The Best Places to Visit in New Zealand, from Vineyards to Islands

The Best Places to Visit in New Zealand, from Vineyards to Islands
Queenstown, New Zealand. Courtesy of Time Out 

Take a look at how the Kiwis see New Zealand from the perspective of an outsider.

In New Zealand, there is plenty to love, and after years of being locked in (and locked out), locals are now embracing domestic tourism.

An "OE" (overseas experience) usually involves a trip to a country with a distinct culture, such as Thailand. However, despite the restrictions around international travel, New Zealanders have always preferred local destinations.

Whether exploring the celestial alpine ranges in the Southern Alps, road-tripping to pristine beaches, or enjoying the low-key luxury of the far-flung country, its love for the land is evident.

The following are some of the most stunning destinations in New Zealand that continue to attract locals, based on Rich Report data.


Courtesy of Airbnb 

It is similar to the Napa Valley of New Zealand, but it is surrounded by beaches. There is a charming village anchored by a local boutique and an artisan farmers market 45 minutes north of Auckland that is known for its quintessentially Kiwi food, including whitebait fritters, Manuka honey, angus steak and rosemary pies, molten mellowpuffs, and of course, excellent flat whites.

The impressive sculpture trail at Brick Bay, which showcases 60 large-scale works by New Zealand artists, is one of the most interesting places to eat and drink beyond the village. The Sculptureum, which opened more recently, has almost a mile of sculpture gardens and six themed galleries with contemporary works from around the globe.

You can also dine al fresco amid lush country landscapes and sample local wines at traditional wineries throughout the region. What about a day at the beach? Omaha (where many Aucklanders have vacation homes), Snell's Beach, Pakiri, and Tawharanui Regional Park are all within 10 minutes of the village. Children can also snorkel and marvel at the colorful variety of sea life on Goat Island, New Zealand's oldest protected marine reserve.


Courtesy of Trip Savvy

There are few places as beautiful as Queenstown, where the majestic mountains of The Remarkables cascade into the sapphire waters of Lake Wakitipu. There are endless activities available to adrenaline junkies in this adventure capital, including jet boating through Shotover River, bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge, paragliding around Coronet Peak, and skydiving from 15,000 feet into dramatic alpine scenery.

The ski slopes here are among the best in the country, so during the winter it is a hotspot for skiers. When it comes to après ski in Aspen, just wait until you see the après ski scene in Queenstown. This cosmopolitan city has luxurious hotels (including Eichardt's), elegant cocktail bars, and high-end spas, along with 75 wineries within a 20 minute drive. Aside from contemporary art galleries, designer boutiques (including a stunning Louis Vuitton resort store), and some of the country's most exclusive golf clubs are also available.

Kiwis often travel domestically by car, and Arrowtown - a historic gold mining settlement lined with boutiques and cafes - is a popular day trip. Located right by Millbrook Resort, where many New Zealanders own real estate, it takes only 20 minutes by car. Glenorchy is another popular day trip from Queenstown, where you can go hiking, horseback riding, and enjoy Blanket Bay. Are there any places you always see geotagged on Instagram? The region also boasts Onsen Hot Pools, which provide dramatic views of snow-capped mountains, and Amisfield, which is a great destination for a leisurely lunch.


Courtesy of Expedia 

Located only 40 minutes from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island is a popular day trip for those looking for a getaway without going too far. Known for its verdant rolling hills, golden sand beaches, and revered wineries, the island is an ideal wedding and event destination.

Many wineries offer excellent restaurants, including The Shed at Te Motu, and Poderi Crisci which has legendary long lunches on Sundays. The most picturesque are Tantalus Estate, Mudbrick, Cable Bay, and Man O'War. To ring in the New Year, some of the more rustic vineyards host Coachella-inspired music festivals; Casita Miro has a season of live jazz that draws mature crowds from around the Hauraki Gulf.

