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New Zealand

Kia Ora- New Zealand is a country that welcomes you to its shores!

Climate and Terrain:

Stretching from North to South 1,600 km, but just 400 km at its widest point- it is a country which, despite its modest size, offers much diversity as far as climate and landscape. The far north of the North Island has subtropical weather during summer months, whereas the inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10 C in winter. Most of the country’s inhabitants live close to its 14,000 km of coastline, enjoying mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine. However, it is also a country of extreme contrast ranging from temperate rainforests to snow-capped mountains, from steamy geothermal pools to glacial lakes, from active volcanoes to icy fjords.

Fauna and Flora:

Being an isolated location throughout history, about nine tenths of its plant-life are indigenous and unknown elsewhere. The fauna endemic to New Zealand were principally birds, insects and some reptiles (such as the tuatara), but no native mammals. This meant that wildlife evolved without the fear of predators, which is why the country has several species of flightless birds, such as the kiwi bird, which became its national symbol. The sea-life ranges from tropical, colourful reef fish through to sharks, dolphins, sea lions and even killer whales. With a land mass of 268km² and a population density of only 20 people per km², there is plenty of untouched wilderness and natural parkland which conserves the native flora and fauna. There are 2,500 native plant types, including flowering plants, ferns and conifers, as well as 5,800 types of fungi (such as mushrooms). It is a destination for wandering in wonder!

Traveller appeal:

Overall, New Zealand has so much to offer every traveller, whether you are seeking breathtaking natural wonders, relaxation, cultural immersion or pure adventure. To whet your appetite here are some of the adrenalin sport activities on offer: abseiling, bungy-jumping, canyoning & caving, off-road driving, fishing, jet-ski-ing, heli-ski-ing, sand tobogganing, scuba-diving, skydiving, swimming with dolphins, white water rafting, zip-lining and zorbing. What are you waiting for?

Working Holiday Visa:

If you can’t wait to hurl yourself bungy jump-style into the natural beauty and diversity of this destination down-under, there’s no better way to do so than via Workaway. Alongside the opportunities for cultural exchange, the country offers indigenous Maori experiences, a popular Working Holiday Visa Scheme and ample scope for adventure and travel.

While we’re here to encourage volunteering in New Zealand, if you want to top up your adventure fund too it's worth looking into their Working Holiday Visa. This program allows young adults from eligible countries to work and travel in New Zealand for up to 12 months (or 23 months for Canadians and 36 months for UK citizens). Applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old (or up to 35 years for some countries). It's a great opportunity for cultural exchange, gaining work experience, and exploring New Zealand's diverse landscapes.

Learn more about the New Zealand WHV here.


Getting out and about in New Zealand

As the country is relatively small, part of the fun is being able to explore it as the mood takes you. Renting a car or a campervan could be the perfect solution, giving you the freedom to go wherever you want to when you want to. Campervans can also mean that you save on accommodation costs. Freedom camping, however, is restricted to designated areas (download the Campermate App for info.) and you are required to have a certificate to verify that you are carrying your own waste water and rubbish. Another popular option for backpackers is the hop-on/ hop-off tour bus, providing options with regards to accommodation as well as possible activities. Public buses are the cheapest way to travel and most towns run a regular service. "Intercity” is the largest bus company and "Skip” offers budget bus-travel on the North Island.

There are also "Scenic Train Line” routes running from Auckland to Wellington, Christchurch to Picton and Christchurch to Greymouth. Cycling is also a great way to make tracks- check out our Round the World on Two Wheels post for travel tips. The quickest way to get from one city to the next is via plane (20 national destinations). Consider the budget airline "Jetstar” if you are flying from Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown or Wellington. On the other end of the spectrum you could jump on a bike! Thre are many cycle routes on offer- read Workawayer Chris’s blog on his 5,000 mile hike and bike through the length of New Zealand!


Highlights of New Zealand by region

New Zealand is divided into two islands. The North Island is made up of nine regions and the South Island is made up of seven regions. There are also numerous islands to explore too. Each region offers diverse attractions, climates, and experiences, catering to a wide range of interests and travel styles. Here's a rundown with highlights, top destinations, climate, and things to do:

North Island

Climate

Generally a warm temperate climate with mild winters. However, temperatures can also drop as low as 10˚C in winter and summers can have sub-tropical temperatures of 25˚C For the culture-vultures and adrenaline seekers there is always plenty to see and do in the North Island. Auckland has a great selection of outdoor art pieces and kinetic sculptures as well as museums. Wellington is the centre of New Zealand’s film industry and is buzzing with fresh ideas and young talent. Whanganui is known for its creative scene for the arts. Waikato is a destination for all Tolkein fans who want to enjoy “Middle-earth”, the film-set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For those in search of more relaxing pursuits there is also plenty of choice: such as soaking in the geo-thermal pools in Rotorua, sipping local wine in Marlborough and trying a fresh catch of crayfish on the Bay of Plenty.


Regional Highlights


Northland and Bay of Islands Region

  • Russell, or Kororāreka, in the far north, was the first European settlement and seaport. Enjoy the charm of its historical buildings, restaurants and art galleries. Have a glass of wine in the Duke of Marlborough bar.

