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Romantic Itinerary for Couples Visiting New Zealand (2024)

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A Couple Visiting New Zealand

New Zealand is a fantastic location and a wonderful place to visit. Rolling green hills, stunning blue waters, untouched nature, native culture; there’s something for everyone somewhere in the island nation, whether you want to dive off the coast, explore islands, hike through rolling hills, or spend your time in modern cities. It’s an unbelievably beautiful place with iconic scenery you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

If you and your spouse want someplace romantic and unforgettable to visit, New Zealand should top the list. It has a lot going for it! English is the primary language, so you won’t have as much culture shock as if you were visiting somewhere with a different first language. It’s a frequent destination for travelers from a variety of nations, so it’s easy for tourists and explorers to navigate. It’s small, so you won’t be spending half your trip on planes, boats, or buses getting where you want to be. And everything you do is going to be beautiful.

If you’re planning a romantic getaway, whether it’s for a proposal, an anniversary, or just to do something new, here’s what we have to say to help you plan your perfect vacation.

When Should You Visit New Zealand?

It’s all about what you want to do!

If you’re a fan of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or other winter-focused sports, the Southern Alps are a great location to visit in the wintertime when the snow-covered peaks are pristine white and there are excellent slopes to shred your way down.

If you prefer more temperate hiking and water-focused adventures, visiting during summer helps ensure clear skies, bright sun, and warm temperatures, so you don’t have to be decked out in cold-weather gear while you explore.

Visiting New Zealand

One thing to remember, though, is that the seasons are a little different than what you might be used to. Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed. The winter months span June through August, while the peak of summer is in December, January, and February. Keep that in mind when you’re planning; it’s easy to get switched up!

Another thing to remember is that the timing is going to be very different. New Zealand is a whopping 18 hours ahead of the USA’s east coast – so a little less from the west coast – and the jetlag of inverting your day/night schedule is intense. Be sure to leave yourself a day or two to adjust so you aren’t zombie-shuffling on auto-pilot as you make your way from destination to destination. Those stunning sights aren’t going to make for good memories if all you can think about is how tired you are!

Do you need a travel visa to visit New Zealand? Generally, no! Visitors from the United States are part of the broad list of visa waiver countries, meaning you don’t need a special visa to visit the country. If you want to double- or triple-check, though, you can fill out this form to see whether or not you need a visa or can just get the New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority, or NZeTA. As with all international travel, of course, you do need a valid passport.

North Island, South Island, or Both?

Another big decision you need to make is whether you want to take your trip to the North Island, the South Island, or both. The North Island has cities like Auckland and Wellington and is largely known for Maori culture, geothermal hot springs and geysers, and incredible unique experiences like the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The South Island, meanwhile, includes cities like Christchurch and Queenstown, and outdoor experiences including mountains, glaciers, national parks, and much more.

The truth is, both the North and South islands are incredible and you’re not going to be disappointed either way. There’s plenty to do and see on both, so you can easily spend an entire trip on just one of them. Both islands combined are similar in scope and size to the west coast, if you consider Queenstown to be about Los Angeles, and Auckland to be on the level of Portland. There’s plenty to do either way!

Domestic flights between major cities are relatively inexpensive and fast, and for travel around the islands you can rent a car and explore the scenery at your leisure.

New Zealand South Island

One thing to note if you’re taking a self-guided adventure across the islands is that, unlike many places in Europe and elsewhere around the world (but like America), there is no “right to roam” law in New Zealand. Right to Roam laws are laws that allow you to hike across private property, as long as you’re courteous and respectful and don’t damage anything you pass through. In New Zealand, private property is private, and if you want to cross some, you risk trespassing if you don’t ask for permission first.

That said, most of the best adventures to be found are on public land or are part of tours or other packages, so you aren’t going to be left standing at a fence and wishing you could cross it.

Should You Book a Package Deal?

Since New Zealand is beautiful and a common destination for travelers and lovebirds, there are plenty of companies offering tours of the islands. These can be all-inclusive and range from a home base in one city with local exploration and events all the way to both island adventures with flights, lodging, and food all covered in different places on different days.

To give you an idea, here’s a list of some of the tours and packages available for purchase. Packages range from $1,200 to $5,000 for around a week of adventures, though these can also be very seasonal as well.

Booking a Package Deal

As always, the choice between an inclusive package or a DIY trip comes down to how much control you want to have over your adventures. An inclusive package handles all of the logistics for you but can be very restrictive in timing and freedom or flexibility. On the other hand, the DIY option gives you complete control and flexibility over your entire trip, including the ability to make last-minute changes, but the planning and everything else is firmly on your shoulders, so you need to make sure you have all of the details down ahead of time, as much as possible.

