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!
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:
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).
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.
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.
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 for a bike ride
More and more cycle lanes are being created, or choose one of the amazing cycle trails throughout the country.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.