Top 50 Hot Spots To Visit In New Zealand in 2023
A road trip around New Zealand is guaranteed to be a story for the books. Whether you’re coming from overseas for a holiday or you’re a local wanting to explore a bit more of your own backyard, The Land Of The Long White Cloud has so much to offer from beautiful cities filled with tasty food and drinks to the diverse landscapes that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor.
We love travelling around our own country and having travelled NZ full time for the last seven years now, we have a pretty good idea of the spots not to be missed!
New Zealand is without a doubt one of the most picturesque places in the world. Being born and bred down these ways we may be a little biased, but we reckon after you’ve toured the little islands yourself, you’ll wholeheartedly agree with us! We’ve got snow capped mountains, golden beaches and dense native rainforest all within a couple of hours of each other. It’s a small place but you need a good amount of time to really experience it all. A phrase many of us kiwis say is that you can live your whole life in New Zealand yet you still won’t see it all…
With that being said, there are definitely a few select places that are absolute must-sees. We’ve picked 50 of the best places to visit in New Zealand. Including some of the well-known hot spots (they got popular for a reason) and our personal favourite lesser-known specials.
In no particular order let’s jump into it! 50 unforgettable places to visit in New Zealand.
1. Milford Sound
Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, also known as “the eighth wonder of the world”, is a very well-known place in New Zealand you definitely don’t want to miss. Huge mountain peaks, waterfalls, wild rivers and lush beech forest is just the start of what you’ll experience in this magical place! We’ve experienced some of our best moments in the Fiordland National Park and we continue to come back time and time again to get our Milford fix. If the weather isn’t looking good, even better! Milford Sound is something special in the rain.
Watching the sunset on the Milford Sound Foreshore.
2. Lake Marian
Another bucket list worthy spot tucked away in the Fiordland National Park is the small alpine lake called Lake Marian. This epic track is hands down one of the best day hikes in the national park and probably even in New Zealand. The views of the mountains and the waterfalls at the top are simply stunning!
3. Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach is now known and recognized all over the world thanks to it being a default screensaver for Windows 10 PC's. The stunning Archway islands sit just off shore at the top of the South Island and are a grand view at any time of the day. The beach also features a seal colony, rock pools, caves, sand dunes and wide open windswept space. It truly is a must-see on your NZ road trip and one of the best beaches in the country.
4. Hakatere Conservation Park
The Hakatere Conservation Park, also more commonly known as the Ashburton Lakes is one of the best off the beaten track spots. In fact it feels like your very own secret as very few people actually make the effort to go in here. Only a couple of hours out of Christchurch this park is full of snow-capped mountain views, epic hikes and bike trails, pristine lakes and some of the best campsites. As so many decide to miss this park and continue South to NZ’s tallest mountain Aoraki, this place stays untouched.
Watching the sunrise at Lake Clearwater.
5. Te Paki Sand Dunes
The Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes are New Zealand’s answer to the Sahara Desert. The giant, ever changing and evolving sand dunes at New Zealand’s most northern tip, are a sight to see while traveling Aotearoa and a highlight if you find yourself in Cape Reinga.
6. Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is an iconic cave/rock formation on the Coromandel Peninsula. It is located right on the edge of Mercury bay and has been carved by the rough sea. It’s a busy spot but there’s certainly a reason for that! Watching a sunrise at this spot is always super special and you’re bound to share it with many other locals and travellers.
7. Pouakai Tarn
The Pouakai Tarn is one of the Roady teams favourite hikes in New Zealand. Not only is the bush walk itself extremely enjoyable but the view of Mt Taranaki you’re rewarded with at the top is unbeatable. Seeing the perfect mirror reflection in person is an incredible experience.
Perfect mirror reflection of Mount Taranaki.
8. Lake Tekapo
One of the biggest draw cards (and with good reason) to New Zealand's South Island, Lake Tekapo is loved by everyone. The Tekapo township sits on the edge of Lake Tekapo which was carved out by a large glacier from the last ice age.
People travel from all around the world to visit Lake Tekapo for many reasons, but the 3 main ones have to be the bloom of wild lupins on the lake's edge, the adorable little Church of the Good Shepherd and the absolutely breathtaking views of the night sky.
9. Arthurs Pass
Arthur’s Pass National Park is tucked in the heart of the Southern Alps. Its steep rugged mountain peaks, wide braided rivers and powerful waterfalls make it one of the most scenic passes in the country.