There is always something happening on Waiheke, including outdoor sculpture exhibitions, music festivals, and experiences showcasing the island's incredible food and wine. Is there another attraction that draws Aucklanders across the water? There are several uncrowded, family-friendly beaches close to the main township, including Palm Beach, Onetangi, and Oneroa. A day of relaxation and indulgence on this island is like a day at the Hamptons in New Zealand - high-end but low-key.

Bay of Islands

Courtesy of Britannica 

The Bay of Islands is the ideal destination for New Zealanders who enjoy maritime activities. Boating is the best way to explore the 144 islands in the sparkling subtropical region between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula.

Fishermen, jet skiers, and sailors come here to go fishing, jet around the islands, and sail alongside dolphins and whales. North Islanders have long favored this summer destination, which is three hours from Auckland (or a 35-minute flight). In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed at the site where the towns of Paihia, Kerikeri, and Russell were formed. The country's first pub, the Duke of Marlborough, opened in Russell 1827, and remains a hugely popular establishment even today. New Zealand's spirited pub culture began there.

Over the holiday season, locals visit the coast for extended periods of time, embracing the nature and laid-back lifestyle of this European seaside town. Two hotels in the region have garnered international acclaim: Eagle's Nest and The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, one of only seven Relais & Chateaux properties in the country.


Courtesy of Hamilton and Waikato Tourism 

Known for its consistent waves and laidback lifestyle, Raglan is a popular surfing destination year round. Known for its surf culture, this seaside town is serene and serene. Surfboards line the sidewalks, bohemian boutiques line the streets, organic cafes serve local produce, and lively gastropubs play reggae music. Raglan is the ultimate place to experience the great outdoors on a budget and embrace #vanlife. You can pitch a tent, have a barbecue, and imbibe under the stars before heading out to catch a wave the next morning at various camp grounds and holiday parks.

Recently, glamping retreats have become increasingly popular; Nikau Sanctuary and The Round Tent offer luxury yurts with outdoor bathtubs and fire pits. When it comes to surfing, experienced surfers head to Manu Bay, while beginners go to Ngarunui Beach. Several local operators offer lessons, including Raglan Surf School or Green Wave, but if you're looking for something less physically challenging, you can rent paddleboards and kayaks, or you can just sit back on the beach and admire the ancient limestone formations and black sand coastline. Try the classic Kiwi snack of fish and chips served in newspaper at Raglan Fish before you leave.


Courtesy of Trip Savvy 

The largest lake in New Zealand is found in Taupo, which is located midway between Auckland and Wellington. Huka Falls, a whirlpool formed by water thundering through a narrow chasm at 220,000 liters per second, is also one of the most popular natural attractions in the country. A revered five-star luxury hotel along the same river (the Waikato) hosts a number of high-profile guests, including Queen Elizabeth, Miuccia Prada, and Bill Gates. An excellent place to celebrate a milestone event and a much-loved escape for many New Zealanders.

There is also the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with emerald lakes and red craters - a truly life-changing experience for hikers. However, Taupo is mostly known for its proximity to Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand's largest commercial ski resort. As a result, Kinloch (on the northern edge of Lake Taupo) is bustling with New Zealanders in the summer. In this part of the country, what is the ultimate accessory? On the lake, there is a speedboat that can be used to fish for trout and waterski.

Hawke's Bay

Courtesy of Hawk’s Bay New Zealand 

Wineries, luxury lodges, beaches, golf courses, and fabulous Art Deco architecture can be found in Hawke's Bay. It has a flourishing hospitality scene, with The Farm at Cape Kidnappers leading the way on the classic New Zealand Wine Trail. According to James Cavanaugh of Robertson Lodges (The Farm's umbrella company), the Hawke's Bay is known for its stunning wines and produce. It's also known as the first place on earth to see sunrise each day. The ocean sunrise through sea mists is worth setting an alarm for, or listen to native birdsong to wake you up. It's one of the most popular destinations for long weekends." Among New Zealand's Great Walks, the Lake Waikaremoana track is one of the most popular.

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