Long stretches of stunning beaches, sharp cerulean blue skies, mirrored lakes, glorious mountains and the ever-friendly New Zealanders form a big reason why people love to travel to this idyllic island nation in the Pacific Ocean. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, then be prepared to unlearn everything you know about the world as you see it from close quarters here. Whether you’re here for a hair raising adventure or to simply enjoy a quiet and relaxing trip, sunning yourself on the beach, whether you’re here to rediscover yourself or to set forth on a new journey with your partner on your honeymoon, New Zealand is worth every bit the hype.
What’s wonderful about the country is that the cities are a wonderful amalgamation of urban and natural bliss. It’s not very often that you will find yourself in a city where you can look up and see snow-capped mountains in the distance or go on a drive and come right up to a swirling blue beach. New Zealand is blessed by nature and those who live here are lucky enough to enjoy its bounties, endlessly. Meanwhile, if you decide to visit New Zealand, then here are the cities you must include in your list, just so you can partake of this bounty, albeit temporarily.
There might be several divided opinions about which is the best city in New Zealand and while many come to mind, it’s a bit inevitable that this list begins with Queenstown. Queenstown is adorned by the Lake Wakatipu. The is description defying, as it’s that stunning. Also known as the adventure capital of the country, Queenstown is in South Island and has some breathtaking vistas along with adrenaline inducing activities that have made it a favourite among adventure seekers. Bungee jumping, rock climbing, canyoning, abseiling, white water rafting, paragliding, heli biking and skiing are just some of the fun activities you can do here. But if you are looking for saner pursuits, there’s enough here for even those with families. Simply soak in the beauty around you and you’ll wish you never had to leave.
Located in New Zealand’s North Island, Auckland is one of the most populated cities in the country. Yet, there’s something very earthy and essential about the city too, that’s located around two large harbours. The Viaduct Harbour offers sights of superyachts and trendy bars and cafes, but Auckland is a treat for those who love the outdoors and adventure of the exotic kind. Auckland alone has around 48 volcanic cones, and these can be climbed for some of the most amazing views you’ll get to see. There are guided walks and the volcanoes have much cultural and spiritual importance for the Māori. Auckland has a vibrant arts and culture scene but it’s the culinary space that gets most of the wows. The gastronomic experiences that you can enjoy here are delicious, whether you’re at a farmer’s market or at a fine dining restaurant.
Located on the East Coast of South Island, Christchurch is known for its quiet English beauty. Filled with several heritage spots to peruse, the city is famed for its street art scene. The Avon river in the middle of the city creates a natural landscape that’s altogether entirely breath taking. For those who want to explore South Island, Christchurch is a great place to begin and you can head to the Banks Peninsula or the Southern Alps or Canterbury Plains. Within the city itself, there are numerous places to see and explore and you can cycle along the banks of the Avon river. Try not to miss Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Located in North Island, on Lake Rotorua, this town is famous for its bubbling mud pools, hot springs and the Pohutu Geyser that erupts several times in a day. Rotorua is the place to go if you want to have more than a glimpse of the fascinating Māori culture. There’s never a moment’s boredom here and it’s easy to feel like you have been transported into an alternate dimension. The forests are lush and almost magical. Soak in a natural stream and feel your tense body relax as the stress of every kind melts away.
Dunedin is in South Island and is known for its Scottish heritage and awe-inspiring sights. Lush gardens, clean cycling trails and gorgeous heritage attractions such as gothic style architecture, museums and castles make this a fascinating city to visit in New Zealand. If you love wildlife, don’t miss seeing the little blue penguins and the endangered yellow-eyed penguins here. Dunedin’s beaches maybe perfect for water sports but do visit them at night for breath taking visuals of starry skies. Not too far from Dunedin, you can visit the lush Purakaunui Falls in the Caitlins.
The capital of New Zealand is located in North Island and is a beautiful city offering the best experiences in every way possible. There’s culture, history, nature and remarkable cuisine here and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Visitors find themselves lounging in Oriental Bay or indulging in more enthusiastic activities such as mountain biking or seawater kayaking. The Te Papa Tongarewa museum is an excellent interactive museum where you can learn about New Zealand’s history and culture. For fans of Lord of the Rings, Wellington is where you can get into a Weta Cave and learn about the magic that went into making the movies. A cable car ride up to Kelburn offers some remarkable views of the city while connoisseurs of food and wine will find themselves more than adequately indulged here.
For a charming European experience and the chance to see so many Art Deco buildings, Napier is your best bet. This small city looks a bit like a 1930s film set and it’s easy to see why. The gorgeous old world buildings notwithstanding, this is a city that takes its food and wine very seriously. Every year in February, the city declares its affiliation and love for Art Deco by holding an Art Deco Festival where you’re surrounded by vintage cars, fashion and music of the 1930s. If you like quirky things, don’t miss out on the marvellous murals painted as part of the Sea Walls collection.
Whangarei is often called the City by the Sea. It’s the perfect blend of old and new with its colonial architecture as well as modern buildings, museums, galleries, cafes and restaurants. But what sets apart this North Island city is the glorious Whangarei Falls which is said to be the most photogenic waterfall in New Zealand. Along with this, the city has several other natural wonders, beautiful beaches where people can relax or of course, the scenic Bay of Islands.
Tauranga in the North Island is a surprisingly urban city set in the Bay of Plenty. This harbourside city is also known for its proximity to Mount Maunganui which is considered to be one of New Zealand’s most popular beach towns. The waterfront area has a distinctly chic vibe with its cafes, restaurants and pubs while fishing, sailing and diving are activities that are often in demand here. Not too far, there are the McLaren Falls and the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park.
New Plymouth, located in the Taranaki region in North Island is gorgeous and with Mount Taranaki forming the stunning backdrop, it’s indeed one of the most memorable cities you will visit. There are beautiful parks here as well as some lovely art galleries and a thriving arts and culture scene. The Mt. Egmont National Park has some intriguing hiking trails and is popular among those who seek adventurous pursuits. The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is a 13km promenade where you can stroll along leisurely, taking in the stunning sights, and popping into one of the many cafes or restaurants to replenish yourself.
Some of the other places in New Zealand that are wonderful and should be visited include Hamilton which is famed for its Hamilton Gardens, Nelson which features lovely beaches, lakes and awe-inducing mountains, Raglan which is a laidback beach town, Mangawhai with its peaceful Pacific beaches and Kaikoura, where you can spot dolphins, seals and whales with ease. New Zealand’s enduring charm lies in its perfect integration of urban ease and luxury with culture and support for its indigenous Māori people.