In a way, looking at the best coastal activities for an island nation seems almost redundant. But New Zealand is roughly the same size as the UK, and it’s long and narrow (almost 1000 miles long). This means there are about 15,000 miles of coastline – with, naturally, all kinds of destinations and activities along the way. And though New Zealand has plenty to boast of further inland as well, in many cases it’s right on the coast where you’ll find great towns, sought-after attractions, surfing hot spots, and so much more.
Take a look at what we’d identify as some of the top places to stop on a coastal tour of the country.
If you start in the middle between the two main islands of New Zealand, you can actually embark on a sort of figure-eight shape with your coastal tour. Start at Kahurangi National Park, in Nelson. New Zealand’s second-largest national park has wilderness and mountains to satisfy your thirst for adventure, along with various athletic activities to challenge you physically. The region is known for caving and kayaking, in particular. Essentially, you can fully embrace your outdoorsy side when you start your tour in Nelson and the surrounding country (which is ultimately what a lot of people are looking for when they travel to New Zealand).
When you leave Nelson, head southwest to Milford Sound. This natural phenomenon is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations and offers plenty of attractions that should guarantee it a spot on your itinerary. For starters, you can hike up Mitre Peak or explore Bowen Falls for a bit more adventure. You can also enjoy the fiord itself, which is filled with ocean water on the bottom, with a top layer of freshwater stained black from the plant life around the area that seeps into the water as it fills the sound. You can snorkel in the inky water, or take a wildlife cruise along the surface if you want to relax a bit more.
After Milford Sound, you can cross over to the East Coast and the city of Christchurch. Some would argue no visit to New Zealand is complete without the adrenaline rush of bungy jumping, and Christchurch is a popular place for sit – though you may lose your courage when you step up to the 114-foot drop and see the river below! You jump from the Waiau Ferry Bridge, built-in 1887, and if you’d like, you can jump in tandem with an expert. Then again, if you’d simply rather skip it and enjoy aa more relaxing stop on your tour, Christchurch is also full of gardens, parks, and wildlife reserves to enjoy in a leisurely fashion.
Next, head north to Picton, from which you can take the Interislander ferry over to Wellington – the capital of New Zealand, and another relatively central spot, on the southern tip of the North Island. Wellington is also in the list of safest cities in the world. As befits a capital city, Wellington offers plenty of fun activities, though it stands out most as perhaps the best place in New Zealand to learn about Maori culture. There are museums and galleries, Maori restaurants, and even tours that take you to an authentic Maori village.
Head north to Auckland for the next stop on the tour. It’s the biggest city in the country, and quite an amazing one to behold as various gulfs and bays more or less surround it. You’ll have fun exploring the city’s indoor and outdoor attractions alike, and should be sure to check out the SkyCity resort – arguably New Zealand’s most striking building – in particular. It’s a full resort, with restaurants, bars, hotel facilities, live performances, and an observation tower. It’s also the site of perhaps New Zealand’s best live casino facilities – an impressive contrast with the online casinos available throughout New Zealand. Even if the casino entertainment isn’t for you though, a night in one of the luxury rooms of SkyCity’s hotels is a lovely treat and gives you a perfect base from which to explore the city.
Wrap up your coastal tour by heading back south to “Gizzy,” where you can relax with the locals. Your first stop should be the beach, where you’ll catch some of the most beautiful sunrises in the world, before moving on to try some breakfast delights (which are big in this town). Then, if you’re curious at all about surfing (for which New Zealand is legendary), go ahead and work in the last bit of physical activity. Gisborne’s beaches are the perfect places to give it a shot, or simply to head out on the waves and enjoy yourself if you already know what you’re doing. A bit of time on the water, lounging on the beach, and heading back into town for an indulgent dinner is just about the perfect way to wrap up your trip.