New Zealand

It’s no secret that most honeymooners are attracted to New Zealand by its natural wonders. Quite simply, the country is home to some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet. Take for instance its beaches, mountains, hot springs, lush forests, vineyards, and undulating hills. There’s truly nothing else comparable. With so many different activities, landscapes, and cities just waiting for you to explore, honeymoon couples can be guaranteed that their once-of-a-lifetime trip will be just that.

New Zealand is located in the southern Pacific Ocean about 900 miles east of Australia. The country is made up of two large islands, plus many other smaller ones. The total land area of New Zealand is around 104,000 square miles, which is similar to Great Britain and Japan. The North and South islands are separated by the Cook Strait, which is about 12 miles wide at its narrowest spot.

About two-thirds of the country’s 4.3 million people live on the North Island, including 1.2 million in Auckland, the country’s largest city. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington, situated at the southernmost point of the North Island. Home to varied landscape and a range of climates, the North Island is perhaps best known for its geothermal wonders near Rotorua, one of the country’s top getaway destinations. The North Island is also home to fertile land, deepwater bays, lush hills, and flourishing vineyards.

Meanwhile, the South Island is slightly larger than the North Island. Perhaps its most notable feature is the Southern Alps mountain chain, which runs nearly the entire length of the island. While the eastern side of the mountains is dry and non-forested, the West Coast has incredible forests, mountains, glaciers, and high precipitation rates. This remarkable scenery makes it an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and is still recovering from recent devastating earthquakes. For that reason, we have concentrated on other top regions, attractions, and must-visit sites on the South Island for this report. Other notable destinations on the island include Dunedin on the east coast, Queenstown for adventure activities, the Milford Sound region, Mount Cook (the highest peak in the country at 12,316 feet), and Invercargill at the southern tip. If you’re hoping to explore endless beaches, mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and fjords, this is your ultimate destination.

Activities and Attractions

New Zealand boating

  • Skydiving — Experience the rush of over a minute of free fall at more than 100 mph as you skydive over this gorgeous landscape. Commercial operators offering “aerial thrill” are abundant in the main cities and resort areas. One of New Zealand’s longest running skydiving operations, Skydive Abel Tasman, based in the Nelson/Tasman region, offers tandem skydiving starting at $249. In Queenstown, Nzone Skydiving is another great option for jumps. Their drop zone is located at the base of the Remarkables mountain range and surrounded by a working sheep farm.

  • Off Road Adventure Excursions — Four-wheel drive touring is widely available in the high country and rural areas of the country, especially rough tracks created to provide access to farms, mills, gold mines, and other remote areas. For a most memorable experience, head out with Off Road NZ on a 4WD bush safari. Rugged and remote, you’ll take control of your own 4WD vehicle and disappear into the thick NZ forest, making steep climbs and descents before pushing through muddy holes, rivers, and twisting bends.

    Also, Off Road Adventures in Queenstown offers a variety of ATV pursuits, including exciting treks that lead participants through mountain passes and winding rivers.

  • Whitewater Rafting — New Zealand’s fast-moving rivers are excellent for whitewater rafting and kayaking. Among the most challenging rivers are the Motu, Rangitikei, and Tongariro on the North Island, plus the Buller and Clarence on the South Island. Queenstown Rafting offers adventures for experienced and inexperienced rafters alike, including a half-day excursion ($195 NZD per person) on the Shotover River (with Grade 3-5 rapids) featuring breathtaking Skippers Canyon. Also in Rotorua, River Rats Rafting & Adventures offers many excursions and kayaking trips, including grade 5 rafting on the Kaituna River.

  • Ultimate Foodie Experiences — Experience gourmet walking tours in Wellington and Auckland with Zest Food Tours of New Zealand. Your knowledgeable tour guide will share insights into the food, culture, and sights of each region. For instance, the Auckland tour takes visitors to notable eateries and insider foodie spots for a taste of the region’s finest, freshest dishes.

    Also not to be missed is the world-famous Wildfoods Festival. The yearly event is a celebration of local, wild food from the west coast of New Zealand and now an iconic and premier special event in the country, drawing 15,000 people each year. Food delicacies include wasp larvae ice cream, possum stew, grubs, and cucumber fish, among countless others.

  • Hot Air Ballooning— Through Aoraki Hot Air Balloon Safaris, you’ll soar over the Canterbury plains and take in majestic views of the snowcapped Southern Alps, including Mt. Cook. The company’s Methven location is just over an hour from Christchurch. Aoraki Balloon Safaris has been operating since 1992 and is widely recognized as a leader in safety and innovation.

