I've been to New Zealand a few times to date. These are some of the places I've been which are of particular note and recommended for a visit. There is, of course, a whole heap more to see and do which isn't mentioned here so budget for three weeks at least in New Zealand isn't enough if you're determined to see the whole country. I'm three visits in and still have plenty to do.
These are the top ten things I've enjoyed most so far in New Zealand from both North and South Islands.
Auckland - New Zealand's largest and most vibrant city. The large university contributes to Auckland's vibrant nightlife. Sky Tower provides an ample amount of entertainment including several restaurants, a pair of hotels and a large Casino. "K-Road" provides purveyors of more grungy venues for dining and drinking.
Wellington - popularly, and justifiably, known as "Windy Wellington," New Zealand's capital city is home to Parliament (epitomised by "The Beehive") and New Zealand's most important museum - Te Papa - which is also an excellent introduction to The Treaty of Waitangi and Maori culture.
Wai-O-Tapu - for those of you not accustomed to volcanic landscapes Wai-O-Tapu (near Rotorua ) is a revelation. The variety of colours of the rocks, landscape, dirt underfoot and the water of the lakes is something to be in awe of. While The Champagne Pool is the most famous feature, observe the green lake from afar before you approach it close up. The colour appears to change. Don't miss the eruption of Lady Knox geyser every morning at 10:15.
Napier / Hawke's Bay - Napier was rebuilt between 1931 and 1933 after a devastating earthquake, Napier now boasts one of the worlds finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the world. On sweeping Hawkes Bay, Napier, Hastings and Havelock North all join in a passion for wines which has developed into a reputation for producing some of New Zealand's finest wines.
Mount Bruce - With a view to recreating the 70-Mile-Bush the Department of Conservation has created the Pukaha Mount Bruce Restoration Reserve. One of the gerat attractions of Mount Bruce is the "Burrowcam" which, with the light cycle reversed, allows the human visitor to view the more usual activities of these nocturnal creatures.
Stratford Glockenspeil - the Stratford Glockenspiel is New Zealand's first and currently only publically acessible Glockenspiel. In addition to the figures being larger than most European Glockenspiel firgurines, unusually the Glockepiel also includes the spoken word as well as the more traditional music.
Little Blue Penguins at Oamaru - I visited Oamaru on my first visit to the South Island way back in 2007 and while I appreciate the history of Oamaru's architecture - the cutest little things I've seen where the Little Blue Penguins. There's a breeding colony in the harbour (a closed DOC reserve on the other side of the harbour serves as a control) at which visitors can learn about the Little Blue Penguin and, at dusk, see them come ashore. Little Blue Penguins come ashore throughout the year but, unsurprisingly, most arrive during the breeding season between November and March. If I had to pick one absolute must to see in New Zealand - this is it.
Franz Josef Glacier - There's no doubting the natural beauty of the Southern Alps - or South Island in general - but the Franz Josef Glacier is a major draw - so there's more than a touch of the "Leicester Square Experience." However, this one is worth it. There are oppurtunities for Blue Ice Trekking and several flights over the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Marvellous experience.
Wine of Central Otago - with the wines of Marlborough and Hawke's Bay dominating exports, don't miss the oppurtunity to sample some Central Otago Pinot Noir. Gibbston Valley Winery, Olssens of Bannockburn, Aurum Wines, Peregrine Winery and Chard Farm are amongst many open to visitors - but I strongly recommend Chard Farm (dramatically set, great wines) and Aurum Wines (great wines and foods such as chutneys!) There's a lot of the Bungy jumping, jet-boating thrill-seeking stuff around Central Otago - Queenstown especially - but nones as good as the wine.
White Heron Colony at Whataroa - The White Heron Colony was another one of the highlights of our 2007 trip to the South Island. We're not your standard ornithologists (I'm interested in a different type of bird altogether!) but really enjoyed our trip to New Zealand's only breeding ground for the White Heron. Our jetboat ride through to the hide was certainly enjoyable. But not nearly as enjoyable as our time in the hide where, during breeding season, we were able to observe the once nearly-extinct White Herons at close quarters. Also in the area were Royal Spoonbill at the Little Shag who also breed in the area.
Pancake Rocks at Greymouth - the Pancake Rocks, a short drive outside Greymouth on the west coast of South Island, are a wonderful structure of geological making. Layer upon layer of fossiled remains and assorted sedimentation have ensured not only the irregular erosion of the shore line and clear layers of shells / sedimentation etc etc which, unsurprisingly, look somewhat like pancakes piled one-atop-the-other. Hence the name, me thinks. Beware the splurge pool - it can make you moist.
Auckland - where to eat and drink - Recommended places to eat and drink in Auckland
Auckland - Sky Tower - On and about the Sky Tower in Auckland - the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere
Auckland - reflection of Sky Tower - Auckland - Sky Tower reflected on the different architectural styles of Aucklands CBD
Auckland - Sky Tower by night - Sky Tower in central Auckland seen by night
Auckland - recommended hotels - Recommended places to stay in and around Auckland City
New Zealand - recommended luxury accomodation - Recommended luxury accomodation inNew Zealand
Wellington - reflections in the windows of the Intercontinental Hotel - Buildings reflected in the windows of the Intercontinenal Hotel, Wellington
Stratford Glockenspiel - The Stratford Glockenspeil in Taranaki
Taranaki - Stratford Glockenspiel - Brief information on the Stratford Glockenspiel in Taranaki
New Zealand - 9 great pubs and bars - 9 of the best pubs and bars in and around New Zealand
Auckland Tourism - Official website of the Auckland Tourism Office
Central Otago - Official website of Tourism Central Otago
Central Otago Winegrowers Association - Official website of the Central Otago Winegrowers Association
Hawke's Bay - Official website of Hawkes Bay Tourism
New Zealand - Official website of New Zealand Tourism
Wellington Tourism - Official website of Wellington Tourism
Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook