The Kiwi Bucket List: A Local Guide to New Zealand Must Do's

The Kiwi Bucket List: A Local Guide to New Zealand Must Do's
on Mar 7, 2018

Fill your New Zealand motorhome journey with unforgettable Kiwi experiences

Kia ora from New Zealand! As a country that is on every traveller’s must-visit list, New Zealand boasts an endless bounty of wanderlust treasures. With two islands and a plethora of beaches, mountains, forests, volcanoes, caves and more to explore, it can be a challenge deciding where to begin! That is why we have created a list of must-do attractions to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand bucket list adventure, discovering all the best spots in a motorhome rental - Kiwi style.

To assist you further, we’ve included local insider tips broken down into three categories: culture, adventure and relaxation for the North and South Islands. Most travellers fly into Auckland, Wellington (North Island) Queenstown or Christchurch (South Island), but you’ll find many other campervan pick up locations throughout our guide.

Travellers exit their campervan to admire the scenery of Lake Wanaka

North Island Bucket List:

From Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga or Wellington

A touch of Kiwi culture

The origin of New Zealand or “Aotearoa” in the native language of Maori, dates back over 700 years when Polynesians first came to settle on the two islands creating their own distinct Maori civilisation. Throughout the country, travellers can learn about ancient traditions, myths and legends of this riveting culture.

  • Rotorua is a hotspot for unique Maori cultural tours that including traditional dress, dances, feasts and more, plus an inside look at the village community and how the culture is preserved to this day. Taupo is another great location to learn about Maori customs.

  • To experience what ecologists believe New Zealand was like before settlers moved onto the bird paradise nation, spend the day in Zealandia. This one of a kind eco-sanctuary with a 500-year restoration vision, is situated in the heart of Wellington and offers nature trails, native wildlife experiences, an interactive museum and more.

A surfer heads out on the waves of Piha Beach in New Zealand

For the adrenaline seeking explorers

No matter where you start your holiday, action-filled activities are everywhere in New Zealand! While Queenstown in the South Island has been dubbed the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’, the North Island holds its own in terms of heart racing activities.

  • Plan a climb/hike/camp combo to both challenge yourself and get up close and personal to some of New Zealand’s best scenery. Egmont National Park, Tongariro Crossing and the Skyline Trail are among the most stunningly beautiful options.

  • If you enjoy mountain biking, the epic trails scattered across the North Island will blow you away. Follow the Auckland to Nelson route and stopover in Rotorua, the ideal spot for the sport.

  • Skydiving in New Zealand is a rite of passage. Take your holiday to new heights in Taupo.

  • Head to Gisborne on a North Island road trip to slide down Rere Rockslide for something truly unique - and daring!

Relax and unwind

From spa pools to freshwater lakes, the North Island offers numerous relaxing destinations.

  • Due to New Zealand’s active volcanic activity, natural hot springs and spa pools are popular throughout the country. For a free dip, visit Taupo’s Spa Park located near the impressive Huka Falls.

  • Rotorua is full of hot pools. Head to the Polynesian Spa to relax in a private pool with a lakeside view. For something a little more adventurous, head to Kerosene Creek!

  • If you don’t mind a little extra work, dig your own pool at the Coromandel’s famous Hot Water Beach, located just a few hours north of Tauranga.

  • Take a dip in a freshwater swimming hole at Kaitoke Park near Wellington, or under the giant Karekare Falls just north of Auckland.

  • Stay in a bach, a modest kiwi holiday home usually located near the sea (there are so many incredible beaches in New Zealand) or disconnect from the world and camp in an enchanting rainforest in Te Urewera National Park on Lake Waikaremoana, located between Rotorua and Napier.

Two parasailers glide over Queenstown, New Zealand

South Island Bucket List:

From Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Wanaka, or Queenstown

Experience Maori tradition

The South Island is not quite as well-known for its cultural offerings as the North Island, but they are certainly available.

  • Head into Queenstown to book a local cultural tour.

  • Learn about the importance of green stone, also referred to as pounamu, and the unique carving methods and meanings. Swing by Hokitika on the Greymouth to Queenstown road trip for a lesson in this ancient custom.

  • If jewellery isn’t your thing, you can still craft something: make your own knife out of fresh forged steel and native timber in Barrytown just 30 minutes north of Greymouth.

Adventure awaits down south

Make all your adrenaline-inducing dreams come true in the South Island amongst the breathtaking Southern Alps.

  • For a true Kiwi experience, plan a multi-day hike staying at one of the many backcountry huts. Try the Routeburn Trek just an hour from Queenstown for unforgettable mountain views, explore the Catlins’ dense forest trails from Dunedin following our Nelson to Dunedin guide, or choose a day hike like Roy’s Peak in Wanaka.

  • Tackle New Zealand’s highest bungy over the Nevis River just outside of Queenstown.

  • Kayak around paradise-like islands with golden sand shorelines in Abel Tasman National Park just outside of Nelson. You may even encounter a few friendly seals on the water.

  • There are any number of opportunities to hurl yourself out of a plane or off a cliff with ocean or mountain views in Abel Tasman, Wanaka and Queenstown. Skydiving and bungy jumping are just the beginning.

A waterfall in the green mountains of Milford Sound in the South Island of New Zealand

Treat yourself to some R&R in the South Island:

  • Visit Queenstown’s Onsen Hot Pools for a dreamy mountain vista.

  • Stare up at millions of stars while soaking up the warm waters at Lake Tekapo or Hanmer Springs, both a few hours drive from Christchurch.

  • Take an unforgettable boat ride through what many believe is the eighth wonder of the world: Milford Sound. A three-hour drive from Queenstown and tucked away at what feels like the end of the world, this magical place will leave you in awe.

Final tips for the best motorhome experience:

  • For local fare, try Kiwi meat pies and freshly fried fish and chips, washed down with a local New Zealand pilsner.

  • Hire a campervan that is self-contained, giving you more options (many free) when it comes to where to camp at night.

  • Wake up to catch east coast sunrises and climb high for sunsets - this country is known for its multi-coloured, cotton-candy sky displays.

  • Respect the environment and leave only your footprints (or tyre tracks).

  • Think about what you pack and make sure to bring clothes for all seasons: ‘four seasons in one day’ is a common occurrence in New Zealand.

Most importantly, have a fun and safe journey - and then tell us all about it on Instagram and Facebook!