  • Trek spectacular Mangawhai Cliffs and wildlife refuge and Mount Manaia and Te Whara tracks. The Karikari Peninsula, branching off to the east,is famed for its white sandy beaches: Puheke Beach leading to Karikari Beach on the western shore and Maitai and Waikato Bays on the eastern shore.

  • Visit the acclaimed and sacred Māori Waipoua Forest - home to the county’s largest kauri tree and Tāne Mahuta – the God of the Forest. The Urupukapuka Island Archaeological Walk explores pre-European History and you can visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

  • Take a boat trip to discover the Bay of Islands: its Cape Brett cliffs, Hole in the Rock and swimming spots at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. Enjoy the vast range of aquatic activities.

  • Take a trip from Tutaka to one of the world's best diving locations at Poor Knights Island.

  • Goat Island or Te Hāwere-a-Maki is home to the most accessible marine reserve, ideal for snorkelling or exploring by glass bottomed boat.

  • Cycle the winterless Pou Herenga Tai twin coast trail from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga, an easy year-round route rich in scenery and history. Hokianga is an unspoilt, sparsely populated area, a place of cultural and historical importance for the Māori, considered to be the harbour where the original founder of New Zealand, Kupe, landed. It is also where 70% of the sacred kauri trees can be found.

  • Boogie-board down the Te Paki Sand Dunes near Cape Reinga- the spectacular northernmost tip of the country and then on to the impressive Ninety-Mile Beach in time for a surf at sunset.

  • Whangarei is the largest northernmost city in a subtropical setting with volcanically formed rolling hills and farmland as well as the remains of earlier Maori settlements. It makes a splendid backdrop to Whangarei Beach. Visit Whangarei Falls is a 26m high waterfall surrounded by park and native New Zealand bush, just a 10 minute drive from the city centre.


Auckland Region

The region takes its name from New Zealand's largest city at its epicentre, encompassing smaller towns, rural areas as well as the Hauraki Gulf. It is the region with the second-smallest land mass, but with 33% of the country’s national residents. Boasting world-class food producers, it is an ideal place to indulge in high quality and diverse gastronomy.

  • Auckland is a cosmopolitan city with an interest in culture and the arts. Make the most of its museums, art galleries and exhibitions. Auckland Museum is said to be one of the finest in the Southern Hemisphere with its unique collection of Māori and Pacific treasures. The Wētā Workshop Unleashed is an award-winning interactive and immersive experience into the fantastical world of film. The Sky Tower is a landmark 60-storey tower with panoramic views of the city, bungee jumping facility and a high-end revolving restaurant. About 5 kms from central Auckland is the suburb of Eden. Its dormant volcano Mt.Eden (196m high) is a great place to hike and then at the summit enjoy panoramic views across the city and Hauraki Gulf. Another dormant volcano (about 9km from the centre) is One Tree Hill within the suburb of the same name. Also known as Maungakeike, this mountain was considered to be a place of great spiritual significance for the Māori as well as the location of a pā, defence lookout settlement and archaeological site. Its privileged position allows 360° views of Auckland and its harbours.

  • Islands: Take a ferry to the Great Barrier Island for hot springs or contemplate the stars from its Dark Sky Sanctuary. Waiheke Island also has lush vineyards, beautiful beaches and a vibrant art scene. Alternatively, visit the bird sanctuary at Tiritiri Matangi Island or Hauraki Gulf, which also has a marine park offering whale and dolphin safari cruises. Alternatively head to the iconic volcanic island Rangitoto by kayak and look back at spectacular views of Auckland.

  • Otara Flea Market (15 km from central Auckland) is a lively outdoor market selling crafts, food and new or second-hand clothes. open every Saturday morning.

  • Matakana is a picturesque village, about an hour’s drive north of Auckland, with beautiful beaches, art scene and vineyards. It is particularly well-known for its fresh local produce on sale at the Matakana Village Farmers’ Market on the river bank.

  • The rugged coastline on the Tasman Sea gives scope for enjoying the outdoors: clambering up Lion Rock (Te Piha) for panoramic views, surfing from the black sandy beach at Piha or exploring the backdrop of rainforest and waterfalls.


Waikato Region

It has a range of activities and attractions to suit all ages and tastes.


    Waikato West coast:
  • Raglan town is a hub of cafés, bars, art galleries and surf shops. It’s famous for black-sand Ngarunui Beach and the long surf break at Manu Bay.

  • To the south, native forest surrounds the tall Bridal Veil Falls. Mount Karioi is an extinct volcano with summit views over the Tasman Sea.

  • Explore the underground wonders of Waitomo Caves: black-water rafting, subterranean rivers and waterfalls as well as glow-worm lit caves!


  • Inland Waikato:
  • Hamilton is the fourth largest New Zealand city. Located on the banks of the Waikato River. Hamilton Gardens is an award-winning 53 hectare feat of horticulture. The streets of the city offer an array of gourmet food and colourful street art.

  • Close to Hamilton is the Hakarimata Summit Walk (374m altitude) where you can enjoy the views out towards the coast, across Waikato Basin and down to Ruapehu.

  • Experience the thrill of taking a jet boat from Cambridge to the Karapiro Dam along the Cambridge River Gorge surrounded by native bush and birdlife.

  • Alternatively, check out Middle-earth movie magic at Hobbiton movie-set tours.

