The New Zealand Bucket List

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

#80 - Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Where is it? 79 Aerodrome Rd, Omaka, Blenheim

One of the more unique takes on a significant chapter in New Zealand’s history, this popular attraction in Blenheim features numerous restored old aircrafts and a cavalcade of other historic memorabilia from the pioneering ages of flight. It’s an engaging place to experience that doesn’t necessarily require any particular fascination with aviation to enjoy. The array of lovingly-recreated World War 1 era planes – the majority owned by Sir Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame – make for an impressive sight on their own.

The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre focuses on presenting the story of how aerial combat was conducted during the first World War. Many of the exhibits show the aircrafts in context to give you a sense of exactly how they were utilised and the simulated “sets” they are contained within are of a world-class quality.

Jackson's influence is easy to see here, as the various dioramas on display are akin to the set of a movie in how real they seem and how well they capture the drama of the period. Guests are welcome to either explore themselves or pay an additional fee for a guided tour. Image credit: Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre Read More

#79 - Enjoy the excellent Martinborough Wines

Where is it? Martinborough, South Wairarapa

One of New Zealand’s premier wine regions, Martinborough is home to around 20 boutique vineyards and is located at the heart of the NZ Wine Trail. Lovers of good wine and food will be in their element here with tastings and events held at various cellar doors throughout the year at individual vineyards and a township with a flourishing food and wine scene.

There are various ways to explore the vineyards, you can take the lead yourself and cycle, drive or walk your way around the region; most of the local vineyards are within walking or cycling distance from one another so you'll be able to visit numerous vineyards quite easily.

If you'd prefer to focus on the food and wine you can take part in an organised tour with local operators who know and love the area (and the best wines). Local companies Zest and Martinborough Wine Tours offer various tours around the region to taste the best food and wine one offer at a handful of the most popular vineyards and cellar doors. Standout local vineyards include Pallinser Estate Wines, Te Kairanga Wines, Tirohana Estate and Cabbage Tree Vineyard - all of which are a must-visit. Image credit: Destination Wairarapa

#78 - White Water Rafting on the Kaituna River

Where is it? Te Ngae Road, Rotorua

While New Zealand boasts several highly viable rafting destinations, it's hard to argue that the Kaituna River isn't its most unique. Visitors to the Rotorua region looking for some group-oriented fun will be able to hit the waters of this river which boasts the highest commercially-rafted waterfall on Earth and makes for a thrilling experience for those who are looking for a dose of adrenaline on the water.

The river is also known for its warmth, which can help take some of the sting out of getting soaked – particularly if you're looking to raft during the colder months of the year. A rafting trip on the Kaituna takes roughly 45 minutes (1 hour total including training), and can be conducted with operator River Rats as well as several others.

The adventure down the Kaituna is a wild one, with 14 separate rapids along the way as well as three waterfalls and a myriad of other whirlpools and bumps. It all culminates with a drop down Tutea Falls, which sits at a height of 7 metres and is a fitting capper to the rafting adventure. Image credit: River RatsBrowse Experience

#77 - Visit the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves

Where is it? Te Anau, Southland

Te Anau's own glow worm caves may not have the fame of their more renowned brother in Waitomo, however they're also an essential visit for those visiting the small and charming township. Located on the aptly-named Lake Te Anau, this impressive limestone cavern is one of the best and rarest examples of a living cave network still being formed that is highlighted by its most obvious and magical nature feature – its colony of glimmering glow worms.

Visits to the cave are conducted on board a purpose-built catamaran to traverse Lake Te Anau before disembarking and boarding a smaller, canoe-style vessel that takes visitors into the heart of the cave network to see their iconic insects up close.

The cave is kept intentionally darkened in order for the glow worms to both stay undisturbed and to better see their luminescence, and the spectacle is wonderful, with motes of light illuminating the pure black surrounds. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and look up, and you'll be transported to another world. Image credit: Real Journeys Browse Tour

#76 - Unwind in the Onsen Hot Pools

Where is it? 160 Arthurs Point Road, Arthurs Point

Looking for an unmatched blend of both romance and scenery? Combining beautiful views with a calming hot soak, Queenstown’s Onsen Hot Pools make for some truly indulgent relaxation. Overlooking Shotover Canyon and some wonderful mountain scenery, views of the vivid blue river and surrounding greenery by day and the twinkling stars over the canyon by night are an unforgettable backdrop for bathing.

The attraction's pools are filled with fresh, clear water and allow you to indulge in one of a variety of available packages. Many of these come with pamper-style extras that make the welcome even warmer; wines, mineral waters, and even ice creams form a great complement to the bathing experience.

