To be honest, we only had 8 full days in New Zealand and since we were at the end of our trip we just decided to power through and do it all. The only places we stayed two nights were in Taupo and Queenstown; the rest were one nighters. So realistically we “Just Passed Through” everywhere, but we’ll identify the cities we wanted to stay in longer. The draw of New Zealand is definitely in the journey, not the destination. The spectacular scenery of New Zealand is best experienced if you rent a car. It made more sense to us to spend time stopping at viewpoints along the way as opposed to spending time in the small towns.
- Queenstown – The backpacker hub of New Zealand is wrapped around a sparkling lake and snuggled into stunning mountains. It boasts awesome adventure activities and a great vibe. Tons of restaurants and shops line the main street, including the famous Fergburger, and you can walk around the bustle for hours. Queenstown is also a popular starting point for tours into Milford Sound, which is a must if you travel to this area.
- Taupo – A calm suburban city on the northeast corner of New Zealand’s largest lake, it’s a nice place to spend a few days. Take a stroll down the shore of the lake boasting views of Mount Doom from Lord of The Rings far off on the opposite shore. Trek over to Huka Falls just outside the city to witness the incredible power and turquoise water of the Waikato River. However the biggest draw to Taupo is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 20 kilometer day hike known as one of the best day hikes in the world.
Worth a Trip
- Rotorua – A neat town on North Island, Rotorua’s main tourist draw is it’s geysers and geothermal parks. Don’t miss the Te Puia geothermal park boasting one of the largest geysers in the southern hemisphere, a cultural center and a kiwi house. Try to visit the night market on Thursday nights if your schedule allows.
- Waitomo – Home of the famous Waitomo glow worm caves, you can find tons of adventures here. Take an adventurous blackwater rafting tour to witness these unique creatures instead of just walking along a boring boardwalk. Also make sure to check out the Ortorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park in the next town over.
- Nelson – A picturesque town on the northern tip of South Island, Nelson is a great place to spend a few days. Take a hike up the hill at the center of New Zealand to catch spectacular views of the surrounding bay and shoreline. Explore the shops and restaurants along the main street and just relax.
Just Pass Through
- Auckland – Often a starting point for travelling the north island if arriving by plane, the city is a working hub that doesn’t boast much tourist potential. Use it as an arrival point and head north to the Bay of Islands or south to start exploring the main area of North Island.
- Greymouth – A smaller town on the west coast of South Island, this is a popular stop along the The Great Coast Road. There are some hikes to take if you need to stay the day, but otherwise there’s not much here. Spend your time making stops along The Great Coast Road and Highway 6 instead.
- Picton – The arrival/departure town if you take the ferry between North and South Island (which is a fun voyage we might add) but not a ton to see here. Use it as a pit stop before/after your ferry and continue on to the next adventure.
- Christchurch – Ravaged by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city is clogged with construction. Not a ton to see here, mostly a stop for incoming/departing international flights.
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