Summer is the best time to travel around New Zealand — there’s great weather (but it’s not too hot), nice long days, and heaps of extra activities to get involved in.

If you’d like to truly experience the Kiwi summer, our top five things to do in the NZ summer are a great place to start!

To listen, hit play below or find episode 345 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

1. Get in the water

Head to the beach, lake or river and jump on in. If you’re not much of a swimmer, you can wade and sunbathe, and if you’re a water baby give one of these a try:

Go kayaking

Kayaks are available to rent at a lot of beaches and popular rivers and lakes. If you want a real adventure, check out the Whanganui Journey — one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. (You’re right, it’s not a walk… just go with it).

Kayak on beach NZ
Get out on the water!

Go surfing

With around 15,000km of coastline, you’re sure to find a good surfing spot or two! Piha near Auckland and Raglan a bit further south are both popular places to surf.

Go windsurfing

Windsurfing is also popular, and you can rent equipment throughout the country.

Swim with whales or dolphins

Or just watch from the beach if they pass while you’re sunbathing! The Bay of Islands is a good spot for dolphin-watching, and Kaikoura in the South Island is famous for whales. Be aware that Kaikoura was severely affected by earthquakes in 2016 and is still recovering — all the more reason to go and support the locals!

Go fishing – from a boat, a jetty or the rock

However you do it, fishing can be a great way to spend time on or near the water. Make sure to throw back undersized fish and check the rules for the area where you’re fishing — fines can be hefty.

A spot of fishing is a good Kiwi activity.
A spot of fishing is a good Kiwi activity.

Or at the very least: hop on a ferry

There are plenty of ferries to choose from, including commuter ferries in Auckland, the Interislander and BlueBridge ferries linking the North and South Islands, and lots of little ferries like the one from Paihia to Russell in the Bay of Islands.

2. Get active

There’s plenty to do back on land, too!

Go hiking

We’re big fans of the Great Walks, like the Milford Track, but there are thousands of shorter walks to choose from. We also enjoy the Auckland coast to coast walk.

Milford Track, New Zealand
Get out and get active!

Go for a bike ride

More and more cycle lanes are being created, or choose one of the amazing cycle trails throughout the country.

Go camping

The Department of Conservation maintains basic campsites throughout New Zealand, and spending a few days camped out in the forest or near a beach is a great way to relax. Or choose a holiday park if you’d prefer more amenities!

Do some adventure sports

Bungy jumping, climbing, zorbing, white-water or black-water rafting… the list is endless. Queenstown is known as NZ’s adventure capital, but you’ll find these activities in other parts of the country too if you aren’t heading that far south.

3. Go on a road trip

I can’t imagine a Kiwi summer without a long drive or two! Whether it’s a quick overnighter or an epic multi-weeker, make sure to hit the road and explore the empty spaces, rather than just flying from city to city.

Buy, borrow, or hire a car; or if you’d like to meet people or just don’t want to drive, a New Zealand adventure tour like those offered by Stray are a good choice.

New Zealand road trip
Head out on the road!

4. Enjoy the cuisine

Okay, by cuisine I mean “barbecued food” and “fish and chips”. Our food might not be as world-renowned as some, but at least we can eat it outside! Take your fish and chips to the beach with huge amounts of tomato sauce, and have as many barbecues as you can fit into the summer. They could be intimate ones at home (as in, just cook your dinner on the barbie) or huge events.

You’ll be drinking beer and (actually world-renowned this time) New Zealand white wine – look out for Sauvignon Blanc. If you’re not into booze, check out our national soft drink, L&P, or make the most of all that fruit and gorge on fresh juices.

NZ park
Head to a park or beach for an outdoor dinner.

5. Go to outdoor events

There’s certainly no shortage of these, though sometimes finding out where they are being held can be a bit of a mission. Ask at the tourist info office, or search online. Lots of things happen in local parks, so heading to one of these can be a good way to get to know an area you wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

Music in Parks and Christmas in the Park (Auckland Domain)

There’s something about hanging out in the park with a glass in hand, enjoying the music. Be aware that some of these events are alcohol-free, so check before you pack your six-pack.

