The stunning beauty of New Zealand scenery

Is New Zealand Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Visit This Incredible Country in 2024

Wondering Is New Zealand Worth Visiting?

In our opinion, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places we have been to and is certainly worth visiting. Both the North and South Islands offer something different giving you the ability to have amazing experiences throughout the entire country.

These special islands have so much to offer and appeal to nature lovers, wine enthusiasts, active and adventure seekers, and foodies. Below we will detail what is so special about New Zealand and 16 reasons why you should plan a trip to visit there.

Highlights of Why You Should Visit New Zealand

✅ Are you wondering if New Zealand is Safe? Check out our blog post detailing many reasons why this country is one of the safest in the world.

1. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping with Outdoor Adventure Activities

When you come to the home where bungy jumping was invented, you’re sure to find plenty of adventurous things to do while visiting New Zealand! If you enjoy exploring the outdoors and really going wild in nature, then this is your place. 

Here you have so many options –

  • Ziplining
  • Canyoning
  • Heli-skiing
  • Off-roading
  • Caving
  • White water rafting
  • Jet boating
  • Skydiving

This country with its diverse range of landscapes offers so many amazing things to do. You could spend weeks travelling around New Zealand while enjoying thrilling experiences and adrenaline rushes the entire time!

2. Discover the Country by Walking & Hiking

The country of New Zealand wants everyone to explore their beautiful terrain. There are thousands of kms of walks that cover much of both islands. And the trails that have been created are suitable for a wide range of fitness levels.

You can take a short walk, a full-day walk or multiple-day hikes depending on your comfort zone.

  • Take shorter hikes in Hooker Valley
  • Plan full-day hikes of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • 3 Day hikes are available with Tongariro Crossing, lakes, falls and hot springs

✅ For a shorter hike, we particularly enjoyed a hike in the Hooker Valley. Check out this great tour option that we did and highly recommend. The scenery in this area is spectacular since you are right under Mt Cook and with a view of the Tasman glacier.

This scene in Hooker Valley makes New Zealand worth visiting

It is an easy walk with a well-marked path and winds through the mountains and over several bridges. You can’t help but stop regularly to take in the scenery of this incredible area because it really does look like a postcard.

Picture postcard landscapes in Hooker Valley

If you want to maximize your time hiking with a day trip, you can look at combination tours that give you the best of both worlds.

A helpful resource would be to look at the National Parks website.

✅ For instance, you can take a helicopter over the Fiordland’s wilderness from Te Anau and then hike down the mountain to immerse yourself in the various landscapes along the way. Check out this amazing tour option to make the most of your time.

Another popular walk or hike would be the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This hike takes in the best of the best including emerald-coloured lakes, an active crater, lava flows and stunning views.

✅ You don’t want to miss this area so book this highly-rated tour for an experience you won’t forget!

There are several side stops along the way on this one as well. If you are interested in making this a really memorable experience with the assistance of a guide (you only live once, right??), then you really need to check out this 3-day tour to experience this area to the fullest.

3. Marvel at the Beauty of Fiordland – The Sounds

Some people ask is New Zealand worth visiting? Fiordland could be the single best reason to visit this country. In our opinion, this area has some of the most dramatic scenery in the whole country. If you can’t visit everywhere – make sure you don’t miss this part of the South Island.

Incredible natural vistas along the drive to Milford Sound
Serene beauty at Mirror Lakes

First, some background – a fiord is basically a round valley in a U-shape that was carved by a glacier into the surrounding land area and flooded by water. And just for clarity, they refer to these fiords as Sounds. So don’t be confused when you hear Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, etc. They are all fiords!

There are fourteen fiords on the southwest part of the South Island. It took over 100,000 years for them to form and they are really wonderful. 

Majestic valleys and stunning views make New Zealand worth visiting

✅ You have many ways to explore this area – hiking, by air or by water. We chose a cruise on the Milford Sound which is likely one of the most popular things to do in the area. Make sure you look at this tour option to book your day here.

Our day there was nothing short of spectacular with bright blue skies and warm weather. We really couldn’t have asked for more.

But don’t let that stop you from taking a cruise even if the weather is not bright and sunny. Our guide told us Milford Sound can be a magical place in the mist as well and often the water will be black from the silt coming down from the mountains giving it a fascinating feel to the area.

