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New Zealand Travel Guide and Travel Planner for 2023

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

Why should you visit New Zealand? You might think traveling to New Zealand doesn't have that much to offer a tourist. You couldn't be more wrong. The two main islands; North Island and South Island, have surprisingly a lot of tourist attractions and activities for all types of travelers to enjoy. How many islands does New Zealand have? If the two main Islands aren't enough, you have over 600 more islands to discover! The New Zealand Travel Guide with the Best Tourist Attractions will show you that two is more than enough to explore on your New Zealand vacation.

Add amazing nature experiences that will leave you breathless and the next thing you will add-in will be New Zealand to your ever-growing Travel Bucket List.

Guest Blogger: Fredrik Goldhahn, Sticks & Spoons Food Travel

Blue Waves from the shore with an overcasted sky on the horizon. The sea's ever changing wave patterns in motion.

2023 Travel Guide to New Zealand

In this comprehensive travel guide, you will find what to do in New Zealand, where to travel in NZ, what to see, and maybe most importantly if you ask us, what to eat.

This New Zealand blog post will help you find the best tourist activities like fast-paced outdoor sports for the intrepid traveler, stunning scenic environments for your travel photography, NZ vacation ideas and attractions, travel advisory, city tours, and if you're lucky; even Hobbits!

Table of Content: New Zealand Travel Guide and Travel Planner for 2023

3:9 Napier

4:2 Bay of Islands Region

7:1 Nelson

7:2 Blenheim

7:4 Wanaka

7:6 Dunedin

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View from above, a cable car in Wellington, New Zealand. Find more tourist attractiona and things to do in New Zealand here.

Cable Car in Wellington, New Zealand

Travel to New Zealand

Travels to New Zealand are hot on the travel market! The World Travel Market in London has frequently rated New Zealand as one of the most beautiful and natural places on Earth through the years. To that fact, you can add that New Zealand has been recognized to have some of the safest cities and the most friendly people in the world today.

Being located though in a far corner of Mother Earth, your trip needs to be carefully thought through and planned. Luckily for you, we have made this Travel Guide to help you plan your upcoming New Zealand vacation easily.

Let us start by answering some of the common and frequently asked questions about traveling to New Zealand.

When is the best time to visit New Zealand?

Depending on what you want from your vacation, season, and popularity to visit may play a role when your personal best time to visit New Zealand is.

If you want to catch the sun, visit the beach, have a variety of adventurous activities available, and spend a lot of time outside you should visit New Zealand in the Summer. The summer months in New Zealand are between December and March.

With average temperatures ranging between 60° and 75° Fahrenheit, or 15° to 24° Celsius, the weather is perfect for sporty activities, hiking, and outdoor barbeques with long and sunny days. In January you will experience the hottest days, especially on the New Zealand North Island weather in the Bay of Island, where you can enjoy tropical conditions and North Island Beaches.

Summertime is also the most popular time for locals to travel and tourists to visit New Zealand, so expect more people but also more tourist attractions to choose from.

How long should I plan to stay in New Zealand for vacation?

A travel advisory is that you'll need at least a 2-week stay in New Zealand to get out most of the two main islands. A good measure is to plan your New Zealand Itinerary with a 1-week stay on the North Island and 1-week stay on the South Island, or vice versa.

With that said, depending on your holiday goals you might want to consider extending the north or south visit by a few days. The New Zealand lifestyle and food destinations may want you to stay longer too. Maybe some new exciting destination to explore turns up?

Shortly speaking, Travel Plan your New Zealand vacation with a little bit of margin. Your travel memories of New Zealand will only get better and your travel-infused brain will thank you later.

How much does a New Zealand vacation cost?

Of course, it's highly individual how much you want to spend on your vacation, but let us imagine you fly from the USA to New Zealand.

What is the cost of a New Zealand vacation? When doing researches for this New Zealand Travel Guide, we found out that an average weekly budget for travel and stay is around NZ$ 1200/ per person or roughly $ 850/ for one week.

And also in US dollars, if you have a spending budget of approx $110 - 130 USD / per day you can travel around discovering the country, eat really well, take part in some tourist attractions and tours of your choice.


If you're planning a New Zealand Family Vacation, or traveling on a tighter budget, we have gathered more travel tips and hacks to save some travel money at the end of this travel guide in New Zealand Budget Travel and Travel Hacks.

Where do I find cheap flight tickets to New Zealand?

As the high season to travel in New Zealand is during summertime, naturally, that's when flight tickets are the most expensive. In the Summer months, from November until January, airfare peaks.

