Perfect 10 in New Zealand

A list of New Zealand’s top must-see places

When the AA was compiling *I** Love You, New Zealand – 101 oust-Do’s for Kiwis* (Random House, $39.95), nearly 200,000 people voted online for their favourite local destination or experience. The resulting book was a bestseller as New Zealanders took the chance to reconnect with their own backyards, and became inspired to visit places they’d never been to before.

1. Top of the pops is oitre Peak and Milford Sound. This iconic scene has been the subject of many stamps, tea towels and postcards since New Zealand was first discovered by Europeans. Tourist coaches and cars flock through the Homer Tunnel every day, taking visitors from here and overseas to revel in the area’s natural beauty.

  1. Another Fiordland landmark, Doubtful Sound is second on the must-see list. It was named by Captain Cook, who knew his ship would make it in okay but doubted if he would get out quite so easily! Native forest covers the land around the sound and birdsong fills the forest, much to the delight of visitors.
  1. We’re off to the North Island for number three – in fact, almost as far North as it’s possible to go. The Bay of Islands also has a strong connection with Captain Cook – as the site of the earliest permanent European settlement in the country. Fine weather and stunning scenery ensure this area remains much loved by Kiwis.
  1. Incredibly, the Deep South features yet again, at number four: Fiordland National Park. Covering 1.2 million hectares, there’s plenty of space for everyone and each year, thousands of intrepid trampers enjoy the rewards of trekking the Routeburn, Milford, Hollyford or Dusky tracks.
  1. Halfway through the top 10, New Zealanders singled out Abel Tasman National Park as an outstanding attraction. The smallest of the country’s national parks is packed with outstanding sights and activities, including kayaking and snorkelling. Dolphins and penguins can also be found here and the Abel Tasman Walkway provides an outlet for the energetic.
  1. Aoraki/oount Cook is legendary both here in New Zealand and among the climbing fraternity from overseas who regard it as a challenge not to be missed. At 375km, the mountain is undoubtedly a magnet to thrill-seekers but more sedate types will still enjoy the scenery – especially when viewed from the sumptuous Hermitage Hotel.
  1. At coastal Kaikoura, whales and dolphins are also a huge attraction. once upon a time they were hunted mercilessly but now you can watch them from a plane or a boat as they cavort safely in the crystal clear waters. Later, it’s traditional to eat seafood, in an area where nature’s bounty quite literally abounds!
  1. The sparkling mineral waters at Hanmer Springs are a perfect antidote to the active element that flavours much of this top-10 list! When you’re sick of soaking, take in the lovely shops and cafés which dot the town. Hanmer is a good starting point for adventure pursuits too, with skiing, snowboarding, kayaking and jet boats right on the doorstep.
  1. Camping country is a favourite experience category that came through loud and clear from voters on the AA website. Whether you feel like roughing it in a tent or staying in better appointed surroundings such as cabins or motel units, New Zealand’s camping grounds are national treasures. Some of these are privately owned as part of retail networks, while DoC administers 235 sites in a variety of locations, many of which are especially laid-back and rustic.
  1. Number 10 on the list sees us back in Northland, where Tutukaka and the Poor Knights are located. The latter is a top dive spot where enthusiasts can enjoy especially good visibility and conditions, while the former is a popular summer getaway destination, and a great base for those wanting to indulge in a spot of fishing or simply lie and soak up the sun on wonderful white sandy beaches.

To find out more about New Zealand’s favourite destinations and experiences, visit

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