Travelling to New Zealand and want to see all the famous sights while you’re here? Of course you do! We Kiwis love our own backyard and we love you visiting from overseas too, and you won’t find an easier country in the world for travelling and sightseeing. If it’s your first time to New Zealand, get ready to be surprised, there’s so much to see and everything is all so close making travel times between all the best spots really short.

Here's a classic Kiwi example, imagine you arrive in Auckland and are heading up to Northland - here’s we tell friends visiting from overseas to do to make a really fun day - head out to Auckland’s west coast at Muriwai beach first, at the right time of year you’ll see the nesting gannets but the views alone are worth the trip, then head north and take a break at Matakohe for lunch and a visit to the Kauri museum, before continuing on to the Northland Kauri forest to see Tane ‘Lord of the Forest’. Just a hop skip and a jump from there is the Hokianga, the perfect place to stop for the night and just an idyllic spot, right on the water and perfect for unwinding.

Wildlife, history, nature, Maori culture and a night by a picturesque beach, in a relaxing day’s travel over just 275 km / 170 miles. That’s what sightseeing in New Zealand is all about, you’ll see so much every day it’s hard to believe you’re in the same country!

Here are our tips for the best sightseeing and attractions at the main spots around New Zealand:

Auckland Sightseeing Tours

We live in Auckland, and love it when friends come and visit for a couple of nights before heading away on their New Zealand adventure. It’s so much fun catching up for dinner in the viaduct and sharing our local tips for the best sights around the city. Here’s are our favourites, from people who live here:

-A day out on the Hauraki Gulf - Whether it’s sailing, a whale and dolphin cruise or one of the ferries to the Gulf islands, Aucklanders love getting out on the water and you will too - South Islanders have their Southern Alps and Aucklanders have the Hauraki Gulf as their ‘Great Outdoors’.

-Hobbiton Day Tour - ‘The Shire’ is an easy day trip from Auckland, you can even combine it with a visit to the Waitomo Glow-worm caves.

-A day trip to one of the many islands of the Hauraki Gulf - Take your pick, a food and wine tour on Waiheke Island, an easy hike and native birdwatching on Tiritiri Matangi Island or climb the iconic volcanic cone of Rangitoto Island, just to name a few.

-Auckland Attractions. The Sky Tower, Auckland Museum, Viaduct Harbour, Auckland Domain, Mt Eden, Kelly Tarltons Aquarium, Auckland Zoo, Museum of Transport and Technology and the Maritime Museum are all great fun to visit in Auckland. There’s a hop on hop off bus which makes a loop round all of these attractions and more.

Bay of Islands Sightseeing Tours

Kiwis love getting up into the Bay of Islands on long weekends and you’ll soon see why. Spend a couple of nights at least up north of Auckland, there’s so much to do and it’s got a real laid back feel (yes, even more laid back than the rest of New Zealand!). What are the best sights to see and things to do in the Bay of Islands? We’ve been going up on holidays all our lives, here are our top picks:

-Waitangi Treaty Grounds - As the birthplace of our nation, this is a very auspicious spot, but also an amazing beautiful one too, set on a headland looking out over the sparking bay. Stand on the very spot where in 1840 the British and Maori chiefs signed the treaty, close your eyes and go back in time (we reckon the Brits must have been just a little nervous!) There’s a real sense of history here for our young nation, we reckon anyone, overseas visitors or Kiwis, must visit Waitangi on their trip.

-Get out on the Water - Whether it’s a cruise out to the Hole in the Rock, a Dophin Swim or saiing on a traditional schooner, getting out on the ocean here is an absolute must. We reckon once you’re here you won’t need much convincing! There are also plenty of watersport options like kayaking and snorkeling you can jump on right from Paihia too.

-Visit Russell - The first capital of New Zealand is just a short ferry ride across the water from Paihia and Waitangi, once known for it’s lawless and raucous behaviour, now it’s just a lovely spot it’s hard to imagine the carousing that must have gone on! A couple of historic sites we love are Pompallier House, the oldest Roman Catholic building in the country and Flagstaff Hill, make the short walk up to the most famous flagpole in New Zealand history!

Cruise boat at the famous Hole in the Rock, Bay of Islands - NZ Sighteeing Tour

Rotorua Sightseeing Tours

There’s so much to do in Rotorua, it’s hard to know what to pick, but here’s what people always tell us they love:

-Visit a living Maori Village. There are only two of these left now, Ohinemutu down by the lake and Whakarewarewa just bit further away from the centre of town. Ohinemutu offers an insight into Maori christianity, with the famous ‘Maori Jesus’ stained glass window in the church. There’s a really laid back non commercial feel there, it’s free entry into the village but you’re encouraged to make a donation or you can choose to go with a guide. Whakarewrewa gives you bang for your buck, doubling as a living Maori village with geysers and boiling mud too.