  • Visit the Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in Pukeatua is an ancient forest, vibrant with native wildlife. The largest enclosed ecological park on the mainland, it is home to most of NZ endangered species, being a pest-free zone.

  • Or, walk the Te Aroha Mountain track for spectacular views before soaking your weary muscles in the famous Te Aroha mineral spas.

  • The Blue Spring can be found close to the small village of Putaruru. Follow the Te Waihou River Walkway through lush vegetation and waterfalls until you arrive at the pristine crystalline spring - the supply of 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water.

  • Taupo: Taupo is a town near the centre of New Zealand's North Island, distinguished by its lakefront setting and outdoor sports ranging from fishing to jet-boating. There are also many trails for hiking and biking in the area.

  • Geo-thermal activity: Situated between Taupo & Rotorua on the banks of the Waikato River lies the man-made Lake Ohakuri and from there you can take the ferry to The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. Off the beaten tourist track it boasts the most active geysers of any geothermal park in New Zealand. You can marvel at up to 23 active natural geysers which are constantly changing or take a native bush walk through this untouched geothermal paradise. Alternatively, just outside Taupo are the Wairakei Terraces; soak in naturally heated geothermal pools below ancient silica terraces; enjoy a guided tour of the Wairakei steam field or relax during an evening of Māori cultural experiences. Just north of Taupō you'll find New Zealand's most visited attraction, the magnificent Huka Falls, where more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second.

  • Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. It is roughly the size of Singapore and is the crater of one of the largest volcanic eruptions earth has seen in the last 5000 years. You can enjoy fishing charters, waterskiing, kayaking, paddle-boarding and swimming in its crystalline turquoise waters. A scenic boat trip will take you to the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings by contemporary artist Matahi Brightwell. You can also pedal along the forested shores of the lake and admire the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park on the Great Lake Trails. Tongariro River and its banks offer rafting trips as well as walking and mountain-biking trails which wind through pristine forests and volcanic landscapes near Turangi, where the river meets the lake. The Craters of the Moon boiling mud pools and hissing steam are unforgettable.


  • Waikato East Coast:
  • The Coromandel Peninsula- one of NZ’s favourite holiday destinations due to its 400 km of dazzling white sandy coastline and its laid–back feel. Its backdrop is lush native rainforest and mountain peaks. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits such as watersports, fishing and cycling.

  • Mercury Bay, where Whitianga town is located, has been known for producing manuka honey from the New Zealand tea tree for centuries.

  • Visit the Lost Spring Geothermal Spa in Whitianga or dig your own pool at Hot Water Beach.

  • Hike the spectacular Pinnacles Track in a day or camp overnight. Located just south of Whangamata, the Wentworth Valley provides a great recreational scope: with walks, camping, Wentworth Valley Falls, and access deeper into The Coromandel Forest Park.

  • Kayak out to Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary from Whangamata Beach, or leave from Hahei by boat to Cathedral Cove and then snorkel at the nearby Orua Sea Cave, walk along the Coromandel Coastal Walkway from Stony Bay to Fletchers Bay, or cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail. You follow the Ohinemuri River and through the Karangahake Gorge to admire the stunning Owharoa Falls and photogenic gold mining sites.

  • Waihi is steeped in gold-mining history and has its own museum and tour. Or near Coromandel town hop on a Driving Creek Railway train, following a mountain trail through regenerating forest and past pottery sculptures up to the Eyefull Tower, where views stretch out over the Hauraki Gulf and Islands.


Bay of Plenty

The most iconic landmark of this region is Mount Maunganui. In the summit on a clear day you have 360° views as far as the Coromandel Peninsula.

  • Tauranga offers whale/dolphin-watching boat trips, sky dives, coastal kayak trips, and white-water adventures on the Rangitāiki River. Explore Moutohorā (Whale Island) wildlife reserve where you can find protected species of flora and flora, including the Kiwi bird, Kakariki and Tuatara, as well as enjoying its own hot water beach.

  • Rotorua: Witness spectacular activity in the world’s youngest geothermal system on a self-guided walking tour at Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Visit the hot springs, geysers and mud pools at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, where The Lady Knox Geyser erupts daily at 10.15am or Te Puia which spans 70 hectares within the historic Te Whakarewarewa Valley, on the edge of town. It also accommodates the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. Explore the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest with its impressive Californian Coastal Redwoods. The Whakarewarewa Living Māori Village is a unique cultural experience, set in a fascinating geothermal landscape, offering an authentic insight into Māori culture.


Tairāwhiti Gisborne- Eastland Region

Rich in Māori culture, spiritual mountains, busy events schedule and great weather make Gisborne the perfect year-round destination. There are plenty of places to explore on foot or by bike.

  • Be the first in the world to see the sunrise from Maunga Hikurangi peak, the sacred site of the Ngati Porou, in the company of the nine huge carvings, each with a tale to tell.

  • Go wading in the Tatapouri Reef at low tide to see basking stingrays and eagle rays.

  • Head to Rere Rockslide for an exciting 60m descent on a boogie board.

  • Tolaga Bay Wharf is where Captain Cook sailed in to meet the Te Aitanga a Hauiti tribe when the Endeavour first reached New Zealand, At 660m it is the longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere and great for a stroll.