A recommended Travel Hack is to Search Skyscanner for the Cheapest Flight Ticket, if wanting cheap flight tickets to any destination, at any time.

You could definitely visit New Zealand all year round, and if you want to grab the cheapest flight months to New Zealand, they are between April and June.


Do I need a Visa to visit New Zealand?

Yes, you need a Visa to travel to New Zealand. Visa required is called eTA, or Electronic Travel Authority. It's the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand that requires this Visa documentation for 60 countries but don't worry, it's real easy to get an eTA Visa for New Zealand Travel online.

The Visa is valid for transit and vacation in New Zealand for two years with multiple entries from the purchase date. Buy your eTA Visa online in just three easy steps and the Visa is delivered within 24 hours. And you have a choice if you are in even a more hurry!

Can I travel to New Zealand from the USA?

Yes, of course. For instance, if you are a US Citizen and travel to New Zealand from the USA, the New Zealand eTA Visa costs approx $57 within a 24-hour window. Choosing a Rush delivery of your eTA Visa within 4 hours will cost you $77, and if you are in a Super Rush and need the Visa right now, or within 30 minutes, that will cost you $97.

How long can I stay in New Zealand with a Visa?

The general rule is that you can stay 90 days on vacation with every entry and a valid eTA Visa. There is no limit to how many times you can visit in the 2-year validity.

For many Backpackers and Digital Nomads, it could be tempting to work and increase the travel budget while being in New Zealand, because there are a lot of good opportunities to work in NZ.

Unfourtanly you are not allowed to work with an eTA Visa. You are allowed to search for a job during vacation, but if you intend to work while traveling you will need a Working Holiday Visa.

Where do I find New Zealand vacation rentals and accommodation?

You have plenty of accommodation choices when visiting New Zealand. Choose between anything from luxurious accommodation options like high-end hotels, to more budget-friendly apartment rentals or Bed and Breakfasts.

Always make Travel Plan in advance and do a travel itinerary with accommodation to fit your travel budget. If you find something nicer or cheaper later or at your destination you can find sites with free cancelation online.

Try to find some beautiful New Zealand vacation rentals, hotels, and accommodation on Expedia or Booking. We found a lot of nice options there while doing research for all travel budgets.

Map of New Zealand North Island. Sticks and Spoons Food Travel's New Zealand Travel Guide 2021.

Map of the Northern Main Island of New Zealand

New Zealand North Island: ”Te Ika-a-Māui ”

The North Island; or "Te Ika-a-Māui" in Māori, is maybe the most famous of the two main islands, with fantastic bays and a breathtaking archipelago. North Island has an exciting volcanic activity going on and great National Parks with hot springs are located here. You'll find the Capital of New Zealand; Wellington down in the south-western part of the North Island. On the northern Island, you also find New Zealand's largest city; Auckland - commonly known as "The City of Sails".

On North Island, you'll have amazing nature combined with cosmopolitan cities. Almost 4 million of New Zealand's 5 million population live on the much smaller North Island which makes the north an obvious choice for any tourist and traveler to visit when going to New Zealand.

North Island Facts

The quick facts you need to know about New Zealand's North Island:

  • Population: 3,896,200, almost three-quarters of all the NZ population

  • Area: 113,729 km2 (or 43,911 sq mi) making it the 14th largest island in the world

  • Biggest City: Auckland with a population of 1,470,100, NZ largest city

  • Highest Peak: Mount Ruapehu with 2,797 m (or 9177 ft)

  • Three Facts making North Island Famous: Definitely everything about the Māori culture, volcanic activity (see next picture), and the "home" of the Hobbits.

  • One Funny Fact: The hill Taumata's full name in Māori is the longest name for a place referring to Guinness World Records: "Taumata­whakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukaka­piki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­ki­tana­tahu". The beautiful name can (roughly) be translated as "The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who traveled about, played his kōauau (flute) to his loved one".

And believe it or not, sometimes an even longer version of the hills name is used, but hasn't become the official one!

Whakaari or White Island, is New Zealands most active Cone Vulcano and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years.

White Island, or "Whakaari" in Māori, is located in the Bay of Plenty. The New Zealand North Island Vulcano is New Zealand's most active Cone Vulcano.

New Zealand North Island: City Guide

North Island has twelve urban areas and half of them are officially cities. Let's find out more about New Zealand North Island Cities, in the City Guide!

Auckland: "Tāmaki Makaurau". New Zealand North Island City Guide. Auckland is the most populous city in the New Zealand with 1,4 M people.

