The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure Bucketlist

Photo: Stuck in Customs

The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure Bucketlist

On Monday, I’m leaving for a crazy new adventure – 6 weeks of solo road tripping around one of the most beautiful countries in the world – NEW ZEALAND!

This is a trip I’ve been dreaming about for ages, and I finally racked up enough miles (thanks to some credit card hacking) that I was able to book a free round-trip flight.

Unlike my past travels, where I liked to have my whole trip mapped out, I’m doing things differently this time. I’m headed there with no solid plan or itinerary, and I am going to drive my little camper van wherever the wind blows. I want to leave myself open to new opportunities as I make friends on the road and get out of my comfort zone. At 32, this will be my first big solo trip with no agenda, and I can’t wait to see what happens. That said, I do have a few New Zealand bucketlist items that I’m hoping to cross off. Here’s a few of them.

***Update: I loved New Zealand so much, I ended up maxing out my visa and staying three whole months, with the chance to cross many of these adventures off of my New Zealand bucketlist. I’ve updated the post below with links to relevant blog posts, and you can also follow my journey by checking out my New Zealand road trip journal.

••• Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing •••

One of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand, this 12 mile trek through Tongariro National Park takes you past giant craters, steam vents, and these incredible turquoise lakes.

Read Next: Tongariro Crossing Hiking Guide

New Zealand Bucketlist: Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Photo: Daniel Pietzsch

••• Kayak the Abel Tasman Coast •••

While I’m more of a mountain girl, I am also a sucker for a good beach, especially when there’s some other activity involved besides sitting around.  So I’m really looking forward to spending three days kayaking the Abel Tasman Coast and camping on its golden sand beaches.

Read Next: Kayaking New Zealand’s Abel Tasman Coast

••• Cycle the Tasman Great Taste Trail •••

Bike. Beer. Bike. Eat. Bike. Wine. Repeat. The Tasman Great Taste Trail in Nelson is a network of bike trails that takes you by some of the region’s best breweries and wineries, with plenty of cute cafes in between.

Read Next: New Zealand Road Trip Highlights: Week 2

Nelson Great Taste Trail


••• Backpack through Mt. Aspiring National Park •••

Mt. Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island is full of glacial fed rivers, lush vegetation, and snow-capped peaks, and it looks like I might be linking up with Aspiring Mountain Guides to do an 8-day backpacking trip through some of the area’s best (and most challenging) landscapes. And as much as I like my tent, New Zealand also has one of the best hut systems in the world, so I’m excited to try a little wilderness glamping.

Read Next: New Zealand Road Trip Journal / Solo Backpacking Trip in Mt. Aspiring

Backpacking in Mount Aspiring National Park

••• Glow worm Glow •••

Back when the show Planet Earth first came out, I remember the cave episode had some of the craziest stuff I’d ever seen….including New Zealand’s cave worms that glow in the dark. On the North Island you can float in inner-tubes or crawl your way through the caves, getting up close with these creatures (which are actually some form of fungus…kinda gross really).

New Zealand Buckelist: Glow worm Glow

Photo: donnierayjones

••• See glaciers from the sky •••

I’ve never flown in a helicopter before. I think it’s about time. Several companies do heli-hikes on the Franz-Joseph and Fox Glaciers where you take a helicopter ride to the top and then you land and hike around on the glacier before flying back down.

Read Next / Watch: Milford Sound Helicopter Flight above New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park

••• Dance to some local music •••

I’m obsessed with a couple New Zealand bands including Fat Freddy’s Drop and the Black Seeds. I’m going to try to catch a show while I’m down there. I might also hit up the Rhythm and Alps Festival in Wanaka for New Years.

New Zealand Bucketlist: See some local live music like local reggae band Fat Freddy's Drop

Photo: teliko82

••• Bungee Jump? •••

New Zealand’s highest bungee jump is 440 feet. It that’s not enough, you have to launch yourself from a platform that is suspended in the middle of a deep river gorge. I have no idea if I will have the guts for this…but if I’m ever going to bungee jump, this is my chance.

New Zealand Bucketlist: Jump off the country's highest bungee jump

Photo: Steve AM

••• Witness THIS •••

My chances of seeing the Southern Lights are slim, and I’m pretty sure it’s the wrong time of year. But a girl can dream.