  • Cooks Cove Walkway is a historic site where Captain Cook stopped to repair the Endeavour. From Tolaga Bay you can access Cooks Cove cross-country, where you can spend the day swimming and exploring the hole-in-the-rock.

  • Te Kuri Farm Walkway and the summit of Titirangi (Kaiti Hill) in Gisborne are also great day walks. You can take one of the many railbike routes which follow the original railway lines in the Tairāwhiti region, or follow the Motu Trails: 121 kms of scenic cycling between Gisborne and Whakatane and Ōpōtiki in the Bay of Plenty region.

  • Gisborne's local beach, Waikanae, is great for surfing beginners, whereas Wainui and Makorori Beaches offer more challenging surf breaks.

  • Finish off a days’ surfing with a local craft beer or a glass of Gisborne Chardonnay or relax in the Dome Cinema, New Zealand’s coolest chillout picture house!


Taranaki Region

A coastal and mountainous expanse located halfway between Auckland and Wellington on New Zealand's west coast. Taranaki is a popular destination for outdoor pursuits:

  • Playing golf at Fitzroy, with its panoramic views, or at Strathmore in rural Eastern Taranaki.

  • Take a drive along the famous 105 km long Surf Highway 45, looking for the best beaches, breaks and scenic villages.

  • Hike its numerous trails and parks or stroll through its sumptuous and exotic gardens.

  • Experience the local Maori culture as well as learning more about this region’s rich historical past.

  • Foodies can enjoy its cafés, breweries, bars, specialist eateries, and high-quality restaurants. Enjoy everything

  • From vegan meals to specialised desserts, and a plethora of delicious local produce.

  • Its landscape is dominated by Mount Taranaki (Taranaki Mounga), its namesake volcano, situated in the heart of Egmont National Park with Pukeiti rainforest garden nestled in its foothills. In fact, the region is renowned for its splendid gardens, celebrating its annual Garden Festival each November. Discover highlights such as Te Kainga Marire, Tūpare homestead, Hollard Garden and the family-fun King Edward Park in Hāwera.

  • New Plymouth: a port city, is at the area's hub. It hosts green spaces like Pukekura Park, with lakes and formal gardens that grow rhododendrons and king ferns. Every summer his park becomes a backdrop for the magnificent TSB Festival of Lights- a free event showcasing magnificently colourful light d. Being a place of great historical significance both for the Maori community and the first European settlers there are plenty of possibilities to explore. Puke Ariki is a museum, library, heritage site and information centre all in one (entry is free). Via its information centre you can book guided walks, or take a step back in time to the 19th and 20th centuries with a visit to the Pioneer Village. The Len Lye Centre is a contemporary art museum that showcases the intriguing and whimsical work by Len Lye, a renowned New Zealand kinetic sculptor and pioneering film artist. Also, check out New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway (12.7 kilometres) and cross the impressive Te Rewa Rewa bridge, which frames Taranaki Maunga.

  • Hāwera: visit the Tawhiti Museum or try the Traders & Whalers experience which offers scale models and life-size displays depicting Taranaki history, plus a train ride to showcase the region’s logging history.

  • Set off on one of New Zealand’s best one-day treks spanning 19km: the Pouākai Circuit. It takes you through Egmont National Park/ Te Papakura or Taranaki via dramatic landscapes of lush native forest, lava cliffs, and a small lake that reflects Taranaki Maunga. Follow the Matemateāonga Track- an old Māori trail that links to the Forgotten World Highway with the Whanganui River. This is wilderness at its wildest!


Hawke’s Bay Region

Located on the east coast with a warm temperate climate, perfect for cultivating grapes. With 72 vineyards and 30 “cellar doors” (on-site wine merchants) the region is likened to Bordeaux in France for its full-bodied reds, notably cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah – and stunning chardonnays. Wineries of note include “Mission Estate” (the oldest), “Craggy Range”, “Church Road Winery” and the award-winning “Te Mata Estate Winery”.

  • Trails and treks “Hawke’s Bay Trails” combine over 200 kms of routes and you can visit all of Hawke's Bay's attractions by bike - cycle by the seaside, venture to the vineyards or explore the countryside. With flat, easy trails for all levels, it's the best way to experience the stunning region. Of particular natural beauty and interest are Waikaremoana Lake and Mohaka River Gorge for its rafting and abundance of fossils.

    Walk out along the coast to Australasia’s largest mainland gannet colony on the dramatic cliffs of Cape Kidnappers (Te Kauwae-a-Māui). Hike, bike or even drive to the summit of Te Mata Peak for 360° views of Hawke’s Bay and the hang gliders soaring high above the majestic Heretaunga Plains.

  • In the mood for food: There are plenty of farmer’s markets selling fresh tasty locally grown products, as well as artisan bread and cheese. The Hawke's Bay “Food and Wine Classic Festival” takes place twice a year in March and November, bringing together delicious food, acclaimed wine and great entertainment.

  • For a blast from the past: Following a devastating earthquake which destroyed the city of Napier in 1931, it was rebuilt in the style of the times - Art Deco! Enjoy the opulent architecture, take a tour or have a ride in a classic car. If you are visiting mid-February or mid-July you can relive the flamboyant era of jazz, boaters and beads at the annual “Art Deco Festival”.


