Visiting New Zealand, you’re likely to spend a good amount of time out in the country, or stopping in smaller towns. But there are a few bigger cities on the islands as well; If nothing else, you’ll probably be flying in and out of them on either end of your trip. So why not plan some time exploring the fun things to do in the cities of New Zealand.
Christchurch is the second most populace city in New Zealand, but far and away the most noteworthy one on the country’s South Island. It’s on the East Coast of that island, at the lower end of Pegasus Bay, and perhaps fits the image most would come up with for a New Zealand city better than any other. It feels like it simply sprung up in the midst of the typically stunning nature of the country.
In truth, this is a city best enjoyed by simple exploration. The Avon River winds through the city and produces excellent walking and biking paths; Hagley Park is a wonderful walking area known for spring blossoms and general beauty; and the Botanical Gardens are the biggest and most spectacular in the country. The city itself – in terms of skyline and modern attractions – is not particularly special to look at. But wandering around some of these main areas you can get a sense for the peaceful and relaxed quality of the city.
As with any self-respecting New Zealand destination, there’s some adventure to be had as well. The city is located right on the bay, so sea kayaking and even swimming with the dolphins are options for the more adventurous travelers. Additionally, jet boating (a famous activity in New Zealand), sky diving, and hot air balloon tours are all options either within or just outside the city.
Auckland is the biggest and best-known city in New Zealand. Situated on the North Island it’s actually a fascinating town in terms of layout. Auckland feels almost like a city of islands given that it more or less exists between multiple bays, though in reality it constitutes something of a land bridge between larger masses. At any rate, it’s a large, bustling city with a lot to offer for travelers.
Like Christchurch, the city has a lot of interesting areas to explore on foot, and wandering is never going to be a bad idea. Beyond beauty and sightseeing, however, it’s also filled with a little bit more in the way of modern attractions. The Auckland Zoo is always a nice stop, and multiple museums are worth your time. Bars and restaurants are as good as you’d expect from a nation’s largest city. And then there’s SkyTower, a skyscraper that doubles as a sort of entertainment complex. There are rides at the top and a casino within. Given that gambling activity in New Zealand is highly regulated, you can trust that it’s the sort of establishment you can enjoy safely as well.
Aside from wandering through parks and ducking into museums and casinos, you might best enjoy your time in Auckland checking out the nearby islands. In particular, Rangitoto Island – just a short ferry ride away – is a fantastic place to visit for some picturesque hiking.
Read this post on the best way to get from Auckland airport to the city.
And then there’s Wellington, a lovable city that comes about as close as any to join the two main islands of New Zealand. It’s right on the southern tip of the North Island, between the Cook Strait and the Wellington Harbour, and is simply a beautiful city to look at. Wellington is the perfect place to start to then rent a motorhome in New Zealand and explore the islands.
Frankly, it’s also a harder city to characterize for visitors. It’s marked by a quirky and eclectic blend of attractions, from wildlife reserves to specific museums to the Beehive, which is far more unique than you’d expect for a building known as Wellington’s Executive Office Building. It’s actually where the New Zealand parliament meets, but it’s a pretty interesting sightseeing stop on a tour. And it sort of captures the vibe of the city, bizarrely impressive and full of surprises.
The very best way to enjoy this city might just be to take in some of its best views though. Hiking the 200-meter Mount Victoria just beside the city can give you a breathtaking look at the harbour, and for that matter getting out in the harbour on a boat (or visiting Matiu Island in its centre) is a great move as well. It’s most certainly a city to enjoy with your eyes above all else.
So which city appeals to you?! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!