10 Must-Do Summer Activities in New Zealand for Your Bucket List

New Zealand, a land of breathtaking landscapes and thrilling adventures, offers an abundance of activities for every traveler’s bucket list. From the serene waters of Milford Sound to the adrenaline rush of bungee jumping in Queenstown, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, thrill-seeker, or a fan of the fantastical world of Hobbits, this guide to the 10 must-do summer activities in New Zealand will ensure your visit is unforgettable.

Key Takeaways

  • Embark on a scenic Milford Sound Cruise to witness majestic fjords and waterfalls.
  • Trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for a challenging hike through dramatic volcanic landscapes.
  • Experience the ultimate thrill with a bungee jump in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.
  • Explore the enchanting Waitomo Glowworm Caves and gaze upon the luminescent glowworms.
  • Step into the magical Hobbiton Movie Set for a glimpse into the Shire from The Lord of the Rings.

1. Milford Sound Cruise

1. Milford Sound Cruise

Embarking on a Milford Sound cruise is an unforgettable experience that showcases the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand’s fjords. Glide through the serene waters surrounded by towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Make sure to keep an eye out for the local wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and penguins.

Whether you’re seeking a luxurious escape or an adventurous journey, there’s a cruise to fit every style and budget. From intimate boutique experiences to larger vessels offering extensive facilities, the choice is yours. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:

  • Budget Guide: Opt for a no-frills cruise to enjoy the natural splendor without breaking the bank.
  • Couples’ Guide: Choose a romantic cruise package, complete with fine dining and stunning sunset views.
  • Family Guide: Select a family-friendly cruise with activities and amenities tailored for all ages.
  • Luxury Guide: Indulge in a high-end cruise offering gourmet meals and exclusive tours.

Remember, no matter which cruise you choose, the majesty of Milford Sound is the true star of the show.

2. Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

2. Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Embarking on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an absolute must-do for any adventurer visiting New Zealand. Trek through dramatic volcanic landscapes, emerald lakes, and alpine meadows in what is often described as one of the best one-day hikes in the world.

Duration and Difficulty:

  • Length: 19.4 km (12 miles)
  • Time: 6-8 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Remember to prepare adequately for the hike, as the weather can be unpredictable. Essentials include sturdy footwear, water, snacks, and layers of clothing. While the crossing is demanding, the panoramic views and the sense of accomplishment are incredibly rewarding.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is not just a hike; it’s an experience that encapsulates the raw beauty of New Zealand’s wilderness. Make sure to start early to enjoy the tranquility of the morning and to have ample time to complete your journey.

3. Bungee Jumping in Queenstown

3. Bungee Jumping in Queenstown

Queenstown is not just a picturesque destination; it’s the epicenter of adventure in New Zealand. Bungee jumping here is an absolute must for thrill-seekers and those looking to conquer their fears. With several jumps to choose from, including the iconic Kawarau Bridge, you’re in for an experience that will leave you breathless.

Queenstown, the heart of high-octane fun, offers thrilling bungee jumping experiences and adrenaline-pumping jet boating on the Shotover River. Safety and excitement cater to all adventure seekers.

Before you leap, here’s what you need to know:

  • Age and weight restrictions apply for safety reasons.
  • Different jump heights and types are available to suit your comfort level.
  • You can choose to dip into the water or stay dry.
  • Photos and videos are available for purchase to capture your daring feat.

4. Exploring Waitomo Glowworm Caves

4. Exploring Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Delve into the subterranean wonder of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, a must-see for any traveler in New Zealand. Embark on a magical journey as you glide silently by boat through the Glowworm Grotto, illuminated by the soft blue-green light of thousands of glowworms. This unique spectacle is a testament to nature’s beauty and mystery.

The experience begins with a guided tour, leading you through the impressive limestone formations and sacred Maori sites. After the walk, the boat ride offers a serene and otherworldly ambiance that’s both peaceful and awe-inspiring.

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are not just a visual treat; they’re a profound reminder of the natural wonders our world holds.

To make the most of your visit, consider these tips:

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes for the cave tour.
  • Bring a light jacket, as the caves can be cool.
  • Photography is not allowed inside the caves to protect the glowworms’ habitat.
  • Book your tour in advance, especially during peak season, to ensure availability.

5. Visiting Hobbiton Movie Set

5. Visiting Hobbiton Movie Set

Step into the enchanting world of Middle-earth with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set, an essential experience for fans of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. Wander through the Shire and see the hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, and the Party Tree, all nestled in the picturesque rolling hills of the Waikato region.

For a truly magical experience, consider booking an evening tour to enjoy the Hobbiton Movie Set illuminated under the twilight sky.

Here’s what you can expect on your visit:

  • Guided tours explaining the history and movie magic
  • Photo opportunities at iconic locations within the set
  • A complimentary drink at the Green Dragon Inn
  • Various tour options, including private tours and group bookings

Remember to book your tickets in advance, especially during the busy summer months, to ensure you don’t miss out on this unforgettable journey through the heart of the Shire.

6. Skydiving over Lake Taupo

6. Skydiving over Lake Taupo

For thrill-seekers and sky-high adventurers, skydiving over Lake Taupo is an unmissable experience. Imagine leaping from a plane and free-falling for up to 70 seconds with the majestic Lake Taupo sprawling beneath you. The panoramic views of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe add to the surreal beauty of this adrenaline-pumping activity.

With a variety of jump options, you can choose how high and how long you want to free fall. Whether you opt for a 45, 60, or 70-second descent, each offers a unique perspective of New Zealand’s stunning landscapes.

