When it comes to the most beautiful places to visit, New Zealand doubtlessly stands as a top contender.
Regardless of which part of the country you turn to, there’s either some spectacular natural landscape, fascinating history, rare wildlife, or beautiful cities. From stunning volcanic formations to white beaches, crashing waterfalls, emerald lakes, and areas of vast untouched wilderness, New Zealand offers an authentic experience like no other. Plus, local Kiwis are famously friendly and welcoming!
There is an overwhelming array of picture-perfect places in New Zealand, so we’ve sampled 19 of the most beautiful for your consideration. Let’s get going.
19 Most Beautiful Places in New Zealand That Are a Must-See
With many of the country’s attractions protected in national parks, we can expect to enjoy the most beautiful places in New Zealand for many years to come. Besides being a great tourist destination, New Zealand is one of the best countries to work in as an ex-pat. As such, it regularly draws folks from all over seeking something new.
Here are the most picture-perfect places as you kickstart your tour of New Zealand. Let’s go on the voyage of a lifetime.
1. Bay of Islands
A thirty-five-minute flight or three-hour drive north of Auckland will get you to the Bay of Islands. The area with a subtropical microclimate is famed for its astonishing beauty and rich history. Close to 140 small islands between the Purerua Peninsula and Cape Brett lay bare New Zealand’s pristine beaches.
The region is a paradise for seafront lovers who can sample beautiful walking trails and campsites on the seaside. While on land, enjoy the lush subtropical rainforests that are home to the great Kauri tree as you assimilate the history of the Maori people.
Cruising over the area by boat is the best way to get a glimpse of the exquisite islands amidst the placid turquoise ocean waters. Team up with a group for a daily cruise or hire a yacht for the sea adventure of a lifetime. Watch dolphins, penguins, whales, and more.
Kaikoura is a picture-perfect town on the east coast and is about 2.5 hours north of Christchurch. Located on the Southern Island, it’s famed for its breathtaking coastal scenery, abundant marine life, and beach walks. It’s also a wonderful place to eat crayfish.
If you’re crazy about wildlife, then add Kaikoura to your bucket list. Whale-watching trips are a favorite activity on these coastal waters with an ever-present colony of fur seals, dolphins, and whales. Explore the area by boat, or the various whale watching trips. If you can afford it, a flight would be great fun to watch these marine mammals.
The town has plenty of history about the indigenous Maori people as well as the European settlers. Surrounding mountains are snow-capped over winter adding an intriguing twist to this spectacular landscape.
A two-and-a-half-hour drive northeast of the capital Wellington brings you to Castlepoint, a serene beach town on the Wairarapa coast. This hidden gem of a town features dazzling coastlines, remarkable landscapes, and wines that make you want to stay just a little longer.
The Castlepoint Lighthouse is a famous attraction here, set on the backdrop of a stunning beach. Get there by climbing over 500 feet to the top of Castle Rock, then walk right in. New Zealand fur seals and various dolphins commonly visit the area. Small whales are less common, but they do make an occasional appearance to the thrill of tourists and locals alike. It’s safe to swim in the reef with the family or take leisurely walks on the beach.
There is a myriad of other beautiful sceneries in the area that you shouldn’t skip. First, there’s the historic Tinui, a place where the world’s first Anzac Day service was commemorated in April 1916. Then there’s the Deliverance Track to Castle Rock and the family-fun hotspot in Masterton town with awesome playgrounds for children.
Hobbiton quickly comes to mind when one thinks of New Zealand. That’s because it’s one of its most photographed areas thanks to the legendary success of the Lord of the Rings films.
Hobbiton is located on a farm 6 miles southwest of Matamata on the North Island. Meander the perfectly manicured path of Bagshot Row, relax beneath the Party Tree, and enjoy a pint or two at The Green Dragon for extra bragging rights.
5. The Coromandel
The Coromandel is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand attracting droves of visitors annually as a top vacation destination. Its celebrated unspoiled beaches, pristine forests, and the happy-go-lucky attitude of its locals complete its attractive profile. At an hour’s drive from Auckland airport, Rotura and Hobbiton, it’s easily accessible by road, flight, or sea.
Pristine is the feel of the Peninsula’s over 250 miles of sandy beaches. The interior is a natural wonder of a rugged mountainous terrain swaddled in misty indigenous forests, the walker’s dreamland.
