New Zealand

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Last year I spent six weeks exploring the wonders of New Zealand. Whilst I didn’t get to complete everything on the list, I had so many incredible experiences that I cannot wait to return one day! From world-renowned hikes and cultural traditions to adrenaline-pumping extreme activities, here’s your ultimate New Zealand bucket list.

1. Hike a glacier. Lets start big shall we? The south island of New Zealand is renowned for its incredible glaciers, more specifically Fox glacier and the Franz Josef glacier, which you are allowed to walk along with a guide. This incredible experience doesn’t come cheap though!

2. Get up close to bubbling mud pools and hot, steaming geysers. Rotorua on the north island showcases some of the most fascinating geothermal activity in the world! The most colourful and enchanting of which can be found at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.

3. Create your very own natural hot water spring. At Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel peninsular there are hot water springs underneath the surface of the sand which can hold water up to 64 degrees! Head down at low tide, dig a hot water pool and bathe in your own personal natural hot tub.

4. Be amongst the first people to bring in the new year. For Auld Lang Syne!

5. Cross the Cook Strait. Take a trip on the Interislander, which connects the north island to the south. This three hour journey is recognised as one of the most scenic ferry rides in the world.

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsular


6. Explore underground glow worm caves. Waitomo hosts fascinating underground caves which are home to thousands of glow worms! You can explore the caves via boat, or be even more adventurous and go black water rafting. Fun fact: during filming of The Lord of the Rings, Andy Serkis used the caves to get into his character Golum!

7. Watch the All Blacks play a game. Rugby culture is huge in New Zealand! Make sure you catch the national team playing at least once.

8. Go Bungee Jumping with AJ Hackett. For all you adrenaline junkies!

9. Walk up the worlds steepest street. The title goes to Baldwin Street in Dunedin. The street now hosts an annual competition which involves competitors running up to the top and back down.

10. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This world-renowned hike leads you around three active volcanoes and the dark, volcanic terrain of Mt Doom from The Lord of the Rings.

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Waitomo glow worm caves


11. Go surfing in Raglan. New Zealand’s most well-known surf spot!

12. Explore the adventure capital of the world. Queenstown is the ultimate destination for adrenaline seekers! Extreme activities include bungee jumping, skydiving, hang gliding, zip-lining and jet-boating.

13. Drive along 90 Mile beach. You heard it right; in New Zealand you can drive along the beach! 90 Mile beach is an actual highway, so as long as you have a vehicle that can handle the sand, you’re good to go. You might even spot a few baby seal lions too!

14. Eat a hangi. The traditional way that Māori people eat food is by cooking it in the ground. Spend an evening at the Tamaki Maori Village and enjoy this feast whilst learning all about Māori culture.

15. Visit The Lord of the Rings filming locations. With its diverse landscapes, its no surprise that Peter Jackson chose New Zealand to portray Middle Earth. The popular trilogy was filmed in locations all over the country.

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Hobbiton, Matamata


16. Skydive over spectacular scenery. From the brilliant blue waters of Lake Taupo to the stunning Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, there are some incredible skydiving spots all over the country.

17. Go sandboarding down the Te Paki sand dunes. So. Much. Fun.

18. Ride on the Wellington cable car. The historic cable car has been running between Lambton Quay and Kelburn for over 100 years, offering great views of the city.

19. Hike Roy’s Peak. It’s the most Instagrammed hike in New Zealand for a reason! The tracks provides some truly epic scenery, but is closed each year during lambing season, (1st October – 10th November) so plan accordingly.

20. Jump into Lake Rotoiti. Or, you know, just appreciate the view…

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List



21. Ride the Luge down Bob’s Peak. This is the view you don’t want to miss in Queenstown. Either hike the Tiki Trail or ride on the Gondola up Bob’s Peak, and return via the Luge. Take a couple of friends and see who can reach the bottom first!

22. Road trip to Milford Sound. Often referred to as the 8th wonder of the world, Milford Sound is located near Queenstown and Te Anau. Fun fact: despite the name, Milford Sound is actually a fjord! Expect a long drive, spectacular scenery, and a few sleepy seals.

23. Swim with wild dolphins in Kaikoura. With Dolphin Encounter you have the rare opportunity to swim with wild dusky dolphins. The pods you encounter can have hundreds of dolphins. Be ready with your Go Pro! 

24. Watch two oceans collide at Cape Reinga. At the most northwestern tip of New Zealand, the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet in a swirl of currents and Māori legend! According to legend, this spot is where the spirits of deceased Maori leap into the ocean and return to their homeland.

25. Discover North Head, an old military base. The island of Devonport can be reached by a short ferry ride from Auckland. From here you can explore the old military base which was occupied by the New Zealand army to protect the city from a harbour attack. 

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Milford Sound


26. Perform the Haka. Or watch it being performed by The All Blacks! This traditional war cry was originally performed by warriors in order to demonstrate their strength and intimidate the opponent.