Manawatu-Whanganui Region

Taking its name from the city of Wanganui, which rests on the banks of the spectacular Whanganui River. It is often referred to as the 'Rhine of New Zealand' as it is the longest navigable waterway in the country, with 239 rapids and stunning wildlife and bush scenery as it cuts through the Whanganui National Park. There are many ways to experience the Whanganui River—jet boat, kayak, canoe, raft, restored paddle steamer —or at the end of a fly-fishing rod. The river is also the back-drop for the Saturday morning Whanganui River Markets, strategically set up at the same trading-place traditionally used by the Maori. You can also follow the trail to the mysterious 'Bridge to Nowhere', built across the Mangapurua Gorge to give access to an isolated settlement that was finally abandoned in 1942. Now only the 'Bridge to Nowhere' remains.

  • Horowhenua is a special part of New Zealand's Nature coast-line. It features rivers, beaches, lakes, mountains, parks and golf courses. From the quiet calm of bush walks and gardens, to the exhilaration of rivers and sea. Its natural beauty combined with its history and culture, makes it a destination for everyone to enjoy.

  • Visit Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national parks as well as being a UNESCO Dual World Heritage Area. This status recognises both the park’s Māori cultural and spiritual significance, as well as its unique volcanic features. It is home to three active volcanic mountains: Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings) and iconic landscapes, lakes and waterfalls. The park has attracted adventurers of all ages since 1887 offering hiking, biking, rafting and skiing adventures. The world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19 km hike over Mount Tongariro, taking you from herb fields to forest with tranquil lakes. Mount Ruapehu is New Zealand's largest active volcano. The setting was used to film Mount Doom in "The Lord of the Rings” movies. Its slopes have the largest ski fields in the country: Whakapapa and Turoa slopes are usually open for the ski- season from late June until the end of October. You can access the park via Whakapapa Village.


Wellington and Wairarapa Region

The Wellington region, covers the southernmost part of the North Island and includes Wairarapa and Kapiti Coast. Wellington city is the capital of New Zealand, with the third largest population, and it is also where the ferries depart and arrive to and from the South Island across the Cook Strait. As wind is funnelled through the strait between the two islands, Wellington is also known as “The Windy City”.

  • Wellington: A cool city with its scenic harbours, seafront promenade and colourful timber houses. It is known for its vibrant creativity, museums and culture. Get your bearings by jumping on the cable car from Lambton Quay shopping district and heading up to the lookout summit for panoramic views as well as the  Space Place at Carter Observatory, Cable Car Museum and Botanic Garden. Nature lovers may like to take the Red Rocks Walk from Owhiro Bay to Red Rock Reserve to see the seals, or visit “Zealandia”, an eco-sanctuary for rare native wildlife.

    The incredible “Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa” reveals the great legacies of this country, through its stories, Māori Culture, art and fascinating history. “Wētā Workshop” offers visitors a peek into the film industry: showing incredible artistry and remarkable Kiwi innovation, as well as a few secret techniques.

    Make the most of Wellington’s regular concerts and events programme including live theatre to sporting matches, exhibitions, and festivals. Among its long list of popular events on the calendar is the arty “New Zealand Festival” in February/March and the WOW or “WorldofWearable Arts Awards Show” which combines arts, fashion and theatrics.

    Known as the culinary capital you are spoilt for choice as far as coffee shops, brew bars and eateries. Hannahs Laneway, in the heart of the city, is a gourmet heaven.

  • Lord of the Rings fans: Visit Mount Victoria (within walking distance of the central city) as the forested areas of the mountain were used to depict Hobbiton Woods. Take in the views from the summit. Hutt River between Moonshine and Tōtara Park, played the part of the River Anduin; Harcourt Park was transformed into the Gardens of Isengard and Kaitoke Regional Park became Rivendell. From Wellington, you can drive up the west coast to Queen Elizabeth Park near Paraparaumu, which was used for filming the Nazgul and mumakil in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Further up the coast is Waitarere Forest (Osgiliath Wood), where Frodo, Sam and Gollum walked after leaving Faramir.

  • Wairarapa: At the southernmost tip of the North Island. Visit Pukaha Mount Bruce; a refuge for endangered species of birds.

  • “Rimutaka Cycle Trail” is a great introduction to biking in New Zealand, featuring wide ocean views, peaceful lakes, challenging hills and gullies, and a lot of farmland.

  • The “Tararua Forest Park” is a great escape only minutes from Masterton. Climb up to Mitre Peak for a great view at over 1,500 metres (4,921 feet) above sea level! For hiking enthusiasts there are: Fensham Reserve Bush walk, Deliverance Cove track to Castlepoint, or the Putangirua Pinnacles.

  • For wine and Beer: The area around Martinborough is one of the finest wine regions. Stop by one of the many wineries to sample some of the local produce. Probably the most iconic New Zealand beer, Tui, is brewed in closeby Mangatainoka. The brewery is open to visitors, offering tastings and a fun retail shop with a surprising variety of things “Tui”

South Island

Climate

Generally a mild climate year round, especially on the coast. However, temperatures can also drop as low as -10˚C in the alpine areas in winter and summers can reach a maximum temperature of 22˚C


Regional Highlights


Visit the South Island of New Zealand- to witness probably the purest of natural environments ever: breathtaking landscapes, thrilling adventures, and rich cultural experiences await you. From the rugged beauty of the West Coast to the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, which follow its entire length, the South Island is a place of diverse dramatic landscapes and exhilarating opportunities. Dive into adrenaline-pumping activities in Queenstown, hike the majestic trails of Fiordland National Park, or investigate the vibrant arts scene of Nelson. Indulge in gourmet delights, from world-renowned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to fresh seafood along the coast. Encounter diverse wildlife, from rare yellow-eyed penguins in an arctic setting to fur seals basking in the sun. Hit the open road and embark on the ultimate South Island road trip, where every twist and turn reveals a new scenario and potential for exploration. The South Island is a paradise where adventure meets tranquillity, promising unforgettable memories at every turn.