The Cathedral Cove is a massive cave located on the beach. It’s a jewel of natural beauty that screams for a photo moment. Simply irresistible. Then there’s the Hot Water Beach where you can scoop out sand for a bubbling water spa in the beach sand.
Apart from hiking on Pinnacle Walk, you can go fishing, cycling on Hauraki Rail Trail, skydiving, or taking a guided kayak tour along the coastline. Lovers of art can check into the numerous art studios in Cormomandel to purchase a beautifully designed art piece or attend a local concert.
The Coromandel Peninsula features a range of accommodation options ranging from upmarket cabins to tent sites. Spectacular views and convenient access make it easy to stay at one of these beautiful places in New Zealand.
If you were to visit only one site in New Zealand, I would recommend Rotorua. Situated right on the North Island at about 140 miles southeast of Auckland, Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity. It’s also popular for its promotion of Maori culture at the cultural exhibition.
The sights here are simply out of this world, with steam impressively rising from the multitudinous geysers dotting. Pohutu Geyser located in Whakarewarewa (say that five times fast!) is the most visited. But be careful, though; the water and mud coming from these underground geysers are sizzling hot!
Tour the Kuirau Park mud pool reserve for a fantastic sightseeing experience by the lakeside. Take in sweeping views from the gondola there. Then, hike in the adjacent Whakarewarewa Forest that’s home to towering redwoods.
Another word of caution while in Rotorua: Keep your tent windows shut at night if you do not want to wake up with a repugnant sulfur smell all over your belongings.
Experience the Maori culture first-hand by visiting the cultural exhibition. You’ll encounter a traditional show plus a crash course in preparing traditional Moari delicacies from underground heat.
7. The Mirror Lakes
The Mirror Lakes are in Fiordland National Park, found between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Walking along the lake is a breeze for all ages with possible wheelchair access. Moreover, the walkways and parking area are clearly marked.
They offer a great picture opportunity when you take a break and stretch as you drive to Milford Sound. This won’t take you long; a fifteen-minute stop would suffice to explore all the beautiful reflections of the Eral Mountains in the pristine lake waters. The kids will certainly love this scenic stop-over. But, you could easily make it a destination unto itself, savoring the otherworldly reflections of the mountainous skyline in the dead-calm waters.
8. Lake Wanaka
What will immediately strike you about Lake Wanaka is its captivating beauty. The 27-mile long lake situated in Otago on the South Island is the fourth largest in New Zealand. It’s tucked within the range near Mount Aspiring National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The plentiful outdoor activities here are but a bonus to the main attraction of marveling at the surreal lake. Main activities for outdoor enthusiasts include jet-boating, hiking, skydiving, kayaking, canyoning, sailing, and more.
What makes Wanaka an even better destination is that there’s something to do all year round. In summer, it’s a go-to destination for watersports, biking, and hiking. Winters can be spent snowboarding or skiing in either of the four ski areas: Cardona, Snow Farm, Soho Basin, or Treble Cone.
Autumn, on the other hand, is perfect for photography devotees who’ll find the landscapes that come alive in vibrant colors irresistible. Spring, meanwhile, is the ideal time to hit the tracks and trails.
Nearby galleries, world-class wineries, international triathlons, and superb restaurants top off the magnificence of Lake Wanaka. It’s no wonder this gem is among the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
9. Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier is a spectacular part of New Zealand’s West Coast and a World Heritage Area. It’s the perfect spot for daring weekend warriors who want to attempt the fascinating heli hiking tour.
Take a guided ice-walk to learn about the interesting history of this glacier. And if your budget allows, an aerial tour will be an unforgettable experience as you’ll take in stunning views of the neighboring mountains.
The Franz Josef Glacier is located 3 miles from the town that bears the same name, which features numerous accommodation options and scenery to die for.
For those who love a laid-back vacation, you can chill out at Glacier Hot Pools to enjoy a geothermic dip. Apart from the glacier, there are several pearls of nature in the area from Lake Mapourika to the cascading waterfalls and lush rainforests. Explore the beautiful lake by kayak tour.
