10 amazing New Zealand holiday ideas

Wanaka stars and tree at night, New Zealand.
Wanaka Tree.

Heck yes! After years of strict border rules, the iconic north and south islands for Aotearoa New Zealand are open for business! So in the name of mountains, Gandalf, mountains, here are some top ideas for your next kiwi holiday. 

(And some NZ travel insurance options, too – one does not simply walk into Mordor).

1. Aoraki Mackenzie Reserve

Aoraki Mackenzie Reserve at night, New Zealand.

The ancient landscapes of the Aoraki Mackenzie Reserve provide an unforgettable holiday experience. You can stay in a lodge or rough it by backpacking the golden foothills. Declared a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, stargazers will appreciate the Milky Way in all its glory.

2. Mata Mata (Hobbiton!)

Hobbit hole door at Hobbiton Mata Mata set in New Zealand.
Image courtesy of Douglas Bagg.

Who doesn’t enjoy a fine brew, green hills, and warmhearted company? Live like a hobbit for the day in this preserved film set from the iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Take a tour of the Shire’s floral pastures or join one of the many festivals before putting your hairy feet up for a dazzling Middle Earth sunset.

3. Queenstown

Queenstown mountains and fjord at sunset.

This scenic mountain town is never short of anything to do, summit, or explore. Take in the panoramic views atop Queenstown Hill, canoe Lake Wakatipu, and try some delicious foods at world-renowned restaurants. Don’t miss the annual NZ Mountain Film Festival for a winter escape.

4. Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo blue glow worms on the roof of a cave. New Zealand.

Explore dark caverns lit fantastically in a glowworm-studded, bioluminescent blue. You can drift on a leisurely boat ride and behold these ancient wonders up close, or get the heart thumping with an exhilarating abseiling and Black Water Rafting tour deep into the earth.

5. Piha Beach

Midnight Piha black sand beach and Lion Rock. New Zealand.

As one of the world’s rare black sand beaches, Piha is an unmissable natural gem on Auckland’s wild west coast. Picnic on the warm sands with a spectacular view of Lion Rock, or get amongst the surfers taking on the towering waves. The surrounding native forest also abounds with walks and hikes, so you can explore and grab a coffee before heading back to Auckland.

6. Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove archway and beach at magic hour.

This hidden wonder can only be reached by foot, boat, or kayak. No wonder the Pevensies used the stunning natural archway to enter Narnia in 2008’s Prince Caspian. Picnic on the soft, golden sands, splash among the waves, or drive 10 minutes down the road to another favourite hideaway, Hot Water Beach.

7. Huka Falls

Huka Falls and Waikato River in New Zealand.

The Waikato River deluges down a tight gorge to a 20-metre drop at the magnificent Huka Falls, just outside the beautifully wild Lake Taupo. You can watch the roaring blue waters from the safety of a viewing platform or get up close on a jet boat, then explore the dark green native bushland surrounding the river.

8. Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo, lupins, mountains, and the Church of the Good Shepherd at sunset. Damn, New Zealand, you don't have to try this hard.

Southern lights, milky blue glacial waters, and dramatic mountain vistas. Not to mention carpets of purple and pink lupins. Need we say more? This Dark Sky Reserve draws stargazers and adventurers alike. Stop by the Church of the Good Shepherd for a glimpse into pioneer life framed by the epic sweep of snow-capped mountains. Pro-tip: stock up on Cookie Time chocolate bikkies and hot drinks, then rug up to watch the sunset across the waters. You’re welcome.

9. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

An emerald lake in the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand.

Walk a living volcanic landscape in this stunning piece of geologic might. Lava flows drip down the mountainsides while steam vents flag in the wind. Plus, emerald-coloured lakes, glorious views, and the sky-high Red Crater make you feel like you’ve entered an alien landscape. Just be sure to follow the warnings and stay on the trail.

10. Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds framed by the sea and mountains in New Zealand.

Engage with Māori history and culture through this important site commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Witness a powerful and authentic cultural performance in the Meeting House or explore two contemporary museums delving into the significance of the place. Take a guided tour, wander the lush native gardens, or visit the art gallery to digest some incredible creative works. Cap off the day by enjoying a coffee with the sweeping view over the Bay of Islands.

What are Aotearoa New Zealand’s border entry requirements?

Mount Taranaki in New Zealand.

From 19 October 2022, New Zealand has dropped the Traveller Declaration (NZeTD) from their border entry requirements. 

This means travellers entering New Zealand will no longer need to provide:

  • A negative COVID-19 test.
  • Proof of their vaccination status.
  • Contact details for contact tracing. 

However, travellers will still need to complete a Passenger Arrival Card on the plane before touchdown, declaring anything they need to for customs. 

The NZeTD will be reintroduced later in 2023 to replace the paper card. 

RELATED: What travel documents do I need? Pre-trip checklist

You will also need to provide your valid passport and a visa where applicable. The NZ government also strongly recommends you secure adequate travel insurance beforehand.

For more holiday inspiration, check out 100% Pure New Zealand. Compare international travel insurance policies below.

Compare international travel insurance policies - last updated 18 April 2024

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