Top Things to do on your 1-Week Tour in New Zealand
There are few places in the world that offer up more natural beauty than New Zealand. It is a land of mountains, glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, marine reserves, and pristine beaches. The nation is divided up into to two distinct islands, the North and South Island, with hundreds of smaller islands surrounding the coastline.
New Zealand offers an abundance of outdoor recreation both in the summer months and the winter season. Come tackle the ski slopes when the fresh powder falls or surf some of the most gorgeous waves in the southern hemisphere. The country lacks the many poisonous snakes and other creatures of Australia, yet is still packed with a number of fascinating endemic species.
While you will struggle to pack in all of New Zealand’s sights and attractions in a single week, we have gathered some of the nation’s top highlights that are not to be missed. Take a journey with us as we bring you New Zealand’s best beaches, ski destinations, hikes, wildlife locations, and historic places.
Pro Tip: Many of New Zealand’s natural attractions are quite remote and you may find it difficult to find bathing/showering facilities in many rustic campsites. Packing handy body-cleansing wipes will help to keep you clean and odor-free during your outdoor adventures.
Winter Skiing and Snowboarding
Both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand offers up incredible winter skiing and snowboarding. Ski season usually runs from around early to mid-June through to early October. The country’s largest ski field can be found on the North Island at Mt Ruapehu. This active volcano features several ski areas including Whakapapa and Tūroa. It’s New Zealand’s only skiable volcano and features state-of-the-art lifts as well as some of the country’s longest ski runs.
The south Island is home to the Southern Alps, and there are three distinct ski areas to enjoy on the island. Queenstown and Wanaka offers up ski locations such as The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona, and Treble Cone. The wide open trails of Mt Hutt ski area have been hailed the nation’s best ski resort and can be found just a 90-minute drive from Queenstown. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced skier, you’ll be able to find runs that will suit your skill level.
When skiing in rugged and wild places like New Zealand, it’s vital to be well equipped. One essential item you’ll want to pack for your New Zealand ski adventure is a backpack for skiing. Not only are ski backpacks and rucksacks specifically designed for snow sports, they can potentially save your life in the event of an avalanche if they are equipped with a deployable airbag. If you find yourself caught in a slide, simply pull the handle which is attached to the shoulder strap and an airbag will inflate which will aid you in staying near the surface of the snow during an avalanche and help rescue teams locate you. Ski backpacks are also generally equipped with specialized pockets designed to hold goggles and other gear, as well as external straps to carry skis or snowboards.
Home to thousands of kilometers of coastline in addition to its many lakes and rivers, New Zealand offers an abundance of water activities. Boat tours can be booked in many of the nation’s cities and towns to explore offshore islands and possibly swim with dolphins, or you can easily try your hand at windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Try extreme jet boating on the Shotover River in Queenstown or try some whitewater rafting on the North Island at places like Lake Taupo. The Tongariro River in Lake Taupo offers three sections of white water that range from Grade 2 to Grade 4. You’ll find whitewater rafting on the South Island out of Queenstown and Christchurch. Alternatively, you can try a bit of kayaking in places like the Bay of Islands or Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. A fresh water kayaking option would be the Whanganui River, which is the longest navigable waterway in New Zealand.
The best surfing can be found at Muriwai, Piha, Shipwreck Bay, and Gisborne. Gisborne is one of the first places in the world to see a new day’s sunrise and offers up some incredible breaks. On the South Island, surfing can be found near Dunedin and north of Christchurch from New Brighton Beach to Jack’s Point.
Charter a sailboat or yacht and take to the Bay of Islands, Hauraki Gulf, Marlborough Sounds, Kerikeri Inlet, or Whangaroa Harbour. Scuba divers will want to check out the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve off New Zealand’s Tutukaka Coast. Dive adventures will introduce you to seals, dolphins, unique fish, and expansive kelp forests.
New Zealand is famous for its legendary locations depicted in the Lord of the Rings franchise. The country is covered in thousands of kilometers of hiking trails including short walks and multi-day treks.
The 5-day, 50-kilometer Abel Tasman Coastal Track will introduce you to the South Island’s sunny golden beaches while the island’s famous 4-day Milford Track cuts through Fiordland National Park and is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest treks.
An incredible day-hike is The Tongariro Crossing found in the Tongariro National Park. The park is home to three volcanoes including Mt Ngauruhoe (Lord of the Rings’ Mount Doom). There are also a number of much shorter 1 to 2 hour hikes available like the Kura Tawhiti Access Track, Devil’s Punchbowl Walking Track in Arthur’s Pass National Park, Wainui Falls Track, and Lake Gunn Nature Walk. You can also look into glacier hiking at places like Franz Josef Glacier.
New Zealand is home to a vast array of endemic birds and other animals as well as boasting a rich marine environment filled with seals, whales, and dolphins.
Seek out sperm whales year round in places like South Island’s Kaikoura, where it is also possible to spot orcas from December to March and humpback whales from June to July. Bryde’s whales can be found in the Hauraki Gulf and dolphins are common in a wide number of places throughout the islands.
New Zealand is home to several fascinating endemic parrots including the kea, kakapo, and kaka. The nation also commonly sees three different penguin species including little blue penguins which are the world’s smallest penguin species. These small penguins come ashore in places like Marlborough Sounds, Akaroa Harbour, Oamaru, and Stewart Island. Yellow-eyed penguins can be found in the Otago Peninsula, while the rare Fiordland crested penguin can be found breeding along the south-western coasts of New Zealand’s South Island. The comical looking flightless brown kiwi can be found on Stewart Island and a large gannet colony nests just an hour outside Auckland.
The country’s best glow worm experience can be had at Waitomo Caves and New Zealand fur seals can be seen at Abel Tasman National Park , Cape Palliser, and Castlepoint on the Wairarapa Coast.
The nation is also home to a number of wildlife sanctuaries and zoos where sightings of endemic animals are guaranteed. Some of the best include the Zealandia Ecosanctuary and Rainbow Springs Nature Park.
Aside from being one of the most beautiful destinations you can visit, New Zealand also has a fascinating history to be discovered despite it being a rather young nation. Discover historic lighthouses and cottages as well as lavish mansions and even a castle.
Dunedin’s Larnach Castle & Gardens is a must visit site, famous for its sprawling ballroom and tower that overlooks the castle’s Victorian gardens.
Check out the New Zealand Maritime Museum to learn how the first Polynesians arrived in New Zealand and better understand the many hardships that the first European settlers faced. The Auckland Museum displays thousands of Māori artifacts, including a war canoe carved from an endemic totara tree. Learn even more about the Māori culture by visiting the Tamaki Māori Village.
View the only surviving ship that once transported convicts to Australia by checking out the historic merchant sailing ship named Edwin Fox at The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre. The country’s oldest surviving stone building, known as the Stone Store, was built back in 1835 and can be seen by travelling to Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. Other notable historic landmarks include the 19th century Cape Palliser Lighthouse and the 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture of Old St Paul’s, which was built by the Anglican Church between in the mid-1800s on Wellington’s waterfront.
We hope these New Zealand itinerary ideas will be able to easily fill your one week tour of the country. There are definitely countless more attractions to be seen on subsequent visits such as the Hobbiton Movie Set, Auckland’s Skytower and War Memorial Museum, and Hamilton Gardens.