Best cities to visit in New Zealand! From daring thrills to culturally significant experiences, these cities have something for everyone.Read more: Best Cities To Visit In New Zealand
*This article was written by Fiona Spinks*
New Zealand is a beautiful country, known for its stunning landscapes and natural wonders. However, it’s not just the scenery that makes New Zealand a fantastic place to spend a few weeks.
The cities of New Zealand are also filled with unique and interesting attractions that should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
From Wellington, the ‘coolest little capital in the world’, to the Maori culture of Rotorua and street art of Dunedin, here are the best cities to visit in New Zealand.
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Best Cities In New Zealand
Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, is one of the best cities to visit in the world. The city is situated on the southern tip of the North Island. It boasts a picturesque harbour surrounded by green hills.
Cultural enthusiasts can head to the waterfront and visit Te Papa Museum. It showcases various exhibits that depict New Zealand’s history and culture. The museum also houses an interactive earthquake simulation room that visitors can experience.
A popular activity is to take the Cable Car from the city centre up to the summit in Kelburn and walk back down through the Botanic Gardens. The gardens showcase a variety of local plant species. The gardens also have a cafe sitting in front of the beautiful Lady Norwood Rose Garden.
Wellington’s vibrant nightlife scene offers numerous bars and restaurants where visitors can enjoy local craft beers and delicious cuisine, especially in the area around Courtenay Place.
Wellington is also known for its importance to the New Zealand film industry. The Weta FX company was key to the production of the Lord Of The Rings films. Film enthusiasts can visit the Weta Cave for some insight into film visual effects.
Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand, despite not being the capital. Most international visitors will enter New Zealand in Auckland and it’s a wonderful city to visit. The Sky Tower is an iconic Auckland landmark. In typical New Zealand fashion, it not only has a revolving restaurant at the top but also adventure activities.
For those who want to start their New Zealand adventure with a bit of a thrill, check out SkyWalk and SkyJump. Both activities are run by the company AJ Hackett which operates several bunjy jump sites around the country.
Known as the City of Sails, Auckland boasts a stunning harbour with countless islands to explore. This includes Waiheke Island – home to some of New Zealand’s best wineries.
Aside from nature, Auckland also offers something for culture enthusiasts. The city is home to numerous museums and art galleries, including the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki which houses over 15,000 works of art. For history buffs, there’s no better place than the Auckland War Memorial Museum which showcases New Zealand’s military history.
Foodies will love exploring the diverse culinary scene in Auckland. It features everything from street food markets to fine dining restaurants. The city has an impressive range of cuisine options with influences from all over the world, and there are several restaurants sitting on the waterfront for you to enjoy dinner with a view.
Rotorua is famous for its geothermal wonders, Maori culture, and scenic beauty. Visitors can witness mud pools, hot springs, geysers, and steam vents at various locations throughout Rotorua. These geothermal features provide an exciting visual display of nature’s power.
The Maori culture is also a significant attraction in Rotorua. Visitors can learn about the history and traditions of the indigenous people through cultural performances, shows, tours, and museums. Maori culture is one of the top reasons to visit New Zealand.
The Tamaki Maori Village provides an immersive experience of the lifestyle and customs of the Maori people. The tour includes song and dance performances, such as the iconic haka war dance. The tour also includes a traditional Maori feast known as a hangi. Any trip to New Zealand should include a stop in Rotorua, one of the best cities in New Zealand to learn about Maori culture.
A quick mention of Taupo, Rotorua’s neighbour which isn’t a city but is worth a visit. Taupo is the location of one of the world’s most powerful volcanic eruptions in history which resulted in the formation of the country’s biggest lake.
Visitors to one will generally include the other as they are within an hour’s drive of each other. Taupo is a lovely place to stop by and relax by the lake.
Christchurch is one of the best cities in New Zealand to visit. It offers visitors a unique blend of history, culture and adventure. Known for its stunning landscapes and friendly locals, this city has something for everyone and it is an ideal place to start a New Zealand road trip.
One of the must-visit attractions in Christchurch is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. This beautiful garden covers over 21 hectares and boasts an impressive collection of exotic plants from around the world.
Visitors can take a stroll through the gardens or enjoy a picnic on one of the many lawns by the Avon River. Other popular attractions include the International Antarctic Centre and Christchurch Gondola.
Christchurch is also a popular starting point for visits to Kaikoura, famous for whale watching, and Akaroa. Akaroa is an unusual town compared to other parts of New Zealand. It had both French and British settlements in the 19th century and to this day retains some of the French influence.
Whangarei is often overlooked by visitors as it is located in Northland, the region at the northern end of the North Island. Most visitors arrive in Auckland and head south, entirely missing this part of the country.
Whangarei boasts stunning natural landscapes. Take a stroll through the Whangarei Falls Scenic Reserve and watch the magnificent 26-meter waterfall cascading into a picturesque rock pool below.
You can also explore the nearby Abbey Caves with its impressive limestone formations and glowworms. For those looking for adventure, Mount Parihaka offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.
In addition to its natural beauty, Whangarei has many attractions for culture enthusiasts as well. It is the closest city to Waitangi, about an hour north of Whangarei, which is a significant historical site. Waitangi is the location of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori people and British settlers in 1840. The document has influenced much of New Zealand’s history since.