Night Skyline of Auckland

Auckland: "Tāmaki Makaurau"

Auckland is the most populous metropolitan city in the country with 1,4 M people. First settled by the Māori who valued the richness and fertility of the surroundings, Tāmaki Makaurau was peaking at a 20,000 population around the year 1350, followed by the arrival of Europeans. A short while Auckland was the Capital of New Zealand before Wellington took over that role.

The cost of living in Auckland is the highest in the country but the popularity of the city hasn't diminished. Auckland has been growing steadily through the years and today the city has been recognized and ranked 3rd in the annual Mercer Quality of Living Survey as one of the most liveable cities in the world, and will become understandable for any tourist visiting the metropolitan city.

And there are a lot of tourists! The Auckland Airport serves approx 2M international passengers per year, and to that, you can add alternative domestic travel.

In Auckland, you can experience big city pulse, cafés, restaurants, architectural landmarks, culture, festivals, and arts. Entertainment, activities, thought-through city planning combined with quality living, and the home of NZ's country's largest university, make Auckland the most beloved city for both tourists and New Zealanders to visit.

Whangārei Falls

Whangārei is the most northern city on the North Island and has a population of 54,400 people. The city has several mottos: Love It Here, Non-Nobis Solum in Latin which can be translated to Not Only to Us, and City of 100 beaches. The latter is probably true too; you find a lot of beaches where you can chill out in the Northland Region.

Even though being a thriving city with a quite big art community with galleries and museums, the tropical climate with a lot of sun hours will struggle for your attention. Whangārei is a great place to embrace the city's laidback and carefree lifestyle sunbathing, playing in the sea, and BBQ on the beach. "Throw another Shrimp on the Bar-B!"

You have a few adventure opportunities and outdoor activities to choose from too, but quite frankly it's more likely you will stay longer on the beaches, just hang around the harbor restaurants and café looking at the ocean, loading your batteries, and enjoying life.

Notable though, the city has some street art spots in the city core you should look up, with 15 large-scale Mural Paintings to admire.

View over Tauranga  Tauranga is located in the north-western corner of the beautiful area Bay of Plenty, taken from the hill.

Tauranga on the North Island of New Zealand located in the Bay of Plenty


Tauranga is located in the north-western corner of the beautiful area Bay of Plenty.

Being one of the most important NZ Cities for business, it has become New Zealand's fifth biggest city and urban area with extensive international trade, culture, fashion, and horticultural science as their main trades.

But you should be prepared to get your fill of Nature Experiences while visiting the Hamilton urban area and surroundings too.

Around Tauranga, you can experience astonishing nature with geothermal pools, visit the Waimarino Adventure Park, take the scenic hiking trails through the Kaiate Waterfall and McLaren Falls Park, swim with dolphins, and be amazed by the Mount Maunganui main beach with a breathtaking view over the beach, Pilot Bay, and the city from the mountain itself.

The landscape just outside Hamilton in New Zealand

Hamilton: "Kirikiriroa"

Hamilton and its surroundings have been the settlement of many different Māori villages, making the Māori culture well-represented in the area. One of the villages; Kirikiriroa has given Hamilton its present Māori name.

Hamilton is New Zealand's fourth most populous and fastest-growing city with 176,500 people living in the urban area. While being located on the banks of the Waikato River, Hamilton is offering a wide range of natural gems, wildlife, and a National Park. Hamilton has been awarded the most beautiful, large city in the country. Education and Research are also important for the city's economy.

Being a city with a large student population, Hamilton, naturally, has a lot of vibrant and interesting venues with eateries, bars, and entertainment located along the old Town Belt and Garden Place for instance, and several large-scale kinds of music- and street festivals, but also world-class classical music events.

Rotorua: "Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe".The Rotorua Museum of Art and History. Rotorua is a small city with a population of 58,500 in North Island, New Zealand.

The Rotorua Museum of Art and History

Rotorua: "Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe"

Rotorua is a small city with a population of 58,500, making it just the 12th largest urban area in the country, but has a lively, adventurous, and active vibe.

In the Rotorua region, people's free time and visiting tourists' vacation goals are mostly concentrated around water and outdoor activities. Speaking of activity, there's also a fair amount of the Thermal kind going on and that together has become Rotorua's main tourist appeal.

The Rotorua region has 17 lakes that definitely will encourage you to try some water activities out, but also have amazing forests to do off-the-beaten-path excursions, hike or why not mountain bike? The latter has a worldwide reputation as Red Bull Magazine awarded Whakarewarewa Forest as one of the Top 8 locations globally with its over 100 km of mountain-biking trails to discover and explore!

The volcanic and thermal action in the Rotorua region span from smaller bubbling, muddy pools to full-blown Geysers. There's even a place called The Buried Village, or Te Wairoa in Māori, named after it was buried after the fierce eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.

Rotorua is the home of Huka Falls, and we write more about the Rotorua tourist attractions and activities in the section Playing and staying in Huka Falls, Rotorua Region further down.

Gisborne: "Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa ". James Cook, Captain, and Navigator of the Endeavour, looking over Gisborne, North Island in New Zealand.

Statue of James Cook, Captain, and Navigator of the Endeavour in Gisborne

Gisborne: "Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa "

Gisborne's historical importance of New Zealand is inevitable. For centuries the area has been inhabited by the Māori tribes of Te Whanau-a-Kai, Ngaariki Kaiputahi, Te Aitanga-a-MahakiRongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, descending from the very first Māori voyagers; the Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru, Horouta, and Tākitimu waka arriving in Aotearoa over 1000 years ago from the Polynesian islands of Hawaiki.

Much later, a ship called Endeavour showed up on Kaiti Beach in Gisborne. The Captain and navigator of the ship were James Cook, and the landing is declared to be the first arrival of the first Europeans in New Zealand.

The city of Gisborne is a coastal city, located on the east cape of the North Island, but is surrounded by vineyards and farms towards the more hilly, fertile inland. There are a few real good Food Markets with local farmers' produce and beverages from the region's wineries and breweries, so there's plenty for the foodie to explore.

A slow-paced beach lifestyle with surfing, walking, and relaxing is given, just enjoying the environment and the local cuisine and culture. Maybe an Adventure on a Railbike?

Gisborne is also the home of The Tairāwhiti Tamararo Regionals; annual Haka Competitions held in memory of Karaitiana Tamararo, so managing to time your vacation with that event should be an awesome experience.

New Plymouth: "Ngāmotu". Beautiful photo with the mountain in the back end of a lake in the front. City Guide to North Island, New Zealand.

New Plymouth: "Ngāmotu"

New Plymouth; not surprisingly named after the English ditto, is the major city of the Taranaki Region on the west coast of the North Island. Here you'll find coastal walkways, hiking trails, botanical gardens, and a laidback lifestyle.

However, within just a 30-minute drive you can go from skiing or snowboarding to water skiing or surfing, and how cool is that? Maybe only surpassed in coolness by golfing on the famous golf course that also is inhabited by sheep! Funny thing; the pronouncement of "Fore" actually translates to "sheep" in Swedish. Double Pun intended.

The city was recently chosen as one of two walking & cycling "Model Communities" by the New Zealand government and also grabbed an award for Community Sustainability.

Hastings: "Heretaunga"

Hastings is located on New Zealand's east coast and has a population of approx 50,000 people.

The motto of Hastings is "Great things grow here" and it's suitable. The city is found to the east of the Central Plateau of the Hereatunga Plain and the Kaweka Ranges, a location perfect for agriculture. Here you'll find some of the best red wine wineries and vineyards in New Zealand, which calls for wine tasting and vineyard tours. Besides winemaking, this region produces stone fruits, pome fruit, kiwifruit, and vegetables.

By the way. We haven't mentioned why New Zealanders are called Kiwis. Now might be the time.

A Kiwi is a flightless little bird and also a symbol of the country. Now, maybe you think that sounds a little bit offensive to call someone a Kiwi. Don't worry. The nickname came around in World War II when soldiers from NZ were referred to as "Kiwis". It got stuck afterward and today it's embraced with a sense of pride and unity, as it's a common self-reference used by most New Zealanders.

Napier: "Ahuriri"

Napier is a small seaport city with a population of 66,000 people. With the closeness to the city Hastings, the two cities are referred to as "The Bay Cities" or "The Twin Cities", where Napier is located by the sea and Hastings is inland.

Welcome to Art Deco City! With its well-preserved city core of 1930's architecture and love for the era, Napier is a must-visit for anyone fancying Art Deco. Take a guided tour with an authentic vintage car from the '30s to explore the beautiful city. Visit the Art Deco Centre or why not plan to visit in February when the popular and annual Art Deco Festival is held?

Napier is not only "the capital of Art Deco". It's also the home to many fine wineries with the acknowledgment of being one of the 10 Best Wine Destinations to travel by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and it has a fabulous food scene with ambitious restaurants, cozy bars, and cafes.

And while being the Street Art enthusiasts as we are, the Sea Walls collection of more than 50 murals painted around the city sounds like a reason by itself making Napier worth visiting.

Whanganui, City in North Island, New Zealand. River runs through the cityscape with building just at the waterfront.

View over the Whanganui River in New Zealand


Whanganui is a city located on North Island's west coast at Whanganui River. The name could be translated to "big bay" or "big harbor" and referred to the River, the longest river in New Zealand, that is navigable.

Whanganui was one of the first cities to be founded and once was the 5th largest city in the country. Nowadays, the city is known for its architectural beauty with picture-perfect heritage buildings, gardens, and parks blending in with the natural beauty of Whanganui surroundings.

National Park, canoeing, hiking, cycling, and other outdoor activities are highly appreciated here.

Palmerston North: "Te Papa-i-Oea"

Palmerston North is an artistic city with a population of 90,000, located in the Manawatū-Whanganui region. Artistic in the sense that it seems like the majority of New Zealand's best artists come from or have lived in Palmerston North, at some point in their career. It's no coincidence that you will find a lot of independent galleries, art exhibitions, and the Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science, and History.

Cultural events, motorsport, music scenes, and theatre events help living up the city all year round, and if you're into sports and especially Rugby, you might not want to miss the New Zealand Rugby Museum with an impressive selection of memorabilia and rare rugby artifacts.

Wellington: "Te Whanganui-a-Tara". A night skyline with the lights from waterfront building reflecting in the sea, bathing in a warm blue tone with distant clouds on an partly uplit night sky.

Wellington Skyline at Night

Wellington: "Te Whanganui-a-Tara"

Wellington is the Capital of New Zealand and is located on the southwestern cape at Cook Strait, separating the North and South Island. The location is perfect by itself; on the east side, the Remutaka Range is dividing the city from the Wairarapa Plain, the internationally respected wine region. North of Wellington you'll find the golden beaches of the Kapiti Coast and on clear and sunny days, if looking south you have a marvelous view of snowcapped Kaikoura Ranges across the strait. Sound pretty awesome, right?

In Wellington, you have a wide selection of cultural attractions, award-winning restaurants, and an almost ridiculous amount of cafés. Coffee seems to be important in Wellington. There's no other way to put it knowing the fact that Wellington has more cafés per head than New York City!

The epithet "Capital of Culture and Creativity" is well deserved being the host of cultural celebrations, festivals, and high-profile events all year round, which may have been a reason for Lonely Planet to call Wellington "the coolest little capital in the World".

With nature just around the corner that can blow any nature enthusiast off the chair, you are surrounded by opportunities. Take scenic and beautiful walks in the hills, like Makara Peak trail or the city to sea walk, go ocean kayaking, and experience nature and wildlife along the waterfront.

For the Foodie, Wellington is a goldmine! Highend restaurants are mixed up with a casual dining food scene, food trucks, night markets, and world-class craft beer and wine to go with it all.

The astonishing Māori Rock Carvings in Mine Bay must be seen from the water. A Maori face with Moko, Maori facial tattoos facing the water.

Māori Rock Carvings in Mine Bay

New Zealand North Island: Tourist Attraction and Activity Guide

Let's find out the highlights and what North Island offers you as a tourist. This list could actually go on forever, there's so much fun you could do! But we have to restrain ourselves here. These are just a few of the must-see and must-do, tourist attractions, and New Zealand North Island Tours you shouldn't miss.

Playing and staying in Huka Falls, Rotorua Region

The city of Rotorua has exciting surroundings with the Huka Falls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo was created approx 26,500 years ago when a supervolcanic event took place and caused the caldera that later became the lake.

What to do in Huka Falls

Volcanos are therefore our first tip for a great activity. You can find scenic chartered flights in helicopters or floatplanes for an adrenaline-powered experience with spectacular views of Rotorua from above, the crater rim, the hidden lake district, and more distant volcanos, and that is something you should try. The best value is those operated by Volcanic Air in Rotorua.

Take a River Cruise and check out some of the beautiful Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings on site. Bathe and release your inner child and have fun in the Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs Waterpark. Be amazed by the scenic waterfall on the Huka Falls Walkway with a lot of viewing platforms for great aesthetic travel photography. Marvel over even more nature hiking and trails in the Whirinaki National Park, spanning over 5600 ha with California Redwood offering fantastic walks or mountain bike rides.

There are many tourist attractions in the Rotorua and Taupo area for Nature lovers and fast-paced activities, so here you will find them for all ages and needs.

Adranaline Adventure Activities is found in Huka Falls. A Jetski Boat thrusting through the canyon with excited passangers in a dare devil ride.