You could easily spend a couple of days here checking out the hikes in the area and if you decide to stay a night, make sure you get a feed at the Wobbly Kea. You may even have a kea friend join you for lunch.
Sitting between the jagged Kaikōura Ranges and the sea, the town of Kaikōura is a popular spot for people travelling along the East Coast. The beaches are strewn with seabirds and colonies of fur seals, and out in the ocean you'll find dolphins, sperm whales and the tastiest crayfish you can get! Although this spot is mostly known for its coastal activities, such as the epic surfing locations, if you need your mountain fix then Mount Fyffe has got you covered.
Cycling between Ohau Point & Paparoa Point.
11. The Catlins
We're basically at the bottom of the world down here! But why would you want to come aallll the way down here? Well, the Catlins area is basically a New Zealand postcard. With wild lush forests, jagged seaside cliffs and an old lighthouse, there's a picture around every corner. Of course we need to mention the waterfalls as well. . . It's waterfall heaven.
When you’re voted in as one of the top 10 beaches in NZ, there must be something pretty special about you to make it that far up the list. Castlepoint most certainly has what it takes to stand out from the crowd and packs a heap of attractions into a small relaxed seaside town. The uniquely shaped beach is sheltered by rock walls and is the perfect spot to park the car (yes you can drive on the sand) and set up for the day. Climb up off the beach to see the historic lighthouse up close, or take the Deliverance Track up to the top of Castle Rock for epic views over the town and coastline.
13. Fox Glacier
In the heart of Glacier Country is Fox Glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. The small little town of Fox Glacier has plenty of viewpoints of the glacier as well as another big draw card, Lake Matheson. On a calm clear day you can see Aoraki/Mt Cook & Mount Tasman reflected in the lake and honestly, witnessing this view in person is pretty damn special. It’s not all mountains and glaciers though, the rugged wild coastline is stunning and Gillespies Beach is an incredible spot to watch a sunset.
A dream sunset at Lake Matheson.
14. Castle Hill
It may seem like a small stop on the side of the road between the South Island’s East and West Coasts, but Castle Hill is one pitstop that definitely shouldn’t be missed. Amongst the rolling foothills of the Southern Alps sits a small hill littered with oddly shaped limestone rocks that look like something out of a fantasy movie. It’s easy to spend hours exploring through the formations and finding ways up to epic viewpoints. If you’re into climbing, bouldering or abseiling, then you may have just found heaven on earth!
Known around the world as the surf capital of NZ, this coastline serves up what is arguably the longest, most consistent, and easily accessible left-hand surf break out there. It’s been said that a perfect wave can take you up to 10mins along the coast. It’d be rude not to mention the world class coffee being brewed in the local cafes here too.
16. Lake Ohau
This is one that many overseas tourists miss as they hit all the main lakes in the South Island. Just 15kms off the main highway between Twizel and Omarama sits a stunning alpine lake just like the others . . . except that it’s highly likely you’ll have this place all to yourself. There’s campsites, bike trails, good fishing and even a ski field all located around the lake.
Cycling along Lake Ohau.
Piha is certainly one of the best beaches to visit in the Auckland Region. The iconic black sand beach is a mecca for surfers and locals. The incredible reflections at low tide and Lion Rock make for some pretty epic photo opportunities. It’s also the starting point for multiple walks in the area. If you find yourself in Auckland for a few days, you don’t want to leave this spot off your list.
18. Hooker Valley Track
Could this be the best day walk in New Zealand? We reckon it's got the making of a top 5 for sure! Seriously though…if you only have time for one hike in New Zealand, make it this one.
The track gives serious bang for your buck as you weave up the Hooker Valley on a relatively flat track, towards the mighty Aoraki/Mount Cook. Reaching the end of the track, you're greeted by the Hooker Lake and Hooker Glacier. The lake is often filled with icebergs that have broken off the face of the glacier, and if you're lucky you might just witness one breaking off before your eyes.
The view you're greeted to at the end of the Hooker Valley Track.
Home of the world famous glowworm caves, this little adventure village has plenty of attractions to keep you busy for a few days. Although the glow worms are the main draw card and the reason to visit Waitomo, there are also some other incredible natural wonders including the insanely beautiful Marokopa Falls and the limestone Mangapohue Natural bridge.
