The big drivers were holiday arrivals, up 15 per cent on the previous 12 months.
Leading the way were holiday arrivals from Australia (up 9 per cent), China (up 13 per cent) and USA (up 24 per cent).
Two key markets are also on the cusp of significant new markers with Germany just 528 visitors away from reaching 100,000 for the year and USA nearly at 300,000 visitors.
The Statistics New Zealand results released today showed that this peak season is on track to be the biggest ever with December 2016 arrivals also a record for the month.
Tourism New Zealand acting chief executive Brighid Kelly said the numbers show just how popular New Zealand has become as a destination.
“This is fantastic result for our industry. International tourism is incredibly competitive. Such a successful year shows how desirable New Zealand is as a destination and how powerful our brand is.
“It’s great to see important markets such as Germany and the USA getting close to big targets. They are high spending visitors who tend to get around the country more than many others.
“While we are pleased to see such a successful peak season, Tourism New Zealand is focussed on getting tourists to visit in the shoulder seasons to spread visitation year-round.”
Tourism New Zealand is currently running shoulder season campaigns to encourage visitors to arrive in the autumn and is running its first region-specific campaign for Northland.
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