Backpacking New Zealand is perhaps a fantasy adventure on many people’s bucket list. From stunning sceneries, to adrenaline pumping activities, to unique Maori culture, this beautiful country has much to offer. I am lucky to have travel through New Zealand twice, once in the north island and once in the south island. I’ve even written a post about 10 Cool Things to Do in New Zealand. However, this year, I am contemplating yet another trip back to Middle Earth! I want to really uncover those gems that I haven’t yet seen. To get some inspirations for my itinerary, I asked other travel bloggers for photos of their favorite places in New Zealand. Sure enough, my friends did not disappoint! I am super pumped after seeing their responses! Check out these stunning photos of New Zealand by bloggers. You’d want to grab that bag too and book that plane ticket today!
*This post contains affiliate links. Which means at no extra cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases made.
Backpacking New Zealand Inspirations – North Island
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
“Whilst getting to the Cathedral Cove is a good 75 min hike, it is well worth the effort. Leave early in the morning on a sunny day to have one of New Zealand’s stunning beaches all to yourself! Another option, rent a kayak and head to the beach over sea instead.”
“The climb to the Pouakai tarns might seem intimidating, but are well worth the effort. Hike between enchanted like forests, turn the corner and suddenly you will be awed by the beauty of Mount Taranaki. The area of Mount Taranaki is filled with natural pools, waterfalls, forests, and enough hikes to last you for months.”
Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park
“The Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park is one of the most colorful attractions in New Zealand, just near Rotorua. Geothermal activity created landscapes with surreal colors and shapes. The one featured in the image is called the Painter’s Palette.”
“Tide pools covering the massive broad, flat beach. Endless sunsets framed by massive rock formations. Piha Beach is just an hour west of Auckland so it makes an ideal day trip as soon as you’ve recovered from the jet lag, but it’s a place so special that you’ll forget the crowds and traffic and feel like you’ve arrived in the Land of the Long White Cloud.”
Bay of Islands
“The Bay of Islands is a group of islands dotting a large Bay area. Some of them are inhabited, albeit with very few people, others are completely deserted and most have been declared as Reserves or Parks.”
“Huka Falls is just a short 2 hour round trip hike or a 5 minute drive from the little adventure town of Taupo. The unreal cerulean blue color of the water alone is enough to put this place on your NZ itinerary.”
“Motuarohia Island is one f the 140 islands located in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. Captain Cook anchored his vessel, the Endeavour, in 1769 in this bay. For present-day visitors, Motuarohia offers a lagoon for swimming and a hike to the top of the island, where one can enjoy this stunning view.”
Maori Culture Experience
“At the site of the Waitangi Treaty, the formal treaty signed by both the British Crown and the Māori people of New Zealand, you can experience the culture of the Māori people. We enjoyed a live show of Māori warriors, a traditional meal, and historic buildings.”
“Rotorua isn’t all hissing fumaroles and bubbling mud pools. At Hamurana Springs, a 30-minute drive away, a stream of crystal-clear water flows through peaceful native forest and redwood groves, reflecting hues of green and blue along the way. Bring an empty bottle; it’s an easy walk to the head spring and the chilly water makes the perfect thirst quencher.”
“The Paekakariki Escarpment Walking Track on the Kapiti Coast is about an hour north of Wellington. The walk takes around 3 hours and provides amazing views of the coast including Kapiti Island.”
“Russell is located in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and is super easy to get to by car ferry or by passenger ferry. It is a quaint little seaside town with an awesome atmosphere, especially in the summer. It is the original capital of New Zealand and holds a lot of history – not all of it good!! The good, the bad and the ugly are all embraced by the locals. Spend your time wandering through the streets, checking out the shops, historic sites and restaurants before visiting the beach for a quick swim.”
“Lake Taupo is located on the North Island and is the largest lake in New Zealand, with a surface area of roughly 616 square kilometres. You can skydive over the lake, which offers stunning views and an adrenaline rush that can’t be beaten.”
– Craig Russell from No Real Plan Check out his Instagram
The Poor Knights
“The Poor Knights Islands are only half an hour away by boat from Tutukaka, on New Zealand North Island. They’re famous for diving. Jacques Cousteau – who invented scuba diving – placed them on his Top 10 diving spots. Plus, you can dive the world’s largest cave there! The colourful walls and the kelp forest are stunning. Bonus: it’s also a beautiful place outside the water!”
Backpacking New Zealand Inspirations – South Island
“Mt Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, located on the South Island, in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. To get great views of the mountain I would recommend walking the Hooker Valley Track from Mt Cook village, where you can stay overnight in a hotel or hostel (though the village is very small so gets booked up very quickly! The Hooker Valley Track crosses suspension bridges, alpine streams, and follows the valley which ends at Hooker Lake, filled with little icebergs and Mt Cook rising majestically in the background!”
