New Zealand Travel Buddy

Plan Your Next Trip to New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the world’s least crowded countries, with more sheep than inhabitants, making it a dream destination for travellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and indulge in a peaceful get-away. 

With unspoiled natural landscapes, surfing beaches, and endless adventure, it is no surprise why New Zealand is admired by many. With so many destinations to choose from, it could be overwhelming where to start so use this guide to get you set on the right track. 

Top Things to do in New Zealand

Great Walks

New Zealand has 10 Great Walks spanning across the North and South Island. These multi day hikes are the best trails in the country offering visitors outstanding natural beauty, a well kept track and sleeping huts. If you are planning to take on the challenge of completing a Great Walk you should book your spot in the hut a month or so in advance. Take with you all the appropriate equipment and clothing to ensure you are prepared for all elements. 

Surfing

No matter where you are the nearest beach is never more than 3 hour drive away. Luckily so many beaches have great surf breaks and even smaller waves for anyone new comers looking to take a lesson. One of the best surf hot spots is in Raglan where you will find a cute surf town and very nice coffee.

Water and snow skiing

Take your pick of glass like lakes or smooth ski slopes for your next ski adventure. Both the north and south island have ski fields with gear available for hire. If you are visiting in the summer why not partake in some waterskiing in one of the lake districts. Lake Rotoiti in central North Island or Queenstown in the south with Wanaka or Hawera being the post popular.

Bungy Jumping

AJ Hackett has two popular jumps that travellers can do, one being in Taupo and the other Queenstown. You will be jumping off a ledge that is 134 metres high on the Queenstown jump so only commit if you are comfortable with heights.

Waitomo Caves

You may have never heard of Black Water Rafting and we are not surprised. Simply put it's rafting through a very dark cave. Waitomo Caves offer different boat or walking tours to see the glow warm filled caves but the most unique would be the rafting. You will be equipped with a head torch, helmet, life jacket and wetsuit.

The 6 best Instagram Spots in New Zealand

Maori Rock Carving at Whakaipo Bay

Only reached by boat, kayak or stand up paddle board these giant Maori carvings will have you wondering to yourself how they got there. This impressive artwork is 14 metres high and was carved into the rock face in 1980.

Lake Matheson

Admire the perfectly clear mirrored reflection of Mount Cook, the highest peak in the country, across this west coast lake. Take a easy stroll around Lake Matheson to capture this epic shot.

Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei) Coromanadel 

Reachable by a 45 minute walk or by boat this large cove is a popular place to visit for locals or tourists. The best time to visit is around sunset to capture the beautiful beach and its this amazing cove during golden hour. 

Clay Cliffs Omarama, Waitaki

These crazy rock formations have been compared to the surface of mars but luckily this gem is found much closer in south island. 

Mount Mauganui Summit

This is one of New Zealand’s most popular beaches, and for good reason. Mount Maunganui should be high on your list if you’re passing through the Bay of Plenty region. You can choose to walk the beach or hike up the mountain with stunning panoramas of the Tauranga Harbour. 

Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown

Treat yourself to a luxury dip in one of Onsens Hot Pools that overlook the rugged landscapes of the canyon and river below. 

The Best New Zealand Travel Itinerary

With New Zealand being such a long plane ride for most it makes sense to stay for as much time as you have available. We would recommend three to four weeks to really explore the full charm of this country. 

Depending on your personal style when it comes to travelling the list below can be adjusted to suit you. The south island has incredible mountains and a more rugged landscape prefect for those who love skiing, climbing and multi day hiking trips. The north island has a warmer climate and is more favorable for beaches, cities trips and shorter day trips to waterfalls through native New Zealand forest.

Day 1-3:

Northland

Take a journey to the very northern most part of the country to see the lighthouse of Cape Reinga and enjoy the adrenaline rush of sliding down the Giant Sand Dunes on a boogie board- available for hire for around NZ$15 (9€).

Stay the night Paihia or Waitangi in the Bay of Islands and take the public ferry across to Russel to see where the original capital or New Zealand was. 

Day 4-6: 

Coromandel

Just three hours from Auckland is the Coromandel Peninsula. Some of the highlights for visitors to the area is Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, The Pinnacles Hike, and the countless white sand beaches.

One of the coolest views and possibly hardest to reach is atop the hill overlooking New Chums Beach near Whangapoua. 

Day 7-9:

Taupo and Rotorua

Situated right in the centre of the North Island is New Zealands biggest lake, Taupō. Surrounding the lakes edge and all the way to Rotorua are vast areas of geothermal activity forming many geysers, hot springs and brightly colored patches of earth. Huka falls is a must-see waterfall releasing an astonishing quarter of a million litres of water per second. 

Rotorua is the cultural centre for Māori heritage with many visitors stopping here to learn more about the beautiful traditions and history. While you are here you can see the Te Puia geysers and the geothermal mud pools. 

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a challenging 19km day hike that scales a volcano called Tongariro and passes by the magical Emerald Lakes- all the while being overshadowed with the snowy peaks of Mount Ruapehu in the background. 

Day 10-13:

Wellington

New Zealands capital city is known best for being a hip, foodies paradise that features a stunning waterfront. Check out the Parliament building which is appropriately named the Beehive. Climb Mount Victoria to see an impressive view of the city’s basin-like landscape below. 