-Maori Culture Tour. Rotorua is the centre of Maori culture in New Zealand which means you’ve got plenty of choice. From a short insight to a full Maori concert and dinner show, there’s something for everyone. We like Te Puia, where you can get a real immersion in a short time - wood carving, weaving, a traditional meeting house, powhiri, hangi and of course haka.

-Geysers and Geothermal Areas - The second string to Rotorua’s bow is that it’s the heart of the North Island’s geothermal area, boiling mud and geysers are everywhere you look. Again you’ve got lots of choice and places like Te Puia and Whakarewarewa double as cultural and geothermal attractions. As well as Te Puia, we like Wai o Tapu on the way out of town, home of the famous Lady Knox geyser and the unreal colours of the Champagne Pool.

Honourable mention goes to the Rotorua Museum and the Kiwi Encounter, everything’s really close in Rotorua so you can pack lots of sights into a day!

Group photo in front of Ohinemutu Marae meeting house, Rotorua - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Wellington Sightseeing Tours

‘The coolest little capital in the world’ is super compact and really easy to get around on foot, and there are heaps of sights to see right in and around the central city that are one of kind Wellington attractions. No Kiwi holiday to ‘Wellywood’ would be complete without visiting our favourite Wellington icons:

-Te Papa Tongarewa - The National Museum on New Zealand

How about this recent TripAdvisor review - ‘we usually avoid museums like the plague but this one is amazing’! If there was one place in the entire country you could spend a couple of hours and soak up as much of New Zealand’s history and culture as possible, then this is it. From maori culture, war memorials, sports and modern art, this is New Zealand right here, a place that Kiwis go back to again and again when we’re in the capital.

-Zealandia. A fully fenced urban eco sanctuary, basically a predator free wildlife park within minutes of the central city. They’re on a 500 year mission to restore the ecosystem of their valley to the way it was before human beings arrived! All kinds of native wildlife, miles and miles of walking tracks. Our tip is the night tour to see the kiwi!

-Wellington Cable Car and Botanical Gardens

Walk right up from Lambton Quay in the middle of town, the red cable car is a Wellington icon, any Kiwi who holidayed in Wellington as a kid will have photos of themselves on the cable car! Great views of Wellington harbour, the botanical gardens, museum and great coffee at the top make it a perfect Wellington excursion. For a more active option, take the cable car up and walk back down town.

Views of Wellington city and the cable car - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Queenstown Sightseeing Tours

We always sum up Queenstown by saying that if you visit with three generations of your family you’ll all find something to do and have the time of your lives! The amazing scenery is always the backdrop here, it’s really tough to pick some Queenstown attractions and sights over the others but here’s what we tell people to do, from years of experience:

-Walks around Queenstown.

From short walks to full on hiking adventures, you’ll never run out of walking around Queenstown. Our favourite short walks are around the Queenstown Gardens and down the Frankton track, the Queenstown Hill Time Walk and Ben Lomond Peak or Saddle from the top of the gondola.

-AJ Hackett Bungy Bridge

Even if it’s only to take a look (that’s how lots of unintended jumps start!), you’ve got to check out the Bungy Bridge over the Kawarau River, this is the world’s first commercial bungy operation started by a couple of canny Kiwis in the late 1980s. It’s in the perfect spot to include on a loop of Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley. There’s great story about how the bungy jumpers contribute to the restoration and upkeep of the historic bridge here too.

-The Earnslaw Steamship and Walter Peak High Country Farm

The only way up and down the lake in the early years was by steamship, and the 1912 TSS Earnslaw still plies it’s trade across the lake every day. Walter Peak is the site of one of the original high country farms in the Wakatipu, a real taste of the New Zealand high country smack bang in the middle of our most beautiful landscapes.

-Glenorchy and the Dart River

We think it should be illegal to visit New Zealand without travelling the Glenorchy Road up to the ‘Head of the Lake’! It’s Middle Earth and Paradise Valley all rolled into one. The Mount Aspiring National Park wilderness stretches out as far as you can see, the only way to get into that country is to head upriver on the amazing Dart River Jet! A day you’ll never forget. 

-Milford Sound Coach - Cruise - Fly

You can’t come all the way to New Zealand and not see Milford Sound and Queenstown is the best place for a day trip to Milford Sound, we always tell friends to make the most of their time and see as much as possible by combining the trip in on the stunning Milford Road and a cruise out on the glacial fiord with a flight back to Queenstown above the World Heritage Area landscape. All your friends back home will be so jealous when they see your photos and you’ll have one of the best days of your life!

Views from Queenstown Hill, small group photo - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Tours You’ll Love