Each region of the South Island offers its own unique attractions, from stunning natural landscapes to exciting cultural experiences, making it a must-visit destination!


Tasman Region

Located at the northwestern tip of the South Island, bordered by the Tasman Sea to the west and the Nelson Region to the east.

  • Motueka is a vibrant town, renowned for its artistic community and lively café culture. It also serves as a gateway town to the Abel Tasman National Park.

  • Abel Tasman National Park: The smallest national park in the country but with a paradiscal coastal setting. There are sculptured granite cliffs and pristine golden sand beaches. The coastal trail is world famous. Explore lush forests, and turquoise waters by hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting or taking a scenic cruise. There is an abundance of bird and sea-life.

  • Kahurangi National Park: Enjoy birdwatching, and exploring diverse landscapes, including limestone caves and coastal forests. Hike or bike the Heaphy Track; a remote tramp in the north-west of South Island. It is the longest Great Walk and the most diverse..

  • Golden Bay: Relax on beautiful beaches at the top of the South Island. Visit Farewell Spit where the godwits return every spring after an epic 1,400 km journey, and explore the unique Pupu Springs, known for its crystal-clear waters.

  • Cycle Tasman’s Great ‘Taste’ Trail because of the incredible diversity of experiences you sample along the trail.


Nelson Region

Nelson: Adjacent to the Tasman Region, also situated in the northern part of the South Island, with Tasman Bay to the west and the Marlborough Region to the east.

  • Nelson City: Wander through charming streets lined with cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. Visit the Nelson Market for local crafts and produce. Experience a unique blend of art, fashion, and automotive history in the captivating World of WearableArt & Classic Cars Museum.

  • Tahunanui Beach: Relax on the sandy shores, swim in the calm waters, or indulge in water sports like paddle boarding and kite surfing.

  • Nelson Lakes National Park: Discover serene alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains, and hiking trails ranging from easy walks to challenging treks.

  • The village of St Arnaud sits at the edge of Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson region, providing an ideal base for people who plan to hike or fish for trout here or in Lake Rotoroa or venture into its honeydew forest and discover Whisky Falls. The lakes are a popular destination year round for boating, water skiing, swimming and kayaking, and hosts the annual New Zealand Antique and Classic Boat Show.

  • Close-by is Rainbow Ski Field is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders with slopes suitable for all skill levels.


Marlborough Region

Positioned to the east of Nelson, known for its extensive vineyards, fresh seafood (especially green-lipped mussels) and the magnificent Marlborough Sounds, at the northeastern part of the South Island.

  • Marlborough Sounds: An extensive network of sea-drowned valleys. It is the site of many natural sanctuaries, historic sites and secluded bays. There are 1,500 km of turquoise coastlines- Cruise through the intricate waterways, go fishing, kayaking, or even swim with five different species of dolphins. Hike, bike or drive up the Queen Charlotte Track for breathtaking views.

  • Wine Tasting: Explore Marlborough's world-renowned wineries, famous for its Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and other varieties. Take a guided tour or cycle the Marlborough Wine Trail. For those who prefer beer you can find quality brews at the local craft breweries.

  • Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre: Discover captivating exhibitions showcasing the history of aviation, including WWI and WWII aircraft.


West Coast Region

Spanning the west coast of the South Island, characterised by rugged coastline, rainforests, and glaciers, stretching from Kahurangi Point in the north to Awarua Point in the south.

  • Following the West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail and travel through world-famous scenery from Greymouth to the gold town of Ross. En-route you come across historic paths: old packhorse tracks, tramlines, railways and even water races.

  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes: Marvel at the unique limestone formations and the powerful blow holes that erupt with sea spray.

  • Discover the Oparara Basin in the Kahurangi National Park. You’ll be led through native subtropical forest, cathedral-like arches, limestone cave formations. Find out about the fascinating moa bird that roamed the forest hundreds of years ago.

  • Franz Josef Glacier: Deep in lush green rainforest, this is the country’s steepest and most famous glacier. Franz Josef town is pretty with many bars and restaurants, with natural hot pools to enjoy. Take a guided hike, helicopter tour, or scenic flight to witness the stunning glaciers and surrounding landscapes. Fox Glacier is further up the coast. Being smaller, it is also less busy, attracting those looking for something more off the beaten track.

  • Hokitika Gorge: Admire Kokatahi Valley and the vibrant turquoise waters framed by lush native bush. Walk the swing bridge for the best views. Try ziplining through the rainforest canopy.

  • Lake Brunner is the largest lake in this region and popular for birdwatching and trout fishing. Water sport enthusiasts can take their pick from jet boating and yachting to swimming and Kayaking.