Located on the southeast coast of the South Island, Dunedin has a rich combination of Maori and Scottish heritage. Visitors can explore historical landmarks such as Olveston Historic Home, Larnach Castle, and Toitu Otago Settlers Museum to learn about Dunedin’s past.
Aside from its history, Dunedin also boasts natural attractions that are worth exploring. The city is home to the Otago Peninsula where visitors can catch a glimpse of rare wildlife such as the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Little Blue Penguins, the world’s smallest penguin species. Sea lions can also be spotted in the area around Hoopers Inlet.
Baldwin Street – claimed as “the steepest street in the world” – also attracts tourists who want to take on the challenge of walking up or down its steep incline. After attempting to walk the steepest street in the world, you might want to further explore the city on foot and go looking for some street art. Dunedin is home to more than 100 street art pieces.
Nelson is located in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. It is known for its stunning landscapes, beaches, and an excellent arts and culture scene. This makes it one of the best cities to visit in New Zealand.
One of the things that makes Nelson a must in any guide to the best cities in New Zealand is its ideal location for nature lovers. Nelson is the closest city to Abel Tasman National Park, which in addition to several beautiful beaches includes a 60km 3-5 day walking track. It is also close to the Nelson Lakes National Park, another popular choice for hiking enthusiasts.
For art enthusiasts, Nelson has a thriving arts community with numerous galleries showcasing local talent as well as international artists. You can attend exhibitions, workshops, and performances throughout the year.
Hastings is a small city but still a great one to visit. Check out Splash Planet, a family-friendly option with several water rides, mini golf and go-karting.
Hastings is in the wine-producing region of Hawkes Bay. Most of the wine that is exported from New Zealand comes from Marlborough, so a visit to Hastings gives wine lovers a chance to enjoy wines that they might not find elsewhere. Pay a visit to one of the many wineries in the area such as Trinity Hill Wines. Decibel Wines has a tasting room in the city centre if you don’t want to join a tour or drive to a winery.
If you prefer outdoor adventures, there are many hiking trails and biking routes that will take you through breathtaking landscapes like Te Mata Peak or Cape Kidnappers.
Napier is less than half an hour from Hastings and is notable for its Art Deco architecture. An earthquake in 1931 destroyed many buildings in the area, and so much of the city was rebuilt at a time when Art Deco-style buildings were especially fashionable.
Today, visitors can take a tour to see some of these iconic buildings and learn about their fascinating history. The city also hosts an annual Art Deco Festival which attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
In addition to its architecture, Napier has plenty to offer those seeking outdoor activities or relaxation on the beach. Like Nelson, it is located in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. It is a great starting point for some of the wine tours that explore the local vineyards.
Located in the heart of New Zealand’s Waikato region, Hamilton boasts a vibrant city centre with plenty of cultural and entertainment options for visitors to explore. From stunning parks and gardens to museums and art galleries, there’s something for everyone here.
One must-visit attraction in Hamilton is the Hamilton Gardens, which showcases a range of themed gardens from around the world. The Waikato Museum is also worth checking out. It has an impressive collection of art and artefacts that tell stories about the region’s history. Additionally, visitors can enjoy a tranquil walk along the scenic Waikato River.
Hamilton is also known for its excellent cafes and restaurants, where you can indulge in delicious local cuisine and fine wines.
Finally, Hamilton is only an hour away from one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations – the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, where you can join a boat tour to explore an underground galaxy of lights.
Tauranga is a coastal city located in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand. It is one of the best cities to visit in the country. It is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and warm climate. Many travellers consider Tauranga as their favourite destination thanks to its relaxed lifestyle and friendly locals.
The city has plenty to offer visitors with a range of activities such as skydiving, hiking, surfing, fishing, and exploring wildlife reserves. Mount Maunganui Beach is the most popular attraction here that attracts both tourists and locals all year round. It offers an array of water sports activities like swimming, surfing and kayaking while being surrounded by picturesque views that make for perfect photo opportunities.
Besides attractions related to nature, the city also boasts a rich cultural scene. There are art galleries, museums, and many independent shops.
Last, but not entirely least, Queenstown. Although Queenstown is technically a town rather than a city due to its smaller resident population, it is significant enough as a tourist destination to be included in this guide. Such is the popularity of Queenstown, that in summer the tourist population outnumbers the local residents by quite a margin.
Queenstown is famous for its adventure activities, including skydiving, jetboating, skiing, paragliding, bunjy jumping and more. Visitors also enjoy scenic helicopter tours. It’s not just an adrenaline junkie’s paradise though. It is also located in the beautiful Central Otago area of New Zealand and sits on Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by mountains.
Central Otago is another of New Zealand’s famous winemaking regions. Joining a wine-tasting tour is an excellent way to explore the region.
Final Thoughts On The Best Cities To Visit In New Zealand
New Zealand is undoubtedly a beautiful country with a wide range of cities offering unique experiences to visitors. From the bustling streets of Auckland to the scenic beauty of Queenstown, there’s something for everyone in this stunning nation.
Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast or looking for a more laid-back experience, New Zealand has it all. The best cities in New Zealand are not just about sightseeing but also the vibrant culture and welcoming locals that make your stay even more memorable.
So pack your bags and explore these incredible cities to discover why New Zealand is truly one of the most incredible travel destinations in the world.
About The Author: After university, Fiona spent a year living in New Zealand and has returned several times since to explore as much of the country as possible. Her blog, Following Fiona, is primarily focused on helping other visitors to make the most of their trip.
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