Things to do in Aotearoa New Zealand
Written on January 10, 2023

I’ve been to Aotearoa New Zealand a bunch of times. It’s close, fun, and affordable. I’ve been asked a couple of times by friends what they should do visiting the country, so I figured I’d jot some thoughts down here so that next time someone asks, or next time I book a holiday there, I can be suitably lazy.

North Island

I haven’t spent much time on the North Island, though I’d like to change this, and will update when I do.

I’ve spent a couple of days in the delightful Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. It reminded me a lot of Brisbane and parts of South-East Queensland in its terrain and climate, but I suspect that was just due to the time of year.

I’ve spent a grand total of about an hour in Kerikeri, so I can’t say much about it, but I’d really like to visit again and explore.

South Island

Where to begin? The South Island is absolutely the tourist destination most people begin with. From the mountains, to Fiordland, to Queenstown, it has it all. I’ve by no means done it all, but I’ve done a bunch of stuff that I’ll share here.


Christchurch is a beautiful city and a great place to base yourself for exploring the South Island of Aotearoa. It’s easy to get around by hiring e-scooter and e-bikes.


Air Kaikoura Aero Club





I spent a night in Nelson as a mid-point in my drive from Picton to Punakaiki. I was due for a relax so it was a fairly quiet night:

St Arnaud/Pourangahau (Mount Robert)

View from Pouranghau

St Arnaud is a little lakeside town beneath the impressive Pourangahau/Mount Robert. In the roughly three hours it took me to hike the one of the tracks on the mountain, I went from raincoat, jumper, t-shirt, shorts, to t-shirt and shorts, and everywhere in between. It was raining one moment, blowing a gale the next, blue skies a minute later. Felt just like Melbourne! Some phenomenal views of the north of the South Island here, highly recommended. Pack food/drink/sustenance supplies ahead of time, there’s not much in St Arnaud. The drive to the parking at the base of the mountain could get a bit sketchy if it’s raining, so aiming for a nice day is a good idea.

Strava tells me 11.8 km, 749 metres gained.


Hokitika Gorge

Lake Tekapo

Of all the places on the South Island that I’ve visited, this is by far the one I’ve told the most people about. You cannot shut me up, and I will not be silenced. Lake Tekapo is glorious. It’s part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, so if you time it right and can be there on a clear night, it is mind-blowing.

View of part of Lake Tekapo and the nearby town

Aoraki Mount Cook

Not much needs to be said about this one. Mt Cook is the biggest mountain in Aotearoa. It’s really big. Check out the view from my hotel room:

View from a hotel room overlooking Aoraki Mount Cook


Adventure capital etc. etc., Queenstown is lovely. Flying in and out of Queenstown is worth the price of admission alone. A wonderful approach amongst the mountains as you descend either over Lake Wakatipu or through the hills, it’s definitely worth the window seat.

Milford Sound

A gloomy morning on Milford Sound

This one should need much selling, but it’s well worth doing at least once. Dolphins, seals, rain, sunshine, fog, mist, it has it all. If I can give one piece of advice; catch the bus. It’s a fair hike (~4 hours drive) from Queenstown and it’s a stunning drive. Catch the bus so you can (a) relax and (b) stare out the window the entire time. You could stay in Te Anau for a shorter commute, but either way, I’d still recommend the bus.

Dolphins in Milford Sound


A relatively short drive from Queenstown, Wānaka is is similarly spectacular and worthy of a visit. There’s plenty to do in town and on the nearby lakes. My kinds of things:


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