  • Haast UNESCO World Heritage Area (Te Wāhi Pounamu) is a vast 2.6 million hectare site covering almost 10% of New Zealand’s total land mass. The greenstone waters can be appreciated by a scenic helicopter ride or jet boat safari.

  • Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy the Great Ride known as The Old Ghost Road, following an old gold miners’ route between the ghost town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge and Seddonville on the West Coast. It takes you through beautiful native forest, expansive hills, river flats and forgotten valleys.


Ōtautahi Canterbury

Situated in the central-eastern part of the South Island, encompassing the Canterbury Plains, bordered by the Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

  • Kaikoura: a seaside town in the most northern district of Canterbury on the east coast - a convenient place to stop off at arrival or departure from the North Island. It is the home to whales, dolphins, albatross and seals.

  • Christchurch: Situated on the and the picturesque Avon River. Explore the Garden City's vibrant art scene and culture including street art trails, the Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum.

  • One hour north of Christchurch you’ll find lavender fields, olive groves and more than 90 vineyards with opportunities to sample exquisite wine of Waipara Valley.

  • Hanmer Springs has an award winning thermal pools and spa, as well as walking and mountain-biking tracks.

  • Check out the Banks Peninsula where you’ll come across the quaint little town of Akaroa with unique French heritage, historic cottages and fine French cuisine. From there you can take a cruise to see the Hectors, the smallest dolphins in the world.

  • Arthur's Pass National Park: Drive or take the TranzAlpine train winding through breathtaking alpine scenery, stopping for hikes and wildlife spotting. A great location for mountaineering and ski-ing.

  • Head for Aoraki Mt. Cook Village and visit New Zealand’s largest Tasman Glacier, accessible on foot, by bike or by boat. You can go for a cruise round the glacial lake and explore the national park whilst admiring the country’s tallest mountain, Aoraki- Mt. Cook. The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve offers exceptional stargazing boasting more than 4,300 square kilometres of sky that is free from light pollution.

  • Lake Tekapo: Experience the stunning beauty of this turquoise lake, surrounded by mountains. Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and stargaze at the Mount John Observatory. From mid-November to December the lupines bloom adorning the lake with a purple haze.


Otago Region

Located in the southeastern part of the South Island, with Dunedin as its main city, bordered by the Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. If you are a “Lord of the Rings” fan you’ll recognise many Middle‑earth locations here.

  • Ōtepoti Dunedin: One of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere with a distinctly Scottish heritage. Larnach Castle is worth a visit, being the country’s only castle.

    Globally renowned as a wildlife and eco-tourism destination for its outstanding biodiversity, it is known as the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand. Take a wildlife cruise to see albatross and penguins, or walk the stunning Otago Peninsula.

  • Waitaki combines a wild, windswept coastline with emerald rivers and mountain peaks. Here you can find the UNESCO Waitaki Whitestone Geopark recognised for its geological and cultural significance. Notable characteristics are the huge round Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe beach, karst limestone at Elephant Rocks, Māori rock art drawings at Takiroa and the braided Waitaki River with its wild variety of flora and fauna.

  • Clutha: Clutha has amazing wildlife, wonderful waterfalls, beautiful beaches along with a rich gold mining heritage. It is unique and unspoilt boasting the country’s largest, fastest river, named after Clutha itself, weaving its way through the region. The Catlins is an enchanted leafy world with its Purakaunui Falls cascading 20 metres.

  • The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail will lead you on to the remains of the 160 million year old petrified forest at Curio Bay. Continue onwards to Nugget Point for the chance to encounter wildlife: seals, sea lions, sea elephants, yellow—eyed and blue penguins as well as Hector’s dolphins frollicking in the waves. The Catlins River Wisp Loop Walk takes you through a beech forest where you can spot rare native birds such as the mohua (yellowhead) and native parakeets. The Catlins spread from Otago to Southland.

  • Queenstown: On the shores of Wakatipu Lake, with majestic mountains as a backdrop, it is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Queenstown offers bungee jumping, canyon swings, white water rafting, skydiving, river surfing, quad biking, jet boating, and skiing in winter. At the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu is Paradise Valley in Glenorchy; the gateway to many hiking trails as well as Middle-earth magic locations. Nearby Arrowtown is a place where gold-mining history is still alive and vibrant. Visit the Lakes District Museum and Gallery or go try your luck at gold panning.

  • Wānaka is an area of outstanding beauty and appeal. The town offers galleries and excellent options for eating out.The stunning mountain and lakeside setting and proximity to Mt Aspiring National Park (Unesco World Heritage Area recognition) makes it the ultimate base for outdoor activities. Summers are perfect for water-sports, hiking and biking. The winter months offer great opportunities for skiers and snowboarders. Spring is the ideal time to explore the lakeside tracks and trails.

  • Milford Sound: Described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world and when you visit it you can understand why. Situated at the northernmost end of the national park, it is accessible by driving along a sensational route in mountainous terrain. Embark on a scenic cruise through the dramatic fjords, misty waterfalls, and towering cliffs of Fiordland National Park. Bear in mind that this really is the place for hiking, being home to three of New Zealand’s ‘great walks’, the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn Tracks. The Milford Track is possibly New Zealand’s most famous walk. Starting in Te Anau, it covers 53 km of the most breath-taking mountains, lakes and valleys. You’ll discover Sutherland Falls, the highest waterfall in New Zealand.

