The New Zealand Bucket List

You haven’t truly “done” New Zealand unless you’ve done these 100 experiences.

#100 - Visit The Giant's House

Where is it? Akaroa, South Island

This distinctive hub of sculpture, gardens, and overall artistic creativity is an unexpectedly magical place that's full of surprises; it's quite unlike anywhere else in New Zealand, and remains something of a hidden treasure. Rather than simply display works of art within a sterile gallery, at Akaroa's The Giant's House, its various mosaic figures are integrated organically into some immaculate gardens all perched in a lovely hillside location, which when combined makes for a new and quirky photo opportunity around every corner.

Full of vibrancy and colour, every step along the attraction's winding paths leads to a new discovery, with a mixture of figures of both animals and people created in ceramic by talented owner/artist Josie Martin. There are decades worth of work on display here, full of wonderful attention to detail - even adults will garner a feeling of being reverted back to their childhood due to the undeniable "fairytale" aura that the gardens emit.

There are undeniable elements of the likes of Gaudi who have gone into inspiring the figures' creation, yet the style is something entirely original. Kids will find this place a wonderland; adults will admire the raw skill and dedication. Few attractions so expertly blend together both gardening and art, and it's this overall package of uniqueness that make The Giant's House a highly memorable visit. Image credit: The Giant's House

#99 - Fun at Puzzling World

Where is it? 188 Wanaka-Luggate Highway, Wanaka

In terms of kids attractions in New Zealand, it's hard to get more unique - or satisfying - than this. Wanaka's Puzzling World has been entertaining little ones from around the globe for over 40 years, and doing so with an innovative display of imagination and quirky flare that helps separate it from the likes of standard theme parks or other bland tourist attractions. It's undeniably eccentric - immediately apparent on approach due to its interesting take on architectural angles and colours - and this is a large part of its charm, while its various mazes, illusion rooms, and even its introduction to basic science for little ones all commendable.

Its maze is the major highlight, and it's surprisingly challenging, with participants able to tick off each of its individual "towers" before attempting a final escape (expect around an hour in the maze alone). Its illusion rooms are likewise highly interesting - have you ever seen water flowing uphill before? - and each of the effects are explained in (laymen's) scientific terms to provide the logic behind what you're seeing; kids and adults alike can actually have fun while learning here.

Even the simply process of enjoying a coffee is made entertaining at Puzzling World, with a cavalcade of puzzles with which to tease your brain while enjoying a coffee or bite to eat from its quality on-site cafe. A must-do for families in the Lakes region, and well worth the drive from Queenstown for those travelling NZ with kids. Image credit: Visit Lake Wanaka

#98 - Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery

Where is it? 49 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a historic little town in its own right, so it's only fitting that its key attraction reflects the mixture of gold mining, Maori and pioneering history that helped shape the region in past centuries. The Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery is quite a small museum from the outside, however its size is deceptive; it's split out into two floors - one of which is below street level - and contains a surprising amount of curated material within. What it does it does very well; unlike most other static exhibits, there's a large emphasis placed on interaction here which helps aid with engagement and learning.

Numerous displays from the 19th century help chronicle the history of charming Arrowtown stretching all the way back to the days of Chinese mining, including a recreation of the town during the gold-mining era, and a number of rooms dedicated to specific snapshots of time that are very well done. They're all decked out with numerous tools and artefacts that are true-to life, too, while its adjoining art gallery portrays a number of period pieces from an artistic perspective as well.

Kids visiting the museum are kept entertained via a treasure hunt provided - a nice touch for parents wanting to absorb in peace - whether it's perusing the exhibits or browsing the on-site bookstore. A decidedly pleasant surprise that competes with some of NZ's larger and more well-known museums. Image credit: Museum Queenstown

#97 - Embark on a Forgotten World Adventure

Where is it? 9 Hakiaha Street, Taumarunui

A true example of creativity and ingenuity in tourism, the Forgotten World Adventures experience takes your standard sightseeing train ride and turns the formula entirely on its head. Propelled by people-power as opposed to coal or electricity, these adventures along a Forgotten World Highway rail line that connects Stratford to Taumarunui make use of an adapted golf cart that has been made rail-friendly, following a path that showcases some of the best natural and historic elements of rural New Zealand.

The diversity of scenery encountered along the way is remarkable; in addition to the typically beautiful rolling North Island landscape, the journey adds in a range of tunnels, forgotten townships, viaducts and plenty of bridges to help break things up. Guides on the journey are also a wealth of information on the region and its history, covering both the previous era's prosperity as well as their current state of decline.

