New Zealand’s Best Sightseeing Tours

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 what 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.
Auckland Harbour - NZ Sightseeing Tour

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 Dolphin Swim or sailing 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 Sightseeing 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

Tongariro National Park Sightseeing Tours

Explore the magnificent lunar landscape of the volcanic plateau and the Tongariro National Park. Tongariro National Park is in New Zealand’s North Island. The park has 3 active volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in “The Lord of the Rings” films and Ruapehu with its ski slopes. Park wildlife includes the brown kiwi and the whio, or blue duck.

Tongariro National Park - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Abel Tasman National Park Sightseeing Tours

Abel Tasman National Park is a wilderness reserve at the north end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s known for the Abel Tasman Coast track and home to New Zealand fur seal colonies, little blue penguins and bottlenose dolphins. A spectacular day on the itinerary with the option to do a boat cruise and walk where you can walk the Abel Tasman Coast track, see amazing wildlife and enjoy crystal clear waters and golden sand beaches.

Abel Tasman Coast Track - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Kaikoura Sightseeing Tours

Kaikoura is a coastal town of the South Island of New Zealand. It’s known for its abundant wildlife, its sperm whale population and New Zealand fur seals.

Kaikoura whales - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Aoraki/Mt Cook Sightseeing Tours

Explore the legendary Aoraki/Mt Cook region, home to New Zealand’s highest mountain Mt Cook also know as Ao-raki to the Maori which means ‘cloud piercer’ at 3,724 metres. Mount Cook National Park is a rugged land of ice and rock with 19 peaks over 3000 meters. One of our favourite tours is walking the stunning Tasman Valley Lakes walk.

Tasman Valley Lake walk - 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.
Views from Queenstown Hill, small group photo - NZ Sightseeing Tour

Milford Sound Sightseeing Tours

  • Milford Sound Coach
  • Cruise
  • Fly

Experience the dramatic landscapes of Milford Sound with the nature and wildlife cruise. Then soar high above the Southern Alps from Milford Sound to Queenstown on a scenic flight. Simply breath-taking!

Milford Sound Flight - NZ Sightseeing Tour

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Kakapo 21 Day Tour

The ultimate New Zealand small group itinerary, this is the very best of our country. Milford Sound, Queenstown, Mt Cook, Abel Tasman, Tongariro, Rotorua, the Bay of Islands and a few more surprises. Small friendly groups led by our expert Kiwi Guides.
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