Planning a trip to New Zealand – where to go

Learn how to find places to visit on the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand when planning a trip using official and unofficial resources.

In this article, I will show you how you can go about planning a trip to New Zealand for pleasure.

When entering any foreign country in the world, you are generally asked one or all of these questions:

  1. What is the purpose of your visit?
  2. How long will you be staying?
  3. Where will you be staying?
  4. Where will you be going?

These are the same questions you need to ask yourself when you are planning a trip to New Zealand, so it is not surprising that when you enter New Zealand, you are asked one or all of these questions.

As you may already know, I generally travel New Zealand alone and have visited several countries in the world all by myself, where I had no family or friends.

Because I have gone through the process of planning a trip many times, I would like to share the strategy I generally use for finding places to go, places to stay, and ways to get around in countries I am completely unfamiliar with.

Why are you visiting New Zealand?

It would be weird to enter a country and not know what you were there to do. This also generally raises a red flag to the authorities. You must have a reason to want to visit New Zealand.

The purpose of your visit could be business or pleasure. I am assuming that because you are on this website, you are looking to visit New Zealand for pleasure.

So the first thing you must do when planning a trip to New Zealand is figure out why you want to come here, and if you are completely unfamiliar with New Zealand, do some research to get an idea of what the country has got to offer so that you can decide what you would like to see and do.

The reason why I recommend doing research yourself is because nobody knows you better than you yourself. You know what you like. While I could tell you where to go based on my own likings, this does not guarantee that you will like what I recommend.

I have written several articles such as 10 Must-see must-do on the South Island of New Zealand, 3 Places to visit in 3 days in New Zealand – where to go?, 10 Places every tourist to New Zealand visits, and many more on this website, but the best advice I can give you is to try to find information about New Zealand yourself. In this article, I will help you do just that.

Method 1: Find places to go to in New Zealand through photos

My main motivation to visit a country or place was almost always based on seeing a photograph of the place and liking it. From there, I would get interested in a region or city and continue doing research until I arrived at a full list of places and things I wanted to see and do in a particular country.


The following is an example of how I would go about finding places to visit and things to see and do based on photos.

Let’s say that you see a photo of Matai Falls on the Internet. Because you do not know where Matai Falls is, you perform a search on Google and ask, “Where is Matai Falls?”

A couple of website links should appear so that you can figure out that it is located in a region called the Catlins.

Once you know the name of the region, you can then perform another search on Google to ask, “What can I see or do in the Catlins New Zealand?”

Again you should get a couple of website links to get more information on things to see and do in the Catlins. If any of those information sources mention things to see but do not show photos, for example, Curio Bay, you can type the name of those things in Google Images or a site like Flickr to find photos so that you can get an idea of whether you would like to see those things in person.

You can use this method to continue researching things to see and do in New Zealand until you compile a list of places to visit in New Zealand.

Method 2: Find places via official websites about New Zealand

New Zealand is divided into regions, and each region is divided into districts. A region or district may have a website to promote the area.

For example, Rotorua is located in the Bay of Plenty region. So you can look up the Bay of Plenty tourism website to find information on what you can see and do in that region.

To find a list of all of the regions in New Zealand, see the Boundary Maps page on the Statistics New Zealand web site.

You can also look for district council websites to find information about recreational facilities in a particular district. These facilities are generally for locals, but as a tourist, you can also make use of them and find places where tourists do not generally go.

For example, if you want to find recreational facilities in Rotorua, you can search for the “rotorua district council” on Google or you can visit the Local Councils website to find a list of all of the district councils in New Zealand.

Once you are on a district council website, look for links to parks or recreation. District council websites are generally less commercially oriented than normal tourism websites and focus more on providing information to locals, not tourists, so do not expect to find elaborate information on places to visit. Only use these websites to get an idea of places to visit and things to do that may otherwise not be listed on tourism websites.

As mentioned previously, you can also visit tourism websites to find information and get ideas for places to visit in New Zealand. Tourism websites may belong to visitor information centers, which are called i-Sites in New Zealand. You can find a list of i-Sites on the main New Zealand tourism website.

Note that not every place in New Zealand may have an i-Site, but the list is long and covers most of the regions in New Zealand.

Method 3: Purchase a travel guide

A third and last method I would like to mention for finding information on where to go in New Zealand is to buy a travel guide like the Lonely Planet Guide.

Such guides generally give a nice overview of what you can do in a country without going too deep into the details.

You can use such guides to find places to visit in New Zealand and then turn to the Internet to further research those places.

You can also buy a good road map to navigate the country. Some road maps contain extra information and symbols for things to see and do.

I regularly drive around New Zealand using the kiwimaps North Island and South Island driver’s atlases. They are quite good, detailed, and have many locations where you can stop to do or see something. You can buy them when you arrive in New Zealand.

Final words on planning a trip to New Zealand

I hope you have found this article useful and will try one or more of the methods I mentioned to plan your trip to New Zealand.

Please remember that while New Zealand is not a big country like Australia or the United States of America, it is still quite challenging to see the entire country in two weeks or less.

So please do look for places to go, but do not make the list of places to visit too long; otherwise you will find yourself hurrying from place to place and not enjoying your trip as much.

Also mix up the places to visit with places that require good weather and places that can be visited in bad weather because it is not always sunny in New Zealand.


This article falls under Travel Guide.

Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details
directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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