Our tour took us from Queenstown through stunning scenery on the drive to Milford and it was just incredible to see so many unspoiled areas along the way and it makes the long drive worth it.

The valley where Monkey Creek is located.

Once you arrive in Milford your boat cruise will give you a glimpse into this wonderful natural paradise.

Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful places to see in New Zealand

We admired the rocky mountainsides covered with green trees, the clear blue water, and the waterfalls. We were afforded a special treat by a group of dolphins playing off the side of our boat. Being immersed in this pristine area was a highlight of our whole trip. Be sure not to miss it!

Pristine waterfalls from the natural crevices in Milford Sound
A show from the bottlenose dolphins in Milford Sound is a definite reason to why New Zealand is worth visiting

4. Be in Awe of the Enormous Glaciers

The glaciers of the South Island are an exciting destination to visit, and you have a choice of several. The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Clarke Glacier and the Tasman Glacier.

The most visited is perhaps the Franz Josef since this glacier descends from the Southern Alps right down almost to the sea level. Both are easily accessible and there are great guided ice walks or heli-hikes available to get close.

We chose to do a ski-plane ride through the Tasman Valley past Mount Cook and Mt Tasman before making an amazing landing right on the Tasman Glacier.  This was our most memorable experience in New Zealand and we would recommend it to everyone.

Click here for the tour that we did as we highly recommend it. Make sure to book early as there are limited seats each day!

The ski plane that we boarded to fly over Mt Cook

Flying over this rugged terrain, through the snow-covered mountains and immense valley was magical. This really gives you the ability to see this purely natural environment at its best.

Gorgeous landscape views available from the plane
The tops of snow-peaked mountains is an amazing sight.

Landing on the glacier allows you to take in your surroundings. Breathing in the fresh air, hearing the glacier calving and knowing that you are standing on ice 400m deep – there is nothing quite like this experience. Be sure to plan this when you are in the area.

Landing on the glacier is amazing!

5. Delight in the Fantasy of Hobbiton

For those that are Lord of the Rings Fans you will be pleased to know that New Zealand is the home of many of the film sets for the movies. You can visit Mount Victoria in Wellington which is easily accessible from the city and you can walk through the forest that was used as the Hobbiton Woods.

Of course, the most famous spot is in Matamata where the village of Hobbiton was created. It was used extensively during the filming and is now an attraction where you can immerse yourself in Middle Earth. Be sure to visit this location to see how the movie came to life.

Insider Tip – LOTR Site

Kaitoke Regional Park was the location of Rivendell. Look for a sign when you leave the parking lot and you can see the location where Frodo recovered from his knife attack.

6. Learn About the Fascinating Maori Culture

The indigenous people of the country are called the Maori. They arrived in NZ from Polynesia over 1000 years ago. New Zealand people really do an amazing job of keeping the Maori traditions and cultures alive and well. And as a result, there are many ways that you can learn about the heritage and way of life here. 

The Maori people arriving to the village

There are tours to sacred lands, the Auckland Museum and Te Papa Museum, art exhibits at cultural centres and learning about their special art of expression through tattoos.

✅ We chose to enjoy a little bit of everything and participated in an experience at the Matai Maori Village in Rotorua. You won’t want to miss this unforgettable evening so book using this link to reserve the experience we did.

This was an incredible evening of learning about culture, enjoying traditional food, walking the village grounds, and watching a show of dance and ceremonies by Maori people.

Traditional food at the Maori Cultural Village

We found the people to be so welcoming and open to sharing the backgrounds of their culture and traditions.  It was a fantastic evening and gave us some real insight into the people of this land.

Cultural dancing and fighting were exhilarating  to watch

7. Enjoy the Sight of Glow Worms

This country has many caves, grottos and native forests creating some of the most perfect environments for glow worms.

One of the easiest places to see a lot of glow worms at once is the Waitomo Caves. This location takes you into an underground cave in a boat so you can see thousands of glow worms lighting up all around you. 

But you can see glow worms in many different places around New Zealand. Anywhere that is damp and overgrown is where they like to hang out. We saw some during our evening walk through the forested area at the Maori Village.

Insider Tip – Glow Worms

You can see glow worms in public places too! Check out the Botanical Gardens in Wellington at night. They collect in nooks and crannies so be sure to keep an eye open in the evening for these fascinating insects.

