After spending a full year getting to explore New Zealand, I had to share some of my favorite experiences in both the North and South Island. They are in no particular order and all of them blew away my expectations. The entire country of New Zealand is pretty amazing, but if you can’t do it all, these are my suggestions to put at the top of your list. Here are the 11 best things to do in New Zealand:
1. Watch Baby Seals at Whairiki Beach
It was like it wasn’t even real life. If you didn’t know, you’d think these baby seals were trained and performing a show just for us. Getting to see baby seals up close in their natural habitat was unreal. And they loved showing off for their audience!
2. Get an Ice Cream Masterpiece at Giapo
My go-to dessert spot in Auckland. I went so often, they knew me! The ice cream is uniquely flavored and is fit for a queen. If you need a good Instagram picture, Giapo has you covered! The whole experience is luxurious, from standing in line and receiving samples, to being served water and wet wipes once you’ve gotten your ice cream. It’ll be one of the places I’ll miss most in New Zealand! When you go, think of me while you’re in ice cream heaven.
3. Swim with Wild Dolphins in Kaikoura
Wake up before the sunrise and get suited up and on the boat to go find some dolphins! I love that they do not attract/feed the dolphins in any way. The boat just finds one of the many pods of dolphins who look like they want to play, and drops you off to swim right alongside them. It was unreal and one of the most special memories I have from my year in New Zealand.
4. Do the Highest Bungy Jump in New Zealand in Queenstown
There are so many adrenaline pumping activities in New Zeland, but the Nevis bungy takes the cake! I was absolutely terrified. But I did it. And I’m SO glad I did. The feeling after you do the jump is like a high and something I will never forget.
5. Chase Waterfalls
If you know me, you know I love my waterfalls! There are some really unique ones in New Zealand and I had so much fun exploring them all. Some of my favorites are Rainbow Falls which you can go behind, and the one in the Catlins that is gorgeous and has an amazing walk that leads up to it.
6. Spend a Day in Takapuna during the Summer
I might be biased because I fell in love with Takapuna and would live there if I could, but there has to be a good reason why I fell in love with it, right?! It is such a cute little part of Auckland that has healthy cafes, nice stores to shop in, delicious restaurants, a great park for kids, and the perfect beach for swimming. I decided to spend my last day in New Zealand in Takapuna. That’s how much I love it!
7. Explore the Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel is the perfect part of the North Island for a little road trip. The beaches are amazing, the walks are so nice, and the drive is beautiful the entire time. Check out my blog post about everything to do in the Coromandel.
8. Road Trip the Entire South Island in a Van
It’s hard to pick specific things I loved in the South Island because it’s so easy to love all of it! But I do have to add the experience of road tripping and living out of a van while adventuring the South Island. New Zealand makes it so easy to live out of a van and there’s no other way I would have wanted to experience it!
9. Experience the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
I had never seen a glow worm before so to say I was amazed would be an understatement. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face in the Glow Worm Caves. I felt like I was in a movie! We did Black Water Rafting through the caves which I loved because we were in a small group and away from the big touristy groups. You can read more about that here.
10. SCUBA Dive at Poor Knights Islands
I didn’t even realize that New Zealand had a dive site that was one of the best in the world! And then once I went diving there, I soon realized that it was something really special. Diving or even snorkeling there makes for one of the best days ever. Poor Knights was the best dive site I have ever been to! Check out my post/video here.
11. Walk up Mount Manganui
I know there are TONS of amazing walks in New Zealand, but this one was just special to me. I’ve done this walk so many times and each time the view takes my breath away. It is short, challenging, and oh so rewarding!