Visitors can choose from the Kiwi, Indulgence, Pamper, Candlelight, Ultimate Relaxation or Special Occasion Packages, or can simply enjoy a basic soak without the frills. The attraction is open from 10am until 11pm daily and offers complimentary transfers to and from Queenstown - a nice touch. Image credit: Onsen Hot PoolsView Experience

#75 - Go Kayaking at Abel Tasman NP

Where is it? Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

The Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand's top destinations for kayaking, with its various inlets, lagoons and other waterways providing the chance to take in some sights without seeing another soul for miles. Both kayaking tours and independent kayak hire are available as options for beginners and kayaking veterans, respectively.

While technically Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest of its kind in the country it is still overflowing with incredible exploratory opportunities on the water, with kayaks offering the chance to find secluded areas that other options simply can't - and being able to stare directly down into the wonderful waters below is well worth the effort.

For those looking to get out on the water, local company Kaiteriteri Kayak Abel Tasman offer a range of guided tours as well as hire options varying in prices. Be sure to bring a set of dry clothes; it never hurts to be prepared for when you succumb to the beauty and ditch your kayak to jump in for a swim! Image credit: Ian Trafford View Tours

#74 - Animal interaction at Auckland Zoo

Where is it? Motions Road, Auckland

The largest wildlife exhibit in all of New Zealand can be encountered at Auckland Zoo – one of the most acclaimed zoological venues in the entire southern hemisphere. Friendly and knowledgeable staff, an always-improving environment for the animals and an ever-changing variety of weird and wonderful creatures on display throughout the year ensures that everyone will have a great day out.

The zoo is home to over 750 animals comprised of 120 different species and set in comfortable park-like surrounds with highly authentic animal environments that ensure the creatures are comfortable, active and easily viewable.

Visitors can expect to see some natives such as the Kiwi bird and some international icons including elephants, lions, giraffes and zebras. Carefully planned, reasonably priced, well-maintained and easily accessed from most central accommodation, Auckland Zoo provides a great opportunity to see a large variety of animals for all visitors to the city at a reasonable price (particularly if you bring your own food along with you). Image credit: Auckland Zoo View Tickets

#73 - Drive the Forgotten World Highway

Where is it? Taranaki to Taumarunui, North Island

Stretching for around 150 kilometres, while it's not exceptionally long, the Forgotten World Highway provides a scenic and memorable journey through New Zealand’s North Island, avoiding more well-worn roads for the sake of some wonderful scenery. Located between Taumarunui and Stratford, the highway encompasses a mixture of man-made and natural highlights, with remnants of earlier historic colonisation still in existence along the way.

It's a hilly drive, but one that shows off some of NZ's true back-country at its best. Surface-wise, the road is made up of colonial bridle paths, unsealed gravel and normal bitumen, making for a somewhat varied adventure. Landmarks and points of interest are dotted throughout, with a brochure available from the Forgotten Highway Tourist Centre that highlights must-see historical sites and ruins.

The drive can be done in one day with only a moderate number of diversions; however for those wanting just a quick sampling just over 2 hours is all that's required to complete the route. Image credit: Creative commons

#72 - Go Punting on the Avon River

Where is it? Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch

Not the most common of everyday expressions, “punting” refers to what has become one of the most iconic sights in the Christchurch region: a smooth and relaxed gondola trip down the river's serene waters. Operated by Welcome Aboard Christchurch and based out of the city's historic Antigua Boat Sheds, a punting session will see you step aboard a classic-style punt boat for a water-borne journey.

It involves a flat-bottomed boat pushed along by a pole - accompanied by a qualified punting pilot in full Edwardian-themed clothing. Head on a leisurely cruise past some of Christchurch's key highlights. Some of these include the picturesque Botanic Gardens, charming Town Hall, the pleasantly drooping branches of willow trees and the changing face of the city centre, to name just a few - and all of them take on an entirely new life when viewed from the water.

An ideal experience for couples that adds a hint of romance to exploring the city, you'll meander peacefully under ornate bridges, get a glimpse of wildlife on the riverbanks and much more – with warm blankets and hot water bottles provided during the warmer months of the year. Image credit: Hiroshi NamedaView Experience

#71 - Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes

Where is it? Dolomite Point, Punakaiki

The Punakaiki area of the West Coast along the coastline is striking and ruggedly beautiful like much of the rest of the region, however what sets it apart in its own right are its Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point. Accessible via a well-maintained walkway that loops from the main road, the area is home to giant cliffs and boulders amongst a turbulent and roiling coastline that is highly active – particularly at high tide.

The most prominent features are the Pancake Rocks, which are exactly what their name suggests; large stacks of limestone formed gradually by the wind and water over the years resembling a stack of pancakes. Further along, the walk is made all the more dramatic by its blowholes of salt water from the Tasman Sea that surges up a narrow channel then spouts high into the air, spraying their voluminous contents dozens of metres above sea level.

Offering impressive coastal views out to the point to the north and as far as Mount Cook to the south on clear days throughout its course, the walk only takes around 20 minutes worth of pure walking, however since you'll likely want to pause at a number of points along the way to grab photos it's best to allow around 45 minutes return. Image credit: Julian Apse

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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