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New Zealand: Destination Guides

Top 10 places to visit in NZ

walking in New Zealand
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Here's a list of our 10 must-see places within New Zealand. It's not been easy narrowing it down to just 10, so feel free to comment or suggest more - we'd love to hear what you think!

1. Abel Tasman
Located in New Zealand's sunniest region at the top of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is the perfect spot to combine action and relaxation. Taking part in a hike along the stunning coastal path is one of New Zealand's officially named 'Great Walks'. It takes about 4 or 5 days and you'll be sleeping under the stars or staying in one of the lodges. A popular way to see this national park is by sea kayak with an organized tour. Expect to spend the day exploring heavenly sandy bays lapped by the warm, sparkling South Pacific; and come face-to-face with fur seals, rays, dolphins and hundreds of native birds in lush forest.

2. Auckland
Fabulous Auckland is New Zealand's answer to Sydney. Known as the City of Sails it's a cosmopolitan and stylish city, surrounded by water. In the last 10 years billions of dollars were invested in Auckland and you can tell, this enchanting, leafy city is bursting with life! Along with the 22 regional parks, 50 islands and 500km of walking and hiking tracks; not to mention the shopping, restaurants, bars, clubs, live music and buzzing arts scene, Auckland is New Zealand's largest and, arguably, most exciting city.

3. Kaikoura
The spectacular village of Kaikoura is tucked in between the Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean and, to add to its dramatic beauty, the mountains are capped with snow during winter. Kaikoura is also famous for its marine mammal encounters - whales, fur seals and dolphins swim in the coastal waters and you can literally come face to face with these friendly locals by taking one of the whale watching or seal kayaking trips which leave the town several times a day. Kaikoura is also the place to eat crayfish; it's best to have it at one of the little cabins which line the coastal road; and if you're lucky you'll be entertained by the colony of fur seals playing on the rocks.

4. Queenstown
Queenstown might be known as the Adventure Capital of the World but there's much more to this stylish town in the South Island than white-knuckle adventures. Whether you're an adrenalin-junkie or looking for a relaxing break, this lively town stands proudly overlooking the blue-green Lake Wakatipu and boasts fantastic, restaurants, great shopping and an exciting nightlife. In the winter it's a base for those exploring the nearby ski fields; in summer mountain bikers, hikers and golfer take to the lush green hillsides.

5. Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers
Nowhere in the world are glaciers so accessible than on the West Coast of New Zealand. The villages of Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier are perfect bases for exploring these spectacular remnants of the ice age. There are a number of guided glacier trips, and helicopter companies in town offering scenic flights over the glaciers and surrounding mountains.

6. Wellington
Wellington is the arts and culture capital of New Zealand. The many interesting heritage buildings, museums, art galleries, boutique shopping and cafes will keep you busy by day; whilst awesome eateries, lively bars and a vibrant live music scene will keep you up all night. Wellington is home to the country's biggest cultural event, The New Zealand International Arts Festival, which stages the best comedy, music and arts talent in New Zealand. It is also very beautiful. The city sits between a gorgeous harbour and lush forested hills and the abundance of wildlife sanctuaries, islands, seaside villages, ocean beaches and parks make it a haven for outdoor fun.

7. Rotorua
Rotorua is one of the most touristed spots on the North Island, and rightfully so. Visitors come to experience the explosive mud pools, breathe in the sulphur-rich air and admire the geysers and steaming hot springs. Rotorua is also a great place to experience Maori culture. The Maori revered this place and today a third of the population is Maori. The Te Puia is Rotorua's star attraction with Maori cultural performances and traditional hangi (earth oven meals) taking place alongside the geothermal activity.

8. Marlborough
New Zealand's most famous wine region is home to some of the world's best Sauvignon Blancs. Ride a bike amongst the vines and explore some of the best-known vineyards in the world. Nearby Picton makes a great base to explore the vineyards or take to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds by sea kayak or on one of the many stunning waterside walks.

9. The Bay of Islands
Endless beaches, warm crystal-clear waters, and over 144 islands make up the aptly named Bay of Islands in the North Island. It's all about relaxation here, swimming, bathing and maybe a spot of fishing or scuba diving if you're so inclined. The township of Waitangi has huge historical significance, as here the treaty was signed which granted the Maori the rights of British subjects.

10. Otago Peninsula
If you're an animal lover, the Otago Peninsula is a must. It boasts the most easily accessible variety of wildlife on the South Island: from albatross to fur seals, sea lions, penguins and more... The rugged countryside forms a sensational backdrop to the wildlife encounters; visitors can cruise the waters with one of the organized tours, or take wild walks along unspoiled white-sand beaches, and see cute coastal boatsheds and interesting historical settlements.

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walking in New Zealand