Discovering Hidden Gems in New Zealand: Why You Need to Visit in 2024

Discovering Hidden Gems in New Zealand: Why You Need to Visit in 2024

Reignite your love for New Zealand!

New Zealand is home to many iconic landmarks and gorgeous natural scenery. Nevertheless, as the Land of the Long White Cloud settles into its quieter, more intimate seasons, there are tons of lesser-known treasures worth exploring. Read on and find out about the hidden gems and experiences in New Zealand that are perfect for the off-peak travel season. If you’ve been seeking a sign to visit this enchanting country whilst avoiding the tourist hordes, this is it!

Also read: 17 Breathtaking Airbnbs in Queenstown With Mountain and Lakeside Views

Unique experiences and hidden gems in New Zealand you shouldn’t miss

1. Chase the Southern Lights

Watching the enchanting Southern Lights is undoubtedly an event at the top of many travellers’ bucket lists! During the autumn and winter months which range from March to August, there’s nowhere better to catch the vivid Aurora Australis than the Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura, in the south of New Zealand. Keep your fingers crossed and increase your chance to catch this spectacular phenomenon by visiting during the autumn and winter months.

With the right weather conditions, lucky viewers will be able to catch this celestial light phenomenon in the sky. Once you’ve landed in Stewart Island, head to locations such as Lee Bay car park, Moturau Moana Gardens, and Observation Rock & Ackers Point Lighthouse for a clear view of the sky and a higher chance to view this alluring light show!

2. Admire the coastal view on a scenic train ride

The Coastal Pacific train is already renowned for its array of short break packages as well as rail tours. These train tours are designed to inspire visitors to venture beyond the train and immerse themselves in the astonishing sceneries of Marlborough and Kaikōura Coastline. Recently, the introduction of its Scenic Plus dining experience will provide passengers with an even more appealing venture, celebrating the coastal culture of New Zealand and offering an array of regionally inspired flavours! 

What comes together with this unique dining journey are breathtaking seaside vistas and intimate perspectives of Marlborough’s globally acclaimed vineyards, ensuring a truly remarkable gastronomic and sightseeing experience. 

3. Ski at Mount Ruapehu

Visiting New Zealand during wintertime? Then don’t miss out on a series of fun winter activities at Mount Ruapehu! Situated in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, Mount Ruapehu is home to two epic ski areas – Whakapapa and Tūroa which span 1050 hectares. During the winter months from June to October, visitors can experience skiing, sledging, and snowboarding in the terrain.

There will be lessons conducted for first-timers through to advanced skiers and riders, so don’t worry even if you’ve never stepped foot on snow! For those seeking a more leisurely experience, there is also a snow play area to enjoy. Additionally, you can also take a ride on the Sky Waka Gondola and relish in the panoramic view of the snow-covered mountains!

4. Chill out in a whisky hut after skiing

An apres-ski experience can also be defined as an “after-skiing experience”, basically referring to the famous post-skiing activities. For one of the most exclusive apres-ski experiences, check out The Bad Decision at Glenmore Station, a bivvy-style whisky hut that’s believed to be the highest in the world!

Chilling and sipping whisky with your loved ones after skiing while taking in the enchanting vistas of Takapō (Lake Tekapo) and Mount Cook National Park, doesn’t it sound amazing? Before all that, remember to purchase your choice of whisky in advance. Non-alcohol enthusiasts can also stop by other huts at Glenmore Station to rejuvenate while soaking up the sun outside or find serenity indoors.

5. Dine under the stars at Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat

Up for a fine dining experience under the stars? Through the exclusive “Billion Star Dining” experience at Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat, you can uncover the allure of the Dark Sky Reserve. This unique dining and stargazing adventure is perfect for small gatherings and is the best during off-peak seasons like autumn and winter. It begins with a delectable four-course, seasonal tasting menu at Moraine Lodge, followed by a stargazing experience at Pukaki Wine Cellar and Observatory for groups of two to 12 guests.

Image credit: Sébastien Goldberg

The Observatory boasts a retractable roof and is equipped with a powerful 6-inch refractor telescope. When the roof opens, it offers a captivating view of the cosmos. Visitors can observe the rings of Saturn and bands of Jupiter, as well as sparkling star clusters, nebula and planets. How cool! 

6. Join an oyster farm tour in Ōhiwa

A one-of-a-kind interactive experience suitable for autumn and winter seasons, embark on an exceptional journey with Tio Ōhiwa and its cruise tour. Here, you’ll learn about the rich history and cultural significance of the harbour, while having fun at places which include the Ōhiwa Oyster Farm, Ohakana Island, and Tauwhare Pā

What’s better, you’ll get to witness the beauty of Ōhiwa throughout the adventure, all while having a hands-on experience with the ocean’s bounty. That’s right — the tour’s engaging oyster experience allows you to master the art of shucking oysters and indulge in a delectable kaimoana (seafood) tasting!