The Top Things to Do on the North Island

New Zealand’s North Island is home to some of the most unique experiences you can have not just in the country, but around the world. Here are some of the best options to consider.

Waitomo Caves. These limestone caverns are completely unique and available as both a walking or a boat tour. The thing that makes them so unique is the millions of glowworms, bioluminescent caterpillars that make the cavern glow like stars in the night sky, except underground. It’s one of the most unique adventures you can have in New Zealand and an absolute must-see.

Pouakai Crossing. Pouakai Crossing is a 19-km-long trail that takes the better part of a day to hike and leaves you back where you started. It’s one scenic trail that takes you through Egmont National Park and shows you pretty much all of the most interesting and picturesque vistas throughout the region.

Rotorua. Rotorua is a small city where traditional Maori culture and modern sensibilities meet in a geologically-active zone full of bubbling hot springs and much, much more. It’s not some backwater, though; it’s a fully modern city with everything you would need to enjoy your stay, including some of the best spas money can book. Experience the native culture and modern health in unity.

Cathedral Cove. Cathedral Cove is one of many, many gorgeous beaches that seem to litter the coastline of New Zealand’s islands no matter where you look. It’s spectacular in particular because it has a huge, stunning limestone archway that makes for incredible photo opportunities and has been the site of no small number of proposals throughout the decades.

The Cathedral Cove

Hobbiton. As if New Zealand wasn’t already so fantastical that it sounds fictional, Hobbiton is a real place! After filming the Lord of the Rings movies, the original set was dismantled, but since people kept visiting to see it live, and since the Hobbit movies were on the horizon, it was rebuilt as a more permanent tourist destination. We have a whole guide to visiting it here.

Poor Knight’s Islands. This group of islands off the eastern coast of the North Island is a fantastic place to visit for diving and underwater adventures. On the surface, it doesn’t look like much, but beneath the waves is a marine nature reserve with some fantastic and unique diving, including arches, tunnels, and caves that are incredible to explore. Jacques Cousteau called it one of the ten best diving spots in the world, and that guy knows his stuff.

Taupo Waterfalls. If you know us, you know we love ourselves a good waterfall. Taupo is a region with a lake by the same name fed by the Waikato River, and the Huka Falls waterfall is an incredible, fast-flowing waterfall with a viewing platform nearly right on top of it. Other falls – less spectacular but no less vibrant – litter the region as well, including Otupoto Falls and Tieke Falls.

All of these are outdoor-focused adventures; if you want to spend time in the cities, there’s certainly plenty for you to do there as well.

The Top Things to Do on the South Island

Not to be outdone, the South Island has no shortage of incredible adventures to be found and convenient cities to use as a home base while you explore.

Mount Cook. Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki or Aorangi, is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and reaches an elevation of 3,724 meters above sea level; it’s the 39th tallest mountain on the planet. There are many ways to see it: from the ground, staring into the immense height of the peak, on a flight that takes you around it from above, or even on a boat to the glacial lake.

Mount Cook New Zealand

Larnach Castle. New Zealand wasn’t exactly a European conflict zone, so the need for fortified lordly residences wasn’t high. That means Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle, but what a castle it is. It’s no Neuschwanstein – nothing is, really – but the scenery surrounding Larnach is incredible, and it’s a unique piece of architecture you can’t find anywhere in the world.

Stewart Island. Stewart Island is home to a large and diverse bird population, so if exotic parrots, albatross, penguins, and kiwis tickle your fancy, you can visit the island, hike the hundreds of kilometers of walking trails, and see the wide range of creatures up close and personally.

Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is home to the Milford Sound and the Doubtful Sound, two incredible geographic regions that are some of the most picturesque on an already-picturesque island nation. You can explore by plane, by boat, or on foot, and see why the region is labeled a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Making the Most of a Trip to New Zealand

Planning a romantic itinerary isn’t easy. Make sure to think about the range of experiences and adventures you both want to see and do, whether it’s spending time chilling in the vineyards, exploring the bustling cities, or hiking out into the wilderness.

From there, decide whether you want an all-inclusive package that focuses on those experiences, a handful of tours with plenty of blanks for you to fill in, or a completely flexible itinerary with key points you want to hit along the way.

The Lovers Passport in New Zealand

One nice thing about a trip to New Zealand is that, unlike an isolated island adventure on Bora Bora or a deep backcountry camping adventure in the American Northwest, there are several major cities you can use as your home base, and they have everything you could possibly need. If you forget to pack something, hop on down to a shop, and you can bet they’ll have it. Everything you need to make a romantic trip to New Zealand a success is at your fingertips.

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