8. Sample the Organic, Fresh, Seasonal Food and Seafood

If eating well is a priority to you then you will love the food in New Zealand. This country has a major focus on providing fresh, organic options. The chefs in local restaurants are creating dishes with seasonal elements and using what is available to them on a local level.

Fresh organic ingredients in dishes make New Zeland worth visiting

We enjoyed many meals that were made of high-quality, fresh ingredients and highlighted the best of what the country offers.

Some of the fresh fish  always available in New Zealand

Being an island, they offer so much in the way of fresh fish and seafood.  With so many options everyone can surely find meals to satisfy their dietary needs and enjoy some tasty food!

Tasty scallops served fresh from the catch of the day

9. Sip the World-Renowned Wine

Why travel to New Zealand? For the wine!!! I have always enjoyed the region’s famous Sauvignon Blanc so this was pretty exciting for me to visit the place where it comes from.

Read our blog post about the most popular wine in New Zealand.

We spent several days travelling through wine regions both on our own and with tour guides.  The wine is a definite consideration when deciding if visiting New Zealand is worth it.

So many wines to try!

The even better news is that you can visit different wine areas on both the North and South islands.

In the North, you can spend days visiting the vineyards of Hawke’s Bay and in the South, you can enjoy the most famous and extensive region of Marlborough. Both are terrific and worth visiting since they are different in style and variety.

Check out this tour that we took and enjoyed immensely!

Visiting the cellars of vineyards is a great thing to do in New Zealand

With 28,000 hectares of vineyards in Marlborough (80% of that is Sauvignon Blanc), it was surprising and lovely to also visit wineries that don’t export their product.

This gives you the ability to taste wines that you didn’t even know were grown in New Zealand – such as Pinot Gris or Albarino. Both varietals are refreshing and tasty and a total departure from the well-known Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasting and trying the wines of the region

Many of the wineries in the region have been there since the beginning and are still family businesses that work collaboratively.  

✅ If you enjoy wine as much as we do, make sure to join the tour we did to explore this area in full.

Checking out the vineyards definitely makes New Zealand worth visiting

10. Explore the Main Cities

  • Wellington – a major transportation hub
  • Christchurch – the perfect spot to explore the coast
  • Queenstown – a cool city surrounded by outdoor adventures

While much of New Zealand is full of beautiful, natural environments, they also have some great cities to visit outside of the main landing point of Auckland.

Wellington is the location where you take the ferry from the North to the South Island. While it is the capital city and most of the government functions happen from here, the city is also bustling with its own attractions.   

Harbour area in Wellington

Walk around the harbour area. Visit Zealandia – a rainforest in the city. Wellington is a serious foodie town so be sure to make it to some of the top restaurants there.

Insider Tip – Cable Car

While in Wellington, be sure to take the cable car up to the top and then walk down through the gorgeous botanical garden.

The path through the Wellington Botanical Gardens

Christchurch is the city that has overcome the results of a devastating earthquake in 2011. The city has done a remarkable job of rebuilding and recovering so there are a lot of new structures. However, as you walk around you can see areas where buildings used to be that have never been rebuilt. 

There are many memorials around the city including the 185 White Chairs, The National Memorial where you can read the names of the people who lost their lives and even a car on a raised platform that spews water into the hole where a large building used to be.

185 White Chair Memorial
The National Memorial

Talking to the people there you feel the hope and optimism they have adopted after this tragic event.

Street Art in Christchurch

For a city with a cool vibe and a very busy entertainment district, you need to visit Queenstown. Nestled in the mountains with a lake at its centre, this city is the jumping-off point for many outdoor and adventure activities in the area.

The bustling streets of Queenstown
Shopping in Queenstown

The city itself has a lot to offer including catamaran rides or jet boating on the lake, hiking, and cycling trails, a gondola, golf courses and some great eateries around the bustling lakeside.  

Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

Insider Tip – Perky’s Bar

Be sure to check out Perky’s Floating Bar in Queenstown where you can enjoy drinks and even bring your own food to eat while taking in the view.

Perjy's floating bar is a great place to hang out

11. Be Astonished by the Spectacular Scenery

After visiting a destination, I can always tell the beauty of a location by how many pictures I have of the landscape, plants, and flowers. Trust me when I say I took thousands of pictures while on our trip to this magnificent country. 