Those wishing to take part are presented with a number of choices of tour itineraries ranging from single-day journeys to multi-day adventures aboard both RailBikes and RailCarts, with the extended tours spending overnight in old-world hotels that only help add to the atmosphere. In terms of guided tours, there's nothing else in NZ quite like this. Image credit: Forgotten World Adventures

#96 - Attend WOMAD

Where is it? Brooklands Park, Taranaki

Taranaki's annual WOMAD festival has always been about bringing together an eclectic mix of international musicians covering a huge range of genres, while in recent years an effort has been made to incorporate more mainstream and traditional acts as well. As a result, it now stands as one of the most consistent and entertaining annual festivals in New Zealand, one full of unusual sights, sounds and overall creativity from cultures from afar. While having taken place all over the world, NZ's WOMAD allows locals to experience some of these creative societies with a minimal degree of travel.

It's something of a celebration not only of music but of diversity in general; with a visit to WOMAD you'll likely encounter outfits, instruments and even vocal stylings you may have never been exposed to before, and as such it's one of the premier ways in NZ to open your eyes to what the rest of the world has to offer without leaving the country. Add in always-quality domestic lineups and it's a robust overall multi-day affair of entertainment.

WOMAD runs for 3 days during March, with 2017's event set to take place from the 17th to the 19th. Image credit: WOMAD

#95 - Visit Steampunk HQ

Where is it? Tyne Street, Oamaru

While most museums hang their hat on traditional history or art, SteampunkHQ in the Victorian district of little Oamaru showcases the history of an alternate world in which technology of the 1800's took an entirely different route. Part sci-fi, part artistic inspiration and part engineering genius, the attraction embodies the art style of the Steampunk fantasy, with liberal use of gears, industrial elements and original take on manipulating what otherwise might be mere scrapyard junk into something inventive and creative. This is most certainly not your average sterile cultural offering.

The attraction consists of a number of different rooms decked out with all sorts of mad-scientist-esque contraptions, while there's plenty of opportunities to go hands-on and clamber (particularly in the outdoor playground) or otherwise touch its exhibits. Of particular note are its inventive "pedal car" for further exploring the surrounding areas, and its excellent Portal exhibit that is truly mind-bending and aims to simulate travelling through time.

Add in some excellent family-friendly pricing, and you've got an exceptionally different and quite unexpected attraction within a historic district of a city that's a delight to explore, too. Image credit: Steampunk HQ

#94 - Bathe at The Lost Spring

Where is it? 121A Cook Drive, Whitianga

An ideal way to "dip your toes" into the many forms of geothermal relaxation that New Zealand offers, Whitianga's "The Lost Spring" is a standout attraction offering a mixture of bathing opportunities situated amongst some magical greenery. Fuelled naturally via a spring situated 600m below ground, The Lost Spring has obviously been immaculately planned and cared for; while it's a commercial facility it still feels wholly organic. Within the complex are a range of different mineral pools that vary in size, temperature (from 32°C up to 40°C) and theme that add plenty of variety to the bathing experience, and the natural vegetation and local bird life provides an additional layer of tranquility to its overall atmosphere.

A number of caves dotted throughout allow visitors options for a little more peace and privacy, while the coloured lighting used within also makes for a break from the typical and more bland thermal spa experience. Those relaxing in the pools here are even provided with bar service from friendly poolside waitstaff, and the ability to enjoy a drink or light finger food in such wonderful surrounds makes for a highly pleasurable experience.

Additional options for pampering exist for those wanting to take things a step further, too, such as massages, facials and body treatments. It's one of New Zealand's best overall thermal spa complexes, and a top visit in the Coromandel. Image credit: The Lost Spring

#93 - Try the famous Mangonui Fish & Chips

Where is it? Beach Road, Far North

While a mere "fish and chippery" might seem slightly anti-climactic in terms of regional attraction highlights, the combination of quality dining and wonderful aquatic views has combined to make this store on the harbour something of a cult classic amongst fans of this simple - yet undeniably tasty - fare.

The fish (and other forms of seafood) live up to their reputation in terms of flavour, with a focus more on quality as opposed to sheer size, and is wonderfully fresh while accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth chips that don't carry with them any of the excess grease or oil that can plague such a combo at lesser establishments.

Various local fish varieties take turns starring as "Fish of the Day" including Hapuka, Snapper and a range of others, while the likes of King Prawns, scallops and other favourites flesh out the menu. Add in some stunning Northland views, and it's a "take away" style meal that comes across as 5 star. Image credit: Wandering the Planet

#92 - Clamber up Baldwin Street

Where is it? Dunedin, Otago

No, don't try to adjust your screen - while the angle of the world's steepest residential street might look like an optical illusion, this Dunedin-area suburb has become something of an internet phenomenon due to its seemingly preposterous angle. Possessing of a thigh-burning 1:3 gradient (that's a 35% incline), Baldwin Street serves as a physical challenge for those wanting to ascend to the top, albeit granting some great views over the city's North-East valley in return for your efforts.

