New Zealand is a veritable treasure trove when it comes to climbing, making it a favourite destination for mountaineers and cragspeople alike. However, with so many mountains, crags, and rockfaces to choose from it can sometimes be a challenge to pinpoint the very best climbing spots in New Zealand.

The mountainous South Island and the hilly North Island offer a range of different challenges to climbers of all levels. The geological variety found in this volcanically active land provides a unique experience that visitors relish and make New Zealand something of a climbing Mecca.

If you’re making your climbing pilgrimage to New Zealand this year, remember that it will soon be essential to travel with an eTA for New Zealand. This new electronic visa waiver can be easily applied for and authorized online, allowing visitors to visit the country multiple times over a period of 2 years.

Once you’re all set to travel, you’ll just need to pick the perfect spots for your climbing adventure. The following guide will give you a quick introduction to some of the places you’ll find the best peaks and crags that any enthusiast can enjoy on both islands.

Rock Climbing in New Zealand

Homer tunnel under Darran Mountain on Milford Sound Highway, Fio

Photo: Bob / Adobe Stock

With steep slopes and plenty of ridges found all over the North and South Islands, it’s safe to say rock climbers will be spoilt for choice with the pickings on offer. Some of the best areas to target for this purpose include:


The South Island’s impressive Fjordland features favourite tourist spots like Queenstown and Milford Sound, as well as the nearby Darran mountains and Cleddau Valley. This area is full of valley crags and smooth stone bowls that experienced climbers will find irresistible.

Lake Taupo

The North Island’s central inland area is home to the gigantic, volcanic Lake Taupo. Being an area of high geological activity, there are of course plenty of crags and precipices to enjoy. On the western bank of the lake, you’ll find Whanganui Bay and on the northern banks Kawakawa Bay. These are both excellent places to try sport and trad climbing routes while on the North Island.

Castle Hill Basin

If bouldering is more your thing, then it’s worth heading over to the South Island’s Castle Hill Basin. There are four extensive boulder fields found around this area and each is peppered with large limestone boulders and rocks that offer a truly unique climbing challenge.

Alpine Climbing in New Zealand

Young woman climbing mountain ridge in the Alps

Photo: Jakub Cejpek / Adobe Stock

It’s safe to say that the Alpine climbing opportunities in New Zealand are plentiful. The tallest peaks can be found on and around the South Island in the aptly named Southern Alps, which boast mountains of over 3000m as well as a traditional alpine climate.

Central Otago

Close to the popular tourist towns of Queenstown and Wanaka, are a wide variety of popular mountaineering excursions. Mount Aspiring (Tititea) is the most challenging of these at a height of 3,033. However, those seeking a slightly more forgiving experience still have plenty of options available nearby like the aptly named Remarkables mountain range, or Roy’s Peak which offers spectacular views of Lake Wanaka.

Arthur’s Pass

Further North on the Southern Island is the popular Arthur’s Pass national park. There are numerous peaks to enjoy on this route from the East to West of the Southern Alps and the South Island itself. The conditions vary around the peaks where the weather is snowy and changeable in spring and autumn on the East side. Whereas on the West side climbers will find themselves in descending into temperate rainforest.

Mount Cook and Westland National Park

Perhaps the greatest mountain climbing challenge the country and indeed the whole continent of Australasia has to offer is that of Mount Cook (Aoraki). This snow-topped peak of 3,724m is the mountain the local hero Sir Edmund Hillary famously climbed in preparation for his ascent of Everest in 1953. Naturally, it is an absolute favourite destination for aspiring and upcoming mountain climbers the world over.

Other Types of Climbing Found in New Zealand

climbing the franz joseph glacier

Photo: Claus AndersenAagard / Adobe Stock

It’s not just rockfaces and mountains that give visiting climbers that rush of adrenaline they crave. New Zealand is a land of outdoor activities and has lots of other natural and man-made opportunities that thrill-seekers can enjoy.

Bridge Climbing

If you’re in Auckland and want to get your climb on without venturing out into the wilderness, then the perfect experience is waiting for you. Visitors with a good head for heights can enjoy climbing Auckland’s Harbor Bridge for amazing views of the city with guided tours along its specially engineered walkways. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can also bungee off the bridge as well.

Glacier Climbing

New Zealand is a notable hotspot for ice climbers as well as rock climbers. With the Franz Josef and the Fox Glacier on the South Island’s west coast, climbers of all levels can enjoy the unusual experience of scaling a Glacier and its many ice cliffs and crevasses.

New Zealand is well known for being a great destination for an adrenaline junkie and with its rugged, mountainous landscape, it’s clear to see why. No matter if you’re a climber with years of experience under their belt or a complete beginner, there’s plenty of trad, sport, and more extreme climbs to choose from to make your visit to New Zealand truly memorable.