The stunning scenery alone makes New Zeland worth visiting

From the ocean to the mountains to the glaciers and everything in between the scenery here is incredible!

We drove through areas with vineyards, rainforests and farmlands, mountains and hills, lakes and rivers, and bubbling thermal hot springs. Seeing the cattle and the sheep out to pasture with the mountains in the background made for stunning pictures. 

Geothermal springs
Sweeping vistas around every corner

And not to mention the fantastic trees including massive redwoods and native forests growing in the mountains along with the wildflowers growing along the sides of the road. 

Giant redwood trees in Rotorua
Pretty wild flowers at the side of the road

But one of the best ways to really take in the scenery here is to take a flight. We experienced a floatplane over the Rotorua hot springs area and a ski plane over the Tasman Glacier area. Both were highlights of our trip and highly recommended.

✅ To make it easy for you here are the two tours that we took flights on: floatplane over Rotorua Hot Springs and the ski plane over the Tasman Glacier. These are very popular so make sure to book early!

Flying over the Lake District in Rotorua
Stunning views of from the floatplane
Flying over the region where Rotorua is located
It is worth visiting New Zealand just to see these kind of amazing views

This really gives you an appreciation for the impressive landscapes of this beautiful country.

12. Seek out the Different Wildlife

The country of New Zealand is worth visiting for its amazing wildlife. They have some interesting animals here that are easily accessible. 

We visited the eco-sanctuary in Wellington called Zealandia. This is a fascinating place right on the edge of the city where they are regenerating a rainforest. The trees, flora, fauna and birds are quite amazing.

They offer guided walks during the day or night (when you can see the kiwi birds) and the guides are very knowledgeable and can identify birds just by their tweeting and trills that they make while flying through the canopy.  If you want to visit with the benefit of a guide click here for a great tour.

There are over 32 kms of trails in this location so you can spend an hour or a day checking out the different species along the way. We enjoyed seeing the colourful takahe bird that is indigenous to New Zealand.

Takahe bird at Zealandia

New Zealand is also home to the smallest penguins in the world, blue penguins that can be seen up close in their own habitat in Akaroa. While in Akaroa you can also see the world’s rarest dolphin  – Hector’s dolphins and while aboard a cruise you can also view the albatross in this area.

But one of our most memorable experiences was swimming with the Dusky Dolphins in Kaikoura. These small dolphins zip and zoom through the water very quickly and love to interact with people swimming with them.

✅ Do not miss this incredible experience! Click here to book the same tour that I did for my birthday!!

The dusky dolphins in Kaikoura

It was amazing to jump into the water with a pod of 150 dolphins and snorkel with them while they frolicked in the ocean. The water can be rough, so it is important that you are a strong swimmer. This is a trip you don’t want to miss!

13. Meet the Openhearted Kiwi People

As Canadians we often have people tell us – Canadians are so friendly! As naturally open people, we love to find other countries around the world with the same philosophy.

We immediately found the Kiwi people to be such lovely, friendly people. Everywhere we went we were welcomed with a smile, helpful advice, and support. These people are just genuinely kind and happy to see you.

Smiling faces greet you at every place

Each guide we interacted with was knowledgeable and excited to share their part of the country with us – sharing their own life experiences and very special cultures and backgrounds.

Very engaging guide at Zealandia

Service people took the time to talk to us, asking about our preferences or making suggestions on other places to visit.

Hosts where we stayed, either in apartments or hotels, were pleasant and provided incredible, comfortable environments with so many small touches for us to enjoy in our downtime. Some even enjoyed drinks with us after a day of sightseeing.  

Each person we met was sincere and honest with their opinions. As travellers, we greatly appreciated this wonderful human interaction that is truly unique to New Zealand.

14. Appreciate the Relaxed Environment

The people of New Zealand are not pretentious and that transfers to the environments they create. Each place we visited had a laid-back feeling that we really appreciated.

Most restaurants were casual but warm and inviting. Many times, it felt as though we were visiting someone in what would be an extension of their home. 

On all our tours, we were never rushed – time was worked in so we could enjoy the scenery or the activity to the fullest. There are very few large cities in New Zealand, so the pace of life is far more peaceful and enjoyable.

15. Feel Confident that it is a Very Safe Country

During our visit to both islands, we never felt unsafe in any of the areas we explored. With a relatively small population of five million people, the crime rate is exceptionally low.