  • Glacier Hiking — Franz Josef Glacier is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most spectacular glaciers. Franz Josef Glacier Guides will give you the chance to experience the most amazing glacier environment, offering a wide range of glacier hiking tours to suit all levels of ability.

    Treks include a hike through a maze of ice and incredible landscape, a panoramic glacier hike with a helicopter drop off, plus a glacier valley walk, which follows the Waiho River and features extraordinary views of the glacier. Also, Fox Glacier Guiding offers a number of awe-inspiring hikes of Fox Glacier on the West Coast of the South Island. The outfitter features everything from ice climbing adventures to overnight helicopter treks.

Where to Stay

New Zealand hotel

  • The Dairy Luxury Hotel Nestled in the center of town yet remaining private and quiet, the Dairy offers extraordinary B&B services, a bar and lounge, outdoor spa, mountain bikes, and modern, spacious rooms, many with spectacular mountain views. The relaxing and well-run property is an ideal honeymoon spot in the Queenstown region and a favorite of the Traveler’s Joy staff.

  • Awaroa Lodge Located on a private 47-acre wetland preserve inside the Abel Tasman National Park, this fabulous eco-lodge serves as a terrific home base for exploring the spectacular northwest coast of the South Island.

    The unique property features 26 rooms and suites that truly take full advantage of the natural surroundings, including balconies overlooking the wetlands. The interiors are a mixture of modern and rustic. Whether you want to relax at the lodge or go sea kayaking from the beach, this is amazing accommodation choice in New Zealand. Since there is no drive-in access, you must arrive either via boat, hiking trail, or helicopter.

  • Sofitel Queenstown Sofitel is a sophisticated option in the heart of the city. It offers 82 rooms and suites, including King Superior rooms with 441 square feet, marble en-suite bathrooms, walk-in showers, Wi-Fi, and LCD TV surround sound. The property also has two restaurants, a lounge, and room service for guests.

  • Century Park Motor Lodge Don’t let the name deceive you. This is one of New Zealand’s finest budget lodge accommodations. Guests have a choice of 14 fabulous self-contained apartments with luxurious features, including free Internet, an LCD flat-screen TV, designer kitchen, patio, A/C, and more.

    The lodge is located right in the heart of Nelson, with its great restaurants, museums, and shopping. The hotel provides free bikes so you can explore the city as well. This is an ideal option for budget-minded couples looking to explore the northern region of the South Island.

  • Ohtel Situated in the capital city’s exclusive seaside neighborhood of Oriental Bay, this exceptional 10-room boutique hotel provides “international class urban chic.” Bathrooms are definitely focal points of each room as large expanses of glass reveal luxurious two-person baths and oversized showers. In terms of décor, whether chairs, tables, or clocks, all hotel furnishings have been personally collected by the owner and are considered treasures.

  • Hotel DeBrett This 25-room luxury boutique hotel features individually designed rooms and suites located right in the heart of Auckland’s most vibrant precincts. Enjoy easy on-site access to the acclaimed Kitchen restaurant, plus take advantage of the hotel’s two bars, in-room massages, Wi-Fi, and more. Hotel DeBrett is arguably one of Auckland’s top properties and comes at a good value as well.

  • Regent of Rotorua This lovely boutique hotel and spa on the North Island offers stylish luxury accommodation, a restaurant, wine & cocktail bar, outdoor heated swimming pool, mini gym, and spa treatment area. Rooms are spacious, modern in design, and feature designer furniture, luxury linens, and even Monsoon Rainshowers. Also, the hotel is a few blocks away from Rotorua’s vibrant entertainment district.

Where to Eat

New Zealand hotel

  • Martin Bosley’s - For a memorable honeymoon dining experience, book a table at this Wellington favorite. Known for its fresh, seasonal, and local cuisine, the restaurant ensures each dish is just as beautiful as it is delicious. The hotspot also boasts an amazing waterfront location that offers picture-perfect views of the city skyline and surrounding harbor.

  • Kitchen Restaurant - Located at Hotel DeBrett, a 25-room luxury boutique hotel located right in the heart of Auckland’s busiest neighborhood. Newlyweds can look forward to contemporary New Zealand cuisine featuring the best local produce. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, including weekend brunch, and afternoon tea. 

  • Masu - Named restaurant of the year in 2014, this Japanese eatery in Auckland mixes a casual but contemporary environment along with dynamic food. Fresh local ingredients and natural flavors enhance each dish, from robata grill selections like yuzu marinated black cod to sushi bar selections.

Getting There

Auckland International Airport (AKL) is New Zealand’s largest and busiest port of entry and likely your first stop in the country. The airport is just 13.6 miles from downtown Auckland and features a number of transportation options, including car rentals, bus service, taxis, and shuttles.