New Zealand Bucketlist: See the Southern Lights (pictured here: Aurora Australis from the Port Hills)

Photo: rediguana

••• Paddle wherever and whenever I want •••

How so, you ask? I recently picked up a genius invention – the foldable Bay+ Oru Kayak. This kayak packs down so small I can bring it with me on the plane to the other side of the world. It takes 10 minutes to set up, and with my camper van and the countless lakes spread all over the country, I expect to get many hours on the oars. This photo below is of the Tasman Glacier Lake, which I fully plan on stopping at, and if I’m brave enough, I might even take a dip…eeeeek!

Read Next: ORU Kayak Review: The Go-Anywhere Foldable Kayak

Oru Kayak on Lake Wanaka


 ••• Cruise through the Fjordlands and Milford Sound •••

At the south end of the South Island is the Milford Sound and the Fjordlands where you can see waterfalls out of every corner of your eye. I’d love to cruise below these cliffs and get all misty.

Read Next / Watch: Chasing Waterfalls on Milford Sound with Cruise Milford

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••• Slurp down some oysters •••

I got addicted a few years back at High Sierra Music Festival (weird, I know) when I threw down a half-dozen and instantly felt energized. Plus they just taste so good. New Zealand is home to some of the best oysters in the world, and I plan to slurp down as many of those raw puppies as my budget will allow. If anyone knows any OysterMen, let me know 🙂

New Zealand bucketlist: Slurp down some local oysters

••• Catch a bunch of sunrises •••

This New Zealand trip will be my first extended taste of van life. I’m so excited to park my van somewhere awesome and roll out of bed at the crack of dawn with my camera to watch the sunrise. How many do you think I can catch?

Sunrise on the Abel Tasman Coast

I know I’m just scratching this surface with my New Zealand bucketlist, and I can’t wait to see what else I spontaneously stumble upon in New Zealand!


For more New Zealand travel inspiration, follow my New Zealand travel board on Pinterest.


Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

15 comments on “The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure Bucketlist

  1. I went to NZ in 2013. It was amazing! One thing I regret not doing is the bungee jumping. DO IT.
    Also, Shotover Canyon Swing and the Zorb Ball.
    Check out the Routeburn Track. Beautiful!
    Have fun & take lots of photos for the blog 🙂

  2. Hey Kristen, great list and I am slightly (okay, totally) jealous you are going to New Zealand for 6 weeks! I have traveled trough this most beautiful country in January and February (coincidentally also 6 weeks) and it was the most amazing trip I have ever made:-) I miss it every day! In case you are in need of more inspiration, check out my blog, I have written loads of posts about New Zealand, including a 43-day itinerary and a list of 38 campsites. Have a great trip!!! Cheers, Lotte

  3. Great list if you can accomplish this within your time limit. New Zealand is a beautiful country. We were there for 6 months and did all you can imagine doing there. Glad you are planing on some of the Crazy stuff as well. Enjoy and you will not regret the adventure.

  4. I live here in beautiful NZ, and I highly recommend a trip to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park near Rotorua if you have time. The Champagne Pool is so pretty yet so deadly hahaha. Also, a visit to Kerosene Creek which is between Rotorua and Taupo. No signposts but you can get directions from Google. It’s a naturally heated river that goes over a small waterfall and is a short hike from the road. Very relaxing!

    1. Thanks for the tip Jennie! Unfortunately I missed Rotorua and not sure I’m going to make it back up on this trip…but I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back at some point in my life! It’s so amazing here.

  5. North Island – Rotorua – essential (thermal activity, hot pools, lots of adventure activities). Northland – 90 Mile Beach (stunning, especially sliding down the dunes!). Cape Reinga – the top end of NZ. (You can see where the two oceans meet here, also according to Maori folklore this is where the spirits leave for their final resting place.) On the way stop at Tane Mahuta – NZ’s oldest – and quite spiritual – tree. Lake Taupo – that hole in the middle of the North Island. (Close to the mountains and NZ’s largest lake – ex-volcanic eruption.) West of Auckland visit a black sand beach (Piha/Muriwai/Kariotahi). In Auckland – the Sky Tower – commercial but you can jump off the top or walk around it. It’s the largest man-made freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere – and where you can see both sides of NZ at the same time! The islands of the Hauraki Gulf, especially Waiheke and Tiritiri Matangi (get up close and personal with NZ’s unique birdlife on a predator-free island!). South Island – Milford Sound, blow your socks off beautiful, and Punikaiki (Pancake Rocks. Time it for a full tide and watch the blowholes!) Scheech, so much to see, so little time. Have a blast. We love our beautiful country dearly. Hope you do too and your dreams come true!

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