7. Go whale watching at Kaikōura Canyon

Since the 1980s, the Kaikōura Canyon on New Zealand’s South Island has been a major tourist attraction for whale-watching. This place is known for its deep depths and proximity to sperm whales. Along with clear skies and snow-covered mountain peaks in the backdrop, it guarantees an amazing whale-watching experience. For your upcoming trip to New Zealand during the off-peak seasons, include the whale-watching and culinary tour by Hapuku Kitchen and South Pacific Helicopters in your itinerary!

You will begin by exploring one of New Zealand’s unique marine life canyons, as well as observing abundant marine and birdlife. Afterwards, enjoy a seasonal lunch, tasty wine, and a chance to interact with farm animals at the world-class Hapuku Kitchen!

8. Visit the Te Pā Tū (Tamaki Māori Village)

Any time is a good time for an immersive cultural experience in New Zealand. Operating all year round, Te Pā Tū (previously known as Tamaki Māori Village) is another must-visit destination to explore the vibrant Māori culture. Matariki is a special occasion in the New Zealand calendar which marks the start of the Māori New Year. You’re warmly invited to experience Tu Te Ihi, also known as the Winter Matariki Celebration!

Here, you will participate in a memorable four-hour journey filled with fascinating performances, and delightful kai (Māori cuisine). Think blazing bonfires, a forest amphitheatre, and a lavish fusion feast! 

9. Indulge in a Polynesian Spa in Rotorua

For a truly rejuvenating experience, make the most of the autumn and winter seasons by indulging in a soothing hot spring spa. If you’re travelling to New Zealand during these times, pamper yourself by planning a visit to the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua. Home to 28 different geothermal mineral pools with natural spring water, it provides day spa and bathing packages for all types of travellers, including big families.

Beyond relaxing the mind, these pools are beneficial for the body as well. The slightly acidic Priest Spring waters are high in sulphate and relieve muscle aches and joint pains. The alkaline waters of the Rachel Spring, on the other hand, are abundant in sodium, with skin-nourishing benefits that leave it silky smooth!

10. Experience forest bathing

Dive into the tranquillity of nature with the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku, also known as ‘forest bathing,’ right in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It allows you to immerse in the forest atmosphere comprehensively, with activities such as indulging in guided forest walks, outdoor tea ceremonies, and a range of other revitalizing activities.

Unwind and enter a stress-free environment where you can concentrate on the sounds of leaves rustling, dew-covered moss, and pīwakawaka (fantail birds) fluttering among the trees. There are a variety of forest bathing and therapy walk locales available in New Zealand, such as Waiheke Island, Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat, and Maruia River Retreat for you to genuinely unwind and connect with nature. 

11. Enjoy vibrant cherry blossoms at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Speaking of vivid cherry blossoms, New Zealand is probably not the first country that comes to mind. However, what many travellers don’t know is that the country is blessed with an abundance of pinky cherry blossoms and floral blooms in spring (September to November)! For nature enthusiasts, the Auckland Botanic Gardens is one of the must-visit attractions during New Zealand’s off-peak seasons.

A true gem with more than 10,000 plants, Auckland Botanic Gardens houses several gardens such as the Spring Blossom Valley, Native Forest, Perennial Garden, as well as the Camellia Garden and Magnolia Garden which are home to the largest collection of camellias and magnolias in the country. In addition to the picturesque cherry blossoms in spring, this place remains open all year round, so there’s always something gorgeous to see as the seasons change. 

12. Discover the extraordinary Moeraki Boulders at Koekohe Beach

If you find yourself driving along the North Otago coast, a stop to marvel at the remarkable Moeraki Boulders is a must! One of the most mesmerising natural wonders in New Zealand, the Moeraki Boulders, also known as Kaihinaki on Koekohe Beach, are a collection of huge, unique spherical “stones”. 

These boulders are concretions exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs, and the formation began approximately 60 million years ago in ancient sea floor sediments. Some of these boulders weigh several tons, and the largest ones can stretch over 2 metres wide! The scenic beach is home to several cosy cafes and ample parking space. We recommend visiting during the spring and autumn months for the best experience!

Also read: 12 Best Places to Visit in New Zealand During Spring

There you have it: a list of hidden gems and new experiences you should check out when travelling to New Zealand during the off-peak season! So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to plan a trip to this lovely country in 2024! For more trip planning ideas, visit

Brought to you by Tourism New Zealand.

Images credited to Tourism New Zealand, unless otherwise stated.

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.