20. Roys Peak
We have no doubt you’ve already heard of this one, even if you’re from the other side of the world. The iconic photo we’ve seen many times before is actually one of the reasons travellers decide to come over to New Zealand. The views overlooking Lake Wanaka and surrounding mountains truly are something else. Many may believe that it’s been overhyped for too long, but there is a reason it’s become as popular as it has. Don’t let the crowds deter you from experiencing this epic spot, but if you do want something a little lesser known, Isthmus Peak definitely rivals Roys Peak for the best views.
21. Cape Palliser
At the southernmost point of the North Island sits Cape Palliser. Being out unprotected in the South Pacific Ocean means the coastline here is rough and torn from the high winds and harsh seas. It’s a truly wild place to visit and is host to a large colony of fur seals, as well as the historic Cape Palliser lighthouse that has withstood the abusive conditions since 1897.
Sunset up at the Cape Palliser Lighthouse.
22. Clay Cliffs
Hiding just outside of Omarama on a local farmers land is a Mars-like landscape waiting to be explored. The hillside has been carved out by an ancient glacier, leaving behind oddly shaped pinnacles and rock towers. Spotting it from the road as you cruise along SH8 is quite impressive, but to truly appreciate the scale of it you’ve got to walk up into the cliffs yourself.
23. Key Summit
Another personal favourite of some of the Roady team members, the Key Summit walk in Fiordland National Park ain’t a bad way to spend a day! The hike isn’t too strenuous but boy does it reward you with some staggering views and is a great option if you don’t have time to do the full Routeburn Track. It starts out climbing up through the dense forest before opening up as you reach the snowline. At the top you’ll have 360 degree views over the valley and of the surrounding peaks.
24. Tama Lakes
Those who know a bit about Tongariro National Park will no doubt have heard of The Crossing - One of NZ’s most famous day walks. This certainly is a great walk, but with all the hype comes all the crowds. For those wanting to have a slice of this epic area almost all to yourself, we can’t recommend the Tama Lakes walk highly enough. The track takes you past the impressive Taranaki Falls, then weaves up between the mighty volcanoes in the park - Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. At the end you’re greeted with two blue volcanic lakes created by an eruption 10,000 years ago.
25. Kerosene Creek
After a unique natural experience that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed? Well, then a dip in Kerosene Creek may be just the thing you’re after. A natural spring deep underground releases its hot water into the creek and creates the perfect bath-like temperature for a relaxing dip. What better way to unwind and soak up the vibes of the native NZ forest?
Soaking in Kerosene Creek.
26. 309 Road, Coromandel
This is certainly one that you won’t find on many ‘Top NZ’ lists, but that’s just because it’s barely known at all by most of the country. This hotspot isn’t really just one spot, but a collection of many along a little dirt road in the Coromandel. Things start out good at the eastern end of the road, with a restaurant serving up delicious local mussels. But it’s from here where things turn weird . . . The next attraction you’ll come across is Stuarts Pigs, and there’s not enough space here to quite describe what you’ll come across. Up the road from the chaos of the squealing pigs you'll find swimming holes, waterfalls and lush bush.
Glenorchy is quite literally the gateway to Paradise (there really is a place called Paradise up the road). This small settlement is one of the best and most popular day trips from Queenstown. The journey here is well worth the visit alone, and regularly features in lists of the top roads to drive in NZ. At the edge of the town you’ll find the iconic red hut as well as the highly photographed jetty. From here it’s just a small stroll into the settlement centre where there are a handful of bars and cafes.
28. Port Hills
The Port Hills of Christchurch divide the city off from the once volcanic peninsula, and offer so many of the city’s attractions. 360 degree views out over the ocean and across the plains to the Southern Alps can be had along the whole summit ridge. There’s a tonne of natural viewing points and rocky outcrops, and on the very northern tip of the hills, the relics of an old WW2 gun emplacement sit on the hillside looking out to the horizon. The Hills are definitely a big reason to visit the city of Christchurch.
Gibraltar Rock, one of the many spots to explore in the Port Hills.
29. Tarawera Falls
Having travelled to well over 30 waterfalls in the country, when asked for a favourite, the Tarawera Falls continuously jumps out as one of the most memorable. The 35m high waterfall pours out the cliffside and makes for a pretty spectacular scene. The Tarawera river you walk next to on your way to the falls is a pristine blue colour and the temperature isn’t quite as cold as other swimming spots around the country.
A quaint and quirky little village not far out of Queenstown. The historic settlement sits along the Arrow river and attracts visitors all year round, but especially during the autumn months. This hot spot comes to life as the trees succumb to the cold in the most incredible fashion. The hills surrounding the township turn bright red and gold and the trees lining the streets create some epic photo opportunities.
