beaches. Piha is incredibly popular with surfers, while Bethells is smaller with a cosier, more romantic feel.
3. Spot Whales in Kaikoura
An incredible variety of whales pass close to the New Zealand coast on their way to and from warmer climes. For the best chance of spotting these graceful beasts, head to Kaikoura on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
4. Explore Tiritiri Matangi
Lying some 30km from Auckland, Tiritiri Matangi is a small island and one of NZ’s most successful conservation programmes. The island is home to a wealth of rare birdlife, as well as over 300,000 trees.
5. Go Kayaking on the Whanganui River
If you can think of a better way to while away a sunlit afternoon, we’d love to hear it.
6. Wine Taste at an NZ Vineyard
Thanks to its warm yet amply watery climate, New Zealand is home to an exceptional array of vineyards and wineries. You’ll find some of the country’s most successful vineyards around Napier, which also happens to be a popular cruise port.
7. Hike the Milford Track
Arguably the world’s finest walking trail, Milford Track offers mile after mile of uninterrupted rambling through the very heart of the Fiordland National Park.
8. Take a Lord of the Rings Tour
If you or the kids were rendered enraptured by the beautiful backdrops of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a LOTR tour in NZ could be just the ticket during your visit.
9. Do a Bungee Jump
New Zealand is often considered the adventure capital of the world — and for good reason. What better way to earn your thrill-seeker’s stripes than with an exhilarating bungee jumping experience?
10. Sample Bluff Oysters in Bluff
As you’d expect for an island nation, New Zealand is awash with delicious seafood dishes. One of our favourites is the Bluff Oysters of Bluff — a seaport town on the southern coast of the South Island.
11. Climb Auckland’s Sky Tower
Standing at a vertigo-inducing 328 metres, Auckland’s Sky Tower is the tallest manmade structure in the Southern Hemisphere — offering fantastic views across the city. For those feeling brave enough, it’s possible to bungee from the top — knocking #9 and #11 off your list in one fell swoop.
12. See the Sunrise in Gisborne
Ever wanted to witness the sunrise before anyone else on earth? Now you can, with a visit to Gisborne — the most easterly township in New Zealand.
13. Explore Wellington’s Te Papa Museum
Te Papa Tongarewa, aka the Museum of New Zealand, boasts an extraordinary array of historic artefacts and artworks, making it the premier visitor attraction for those interested in learning more about the country’s past.
14. Watch a Maori Culture Show
Alternatively, to experience another side of New Zealand’s culture and heritage, be sure to catch a Maori Culture Show — which take place in towns and cities across the country.
15. See an All Blacks Rugby Game
While you might not be fans of the team, nothing beats the excitement and thrill of an All Blacks rugby game — particularly when they’re playing on home soil. From the moment the Haka begins, you’ll be glued to your seat.
16. Warm Up at Hot Water Beach
No, it’s not warmed by wall-to-wall sunshine, but with the power of hot springs which filter up through the sand itself. The result is a warm beach that’s very popular with visitors — no matter what the weather has in store.
17. Ride the Wellington Cable Car Up Mount Victoria
Wellington’s cable car is no longer just a mode of transport; it’s become an emblem for the city, as well as the country as a whole. To experience the charm of the cable car first-hand, ride it all the way to the summit of Mount Victoria.
18. Traverse a Glacier
New Zealand is home to an extraordinary array of natural wonders, including over 3,000 glaciers spread across the South Island. Some of these icy havens are accessible on foot, providing an exhilarating setting for a hike.
19. Take a Trip to Stewart Island
With a permanent population of just 381 residents, New Zealand’s third largest isle, Stewart Island, is one of the country’s most beautiful and secluded regions — perfect for those in need of a little peace and quiet.
20. Try Zorbing
As touched on above, New Zealand has garnered a reputation for all things adventurous. In recent years, one activity has emerged that’s been thrilling holidaymakers of all ages — zorbing. Give it a go during your visit; we promise you won’t be disappointed.
21. Disappear Underground at Waitomo Caves
If you thought you’d seen enough cave systems to last a lifetime, brace yourself for Waitomo — arguably the most extraordinary subterranean attraction on the planet. Illuminated by thousands upon thousands of glow-worms and home to a unique underground rafting course, Waitomo is an essential must-see on the North Island.
22. Surf the Breakers of Mount Muanganui
Like Australia, New Zealand is blessed with brilliant surf beaches where thousands of wave riders flock each year. If you fancy hanging ten during your visit to NZ, one of the best places to catch a wave is in the shadow of Mount Muanganui — home to a raft of white sand beaches.
23. See the Oceans Collide at Cape Reinga
Ever wanted to stand at the edge of the world? Head to Cape Reinga, and you’ll come pretty close. Here, on the northernmost reaches of the North Island, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific — and it’s a truly visceral spectacle.
24. Wrap Your Arms Around Tane Mahuta
Tāne Mahuta may just look like any other tree, but it’s actually an ancient kauri tree dubbed the ‘Lord of the Forest’ by Māori tribesmen. Having stood in the Waipoua Forest for over 2,500 years, the significance of Tāne Mahuta can’t be underestimated.
25. Photograph the Fiordland National Park
If your perfect souvenir is a winning snap from your trip, take your camera and make for the Fiordland National Park — without question the most beautiful region in all of New Zealand.
Whether you’ve booked a New Zealand cruise or not, we’re sure this list will have whetted your appetite for a visit to this exceptional country. To browse the latest New Zealand cruise breaks, visit the Cruise1st Australia website or call us today on 1300 306 318.
All images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Tom Hall, David Brewster, fw42, Robin Ducker, Michele Benericetti, Florian Bugiel