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.
- 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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.