Festivals

My favourite festival, the Lantern Festival, takes place in summer; but there are lots of other local events to participate in. Highland Games, the Wild Food festival, and a host of food, wine, and music festivals spring to mind — but the sky’s the limit, really!

Auckland Lantern festival at Chinese New Year
Auckland Lantern festival

Summer Shakespeare or the pop-up Globe

I love the theatre, and watching Shakespeare outside is one of my favourite things to do in summer! Auckland University always puts on a production or two, and summer Shakespeare performances can be found in other parts of the country too — last year, we went to one at Tauranga’s Historical Village.

The pop-up Globe is a temporary replica of the Globe theatre; it pops up in summer then is dismantled until the following year. It’s been around for a couple of years now, and we hope it keeps coming back — because it’s awesome. Ticket prices range from very cheap (for standing tickets) to very pricy.

Outdoor cinemas

Outdoor cinemas also appear in parks around the country, so make sure to check your local events listings to see if there’s a showing near you.

Sports events

You can always get involved yourself, but if you prefer to watch there are heaps of options to choose from. Cricket’s the big one — and it’s a full-day event, so pack a picnic! If you’re into tennis, the ASB Classic in January could be worth your while.

Whatever you choose to do in the NZ summer, you're sure to have a good time.
Enjoy it!

So head outside and enjoy the sun, and don’t forget to slip, slop, slap and wrap: slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on some sunglasses.

This episode of the Indie Travel Podcast is sponsored by Stray Journeys, New Zealand Adventure Tours..

Stray Journeys are small group adventure tours of New Zealand that take you off the beaten track and to all the must-see destinations.
Think of it as a road trip experience, where your guide takes you on a once-in-a-lifetime journey, with plenty of great stops, showing you the real New Zealand. Three-day to 23-day tours available.  

Stray Journeys include: All transport, an entertaining local tour guide, accommodation, top-rated activities and some meals.

Find out more about Stray.


Note: this article was first published in 2010, and was updated in 2017.

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Your thoughts on "Top 5 things to do in the New Zealand summer podcast"

  • Looking forward to listening to this podcast, it should bring back good memories of my times in NZ!

    on January 17, 2010 at 3:00 am Reply
  • I am in love with New Zealand, this is the best place I been so far in my life and the people there are just the friendliest in the world. I will come back there very soon.Your article just remind me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to see, experience and explore; thanks for sharing.

    on January 18, 2010 at 1:16 am Reply
  • Don't forget the slip, slap and slop! Five minutes in the afternoon sun and my nose looked like a grilled shrimp...! I strongly recommend a kayak or hike in Golden Bay - amazing! great advise, short and sweet, like it!

    on January 23, 2010 at 8:05 am Reply
    • Definitely! We talked about that on the show, but didn't add it to the show notes. Thanks for bringing it up. Are you guys in NZ at the moment?

      on January 23, 2010 at 9:26 am Reply
  • Another great ferry ride is a day trip to TiriTiri Matangi Island from either Auckland or the Hibiscus Coast. I think that it's enough nicer than the (very nice) Rangitoto Island excursion that it's worth the extra cost and time. Another great episode, I'm now more eager to return to NZ. Thanks!

    on August 27, 2017 at 8:56 am Reply
    • Thanks for your suggestion, Roger -- I've never done that trip but it sounds like a winner. :)

      on August 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm Reply
  • The walks, Oh the walks! The Milford is no doubt really beautiful. I also did a few more on my trip like: 1. Abel Tasman 2. Franz Josef Glacier 3. Canterbury - Mount Cook National Park (this. This was my favorite. When I think of New Zealand, this is the first memory that pops up in my head) 4. Stewart Island Have you done any of these? I'd highly recommend them!

    on November 11, 2017 at 12:41 am Reply

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