When it came down to deciding on a honeymoon destination following our travel-themed wedding, Elliot and I had no problem choosing one: it was always going to be New Zealand.
Anyone who knows me knows that New Zealand is one of my favorite places in the world. I first fell in love with it in 2005, and have been singing its praises to everyone I know ever since (not to mention re-visiting it multiple times). And going on a honeymoon to New Zealand meant that I could finally share my favorite place with my favorite person, too.
But going on a honeymoon to New Zealand isn't like going on a honeymoon to a tropical location or romantic resort; you don't really go to New Zealand to take it slow or relax by the pool. You go to New Zealand for the adventure.
So I knew we were going to have to plan an adventurous (yet still romantic) New Zealand honeymoon.
The good news is that this is extremely easy to do!
Here are a sampling of some of the adventurous and unique things you can enjoy together on a honeymoon in New Zealand:
Unique things to do on a New Zealand honeymoon
1. Get matching ice cream cones in Auckland
If you're like us, you're going to arrive in New Zealand groggy and drained after a long overnight flight. I recommend at least one day in Auckland to take it slow and adjust. And there's no better cure for jetlag than a walk along the waterfront followed by some delicious ice cream!
At some point in your day, head to Giapo, the innovative ice cream shop that serves up frozen treats as works of art. Since you're on your honeymoon, opt for the “Two Become One,” which adds chocolate heart halves to your cones that fit together for the perfect Instagrammable shot.
(And for those like me who are lactose sensitive, Giapo does some delicious vegan flavors! The Kofe Samoa was my favorite.)
2. Pick out a new home in Hobbiton
Even if you're not a huge Lord of the Rings geek like me, visiting the Hobbiton movie set near Matamata on the North Island can be fun. It can be even more fun if you book the Evening Banquet Tour, which includes a tour of the set AND a two-course hobbit-inspired feast inside the Green Dragon Inn.
We mayyyy or may not have been secretly house shopping among the hobbit holes.
3. Tackle a cool day hike
New Zealand is known for its Great Walks, but these famous treks take multiple days and usually require you to carry all your gear on your back. That's not really MY idea of a fun honeymoon (I'm not really much of a hiker, after all), but the good news is that you can still tackle epic hikes together that only take a few hours as opposed to a few days.
The full-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing is usually viewed as the best day hike in New Zealand, but you can also go on shorter (and easier) walks to places like Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula, Lake Matheson (the mirror lake) on the West Coast, or the Hooker Valley near Mount Cook.
There are TONS of great short walks to tackle in New Zealand.
4. Have High Tea at a fancy hotel
If hiking isn't really for you (or maybe if you get rained out of the Tongariro Crossing like we did), there are still plenty of options for you. Like going to a fancy afternoon tea at an historic hotel. We booked High Tea at Chateau Tongariro on a rainy, foggy day, and it was exactly what we needed.
This hotel in Tongariro National Park dates back to the 1920s and retains much of its historic charm. It's close to the Whakapapa ski field on Mount Ruapehu, too, meaning it would also make a great post-skiing stop if you honeymoon during the winter months.
5. Go on a treetop adventure in Rotorua
A trip to New Zealand isn't complete without getting close to the country's epic nature, and one unique and romantic spot to do this is at the Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua. Yes – THOSE redwoods, like the ones in California.
This redwood grove in Rotorua was planted as an experiment starting in 1901. Most of New Zealand’s native forest had been removed for farming, and they were trying to replace it with various types of trees that they thought would grow well. As it turns out, Rotorua, New Zealand, has an even better climate for growing redwoods than their native California does!
You can admire the redwoods from the forest floor (for free!), but the best way to experience these giants is to do the Redwoods Treewalk. You traverse a series of suspension bridges up in the trees, giving you fantastic views of both the redwoods and the surrounding forest.
Don’t worry, though: the bridges are hung by special sling systems – nothing at all is drilled into these beautiful trees!
And then read about what else you can do in Rotorua.
6. Soak in some hot pools
New Zealand is a very geothermally active country – you'll find geysers and volcanoes and bubbling mud all over, especially on the central North Island. This means that you'll also find plenty of hot pools worth soaking in, many of them natural!
One of my favorites is the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, where you can dip into a variety of thermal pools overlooking Lake Rotorua. The pools are filled with geothermal mineral water sourced from two nearby natural springs, which really does make your skin feel lovely. You can also book a private pool here, which might be more ideal for a honeymoon.
Speaking of private pools… My other favorite place to soak is at the Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown on the South Island. These pools aren't natural, but they're just about as romantic as you can get. You rent a private hot tub for an hour, and soak while overlooking mountains and the Shotover River. You can book a package that includes champagne and chocolate, too, and even some twinkly lights to make it extra romantic.
I'm still daydreaming about this one!
(Note: The Onsen Hot Pools sell out weeks or sometimes even months in advance, so this is something you want to book as soon as you can!)
7. Tandem kayak in Abel Tasman
But back to adventure! A great, low-impact adventure to have together is to go tandem kayaking. There are several places in New Zealand that you can do this, but I think one of the best is in Abel Tasman National Park at the northern end of the South Island.
This is a STUNNING national park that usually has good weather, and getting out on the water in a kayak is the most popular activity here after hiking.
We booked a half-day kayaking tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks, but you can also book hiking + kayaking combos, or even overnight kayaking trips.
8. Kiss inside a glacial ice cave
New Zealand has some very unique glaciers on the West Coast of the South Island. Both the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are temperate maritime glaciers. They extend down from the Southern Alps into temperate rainforest, and at one point extended all the way to the sea.