Going on Adrenaline Activities in Rotorua and Huka Falls in a nutshell

For the adventurous and intrepid traveler, you have found a daredevil tourist paradise. Do a Bungy Jump, Tandem Skydiving, Zipline Canopy Rides, or take part in an exciting Jet Boat Experience.

Shortly, you have a lot of options for outdoor sports activities and the northern island's diversity of natural attractions will satisfy all your needs. That's a promise!

Where to stay and eat in Huka Falls

  • Huka Lodge; is a luxurious resort just by the riverside with an ambitious kitchen in the restaurant

  • Quality Suites Huka Falls; is a laidback place to stay with a nice pool and restaurant

  • Lakefront Lodge Taupo; is a modest hotel with a great location by the shore with a swimming pool and restaurant

More Accommodation and Hotels in Huka Falls to fit any of your needs or travel budget.

Bay of Islands Region

In this fantastic area, you should take the opportunity to experience North Island from a boat on a shore excursion. With 144 islands you are about to get your full dose of vitamin Sea and it's a perfect way to see the beauty of New Zealand and the Bay of Island. You not only have a variety of islands to choose from; but with Urupukapuka being the largest one, you will also have a wide selection of sailboats, dolphin cruising boats, and even fully tall ship sailing. Marvel over ocean life, shorelines, and carved rocks like Hole in the Rock in a refreshing activity.

The Bay of Island area is one of the most popular for fishing, renowned internationally for being a big-game fishing destination. If you want to say hello, take a guided deep-water dive excursion with some of the dive companies.

And while speaking of diving. Another thing to try for the more fearless tourist is skydiving into the Bay of Island, which will reveal a mindblowing visual experience during the 85 (!) seconds of free fall in the 20,000 ft of skydive! Don't worry, there are also skydives not that high.

The food scene is naturally focused on local seafood and shellfish. We'll get to the food later in the section New Zealand Food Culture.

Finally, mentionable is that the Bay of Islands also has been found to have the second bluest sky in the world, after Rio de Janeiro!

Hobbiton, Matamata, North Island in New Zealand. Read more about the best tourist attractions in New Zealand in the New Zealand Travel Guide 2021.

Hobbit Houses in Matamata

The Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata

This guide to the best tourist attractions of New Zealand wouldn't be complete without a visit to Hobbiton in Matamata on the North Island! The Movie Set was constructed in 1999 for the film adaption of the epic Trilogy of J.R.R Tolkiens magnum opus: "Lord of the Rings".

When doing several aerial research finding filming locations of the North Island for the first movie "The Fellowship of the Rings", Peter Jackson found Alexander Farm and immediately saw that it would be a perfect location for Hobbiton, one of the many homes for Hobbits in the Shire.

After the first Lord of the Rings movie, New Zealand Government decided to keep the movie set Hobbiton village as it was with the 37 Hobbit holes intact, perfectly blending into the nature of the 1250-acre big Alexander Farm.

It was a good decision because now a never-ending stream of J.R.R Tolkien fans and movie lovers has made Hobbiton one of New Zealand's most popular tourist attractions, with an astonishing 350 000 visitors per year!

Traveling from Auckland to Hobbiton, Matamata Itinerary Map. "An Unexpected Journey" or "There and Back Again" if you are JRR Tolkien and Hobbit fans like us!

How to get to Hobbiton in Matamata from Auckland, "There and Back Again" Itinerary Map, and a perfect North Island Road Trip, especially if you're a Lord of the Ring fan.

Here you can experience the laid-back, philosophic and lovely Hobbit Life up close. Relive some favorite iconic scenes from Lord of the Rings with the Party Tree, the Green Dragon Inn, and famous Hobbit Houses or "Hobbit Holes" (or "smial" as they are called by Hobbits), like Bilbo Baggins "Bag End" at the end of "Bagshot Row".

You also might get some extra, astonishing Hobbit Trivial knowledge, even if you're a huge Lord of the Ring fan like us, from the Tolkien Expert Guides of the Hobbiton Tour!

Photo from a pond at Hobbiton, Lord of the Rings Movieset in Matamata, North Island in New Zealand. Read more about Hobbits, Hobbiton and JRR Tolkien inour New Zealand Travel Guide.

Peaceful view by the Lake in Hobbiton, The Shire, Middle New Zealand!

Photo from Cormandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand. White Rock formation on a beach with a couple of travelers bathing in the waves.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula

The Coromandel Peninsula Area

The Coromandel Peninsula is not only a popular tourist destination, this is where many Kiwis go on vacation. The beaches and shores of Cathedral Cove invite visitors to long coastal walks, scenic kayaking, and water adventures like locally guided dive tours. Also, check out the Rapaura Watergardens, Coromandel Forest Park, or some of the many hiking trails in the area.