  • Doubtful Sound: Is three times the size of Milford Sound in the heart of the national parkland. Enter into a setting of dense rainforest and snow-capped mountains, with a chance to see penguins, bottle-nosed dolphins, seals and sea-lions. Immerse yourself in breathtaking scenery and tranquillity. The Fiordland National Park is by far the largest national park in the country and expands into the Southland region.


Southland Region

Positioned at the southernmost tip of the South Island, bordered by Otago to the east and Fiordland National Park to the west, its largest centre is Invercargill. If you’re a garden lover you must see Queens Park and its 80 hectares of tree-lined walkways and diverse gardens.

  • Close by is the fishing port of Bluff, famous for its seafood, particularly Bluff oysters.

  • Catch a ferry to New Zealand's third-largest island, Stewart Island/ Rakiura: a place to experience pure wilderness and abundant wildlife. Go hiking and bird watching- spotting kiwi in their natural habitat.


Volunteering in New Zealand

Now you have a better idea of the different regions of New Zealand and what they offer, your plans for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure can begin to take shape. New Zealand is one of those ultimate travel destinations, so why not make it even more meaningful by taking part in a cultural exchange? It’s time to pack your hiking boots and interact with friendly locals who can help you to make the most of your adventure – all for less than the price of a night in a hotel room!

As the world’s leading community for volunteering and cultural exchange, Workaway is the perfect platform to connect with locals in New Zealand. Whether you are a solo backpacker trying to find a travel buddy, recently retired or setting off on a grown up gap year – we can help you find your perfect host. It is considered to be one of the safest countries to travel around, mentioned in Lauren’s blog on best destinations for solo female travellers. With Workaway you can join as a solo traveller, as a couple, or even as a family!

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your host will usually provide free accommodation and meals. Whether you want to track down a kiwi (of the feathered kind), visit the stunning Milford Sound or wallow in mud and hot pools in Rotorua, with Workaway you can do it all at the click of a button by signing up today!


Making a difference in New Zealand

From art projects to apiculture (bee-keeping) there are over 500 hosts ready to welcome you in New Zealand. Here are just a handful of examples of the type of projects you could get involved in:

  • Fruit Picking, farming & vineyards: It’s easy to find farmstay experiences. There are opportunities at deer parks or ranches caring for sheep and cattle.

  • Arts : Includes possibilities to use your imagination and creativity whilst being inspired by your hosts and the environment.

  • Hospitality and Tourism: Especially in major cities like Auckland, Wellington, Nelson or on the Coromandel Peninsula. You can find behind-the-scenes projects i.e. marketing, photography or web development. Alternatively there is also front-of-house involvement: helping with DIY, restoration, tours and meeting & greeting guests. You can get a lot more out of your time at a hostel if you collaborate rather than just stay there, read our blog to find out why. There are even some paid positions within the hospitality and tourism sector, such as : ski cabins, rainforest lodges or geothermal resorts.

  • Au Pair/ Babysitting: There are family and homestay opportunities all over the country, not only in urban areas but also out in the countryside. This type of volunteering allows you to live with a local family, gain hands-on experience working with children whilst experiencing authentic Kiwi hospitality.

  • Conservation, Wildlife: There are numerous wildlife sanctuaries, reforestation and conservation projects offering volunteer opportunities in both North and South Islands.

  • Off-Grid Volunteering: There is an increased interest in giving off-grid living a chance with eco-farms, permaculture and sustainable construction projects on offer from many hosts. Read our blog on Living Off-Grid with Workaway or find out what type of eco-friendly adventure might best suit you. Reading host profiles you will come across terms such as “bush blocks” (remaining patches of native scrubland) and “lifestyle blocks” (small farms used for non-commercial uses) as Workaway locations requiring an extra pair of helping hands.

  • Animal Welfare: Helping at an animal sanctuary or with a charity offering equine therapy.

  • Cultural and Social Integration Initiatives: Get to discover more about Maori traditions and way of life at hosts spanning both the North and South Islands. Read about Carissa and Danielle’s experiences Workawaying on Waiheke Island. Alternatively you can collaborate with initiatives which aim to provide support for physically or mentally challenged members of the community.

While we pride ourselves on being a cultural exchange, Workaway is also a great way to boost your CV, learn a new language and make friends all over the world. With over 500 hosts in New Zealand alone, there are so many ways you can share your time and make a difference while enjoying this epic destination.


How to find the perfect host in New Zealand

As well as using the regions above as a guide, you can use your skills and interests as keywords in the search box to find your perfect host in New Zealand. Whether you’re enticed by the city life of Auckland, dream of exploring glaciers in the South Island or dream of experiencing Māori culture firsthand – your perfect host is literally a few clicks away.

Best of all, when you join Workaway you are not limited to one project or region. For a small membership fee you have access to over 50,000 volunteer opportunities across 170 countries. After New Zealand, why not continue exploring the rest of Oceania? We also have hosts in Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia and even Tonga.

With its breathtaking landscapes, unique indigenous flora and fauna and fascinating history, New Zealand offers endless opportunities to make memories as well as give back to the community. Let yourself be inspired by the New Zealand Photo Gallery. Whether you want to support local NGOs, or simply love the great outdoors, with Workaway you can do it all!