“Dunedin is full of stunning beaches and coastal viewpoints, from the wild Otago Peninsula to the many bays and beaches of its southern and northern coasts. This photo was taken at the end of the Otago Peninsula looking back towards Aramoana Beach. You can see penguins and albatross nearby and there are some great beaches on the other side of the Peninsula, including Sandfly Bay and Victory Beach.”
“Spotting sperm whales off the coast of Kaikoura on the east coast of New Zealand is simply breathtaking. Kaikoura is known for having a deep ocean canyon so it’s a great place to spot marine wildlife including dolphins and whales.”
Abel Tasman National Park
“Abel Tasman is the smallest national park in New Zealand, located at the northern tip of the South Island. The area is closed to vehicles, accessible only on foot or by boat, and it’s a great spot to sail, kayak, go horseback riding, and hike. The park is especially well known for the Abel Tasman Coastal Track: a 60km track that is among the most popular multi-day hikes in New Zealand.”
“Probably one of the most unforgettable activities you can do in New Zealand is take a short helicopter ride onto Franz Josef Glacier for a hike on the ever-changing ice. Where else in the world can you walk through lush rain forest, fly for 10 minutes to a glacier as parrots shriek overhead, and then watch the sunset over the ocean as you fly back to town? It’s like a greatest hits tour of New Zealand biodiversity in just one epic afternoon.”
Allan’s beach, Otago Peninsula
“Allan’s beach on the Otago Peninsula is a gorgeous white sand beach off the beaten track. The resident sea lions spend a lot of time lounging around, catching some rays. If you’re lucky you might get a glimpse of some baby sea lions playing in the waves. We loved that the beach was so secluded that there were more sea lions than people!”
“Lake Tekapo is a stunning turquoise lake surrounded by mountains and rolling hills. There are lupins growing around the edge of the lake in blues, purples and pinks. A lush place to spend a day walking, swimming and taking in the views. “
“Glenorchy Lagoon forms the northern end of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island. The drive here from Queenstown is one of the most beautiful in all of New Zealand. Movie fans may recognize it as a filming location from the “Lord of the Rings” films.”
“Golden Bay is New Zealand’s premiere destination for, you guessed it, golden sandy beaches. Kayaking in the area is a popular activity and not to be missed. And when you’re done exploring the beaches, the Golden Bay area has ample wineries to choose from.”
“Beautiful scenery is synonymous with New Zealand. It’s around every turn! One of the best day trips is from Queenstown to Milford Sound – the jewel of the South Island. Milford Sound is the top tourist attraction in New Zealand and it lives up to the hype. A cruise through the sound to see the waterfalls and wildlife is a must!”
“Doubtful Sound is the lesser known (and visited) Sound in New Zealand but its an exciting adventure. You start with a boat ride to a bus ride to another boat where you are the only vessel sailing and get to experience nature’s beauty like no other. It’s stunning everywhere you look that you’ll need to put the camera down just to breathe it all in.”
“Coronet Peak is one of the most popular ski mountains on the south island, just a short half hour bus ride from Queenstown. The terrain is fairly family-friendly, so a good place for beginners and intermediates to learn to ski or snowboard. The views at the top are amazing – especially when the clouds are low, and you can see blue skies and the mountain peaks.”
“Arthur’s Pass is the highest pass through the Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand. The road itself winds up to more than 900 metres across the mountains, and includes bridges and impressive viaducts. There are plenty of fantastic photo spots along the way, walks to do, and waterfalls to see. Keep an eye out for Kea, the cheeky alpine parrot!”
“Queenstown is on the South Island, and offers a real mix of stunning scenery, adrenaline activities such as bungee jumping and some great bars. Party, hike, bungee jump from 134 metres, snowboard and relax. You name it, you can pretty much do it here!”
– Craig Russell from No Real Plan. Check out his Instagram.
“Florence Hill Lookout, with its amazing views over Tautuku Bay, is a highlight of a trip to the Catlins. There is lots more to see in this small stretch of coastline in the far south of New Zealand, including deserted beaches, wildlife and some great waterfalls.”
At this point, you are either crying in delight or crying in sadness knowing that there are too many amazing places in NZ that you probably won’t be able to go to all. I am the former right now as I prowl Skyscanner for the next cheap flight to Kiwi Land. Backpacking New Zealand Round 3 here I come!
Psst, for extra tips, check out this Ultimate Guide to Backpacking New Zealand by Yana from Beard and Curly.
Which one of these photos/recommendations by bloggers is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!