31. Cable Bay
This spot is hands down one of the most beautiful beaches in the Nelson Tasman region and arguably in all of NZ. Expect a nice shingle beach and clear turquoise blue waters. On a warm day there's nothing better than swimming and spending hours relaxing and exploring the bay. The views if you decide to walk up the hill overlooking Cable Bay are pretty unreal and it’s worth a visit just to watch the sunset here.
Overlooking Cable Bay.
32. Moke Lake
If you’re looking for a little escape from the crowds of Queenstown's main centre, then a little day trip (or a cheeky overnighter) to Moke Lake is just what you need. In around 15mins you’ll have left the town behind and will find yourself nestled in amongst the mountains beside a serene lake. On a calm day the water becomes like glass and reflects the beauty sitting at its edge. A DOC campsite with simple facilities has been set up and is the perfect place for a quiet getaway for a night or two.
33. Putaruru Blue Springs
This is 100% Pure New Zealand, so much so that around 65% of NZ's bottled water comes from here. The water's source is a spring deep underground and as it travels up to the surface (which can take up to 100 years), it gets purified naturally leaving it completely clear and contaminant free. You really need to visit to appreciate how vibrant the blues and greens are here, it's truly mind-blowing.
34. Mt Stokes
As the highest peak in the Marlborough Sounds region, Mt Stokes has views that rival that of Roys Peak - arguably the most scenic and iconic lookout spot in the country. At the summit, 1206 metres up, you’ll experience views that’ll leave you grinning from ear to ear. Soak up the sights of the many inlets, quiet coves and untouched islands in one of the most pristine areas of the world.
Sunrise at the summit of Mt Stokes.
35. St Bathans
St Bathans was a thriving town of over 2000 residents during the gold rush era, but with the official population now down to just 7 (living) people and a dog, you’d think there isn’t much reason to visit. Well it wouldn’t be on this list now if that was the case would it? All the mining endeavours in the past have left behind some uniquely NZ attractions, one of which being the beautifully blue man made lagoon with remnants of the mining equipment scattered around its edges. Some of the original buildings still stand, including the infamous Vulcan Hotel, the most haunted pub in New Zealand. Stay in room #1 if you dare. . . oh and if you do, say hi to Rose for us . . .
36. Lindis Pass
Only in New Zealand are the drives between destinations almost better than the destinations themselves. This mountain pass never disappoints on the trip between Lake Wanaka and Lake Pukaki. No two journeys through here look the same, with the whole valley changing throughout the seasons. In summer the hills are brown and barren and create stunning layers and textures in low sunlight. In winter you could find yourself in a complete whiteout with the hillsides turned into glowing mounds against the blue sky.
37. Mueller Hut
Tucked away in the mountains, sitting at 1800m on the Sealy Range is the famous red Mueller Hut. One of the most aesthetically pleasing alpine huts in NZ.
The 360 degree views of Aoraki/Mt Cook glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical rock faces and the surrounding mountains from up there are out of this world. Spending a night in the hut is an experience in itself and something we’d highly recommend. You'll go to sleep with the soothing sounds of avalanches all around you, along with the occasional cheeky noise from the keas.
Aoraki/Mt Cook sitting pretty behind Mueller Hut.
Akaroa is the largest settlement on the Banks Peninsula, sitting out to the east of Christchurch city. Getting out there involves cruising through some of the most scenic roads in the country, as you weave up and over the extinct volcano crater and down through the peaceful bays of the inlet. When you arrive you’ll notice the place isn’t quite like other small towns in the country. This one is heavily influenced by the early French settlers of the 1800’s and because of this, has an array of interesting historic buildings and the finest cuisine to match. The town’s idyllic location means it’s also a wildlife hotspot, with dolphin tours almost guaranteed to deliver sights of plenty of wild beauties.
39. Whanganui Inlet
Is this New Zealand, or are we on a tropical island all of a sudden? That’s what we kept asking ourselves as we drove further around the Whanganui Inlet. The sight of sheep then reminds you exactly which country you’re in haha! It’s gotta be the Nikau Palms (NZ’s only native palm tree), the clear blue waters and the sand dunes that give us that vibe. If you’re up checking out the very top of the South Island, then it’s definitely worth checking out for yourself!
40. Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach, located in Dunedin is a must-do. The short 2km walk provides spectacular coastal views including a natural archway/land bridge alongside a headland covered in coastal turf. The walk includes access (during low tide) through a historic 1870's tunnel to a small but beautiful beach nestled amongst the towering cliffs.
