The best things to do in New Zealand

Year after year, travellers list New Zealand in the top ten of places they’d like to visit – and you rarely meet anyone who has been and didn’t love the place. And what’s not to like? With craggy coastlines, sweeping beaches, primaeval forests, snowcapped mountains and explosive geysers, the scenery is truly majestic. Here’s our pick of the best things to do in New Zealand.

Visit the stunning fiord of Milford Sound
The most northerly and celebrated of Fiordland’s fifteen fiords is Milford Sound with its vertical sides towering 1200m above the sea and waterfalls plunging from hanging valleys. This national park is located on New Zealand’s South Island and is one of our favourite New Zealand attractions.

Experience the grandeur and beauty of Fiordland National Park on the area’s most accessible fiord, great in bright sunshine and wonderfully atmospheric in the mist with the waterfalls at their most impressive.

Take a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway
The scenic Taieri Gorge Railway stretches 116km northwest of Dunedin through a rugged hill country. Constructed between 1879 and 1921, the line once carried supplies a total of 235km from Dunedin to the old gold town of Cromwell. This scenic route should be on your New Zealand itinerary.

Commercial traffic stopped in 1990. However, this rail journey continues to offer a rewarding rail journey at any time of year. The air-conditioned train comprises a mix of modern steel carriages with large panoramic windows and nostalgic, refurbished 1920s wooden cars.

Cycle along the Otago Central Rail Trail
One of the finest ways to explore the Maniototo is to cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail (OCRT), a largely flat route from Clyde to Middlemarch. Taking three leisurely days on a bike is the best way to tackle this 150km trail, which follows the route of a former rail line through some ruggedly barren country.

This trail passes through all the main towns except for St Bathans and Naseby. It includes modified rail bridges and viaducts (several spanning over 100m), beautiful valleys and long agricultural plains.

Stroll along the Moeraki Boulders
Stroll along the beach to visit these large, perfectly round, natural spheres with interesting patterns. The boulders were originally formed around a central core of carbonate of lime crystals that attracted minerals from their surroundings. Coastal errosion has revealed these stones in a process that started sixty million years ago.

The large, grey spherical Moeraki Boulders lie partially submerged in the sandy beach at the tide line. Their smooth skins hide honeycomb centres, which are revealed in some of the broken specimens. These are fantastic to visit during sunset.

Climb Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier
Located in rugged Westland National Park, the steep and dramatic Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier can be explored by glacier hikes, ice climbing and helicopter rides landing on the snowfields above. Located on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, these glaciers are some of the most accessible in the world.

Legend tells of the beautiful Hinehukatere who so loved the mountains that she encouraged her lover, Tawe, to climb alongside her. He fell to his death and Hinehukatere cried so copiously that her tears formed the glaciers. Franz Josef is known in Maori culture as Ka Riomata o Hinehukatere – “The Tears of the Avalanche Girl”.

Relax at rural Hokianga Harbour
South of Kaitaia, the narrow, mangrove-flanked fissures of the Hokianga Harbour snake deep inland past tiny and almost moribund communities.

For a few days’ relaxation, the tranquillity and easy pace of this rural backwater is hard to beat. As a low-key antidote to the commercialization of the Bay of Islands, the sand dunes, quiet retreats and crafts culture of this vast inlet are hard to beat.

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