Traditional Māori Warriors performing a Haka. Read about Maori Culture, history and customs in our New Zealand Travel Guide for travels in 2021 and beyond.

Traditional Māori Warriors

New Zealand Māori Cultural Heritage

Central to the historic and without doubt the present identity of New Zealand is the "tangata whenua"; Māori, the indigenous people, and their "Māoritanga"; the Māori culture and traditions.

Māori came to "Aotearoa"; the collective Māori name for New Zealand, over 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian islands of "Hawaiki".

According to the Māoritanga mythology, the two islands of New Zealand were born when Māui, the demigod, and his brother were fishing. Their canoe was actually from the southern island, and Māui caught a really big fish and pulled it from the sea. While looking away, his brother fought and chopped it up, creating mountains and valleys when intensively hacking at the fish. The name of the Northern Island in Māori; "Te Ika-a-Māui" means "The Fish of Māui".

The "Treaty of Waitangi" was signed in 1840 between Māori and the Government

Daily life in New Zealand is highly influenced by the Māori tribe's culture, customs, traditions, and language. Almost 20% of the population identifies themselves as Māori.

Maori man with "Moko"; recognizable Māori face tattoos. Tattoos in the face are the ultimate expression of Māori identity. Read more about Maori Traditions in our New Zealand Travel Guide.

Moko; the ultimate expression of Māori identity is reflected in their facial tattoos

Here are 5 things you should know about and activities to experience, while learning more about the Māori Culture:

1, Māori Language

You can't avoid seeing Māori words or hearing the beautiful Eastern Polynesian spoken Māori language "te reo", which appropriable translates to "the language" when visiting New Zealand.

When traveling, learning some simple phrases in the local spoken language is appreciated and a door-opener for your experience wherever you go. Something you will hear a lot is "Kia ora" which is an expression that has multiple meanings; saying hello, expressing your gratitude, when sending someone your love or when you want to make a connection.

Take some time to learn about the Māori language! Translate from English to Māori, or the other way around, listen to the pronunciation, download the Apps, and more on the Māori Dictionary!

2, Māori Arts and Crafts

Māori Art is world-known for carvings, especially expressed in masks, sculptures, houses, and on wakas; the traditional boats. Other crafts are weaving, paintings, and, of course, traditional tattoos.

3. Māori Tattoos

Māori tattoos are awesome! As the Māori strongly believe that the head is the most important part of your body, "Moko"; or the well-known and recognizable Māori face tattoos, are the ultimate expression of Māori identity.

4. Māori Marae

A "Marae" is a sacred, religious or communal place of great importance for the Māori. The word itself could be translated to "cleared" or "free from trees", and Marae's is often an open place, rectangular in shape with stones or wooden poles in the corners, and sometimes a center stone; called Ahu. Marae also is a verb meaning "to be generous, hospitable", and as the Marae is used for ceremonial purposes, these almost always include food. And Haka's, maybe the most famous of all the Māori Traditions!

5. Māori Haka

What is a Māori Haka? Traditionally, the Haka was a war dance, a challenge, and a war cry. Synchronized moves with big gestures, loud chanting, stamping of feet, and sticking out the tongue with bulging eyes may seem to be hostile, intimidating, and threatening, and originally that was probably the purpose. The sticking-out-the-tongue pose was originally a way to say "my mouth waters and I lick my lips for soon I will taste your flesh" to an enemy.

Through time there are a lot of different Haka's created and used traditionally, many of them are performed by men but Māori women also do Haka.

Maybe you have been lucky to experience a Haka before a rugby match? Māori All Black's Haka "Ka mate, Ka mate" was performed between 1888 and 2006. What does the Māori All Blacks Haka Ka mate, Ka mate mean, what do they actually chant?

"Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!

Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!

Tenei te tangata puhuru huru Nana nei I tiki mai Whakawhiti te ra A upa … ne! ka upa …ne! A upane kaupane whiti te ra!


This first piece of the Haka was originally written by Te Rauparaha, who was a Māori warrior chief living in the early 1800s. The story is that he escaped his enemies from another tribe and hid in a pit where he composed the piece. The translation:

"I die! I die! I live! I live! I die! I die! I live! I live! This is the hairy man

Who fetched the sun And caused it to shine again One upward step! Another upward step! An upward step, another… the sun shines!"