The stunning views of the valley floor to the snow-capped glaciated peaks exhibit exceptional natural beauty making Franz Josef Glacier among the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
10. Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is a photographer’s dream with a landscape covered in volcanoes and more. The unique natural attraction is a must-see destination for anyone touring New Zealand for the first time. Those who’ve been here keep returning to this locus that’s definitely one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
Tongariro is the premier national park in New Zealand since 1887. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site owing to its natural magnificence and the cultural importance to the Maori people. The landscape is dotted with volcanoes, turquoise lakes, rare alpine gardens, kaleidoscopic silica benches, and sizzling craters.
The main attractions in the park are the three volcanoes of Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe. These volcanoes are still active; Ruapehu eruptted last in 1996 and Ngauruhoe in 1975. Be sure you keep an eye on the volcanic activity of the area before you visit Tongariro National Park.
Additionally, the three iconic emerald lakes make this a perfect hiking ground. Add to the mix a handful of waterfalls, and the unusual flora and fauna. Tongariro is worth exploring by all means.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses this fascinating scenery of volcanoes, lakes, and mountains. Enjoy enviable views of Mt Taranaki, Lake Taupo, and Waitonga Falls. Start trekking from Whakapapa Village that has a visitor center. Overnight hikes over several days in the park are common.
To take in all this beauty of Tongariro National Park in a breeze, consider a helicopter ride over the extensive park.
11. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves ranks highly as a one-of-a-kind attraction for locals and visitors in New Zealand alike. Situated on the North Island, Waitomo Caves feature thousands of magical glowworms that can be quietly admired while you leisurely drift in guided boat tours. The view is ecstatic.
A visit to New Zealand would be incomplete without exploring these inspiring magical limestone formations. When you visit the iconic Waitomo Caves, you get more than you bargained for. That’s because the caves are in a larger waterway system that encompasses Ruakuri Cave, Tumutumu Cave, Lucky Strike which you’ll simultaneously visit.
Tucked between the bewitching Wellington Harbor and the numerous hills on which the city is lies, Wellington is the cool capital of New Zealand. It’s a melting pot of culture, cuisine, nature, and action-packed adventure.
Located to the south of the North Island, it’s a friendly capital served with a generous waterfront and a laid-back population. For a sweeping view of the city, take the red Wellington cable car to Kelburn and relish the harbor and city in all its splendor.
Wellington is home to a vibrant cultural scene with a string of art galleries, historic museums, and theatre acts. New Zealand’s National Museum, also referred to as Te Papa, sits on the coastline and ranks highly as an interactive museum globally.
Foodies will love the award-winning restaurants and sequestered bars. Coupled with pulsating nightlife, Wellington is the definition of exciting city life.
Lonely Planet must have had good reasons to recognize Wellington as “the world’s coolest capital”. So it’s not surprising that’s featuring on our list of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
13. Huka Falls
Witness the sheer power of a rumbling waterfall as it crashes into a pool 11 meters below. Huka Falls is an awesome sight along Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand. The river drains Lake Taupo on a wide river bed that eventually squeezes into a narrow ravine just before the massive plunge that makes up Huka Falls.
The river acquires a characteristic foamy appearance as it passes over the falls. A footbridge right over the falls offers a vantage viewpoint to experience the river in its beautiful fierceness. There are numerous observation points from where you can capture postcard-like photos of the falls.
If you have nerves of steel then take up a jet boat ride over the river’s length. The boat can reach an impressive speed of 50 miles an hour but has a good safety record. So as to follow through the build-up to the falls, hike through the indigenous trees on the trail between Spa Park and Huka Falls. Move downstream with the increasing crescendo as you near the prize, Huka Falls.
But of course, a car park that’s just under 2.5 miles from Huka Falls makes visiting literally a walk in the park if you’d rather just get right to it. There’s also a bus from Taupo that ferries tourists interested in visiting attractions in the area.
14. Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is an extremely scenic landscape that should top your wish list of places to visit in New Zealand.
It’s a landscape replete with fairy tale mountains, alpine lakes, native vegetation, serpentine river valleys, and glaciers. The park takes its name from Mount Aspiring which is one of the highest peaks in New Zealand.
A hiker’s haven with intricate hiking trails that traverse the stunning countryside. Some of the famous trails include Routeburn Nature Walk, Blue Pools Walk, Lake Sylan, and Haast Pass Summit. You can choose from a mix of short walks and long walking trails within the park.