Bluebird day at Tunnel Beach.
41. Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs has been the go-to holiday destination for generations of Cantabrians. In under a 2hr drive from Christchurch you find yourself in NZ’s very own little alpine village. The surrounding pine forests are full of mountain bike tracks to entertain every skill level. The mountains behind the village host a friendly little ski field and have plenty of perfect slopes for tobogganing with the family. What makes Hanmer truly special is the natural geothermal activity that happens in the area. This has been taken advantage of since way back in 1883 when the first baths were set up and to this day, the hot pools are still the biggest drawcard to the town.
Mt Isobel hike, Hanmer Springs.
42. Bell Rock
An iconic lookout and NZs very own version of pride rock from the Lion King. Bell Rock can be accessed via a 5.3km return track and offers some insane views over Hawkes Bay. This hidden gem has you climbing through forest before you get to the expansive views that look out over the Mahia Peninsula, Te Kooti's Lookout, and the Kaweka mountain range.
43. Dukes Nose
The Dukes nose is a 5-6 hour return walk for one of the best views you will find in NZ.
To get up to the top a decent level of fitness is required and you have to be comfortable climbing up a rock face using a rail and holding your body weight (not for the faint hearted). When you reach the top you’ll be treated to breathtaking 360 degree views of the Whangaroa Harbour that will have you feeling on top of the world. It's well worth it for those that like a little bit of an adventure!
Taking in the views at the top of Dukes Nose.
44. Bobs Cove
Bobs Cove is a secluded little cove on the shores of Lake Wakatipu not far from Queenstown. It’s a 3km loop walk including the jetty lookout and the walk up to Picnic Point.
There are so many great spots along the waterfront to park up for the day and the views from up at the lookout are some of the best of Lake Wakatipu. The water is an incredible royal blue colour and no matter how cold it is, it’s hard to not jump straight in!
45. Cape Reinga Lighthouse
While on paper it’s not the very most northern point of New Zealand, it’s definitely the end of the road! Take a short stroll down to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse and lookout to where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.
Cape Reinga is a very sacred place for many Māori. Just past the lighthouse at the northernmost tip of the Cape lies a pōhutukawa tree believed to be over 800 years old. According to Māori history, the tree is where the spirits of deceased Māori leap from into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. A visit to this spot will certainly be a special one.
Cape Reinga Lighthouse.
46. Haast Pass
Following the traditional pathway that native Maori took on their journey west, the Haast Pass connects Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to the West Coast. This road cuts right through the middle of Te Wahipounamu, a world heritage site that is the largest untouched natural area in New Zealand. Along the road you’ll see valleys carved by glaciers, thick untouched forest and more waterfalls and chasms than you could possibly explore. Don’t just have this as a through road on your NZ roadtrip, allow a day or two and treat it just like the other must see destinations!
47. Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach, located in the Coromandel is such a unique experience and presents an atmosphere like no other. Found just beneath the surface of the sand at low tide is a patch pf bubbling thermal water, creating the perfect opportunity for a hot natural spa.
Digging a pool at Hot Water Beach.
48. Tasman Lake
At 27km long and over 600m deep, the Tasman Glacier holds the title of New Zealand's biggest glacier. A brief 20min walk from the carpark up the moraine wall greets you with views over the Tasman Lake to the face of the glacier in the distance.
The Tasman Glacier is retreating causing the frozen face to constantly crack and break off. This leaves gigantic icebergs floating on the surface —one of the few lakes in the world to contain icebergs. On the way up to the viewpoint, the Blue Lakes (which are now green) offer an enticing dip in summer months.
49. Hokitika Gorge
Located 33km east of Hokitika — the Hokitika Gorge is one of the coolest places to visit when travelling the West Coast. It’s an easy 15 min stroll down to the first swing bridge where you’ll be able to take in the famous turquoise waters. The gorge is part of an easy 2km loop track through lush native bush.
50. Doubtful Sound
Aaaand for our lucky last...but certainly not least...the magical Doubtful Sound.
Doubtful Sound / Patea is a fiord in Fiordland, in the far south west of New Zealand. It is located in the same region as the smaller but more famous and accessible Milford Sound / Piopiotahi. This is easily one of the most beautiful and remote places in all of NZ.
If peaceful relaxation, natural beauty, and unforgettable memories are what you're seeking, Doubtful Sound is the place for you!
Pure bliss in Doubtful Sound.
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