New Zealand

New Zealand is home to some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet, from beaches and sounds to mountains and glaciers, hot springs and forests to cities and vineyards. With so many different natural wonders to explore, honeymooners are guaranteed a once-of-a-lifetime trip.

Located in the southern Pacific Ocean, some 900 miles east of Australia, New Zealand is comprised of two large islands—the North Island and the South Island—plus many other small islets. The country’s total land mass is approximately 104,000 square miles, slightly larger than Great Britain or Japan.

More than three-quarters of the 4.4 million New Zealanders (known informally as Kiwis) live on the North Island, with one-third of the population in Auckland, the country’s largest city. New Zealand’s other major cities include Wellington (the capital), Christchurch, and Hamilton. Expect to meet interesting people everywhere you go: Kiwis are a veritable melting pot of European, indigenous Maori, Asian, and non-Maori Pacific Island heritages.

Geographically speaking, the North Island is best known for its active volcanic and thermal areas, located near Rotorua. This popular destination is where couples can explore sulphuric mud pools, geysers, and hot springs. Slightly larger than the North Island but significantly less populated, the South Island has a distinctly rugged landscape, dominated by the Southern Alps mountain range, which runs nearly the entire length of the island. While the eastern side of the mountains are dry and deserted, the West Coast has forests, mountains, and glaciers—an absolute paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Other notable destinations on the South Island include Dunedin, Invercargill, Milford Sound, Queenstown (an adventure capital), and Mount Cook (the country’s highest peak at 12,316 feet).

If your dream honeymoon includes as many beaches as it does mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and fjords, consider New Zealand the ultimate adventure-seeker destination. Read on for our guide to the perfect New Zealand honeymoon.

When to Go

New Zealand is a year-round destination. High season typically falls during summer (December to February), with shoulder season straddling October to November (spring) and March to April (fall). While low season generally corresponds to winter (June to August), this remains a busy time for alpine pursuits, such as skiing and snowboarding.

Getting There and Around

Auckland International Airport (AKL) is New Zealand’s largest and busiest port of entry—likely your gateway to the country. The airport is just 13.6 miles from downtown Auckland and is accessible via rental car, bus, taxi, and shuttle. Other major airports include Wellington International Airport (WLG), located at the southern tip of the North Island, plus the South Island’s Christchurch International Airport (CHC) and Queenstown International Airport (ZQN).

What to Do

New Zealand kayak

  • Skydiving — There’s no greater thrill than a minute of free fall at more than 100 mph as you skydive over this gorgeous landscape. Commercial operators 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. Queenstown’s Nzone Skydiving is another great outfitter whose drop zone is located at the base of the Remarkables mountain range, surrounded by a working sheep farm.

  • Off-Roading — Explore the country’s rural farms, mills, vineyards, and more by four-wheel drive. For a memorable experience, head out with Off Road NZ on a rugged and remote bush safari. You’ll take control of your own 4WD vehicle and disappear into the thick forest, making steep climbs and descents before pushing through muddy holes, rivers, and twisting bends. Off Road Adventures, in Queenstown, also offers a variety of ATV pursuits, including exciting treks 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 the Clarence on the South Island. Queenstown Rafting offers adventures for both experienced and novice rafters, including a half-day excursion on the Shotover River (with Grade 3 to 5 rapids). Also in Rotorua, River Rats Rafting & Adventures offers excursions through Grade 5 rapids on the Kaituna River.

  • Hot-Air Ballooning — There’s no better way to take in the landscapes of New Zealand than from way up high. Aoraki Hot Air Balloon Safaris, in operation since 1992, offers tours over the Canterbury plains and the snowcapped Southern Alps, including Mount Cook. The company’s Methven location is just over an hour from Christchurch.

  • Hike a Glacier — Franz Josef Glacier is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural wonders. Franz Josef Glacier Guides offers a wide range of glacier hiking tours to suit all levels of ability. You’ll navigate through a maze of ice, helicopter to a glacier for a hike, and even traverse a glacier valley. Fox Glacier Guiding also offers a number of exhilarating hikes—from ice-climbing adventures to overnight helicopter treks—through Fox Glacier, on the West Coast of the South Island.

Where to Stay

New Zealand hotel

  • The Farm at Cape Kidnappers Perhaps one of the most exclusive stays (and biggest splurges) in New Zealand, Cape Kidnappers is a luxurious farmstead in the North Island’s Hawke Bay. The 26-room lodge is set on a working sheep and cattle farm. While days are filled with low-key pursuits—hikes on the 6,000-acre property, tastings of wines from nearby vineyards—there are also top-notch amenities (like a championship golf course and butler service) to make the experience truly honeymoon-worthy.

  • Awaroa Lodge Located on a private 47-acre wetland preserve inside the Abel Tasman National Park, this fabulous eco-lodge is a terrific home base from which to explore the remote northwest coast of the South Island (there’s no road access, so couples must arrive by boat or helicopter). The lodge features 26 rooms and suites that fully immerse you in the natural surroundings (think rustic-mod interiors and balconies overlooking the wetlands).

  • Sofitel Queenstown To properly post up in this resort town, you’ll need a sophisticated stay in the heart of it all. The Sofitel offers 82 rooms and suites, two restaurants, a lounge, and an award-winning spa that combines a range of indigenous Maori rituals with more familiar European-style treatments.

  • Ohtel Situated in the exclusive seaside neighborhood of Oriental Bay, Ohotel is Wellington’s best boutique hotel. With only 10 rooms, couples can expect exceptional service, personalized details (all of the decor and furniture come from the owner’s private collection, for example), plus amenities such as oversize soaking tubs for two.

  • Huka Lodge Nestled on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge has just 25 suites scattered across a 17-acre, meticulously maintained property. Couples can simply check in and mentally check out: Meals are served on a fully inclusive basis (expect a full country breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapés, plus a five-course gourmet dinner), with add-on experiences ranging from golfing and fishing to skydiving, hiking, and helicopter tours.

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 as beautifully plated as it is delicious. Bonus points for the waterfront location with picture-perfect views of the city skyline and surrounding harbor.

  • Amano - The restaurant may focus on humble, true-to-its-roots Italian cuisine, but trust us, there’s nothing simple about the ingredients used by the chefs at this Britomart fan-favorite. The lamb is raised exclusively for the restaurant from a Katikati farm; the Wagyu is reared on a 300-hectare property in Hawke’s Bay; all of the seasonal seafood is sustainably-caught and local; and the pasta is hand-crafted daily and made at specific flour mill on the South Island. 

  • Masu by Nic Watt - Auckland’s most lauded Japanese eatery focuses on dynamic plates, served in a casual yet contemporary environment. Fresh local ingredients and natural flavors enhance each dish, be it from the sushi bar or the robata grill (don’t miss the yuzu-marinated black cod).

  • Clooney - Few restaurants scream “special occasion” quite like this internationally acclaimed Auckland standout. (Which received so much attention, it had to temporarily shutter its doors.) Now back with a new head chef, Nobu Lee, Clooney offers seasonally changing four- or six-course degustation menus at a “friendlier” price point.

  • Black Barn Bistro - The restaurant at Black Barn Vineyards, in Hawke’s Bay, recently loosed the top button on its haute-cuisine roots, adding an oversize bar and lounge with comfortable couches and a fireplace, where couples can sit and have a casual drink before delectable dishes like cured Aoraki salmon with cashew, hibiscus, Sechuan pepper, and orange.