Backpacking New Zealand: 50 #NZMustDoExperiences

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Looking for a real adventure when you’re Backpacking in New Zealand? There’s no place like New Zealand. From north to south, landscapes here are as diverse as they come, the people are friendly and welcoming, and the potential for outdoor adventures is limitless.

Here are 45 NZ Must Do experiences to get you inspired to grab your pack and start planning a trip to NZ!

Backpacking New Zealand

North Island #NZMustDo Experiences

  • Cape Reinga, Northland

The most Northern tip of New Zealand, this is where the Tasman Sea collides with the Pacific Ocean in a spectacular swirl of currents.

  • Tane Mahuta, Northland

New Zealand’s largest and most impressive Kauri Tree, Tane Mahuta can be enjoyed a short walk through the Waipoua Forest.

  • Kauri Gum Diggers Park, Northland

An authentic Kauri Gum digging site from over 100 years ago, ancient Kauri forests were buried here and can still be seen today. Pretty special!

  • Waiheke Island, Auckland

Vineyards, restaurants, white sand beaches and art galleries – only 30 mins by ferry from downtown Auckland. 

  • Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

Dig your own spa pool in the sand, and enjoy a warm soak metres from the Pacific Ocean.

  • Black Water Caving, Waikato

The Waitomo Caves are magical – take a boat ride through the caves, or get a bit more adventurous with black water rafting or abseiling in a cave network.

  • Pohutu Geyser, Rotorua

Meaning ‘big splash’ or ‘explosion’, this geyser explodes up to 20 times a day, reaching heights of over 30 metres.

  • Raft the world’s highest commercially run waterfall, Rotorua

Now this one is next-level – raft through steep, bush-clad canyons, over rapids then down the Tutea Falls, 7m high.

  • Hike Mt Tarawera, Rotorua

Ever hiked a volcano before? Tarawera is famous for it’s eruption in the late 1800’s, but these days it offers epic views of the Bay of plenty and beyond.

  • Sledging, Rotorua

Sledge through beautiful scenery, through fun play holes and over awesome rapids – heaps of fun as you’re in charge of your own vessel and eye-level with the river.

  • Zorb, Rotorua

Jump in a ball and roll down a hill – a bit random, but heaps of fun!

  • Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua

The ultimate New Zealand Maori Culture experience – authentic, entertaining and heaps of fun.

  • Kerosene Creek, Rotorua

A wild, geothermal hot pool that has a beautiful waterfall, near Rotorua

  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua

The bubbling mud pools and famous Lady Knox Geyser of this geothermal wonderland will have you wondering if you’ve stepped into another planet.

  • Skydiving in Taupo

There’s nothing like jumping out of a plane – but doing it high above the breathtaking scenery of Lake Taupo, with our 3 famous volcanoes in view, is pretty unforgettable

  • Huka Falls, Taupo

This 11-metre high waterfall is the most visited and photographed natural attraction in the North Island.

  • Bungy Jumping, Taupo

Take a leap of faith and do the highest water-touch bungy around.

  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Taupo

A grueling 8 hour hike across an active volcano – hard work, but the views are amazing!

  • White Island, Tauranga

Visit by boat or by scenic flight – an active volcano that’s about 48km off the coast of the Bay of Plenty.

  • Road Trip East Cape

Possibly the most un-spoilt region in the North Island, the East Cape is like a land before time. It’s steeped in Maori culture; riding bare-back on horses down the beach is still the norm.

  1. Feed wild stingrays, East Cape

Travel to Tatapouri, where you can wade out into the lagoon at low tide and feed wild stingrays.

  • Rere Rockslide, East Cape

Mother Nature has been busy here – 60 metres of gently sloping rock face, made smooth by constantly running water. Bring a boogy board! 

  • Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, East Cape

One of the top great walks to do in the North Island – a multi-day adventure around a crystal-clear, star-shaped lake.

  • Te Papa Museum, Wellington

The National Museum of New Zealand – entry is free, and the exhibitions are outstanding.

South Island #NZMustDo Experiences

North Island – tick! Now for our top #NZMustDo’s in the South Island. While the whole of NZ is beautiful, the further south you travel the more impressive/awe-inspiring the natural attractions become.