In fact, in 2022 the Global Peace Index ranked New Zealand as the second-safest country to live in the world. This ranking is based on –

  • Crime rates
  • Likelihood of terrorist attacks
  • Political stability

As a country firmly rooted in family values and strong communities, it is not surprising that the people live in a harmonious environment. This makes it a wonderful place for travellers to visit and not have to worry constantly about their personal safety.

16. Experience the Ease of Getting Around – Self-Drive

Many people choose to drive around the country as evidenced by the many caravans on the road. As long as you are comfortable with driving on the left-hand side, this is a good option for travelling around both islands. The roads are all well-paved and the lanes are reasonably wide.

On the road - driving on the left hand side

There are a few areas where the roads are quite winding such as on the North Island in the Coromandel area and also down in the South Island between Queenstown and Te Anau and then on to Fiordland.

For the areas in the south, it is highly recommended that you take a tour with a professional driver so they can get you there safely.

Some areas have winding roads and should be left to a professional driver

Car rentals are readily available, and this is the option we chose to get ourselves from Auckland to Wellington and then a separate rental from Picton to Christchurch. Many of the car rental companies want the returns to be to the same island so if your plans don’t include a round-trip route, you will likely book two separate reservations.

The InterIslander ferry

Insider Tip – Crossing on the Ferry

Be sure to check the rules with your specific car company as there are some that don’t allow you to take the car on the interisland ferry. If yours doesn’t then it is easy to drop off your car in Wellington, take the ferry across and pick up a new car in Picton.

Understand the Climate

The weather in New Zealand is fairly mild however it can also change quickly so having some layers and rain gear is always suggested.

They do have a high level of rainfall and this varies from the North island to the South depending on the season. The mountains on the South Island also impact the weather since they divide the island – the west tends to be wetter and the east side is drier.

Be prepared with rain gear

New Zealand has very little air pollution and much less ozone. This makes it very easy to burn in the Spring through autumn months. Surprisingly this can happen even on cloudy days so be sure to wear sunscreen. I learned the hard way.

Is New Zealand Expensive to Visit?

From the perspective of accommodations and attractions or activities, the entry fees were like other countries we have visited.

We did find eating in New Zealand to be more costly than in other places around the world. We think this is due to the fresh, organic options being served so you are paying a premium but the quality is at a higher standard so it can be justified.

When is the best time to visit New Zealand?

  • December to February is the summer and is also the busiest time to visit New Zealand. Not only do you have the tourists but also many people from within the country are travelling during this time as the students are off school and there are the Christmas holidays. While the weather is great it is also the most expensive for accommodations.
  • March to May is a better alternative with fewer crowds so think about visiting in the Fall as the weather is warm and you can still swim in most areas.
  • June to August is the time to visit if you are looking for snow sports then you would want to visit the South Island since this is the Winter. This time of year can be tricky for driving so be sure to plan accordingly.

How many days should I visit New Zealand?

We spent 15 days in New Zealand and it wasn’t nearly enough! Depending on your interests you could easily spend upwards of a month here. There is so much to see, do and experience in this part of the world that you should plan to take your time and really enjoy this amazing country.

If you only have two weeks then it would be a better plan to concentrate on either the North or South Islands.

A Few Tips

  • As a visitor to New Zealand you will likely need a Visa unless you are a New Zealand or Australian citizen. Be sure to check the requirements in advance. It is super easy to submit the application through their electronic service. This must be completed before your departure.
  • The currency of the country is the NZD. You can exchange money at banks and Exchange companies in the cities and at the airport.
  • Tipping is not required however if you receive exemplary service be sure to recognize it. Restaurants do not add a service charge to the bill.
  • Flying domestically is generally easy and cost-effective. The airports are efficient due to their size and you can travel with wine from city to city!
  • Our itinerary was planned as a one-way journey and we flew from Christchurch to Queenstown and at the end of our trip from Queenstown back to Auckland where we had started. It allowed us to make the most of our time there.

The Final Word: Do We Think New Zealand Is Worth Visiting?

We have given a small glimpse of the many things to see, do and enjoy in New Zealand (otherwise known as Aotearoa in Maori) and we whole-heartedly believe this country is worth visiting.

Be sure to put this destination on your bucket list – it will be a trip of a lifetime!

Our picture in front of an amazing green thermal spring. These kind of views make New Zealand worth visiting