New Zealand is magnetic. From the moment the wheels of your plane touch down, you feel grounded to the earth in a metaphysical, spiritual way. When it’s time to go, you feel an aching sadness to have to part with a place that has captured your soul so completely. And everything in between charms, challenges, and inspires.
We spent three weeks in New Zealand. While many backpackers see it as an adventure destination, we explored a little more deeply. Here’s an outline of what we did, with links to detailed posts about each step in our journey.
Feeding our bodies:
- Wine tasting in pretty much every major wine region in the country, whether it was Central Otago, Marlborough, or the North Island
- Dining on the finest burgers New Zealand has to offer in Queenstown
Feeding our souls:
- Experiencing old-fashioned Kiwi hospitality as we hitchhiked up the coast of the South Island
- Getting bowled over by the beauty of nature at Milford Sound, Franz Josef Glacier, and the Abel Tasman National Park
Facing our fears:
- Braving a 7 meter waterfall in Rotorua
- And no, there wasn’t a bungee jump in sight!
Here are some more practical tips I have for anyone who wishes to visit this amazing country.
- The exchange rate may be in your favor, but New Zealand is an expensive place to travel compared to cheaper destinations like Asia or South America. Be prepared to have costs average around $100/day, even if you’re staying in budget digs and eating fast food.
- Be wary of Queenstown. It is such a beautiful, wonderful, fun place that you may find yourself postponing leaving over and over again. Meanwhile, the bars in town are slowly sucking money out of your wallet. I’ve heard many a traveler cry over how much of their budget ended up in Queenstown.
Where to Go:
- Most people will tell you that the south island is where it’s at. This is absolutely true. I recommend spending the majority of your time exploring the south island.
- In the north island, the things I would say shouldn’t be missed are: The Bay of Islands, Rafting in Rotorua, and Waiheke Island. Add Hobbiton if that’s your thing. You can do most of these things in a couple of days using Auckland as your base.
- In the south Island, the things I would say go onto your must-do list are: Milford Sound (or Doubtful if you have the time), Queenstown, either Mount Cook or the Franz Josef/Fox Glacier, and the Abel Tasman. I’ve heard amazing things about Kaikoura, but haven’t been myself.
- This is also not as cheap as other destinations. There are two primary ways travelers get around: Bus, Plane, or Car.
- BUS: Budget travelers focus on Naked Bus or InterCity. Be wary of the Kiwi Experience buses if you’re only visiting for a couple of weeks; these are better suited to longer-term travelers and you will not get your money’s worth for shorter trips. If you will be around for a while, it can be a good way to meet other travelers. Just be conscious that the average age of Kiwi Experience travelers is early/mid-twenties.
- PLANE: The primary airlines are Jetstar or Air New Zealand. They both compete pretty heavily for the Auckland to Queenstown route, so there are deals to be had if you are lucky with timing.
- CAR: There are several campervan rental companies, and all seem to be roughly the same price. Camping in New Zealand is serious business, with thousands of beautiful sites to be found everywhere you go. However, there is also TransferCar, which is a car rental relocation service that asks drivers to move cars from one city to another free of charge. Depending on the deal you find, you can get gas, ferry costs and more covered. We did this from Wellington to Auckland and only had to spend about $80 on gas.
Hope this helps, and happy travels!