10 must-visit NZ spots for your 2020 holiday list

Lake Tekapo At Dawn, New Zealand South Island

With international travel off the cards (for now), 2020 is the perfect year to make a dent in your homegrown holiday bucket list. The only tricky part is knowing where to start! So, to help you out, we’ve rounded up 10 of the most incredible local getaway spots. Put one or two of them on your list and you’ll be in for an unforgettable year.

1. Queenstown

Queenstown is one of the country’s most popular holiday destinations and it’s easy to see why. With unreal scenery, adrenaline-pumping adventures and gorgeously luxe resorts and spas, it’s almost impossible to resist. And with fewer crowds thanks to the current limits on international travel, 2020 is the perfect year to explore this tourist hot spot at your own pace. Make sure you take a day to check out historic Arrowtown. Insider tip: Keep an eye out for The Blue Door, an awesome hidden bar 😎 Head to our Secret Queenstown tips for more info.

Queenstown Sunset

2. Taupō

Hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing… If you’re itching to get out into the great outdoors, then Taupō is the destination for you. Fun fact: The region was created nearly 2000 years ago by a volcanic explosion so massive it darkened the skies as far away as China and Europe (um, WOW!). Make sure you check out Huka Falls and the incredible Maori carvings at Mine Bay as well.

View of Lake Taupo and Lake Rotoaira in New Zealand

3. Rotorua

If you haven’t made it to Rotorua yet, we’ve got just one question for you: Why? A geothermal wonderland with rainbow springs, bubbling mud pools, explosive geysers and natural hot springs, Rotorua is also home to fantastic cultural experiences and excellent health spas. It’s an absolute must-visit.

Rotorua hot springs

4. Lake Tekapo

Is Lake Tekapo one of the most stunning spots in the country? With its Southern Alps backdrop, incredible lupin fields and unbelievable stargazing, we say yes! If you feel like splashing out, a scenic flight is a serious bucket-list experience. But if you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, the hiking, biking and horse treks are incredible too. Make sure you take a hike up Mount John for must-snap photo ops. And definitely leave time for a side trip to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

Lake Tekapo At Dawn, New Zealand South Island

5. Wellington

Wellington has earned an international rep as “the coolest little capital in the world” and we’d say it more than lives up to the hype. With awesome museums, incredible restaurants and bars, delicious coffee and micro brews and seriously sweet wildlife experiences, it’s a city getaway with a number of twists. Make sure you ride the cable car – it’s touristy but it’s worth it 😊

Wellington bay and harbour

6. Cental Otago

Calling all foodies! Central Otago is the world’s southernmost wine-growing region and home to some of the world’s best Pinot Noirs (as well as some incredible Chardonnays and Sauv Blancs). Here you’ll find awesome cellar doors, as well as amazing restaurants, craft breweries and pubs. Central Otago’s a top choice for history fans too, with heaps of fascinating gold rush history to explore.

Empty field with mountain range in background in Central Otago, New Zealand.

7. Waikato

Welcome to the The Shire! Waikato is home to Matamata, the site of the Hobbiton movie set from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit – aka a must-visit for film buffs (especially this year, when there will be fewer crowds to contend with). But with incredible caves (including the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves), stunning black sand beaches, epic surfing and gorgeous gardens there’s something for everyone. Animal lovers, don’t miss Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari – it’ll blow you away.

Two lambs grazing on the picturesque New Zealand landscape background.

8. Palmerston North

If you haven’t been to Palmerston North yet, 2020 is the year to make it happen. With awesome museums and galleries, fantastic street art, gorgeous parks and gardens, and beautiful Himatangi Beach (which is made for stunning sunset snaps) just a 30-minute drive away, it’s the perfect choice for a chilled-out city getaway. Don’t miss the New Zealand Rugby Museum – a must for sports fans.

Gazebo, Palmerston North Esplanade Rose Gardens

9. Bay of Plenty

Animal lovers, welcome to paradise. The Bay of Plenty is a wildlife wonderland, where you can swim with wild dolphins, cruise with whales and orcas, and even hang out with fur seals. Make sure you hike up to the top of Mauao for incredible panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Coromandel Peninsula. Talk about a photo op 📸

Mt Maunganui view from Moturiki Island, New Zealand

10. Wairarapa

Just an hour’s drive from Wellington, Wairarapa is perfect for road trips and weekend getaways. There you’ll find the Pinnacles walking track (with scenery you might recognise from Lord of the Rings), historic Greytown (with its awesome shopping and exquisite Victorian architecture), and more than 30 wineries. Don’t miss the Pukaha National Wildlife Centre. It’s home to some of the country’s most endangered wildlife, including the rare white kiwi.

Castlepoint Lighthouse, Wairarapa, New Zealand, at sunrise.

There’s so much to experience in NZ this year. Stop dreaming and start planning!

Previous Top 5 road trips in the Northern Territory
Next 6 essential tips for post-lockdown NZ travel