27. Go whale watching. There are several locations for whale watching, including Auckland and Kaikoura.

28. Witness the southern lights. The lesser-known southern lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Australis, can be spotted from Stewart Island at the southern tip of the country.

29. Visit #ThatWanakaTree. The most photographed tree in New Zealand.

30. Walk around the Red Zone in Christchurch. After the 2011 earthquake that destroyed most of its infrastructure, the town is currently being rebuilt and restored. Christchurch still exudes charm though! Places to visit include the Botanical Gardens and Re-Start Mall, which is a temporary shopping center built using shipping containers. Exploring the CBD Red Zone will give you an insight into how devastating the earthquake really was.

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Lake Wanaka


31. Visit the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. As immigrants continued to settle into New Zealand, a number of Māori chiefs created a treaty with the British Government in order to prevent the lawlessness and unfair dealings that were taking place at the time. Signed on February 6, 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, the treaty agreed that New Zealand would become a British colony.

32. Spot a Kiwi. That being said, this nocturnal flightless bird is extremely difficult to see in the wild! For a better chance, visit Zealandia in Wellington, which is an ecosanctuary caring for a range of native wildlife.

33. Go Tramping. Known elsewhere as rambling or bush walking. There’s plenty of choice, as New Zealand offers an abundance of hiking tracks all over the country! Why not try one of the 9 Great Walks.

34. Be a Hobbit. Any Tolkien fan can’t miss visiting the homely hobbit holes of Hobbiton in Matamata!

35. Marvel at Lake Matheson. This stunning mirror lake will leave you undoubtedly impressed.

The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

Lake Matheson


36. Go Horseriding. There are a range of horseriding opportunities that will take you through the stunning wilderness of New Zealand. Be prepared to feel as though you’re actually a character in The Lord of the Rings!

37. Ride on the TranzAlpine Train. Taking you through the stunning scenery of the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine train is regarded as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.

38. Spot wild penguins. If you’re very lucky you can spot wild penguins on various beaches in New Zealand! Here is where you can find them.


Would you add anything else to the list?

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The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

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  • Reply
    Girl In Gamba
    September 10, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    So, out of all the places I’ve been, I don’t think I’ve ever been close to traveling to New Zealand. However, after this list, I really really really want to go now, especially to visit the mud pools!

    -GG |

    • Reply
      September 13, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      New Zealand really does have so much to offer! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 14, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Love this Laura! I think I’ve got almost 80% of these checked off! If I had to add another, I’d say kayak in the Able Tasman! The bluest of blue waters, seals and sunshine. It’s a must do!

    • Reply
      September 16, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks Dani! 🙂 That’s pretty good going, I’m not too far behind you. Yes that’s such a good addition to the list! I’m so excited to return one day and complete it. So envious that you’ll be back there soon!!

  • Reply
    Sarah Ebner
    September 16, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    New Zealand is absolutely one of my bucket list place,s so I read your whole post and just wanted to get on a plane and go there now! So amazing to have had six whole weeks there too. Lake Matheson is particularly a place I’d like to see for myself!

    • Reply
      September 17, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Oh Lake Matheson was definitely a highlight! It’s SO beautiful with Mt Cook reflected in the water 🙂

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    September 17, 2017 at 1:00 am

    New Zealand is an amazing destination with an unending treasure trove of nature. There are so many things to see and experience, New Zealand is indeed an experience that is unforgettable. I would love to hike the glaciers. The other thing that I found really cool, is digging your own personal hot water spring and reveling the warm water.

    • Reply
      September 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Digging the hot spring was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Very bizarre but amazing at the same time! Sadly the weather conditions were too bad at the time I was in Franz Josef to hike the glacier though – maybe next time!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2017 at 4:12 am

    Gosh New Zealand is absolutely my dream destination. I’ve heard and seen so much about it. Yet I haven’t be able to get there as it’s too far away from Singapore. I wish I can spend my holiday there just like you!

  • Reply
    Megan Jerrard
    September 18, 2017 at 1:57 am

    New Zealand is on my bucketlist! We flew through Auckland last year and spent two days but it was more of a layover than really having the chance to properly experience the island. With glaciers, mud pools, fjords and hot springs, it sounds like Iceland! Seeing an All Blacks game is on the list, and I’ve seen so many incredible photos of Waitomo so can’t wait to witness the glow worms.

    Great bucketlist!

    • Reply
      September 22, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      You’re completely correct, it does have a lot of similarities to Iceland! I couldn’t help comparing the two when I travelled to Iceland earlier this year! Hopefully one day you can return and explore for longer! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 18, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    A great bucket list and if you ask me to choose I just simply can’t!! Another favourite part of adventure of mine is the Mount John at Lake Tekapo, and also the boutique bnb/ homestay around the lake was incredible. @ knycx.journeying

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