Skydiving in Taupo is not just about the jump; it’s a full package that often includes complimentary transport and the comforting guidance of experienced instructors. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Pre-jump safety briefing and gear check
  • A scenic plane ride to altitude
  • The exhilarating free fall
  • A serene parachute descent
  • Post-jump celebrations

Remember to book your skydiving adventure in advance to secure your spot in the sky. It’s an unforgettable way to experience the heart of New Zealand’s North Island.

7. Whale Watching in Kaikoura

7. Whale Watching in Kaikoura

Embarking on a whale watching tour in Kaikoura is an unforgettable experience that brings you face-to-face with the ocean’s gentle giants. Kaikoura’s nutrient-rich waters are a haven for marine life, making it one of the best places in the world to see whales in their natural habitat.

Encounter the majestic sperm whales that reside here year-round, along with a host of other marine species including dusky dolphins, orcas, and seals.

For the best experience, consider these tips:

  • Book your tour in advance to secure a spot.
  • Choose a calm day for smoother sailing.
  • Wear warm clothing and bring seasickness remedies if prone.

Remember, while sightings are highly likely, they’re not guaranteed—every trip is a unique adventure at sea.

8. Sailing in the Bay of Islands

8. Sailing in the Bay of Islands

Set sail in the Bay of Islands, a maritime adventure paradise with an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Feel the ocean breeze as you glide through the clear blue waters, surrounded by a cluster of over 140 subtropical islands.

  • Experience the thrill of spotting dolphins frolicking alongside your boat.
  • Discover hidden coves and secluded beaches, perfect for a peaceful afternoon ashore.
  • Enjoy the rich history of the area, including the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Embrace the serenity of the sea and the vibrant marine life that makes this destination a sailor’s dream.

Whether you’re an experienced sailor or trying it for the first time, the Bay of Islands offers a range of options to suit all levels. From luxury yacht charters to joining a group sailing tour, there’s something for everyone in this coastal haven.

9. Skiing or Snowboarding in the Southern Alps

9. Skiing or Snowboarding in the Southern Alps

The Southern Alps offer some of the most breathtaking skiing and snowboarding experiences in the world. With pristine slopes and stunning alpine scenery, it’s a winter sports enthusiast’s paradise. Make sure to visit the top ski areas like Wanaka, Coronet Peak, and The Remarkables for an unforgettable adventure.

When planning your trip, consider the variety of ski resorts available. Each offers unique features and challenges:

  • Wanaka: Known for its beautiful lakeside setting and access to both Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields.
  • Snow Farm NZ: Offers cross-country skiing with spectacular high country views.
  • Coronet Peak Ski Resort: Perfect for those who enjoy night skiing and a range of runs.
  • Cardrona Alpine Resort: Great for families and park enthusiasts.
  • The Remarkables: Features terrain for all levels and stunning views over Queenstown.

Embrace the chill of the Southern Alps and let the crisp mountain air invigorate your senses as you carve down the slopes. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, the thrill of the descent is an experience to cherish.

10. Wine Tasting in Marlborough

No visit to New Zealand is complete without experiencing the exquisite wines of Marlborough. This region is renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc, but you’ll find a variety of other wines that are just as delightful. Our three favorite vineyards are Framingham, Cloudy Bay, and Allan Scott. Each offers a unique tasting experience that caters to both connoisseurs and casual sippers alike.

Marlborough isn’t just about the wine; it’s about the entire experience. From the moment you arrive, the picturesque landscapes and the warm hospitality of the locals make every tasting feel special.

If you’re planning a trip, consider these vineyards for a memorable wine tasting journey:

  • Framingham: Known for its vibrant and aromatic wines.
  • Cloudy Bay: Offers very good Sauvignon Blancs and a beautiful cellar door experience.
  • Allan Scott: A family-owned vineyard with a range of exquisite wines and a welcoming atmosphere.


As we wrap up our journey through the top 10 must-do summer activities in New Zealand, we hope you’ve been inspired to add some of these incredible experiences to your bucket list. From the adrenaline-pumping adventures to the serene beauty of the hiking trails, and the cultural delights of city life to the hidden gems waiting to be discovered, New Zealand offers a diverse array of activities that cater to every traveler’s taste. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a nature lover, or someone looking to immerse themselves in local culture, these activities are sure to make your summer unforgettable. So pack your bags, prepare for an adventure of a lifetime, and don’t forget to share your own stories as you explore the breathtaking landscapes of both the North and South Islands. Kia ora and happy travels!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Milford Sound?

The best time to visit Milford Sound is during the summer months from December to February when the weather is warmer and there’s less rainfall, making it ideal for cruising.

Do I need any special equipment to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

You should have sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing, and waterproof gear. It’s also recommended to carry plenty of water, food, and a map or GPS device.

Is bungee jumping in Queenstown safe for beginners?

Yes, bungee jumping in Queenstown is safe for beginners. Operators adhere to strict safety standards and provide all necessary instruction and equipment.

Can I visit the Waitomo Glowworm Caves if I’m claustrophobic?

The caves are spacious in many areas, but if you’re severely claustrophobic, you should discuss your concerns with the tour operator before booking.

How long does it take to tour the Hobbiton Movie Set?

The standard tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set takes approximately two hours, including transportation to and from the set.

What should I wear for skydiving over Lake Taupo?

Wear comfortable clothing suitable for the weather on the ground, and the skydiving company will provide a jumpsuit, goggles, and all necessary gear.

What types of whales can I see in Kaikoura?

In Kaikoura, you can often see sperm whales, humpback whales, pilot whales, and sometimes orcas, depending on the season.

Do I need previous sailing experience to enjoy sailing in the Bay of Islands?

No previous sailing experience is necessary to enjoy a sailing trip in the Bay of Islands. Skippers provide guidance and assistance as needed.

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