Traverse the vast wilderness to the accompanying music of chirping birds and crashing waterfalls. Virgin landscapes of alpine forests, formidable mountains, glacier-sculpted valleys, and wildly colored rocks envelop you in all directions. The rock-formations create such a scenic landscape.
15. Otago Peninsula
At half an hour from the town of Dunedin, Otago Peninsula is just phenomenal. Rolling hills covered in a carpet of evergreen grass, precarious cliff-tops, and untouched sandy beaches define Otago.
If you don’t come here for the scenery, then the wildlife will do. You can spot penguins, fur seals, and sea lions at Pilots Beach and Te Rauone Beach near Taiaroa. Take a drive along the coastal road from Vauxhall to soak in the scenic landscape that makes Otago Peninsula one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
Then there is the rugged side of the Otago Peninsula that has beautiful rock formations that mimic the Egyptian pyramids.
16. Bay of Plenty
As the name suggests, the Bay of Plenty has tons of attractions. When New Zealander’s go for vacations, this is their preferred destination. It’s home to beaches that are easy on the eye, geothermal marvels, and luscious kiwifruit.
Tauranga area has acres upon acres of fruit trees added to the abundant seafood. Local craft beer tops off the fine dining and winning experience of the Bay of Plenty. Lovers of arts will find Katikati town magnetic as it’s grown to be a hub for the arts.
Those given to an active lifestyle will enjoy kayaking, jet boating, parasailing, or sky diving for some added adrenaline rush.
The expansive glittering sandy beaches of Mount Maunganui are ideal for surfing all year long. Indeed, there’s something for everyone in the Bay of Plenty.
17. Mount Cook
New Zealand’s highest mountain standing at over 12,000 feet. Mount Cook (Aoraki) is a sight to behold. On the east is the magnificent Tasman Glacier while the Hooker Glacier sits to the west.
The best viewing options are by hiking from the renowned Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park. Once at the base of the mountain, you can scale it if you’re the adventurous type.
If your budget allows, consider a chopper rider or a small plane trip over the mountain–the views from above are astounding. What’s more, in good weather, you could actually land on top of the mountain, walk at the top, and capture incredible photos.
18. Milford Sound
Milford Sound has oftentimes been referred to as the eighth Wonder of the World. And it’s not difficult to see why from the moment you set your foot in this fjord in the South Island.
Located within the Fjord National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage area of Te Wahipounamu, Milford Sound features a series of stunning glacier-carved valleys, breathtaking waterfalls, and placid waterways. Stirling Falls is the most memorable of them all plunging over 450 feet below.
Touring the area by a boat ride for about two hours is the best way to sample this natural wonder at a close distance. As you cruise you can spot dolphins, penguins, and a host of birds. Apart from taking a boat ride, there are other activities you can engage in with the rest of the family in Milford Sound.
Milford Track offers excellent hiking trails that allow for spectacular views of the fjord from the shores. The road to Milford also gives some fine views; and you can also go kayaking. But a scenic flight over the area is the ultimate jaw-dropper.
Dunedin is famed for its unique scenery and awe-inspiring history. Its Scottish roots are so pronounced that it’s also known as “the Edinburg of New Zealand”. Larnach Castle, the only authentic castle in the whole of New Zealand is found here.
Located on the South Island, it’s one of the big cities of New Zealand with a quirky ambiance. Nestled among hills and alongside a scenic harbor, it’s a great place to get up close with unique wildlife. You’ll find rare penguins that are almost impossible to find elsewhere in the world. On the beach, fur seals and sea lions flourish and lounge lazily.
The city is sprawled on hills and valleys that were previously volcanoes. For a nostalgic experience, you can get to the town by boarding the old steam engine train. It will pass over the Taieri Gorge and you’ll meander through picturesque sceneries. The ultimate getaway for couples who’d want to reinvigorate their relationship and feed on fresh memories.
In Dunedin, a visit to Speight Brewery is recommended. They produce a locally crafted beer that’s popular in the region.
New Zealand is a global magnet that attracts local and overseas tourists. From stunning natural landscapes to rare wildlife, it remains a gem that’s worth exploring.
Have you ever visited any of these sites? What was your experience like?
Hit our comment section with a place you think we should have included on our list.