While the surface of the road can be walked itself, there are also stairs running parallel that can make the climb slightly easier, and upon reaching the top you'll come away with a definite sense of self-achievement. Photography here is also immensely popular, as taking snaps with your camera from road-level gives the impression of the street's houses being perched at a truly odd angle.

The street also plays host to a number of quirky annual events to take advantage of its slope; notably the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival with its iconic Jaffa Race in which 30,000 large jaffa sweets are rolled down the street, and the Baldwin Street Gutbuster which sees around 1000 challengers racing to the top of the street and back down. Take it at your own pace if visiting, and enjoy this unusual - and free - attraction at your leisure. Image credit: Tristan Schmurr

#91 - Go Zorbing

Where is it? Rotorua, North Island

A chance at some truly unique, tumbling fun awaits with this adventurous activity in the Rotorua region of the North Island - Zorb is a literal "ball of fun"! Done with the original company that started the trend, visitors can take one part huge, hollow, inflated ball and add one part water - with a dash of willing human participant - and you've got a recipe for group fun that all ages can enjoy.

Options exist for both a dry or a 'wet' adventure in the Zorb (ideal for those warmer months), as water is poured in and adding some extra slip-and-slide goodness as you roll downhill. It's an entirely group-friendly experience as well, as the Zorbs can cater for up to three people per ball.

Zorbing may not be as synonymous with Rotorua as its geothermal and cultural experiences, however it's a must-do for those after some carefree fun in this part of New Zealand nonetheless. Image credit: Tourism NZ

New Zealand MapNew Zealand is a country that ranks among the finest on the entire globe when it comes to travel; few others can boast Aotearoa’s delicate and impressive mixture of physical beauty, strong cultural influences, laid-back locals and relatively untouched nature. The fact that all of this comes wrapped in an easily-navigable package makes a visit to New Zealand a relatively hassle-free experience for the aspiring traveller, and one in which it’s possible to soak in a staggering number of world-class attractions and experiences all within a compact itinerary.

First and foremost it’s the landscapes that makes New Zealand resonate with the hearts of most explorers; the country’s topography intermingles some of the best elements of the likes of Switzerland, the British Isles and and even a hint of Hawaii to form a diverse canvas that’s a joy to traverse.

Each of New Zealand’s Islands – and the individual sub-regions within those islands – serve as a microcosm of this; both North and South offer some stunning alpine vistas that hark back to prehistoric times and remain largely untouched by the influence of man, and the country is home to a number of truly striking peaks in particular. From mounts Taranaki, to Ruapehu, to Cook and near countless others, photographers both professional and aspiring will find themselves in their element with a visit to New Zealand; these majestic mounds are photogenic in the extreme.

The aquatic also plays a large role in New Zealand’s appeal; despite its imagery as a largely greenery-draped island nation, it’s the surprising quantities of gold and blue that help augment its scenery. The country is up there with the best on Earth when it comes to marine life encounters and experiences – perhaps best exemplified by Kaikoura‘s gorgeous coast – while a multitude of its beaches from Kaiteriteri to Ohope to Whangamata and everywhere in between are akin to something straight out of a postcard. Add in its incredible fiords and their deep, dark waters carving their way through dramatic peaks, and those with leanings towards the water will find endless opportunities to satisfy their wanderlust.

Volcanic and tectonic influences have been a large driving force behind shaping the country over millions of years, and as a result its many geothermal attractions have become symbolic of New Zealand as a whole. RotoruaTaupoHanmer Springs and a number of other locations offer travellers the chance to witness some of these striking phenomena in action, whether it be remarkable multi-coloured sulphur deposits, spouting geysers, or impressive displays of raw heat.

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, the country’s alpine regions and vast glaciers offer an entirely different experience; these massive ice formations serve as the foundation for a myriad of adventures ranging from ice hikes to helicopter landings.

Add in the strong influence of indigenous Maori culture and a number of associated cultural experiences ranging from live performances and in-depth museums, to historical landmarks, and you’ve got a cross-genre appeal that few other countries can boast.

New Zealand’s sheer quantity of things to see and do is beyond impressive – but what are its absolute “must-do” experiences? In our Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List, we highlight 100 of the most essential experiences that we feel best sum up the diverse and incredible highlights of the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’. While much of it will be known to locals, we hope to both inspire travellers from afar to visit wonderful New Zealand – while also encouraging residents to get out and explore the best of their own, gorgeous, backyard.

The New Zealand Bucket List Map

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Follow Tourism New Zealand on IG at @purenewzealand and Experience Oz + NZ at @experience_oz

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