In 2006, the Haka composer Derek Llardelli, created Kapa O Pango as the second edition of the Māori All Blacks Haka repertoire, and it has been performed since then:

"Kapa O Pango kia whakawhenua au I ahau! Hi aue ii! Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei! Au, au aue ha!

Ko Kapa O Pango e ngunguru nei!

Au, au, aue ha! I ahaha! Ka tu te ihiihi Ka tu te wanawana

Ki runga ki te rangi e tu iho nei, tu iho nei ihi! Ponga ra! Kapa O Pango, aue hi! Ponga ra!"

Kapa O Pango translation is as follows:

"All Blacks, let me become one with the land This is our land that rumbles It's my time! It's my moment! This defines us as the All Blacks It's my time! It's my moment!

Our dominance Our supremacy will triumph And will be properly-revered, placed on high Silver fern! All Blacks!

Silver fern!

All Blacks!"

Rugby Team Maori All Blacks awe-inspiring "Haka" performed in 2017, at a sold-out BC Place in downtown Vancouver before facing Canada's Men's Rugby Team


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Map of New Zealand South Island. Read Sticks and Spoons Food Travel's New Zealand Travel Guide on Food and Travel Guides..

Map of the Southern Main Island of New Zealand

New Zealand South Island: Te Waipounamu”

The much larger South Island only inhabits one-fifth of New Zealand's population, making this island the wilder of the two, literally speaking. The South Island of New Zealand is also considered to be the more beautiful of the two main islands with long coastal shores and an amazing inland with fiords, mountains, and scenic nature.

And as the South Island is famous for its nature, here is where you'll find most of the nature experiences and adventure activities in New Zealand. Explore the best tourist attractions like trekking trails of the less beaten tracks, combine them with some peaceful ocean kayaking, and get really adventurous in the "Capital of Adventures": Queensland".

When visiting the South Island you should get ready to get wild!

South Island Facts

The quick facts you need to know about New Zealand's South Island:

  • Population: 1,187,300 or 23% of the inhabitants of New Zealand

  • Area: 150,437 km2 (58,084 sq mi) making it the 12th largest island in the world

  • Biggest City: Christchurch with a population of 383,200

  • Highest Peak: Mount Aoraki with 3,724 m (or 12218 ft) NZ highest peak

  • Three Facts making South Island Famous: Nature, nature, and nature. I mean, in other words, Fiords, the Alps, and even Glaciers. The nature on South Island is beyond amazing.

  • One Funny Fact: As late as 2009, the New Zealand Geographic Board realized that the South Island didn't have an official name (not North Island either)! It took some public consultation, and it wasn't until October 2013 that the island was officially named South Island or "Te Waipounamu" (and North Island ”Te Ika-a-Māui")

Satellite photo of Glaciers on the South Island of New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand is well known for its snow-capped mountains, many lakes, and even glaciers. As you can see in the satellite photo above, the Southern Alps run along the complete length of the Southern Island.

This is the home of New Zealand's highest mountain; Mt. Cook or "Aoraki" at 3724 m above sea level. So if scenic mountain views are your thing, the South Island of New Zealand is a must.

New Zealand South Island: City Guide

With just a fifth of New Zealand's population living on the South Island, you will experience smaller cities, small villages, and more open landscapes. Some cities just have a population of around 10,000 or less, and there's a bunch of them.

So we decided to just list those we think may have importance for your South Island travel planning, with shorter descriptions. If you miss one you think should be in the City Guide, let us know in the comments!

Nelson: "Whakatū"

Nelson is located facing Tasmanian Bay and has roughly a population of 52,000. Being known as one of the places with year-round sunshine, magnificent golden beaches, and the fantastic Abel Tasman National Park. Be sure to check out vineyards and local cuisine as well.

Blenheim: "Waiharakeke"

Blenheim is the gateway to one of New Zealand’s best wine regions; Marlborough, located west in the Wairu Valley. In the town of Blenheim, you'll find the Marlborough Museum which chronicles the development of winemaking, as well as the early Polynesian settlement of the region.

The Marlborough Wine Region regularly records the highest and longest sunshine hours in New Zealand, while being cooled down by ocean breezes making Marlborough perfect for winemaking.

Old Church in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch: "Ōtautahi"

In Christchurch, there's an urban regeneration meeting heritage, culture, and explorations. The city is the largest on the South Island, with 383,000 people living there making it an ever-evolving and vibrant city, so you will always find new things to do, from exciting thrill-seeking activities to zen-like green spaces for recreation.

Find Street Art, innovative projects, friendly hosp