  • Abel Tasman, Nelson

New Zealand’s smallest, but most perfectly formed National Park – golden beaches, wildlife, walking tracks, amazing kayaking.

Backpacking New Zealand Abel Tasman

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

  • Nelson Lakes National Park

Love the freedom of an independent outdoor adventure? With hiking tracks and campsites galore, this National Park is full of the most beautiful mountains, lakes and waterfalls.

  • Swim with dolphins, Kaikoura

Get amongst Kaikoura’s famous marine life and swim with the dolphins – they’re known for their friendliness and cheeky, playful natures.

  • Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast

A river of ice that tumbles nearly to the sea, Franz Josef is magical – enjoy it with a scenic flight or glacier hike.

  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, West Coast

An ancient rock formation, beaten into shape by the sea, resembles giant stacks of pancakes.

  • Lake Matheson, West Coast

For perfect photos of the Southern Alps reflected in a perfectly still lake, this is the place to come.

  • Hanmer Springs, Canterbury

The naturally heated mineral pools here are a great way to relax for a few hours.

  • Lake Tekapo, Canterbury

Deep in the ‘Mackenzie country’ lies the bright turquoise Lake Tekapo. Framed by golden tussock and the Southern Alps.

  • Stargazing, Canterbury

Home to the world’s largest ‘Dark Sky Reserve’, stargazing here is next level.

  • Visit Akaroa

New Zealand’s only French settlement, Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula, is charming and beautiful.

  1. Otago Rail Trail, Central Otago

A multi-day, independent cycling adventure that winds through the heart of gold mining country in Central Otago.

  • Eat a Ferg Burger, Queenstown

Think you’ve tried some pretty good burgers in your life? Ferg Burgers are world-famous. Especially good for hangovers.

  • Skyline Queenstown

Take a gondola up to Bob’s Peak, high above the town, and either have dinner up there or enjoy Lugeing back down. Repeat if necessary!

  1. Drive to Glenorchy, Queenstown

The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy looks like it’s out of a movie set – make sure you drive it!

  • Routeburn Track, Queenstown

One of the country’s ‘Great Walks’, the Routeburn takes hikers deep into some of the most epic scenery in NZ. Plus, it only takes around 3 days to do – perfect for short itineraries.

  • Picnic on Lake Wanaka

Just over the ridge from Queenstown, Wanaka has a slightly more relaxed vibe. Take a picnic to eat on the lakefront, and go for a swim – the Lake is known for it’s warm temperatures, especially during summer.

  • Spend the night in Milford Sound, Fiordland

This hasn’t been labeled the ninth wonder of the natural world for nothing! A spectacular fiord, make sure you reserve a night here well ahead of time – you won’t want to dash off, it’s so beautiful.

  • Te Anau Glowworm Caves, Fiordland

Combining sculpted limestone, whirlpools and a roaring underground river, these glow worm caves are wild – and un-missable.

  • Visit the Catlins Coast, Southland

See fur seals, sea lions and elephant seals in the wild; spot Hector’s Dolphins just offshore and admire a Jurassic forest. It’s like a land before time.

  • Eat a Bluff Oyster, Southland

The world’s best seafood, that’s what they say – make sure you visit the tiny town of Bluff and find out for yourself.

  • See the Moeraki Boulders, Coastal Otago

Perfectly spherical boulders dot the beach in Moeraki, near Oamaru.


  • Review of: Cath Hagan
    If you havent already been white-water rafting then this is the BEST place in the world to have a go!
  • Review of: Sarah H
    Be prepared for an adventure, the views are stunning, and the sense of awe and accomplishment at the end was amazing.
  • Review of: Tristan P
    A must do! Our guides Cam & Curtis were amazing and really funny. Definitely the highlight of the month.
  • Review of: Caradis A
    What an amazing time! We had so much rafting fun, even though at first I was terrified. Will recommend this to everyone.
  • Review of: Te-Aroha P
    Such an exhilarating experience. We loved all the waterfalls and rapids, but we always felt safe with an awesome safety crew.
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