18 reasons to visit New Zealand in 2018

If New Zealand has always been on your bucket list, there's no better time to visit than 2018.

The Volvo Ocean Race

With New Zealand awash with the sailing fever that engulfed the nation following its recent America’s Cup win, Auckland will be one of the plum spots to experience the Volvo Ocean Race, from February 24-March 18 2018. The city promises plenty of activities on and offshore to keep fans entertained throughout the racing weeks. You’ll want to book your berth now.

Northland’s Ancient Kauri Trail

One of Northland’s finest self-guided expeditions, the Ancient Kauri Trail is a self-drive route that makes its way through a network of endearing hamlets. Starting just 90 minutes from Auckland, the crowning glory is Waipoua Forest where some of the world’s largest kauri trees grow, including the King of the Forest, Tane Mahuta.

The wine of Aotearoa

There are more than 450 wine experiences to be found on New Zealand Wine's official wine website and in 2018, there are barrels of reasons to visit New Zealand. Toast Martinborough, held each November in the Wairarapa region, promises good times among the vines. Or make your way to FAWC, the Hawkes Bay Food And Wine Classic, also in November. 

New Zealand's cycle trails

New Zealand is paradise for cyclists thanks to all manner of great rides from the National Cycleway – Nga Haerenga – to smaller off-road suburban rides. If your fitness level makes you think twice before climbing on a bike, not to worry, because e-bikes are available to rent in all the big cities and on most of the great rides, from the Otago Rail Trail to the Twin Coast Trail in Northland

The Dark Sky

New Zealand is home to some of the darkest skies on Earth, making for amazing stargazing opportunities. Explore Great Barrier Island, the only island in the world to be granted an International Dark Sky Sanctuary certification. On the South Island, head to Big Sky Stargazing at the foot of Mount Cook or join one of Earth & Sky's tours at Tekapo's Mount John Observatory.

The World of WearableArt

The World of WearableArt™ Awards Show, or WOW, is one of the highlights of Wellington’s annual diary with top designers competing for prizes worth more than NZD165,000. The major drawcard among the various events is the showcase of the world’s most innovative designers. With 2018 being its 30th year since starting out in a Nelson country cottage, they’ll be pulling out all the stops. 

Warbirds over Wanaka

Celebrating 30 years of spectacles in the sky, Warbirds over Wanaka International Airshow is one of the world’s best-loved aviation festivals. Established by Sir Tim Wallis, a pilot looking for a way to showcase his private collection of WWII aircraft, the biennial event is held in one of New Zealand’s most picturesque regions

150 years of beer on wild West Coast

One of New Zealand’s wildest destinations, the rugged West Coast of the South Island has long been the haunt of hard mountain men and miners. And Monteith’s Brewing Company has been there from the beginning, refreshing those thirsty throngs. Celebrating 150 years in 2018, Monteith’s has got quite a few parties planned and a few new beers to mark the occasion. 

Hobbit Day at Hobbiton

With the birthdays of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins on 22 September, International Hobbit Day will be celebrated in style at Hobbiton in 2018. Festivities on the day include a guided tour of the Shire at dusk, relaxing at The Green Dragon Inn and strolls around the Marketplace where stalls hawk Hobbit wares and fresh produce. When the buffet is served, pace yourself, as Shire tradition encourages second helpings. At night, you’ll wander back along lantern-lit trails – pure magic.

Lord of the Rungs at Wild Wire

For many, New Year coincides with a desire to challenge ourselves and set goals. If that sounds like you, Wild Wire’s Waterfall Adventure outside Wanaka could be just the ticket. Climbers ascend using the purpose built via ferrata (“iron road”) system, developed during World War I. There are three climbs of varying levels of difficulty including the pinnacle of climbs, Lord of the Rungs, which includes a journey behind a 6m waterfall and a helicopter descent.

New Zealand’s first bilingual city

Since being recognised as one of New Zealand’s three official languages 30 years ago (alongside English and sign language), Māori has finally been afforded the status it deserved. To further boost the language’s mana (prestige), Rotorua has been declared New Zealand’s first official bilingual city. Already a much-loved tourist destination, Rotorua bubbles with thermal activity, action adventures and cultural highlights. 

Sky Tower’s 21st birthday

The Sky Tower is one of Auckland's iconic landmarks – helpful for visitors wanting to get their bearings and a much-loved part of Auckland’s visual furniture. And the Sky Tower will soon be coming of age, celebrating its 21st birthday in 2018. At 328m, it’s the country’s tallest building and boasts 360-degree views. If you’re feeling daring, you might like to attempt the SkyWalk or the SkyJump.

Queenstown’s QT Hotel

One of the newest kids on the artistic block is the QT Hotel in Queenstown providing guests with an opportunity to enjoy New Zealand’s adventure capital while indulging their penchant for stylish things. With spectacular views, paintings and custom-made furnishings, the QT looks like becoming a special-occasion hotel in 2018.

Te Papa on Valentine’s Day

On February 14 1998, Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum, opened its doors to great fanfare in Wellington – which means 2018 will mark two decades of transporting visitors. Te Papa Tongarewa literally translates as “container of treasures” and with so many wonders under one roof, you’ll want to ensure you have plenty of time to make the most of this marvel. 

Wellington’s LUX Light Festival

This free public light festival in May is a sight for sore eyes, turning Wellington’s waterfront and laneways into captivating spaces that celebrate light, art, design and technology. Getting bolder and brighter each year, LUX Light Festival (Te Ao Marama) features imaginative light sculptures that illuminate nooks and crannies all over the city, transforming spaces and causing visitors to stop and think, perchance to dream. 

Kaikoura’s Hope Springs

There's a new bubbling phenomenon in the enchanting tourist town of Kaikoura on the South Island. Thought to be caused by an earthquake in 2016, the aptly named Hope Springs are sure to become a tourist attraction alongside Kaikoura’s other marvels – whales, dolphins, seals and birdlife. The best way to see this new wonder? A guided kayak tour, of course.

AJ Hackett’s new thrill ride

From the company who are at the forefront of New Zealand’s adventure tourism for close to 30 years comes a new, top-secret thrilling ride. Not much is known about the new AJ Hackett ride, but what is certain is that in 2018 there’ll be a new experience at the site of the Nevis. Tentatively going by the name “Nevis Thriller”, it will combine bungy, flight and serious speed, promising to push people to the limits in ways not previously imagined.

The Golden Oldies

Promising “fun, friendship and fraternity”, the Golden Oldies games in Christchurch in April 2018 is a month-long celebration of sport with the focus on mature participants. As much about the love of sport as it is about winning, you don’t even have to be a member of an existing team to take part, because many teams are eager for extra players. With 10,000 entrants expected to converge on the city, this will be Christchurch’s biggest participant event ever.

Where to next?

Top things to see and do around New Zealand →

New Zealand's top 10 blue wonders →

Ultimate New Zealand bucket list →

Top New Zealand events →