Sadly, the glaciers are receding quickly, meaning that the only way to hike on them now is to fly up onto them in a helicopter. These heli-hikes are pretty epic, though, and you're bound to see lots of blue ice on your hike. If you're lucky, you can also steal a smooch inside an ice cave.
You can also heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier near Mount Cook, though I think a visit to Westland Tai Poutini National Park is a must in New Zealand!
(Just note that glacier heli-hikes are very weather-dependent, and since annual rainfall on the West Coast is measured in meters instead of centimeters, it does mean that there's a chance you won't get to get up on a glacier. We tried on two different days and still didn't get lucky enough with the weather! Book a glacier heli-hike here.)
9. Swim with dolphins together
I don't often promote wildlife tourism since so much of it is detrimental to animals, but most wildlife tourism in New Zealand is responsible – this is a country where conservation is actually taken really seriously. Therefore, I feel pretty confident in saying that if you've ever dreamed of swimming with dolphins, plan to do it in New Zealand.
In Kaikoura (one of the best spots for marine life sightings in the country) you can swim with huge pods of wild Dusky dolphins with Dolphin Encounter. Or in Akaroa you can swim with extremely rare (and extremely little) Hector’s dolphins with Black Cat Cruises.
Both of these companies are dedicated to providing people with natural wildlife encounters (they'll never feed or “chase” the dolphins), and Black Cat even donates a portion of every ticket sold to conservation and research of Hector's dolphins.
If you're looking for an eco-friendly wildlife encounter to share with your partner in New Zealand, either of these would be a good option!
10. Go tandem bungee jumping in Queenstown
For those who REALLY want an adrenaline rush, you can't leave New Zealand without bungee jumping. The activity in its current form was invented here in New Zealand, and the first commercial bungee jump took place off the Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown in 1988.
You can still jump from this iconic bridge – and it's the only spot in Queenstown (the “Adventure Capital of New Zealand”) where you can do a tandem jump with your sweetie.
Elliot and I did a tandem water-touch jump off the Kawarau Bridge and it was SO. MUCH. FUN.
11. Hold tight to each other in a jet boat
If bungee jumping isn't for you (seriously, no judgment; it's terrifying), you can still partake in another Kiwi-invented adventure sport: jet boating. Jet boats operate essentially like giant jet skis, skimming along the top of the shallow braided rivers that New Zealand is known for.
These boats move FAST and pull 360-degree turns, making these much more exciting than your average pleasure cruise.
The two jet boat adventures I personally recommend are the Shotover Jet in Queenstown (which takes you through the narrow Shotover Canyon), and the Dart River Jet in Glenorchy (which is the only company allowed to operate in Mount Aspiring National Park).
12. Sample some local wines
Lastly, if you DO just want to sit back and relax for a day, you can't go wrong with going wine tasting in New Zealand. This is a wine country, after all, and its many grape-growing regions produce some of the best wines in the world.
Some places I can personally recommend for wine tours include Waiheke Island not far from Auckland; the Marlborough Sounds on the northern tip of the South Island; and Central Otago on the South Island.
Here are some wine tours to check out:
- Food and Wine-Tasting Tour of Waiheke Island from Auckland
- Full-Day Marlborough Wine Tour Including Wine Tasting
- Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown
- Martinborough Wine-Tasting Tour from Wellington
Unique places to stay on a honeymoon in New Zealand
There are many ways to travel around New Zealand (by car, by campervan, by bus, by train), but chances are no matter how you're traveling you'll want to spend at least a few nights of your honeymoon somewhere special.
Whether it's luxury or a rustic retreat you're looking for, you can find it in New Zealand.
Some places to check out include:
- The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in Matauri Bay – This oceanfront property is located on 6,000 acres of land and boasts 3 private beaches, a golf course, and an infinity pool.
- The Resurgence luxury eco-lodge in Abel Tasman – This luxury retreat is perfect for anyone seeking nature, as the lodge has its own hiking tracks near two national parks. You can also enjoy farm-to-table dining on-site.
- Matakauri Lodge in Queenstown – This property only a few minutes from downtown Queenstown is arguably one of the best hotels in the country. The lodge offers luxury suites and villas, each with a private terrace with mountain and lake views.
- Hamurana Lodge in Rotorua – If you're looking for a B&B with some character, the Hamurana Lodge in Rotorua fits the bill. It features views of Lake Rotorua, a pool and spa, and acres of landscaped gardens.
- Rydges in Wellington – Located within walking distance of all the Wellington highlights, you can often find great deals for this hotel. They also have an excellent breakfast.
- Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel – Rated one of the top hotels in Queenstown, this one is a bit kinder on the budget.
- Underhill Valley Earth Huts in Hamilton – Inspired to live like a hobbit after visiting Hobbiton? Well, you kind of can! Underhill is inspired by a hobbit hole, and has all the accompanying charm.
- Tree Crop Farm in Akaroa – Rustic, charming, and just plain funky, Tree Crop Farm is a great place to stay for a romantic getaway. Elliot and I stayed in the Treehouse, which literally was a treehouse – we fell asleep to the sound of birds, night insects, and a babbling brook nearby.
- Hurunui Jacks near Hokitika – If it's glamping you're after, check out Hurunui Jacks on the wild West Coast of the South Island. The roomy site includes a wood-burning stove and outdoor bath nestled in the forest.
New Zealand is also a great place to rent an Airbnb (get some free credit here!), and or to rent a campervan and stay at holiday parks. Elliot and I did this, and found the Top 10 holiday parks to be our favorites.
Who's inspired to plan an adventurous couples' trip to New Zealand now?
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