There are great coffee, food and clothing shops in this city but a must-visit it during your stay is Te Papa museum.

Day 14-17:

Tasman 

After a short flight or ferry crossing from Wellington you will reach the Tasman Region. The ferry lands in Picton which is the gateway to the south island. Stay on night in the Malborough Sounds and check out the Queen Charlotte Track. 

With plenty to see here you can begin your stay in Nelson and explore from there. Cable Bay, Kaiteriteri, Golden Bay, and Farewell Spit are just a few highlights. Visit Wharariki Beach known for being the iconic PC screensaver. Te Waikoropupu Springs are an absolute must see during your time in Tasman.

The focal point for many visitor is the Able Tasman Nation Park. Choose between a multi day hike or for a unique adventure try sea kayaking across this incredible national park. 

Head one hour or so south to Lake Rotoiti to marvel at the clear waters and long wharf. Have an early start to complete the Mt Roberts Circuit, with an option to stay overnight in a mountain hut.  

Day 18-22:

Central Otago

Queenstown is the most commonly known destination for travellers heading to New Zealand. This Central Otago town is a hot spot for adventure enthusiast and those wanting a nice holiday. Arrowtown, Lake Wanaka, the Cadrona Hotel, Onsen Hot Pools, and Treble Cone ski field should not be missed on your visit here. 

Roys Peak is a 6-hour hike is worth every gruelling step. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with epic views of Mount Aspiring, the Matukituki Valley, and Lake Wanaka.

Lake Pukaki near Twizel is mineral rich lakes that on a sunny day will turn a bright blue color. At the far end of this lake is the road that leads to Aoraki/ Mount Cook which is the highest mountain in the country. Take the 5km hike to Hooker Lake to see the frozen waters while being towered over by Aoraki. Tasman Glacier and Lake are nearby and well worth bearing the cold short walk to the viewing point.

Day 23-26:

Fiordland

Milford in the Fiordland region is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural attractions. Noted as one of the most beautiful places in the entire country. Towering mountains, lush forest, hundreds of falling waterfalls, and even dolphins. Sounds like a piece of heaven if you ask us. You and your New Zealand travel mate can explore the sound by kayak, tour boat, or plane. 

Check out Lake Marian and Lake Quill for a jaw dropping view.

Day 27-30:

West Coast

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are two incredible natural phenomenons that can be visited by helicopter tour. If that isn’t in your budget you can hike to a viewing platform. Check out the Pounamu or Green Stones in Greymouth and enjoy the surrounding hikes in the area.

Hokitika Gorge, Lake Matheson, Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks are all definitely worth a visit on your way along the coast.

Best Time to Visit New Zealand

Summer is a great time to visit New Zealand as there are so many epic spots to go for a swim, whether it’s a beach, lake or river. The summer months range from December through to February, but the sun is still strong in March. You can expect to experience temperatures as high as 32 degrees in peak summer, however keep in mind there is typically a drop in temperature in the evenings so keep some layers handy.

The springs months of September through to December are a nice time as the nature starts to come alive again after a cold winter. This is a great time of year to do some hiking as the day are warm but not extremely hot- on average around 20 degrees.

Hidden Gems in New Zealand

This list of hidden gems are going to take your travels to the next level. These secret destinations will help you discover the raw natural beauty of New Zealand and with some luck you may be one of the very few tourists there. 

Here are the Top 7 hidden gems in New Zealand to inspire you for your trip.

Mount Taranaki

On the west coast of the North Island you will find the region of Taranaki. Most famously known for the beautifully symmetrical Mount Taranaki. You can travel here on the Forgotten World Highway to see the beauty of the king country, tunnels, forests, all while traveling on an unsealed road. You can book accommodation in the local town of New Plymouth on your stay to the region.

The hike to the summit of Mount Taranaki will be a highlight activity on your trip here. The climb can be challenging but worth it once you reach the top measuring in at 2518m high. The best time to hike is from January to April as there is usually no ice or snow at the top.

Hawke’s Bay

Just a two hour drive from Lake Taupo is Hawke’s Bay. This region offers travelers many treasures that are usually missed off the typical New Zealand travel itinarery. In the northern most part of the region you will find Mahia Peninsula that has great white sand beaches and surfing. Havelock North is a nice village with great nearby wineries such as Black Barn who often put on great music festivals, open air cinemas and a local food market on a Saturday morning. 

Waimarama is a great beach to visit and you can even stop by Maraetotara Falls on your way there to jump into the icy cold waters. Te Mata Peak is a giant feature of the region that can’t be missed. There are many mountain biking trails and walking tracks to take you to the top to get the best panoramic view of the region. We would suggest to stay in Te Awanga or Napier. Don’t miss the best kept secret of Bell Rock Hike.

East Cape Road Trip

If you have the time to meander your way up the East Cape of the North Island then you are in for a treat. First on the agenda should be a slide down Rere Rock Slide. Then start your road trip In Gisborne and head up towards Tologa Bay, Hicks Bay, and ending around Opotiki. Te Puia Hot Springs are a nice place to aim for to swim in the thermal pools. If you are equipped with camping gear then you can park up at any of the secluded beaches to stay for a night. 

Stewart Island (Rakiura)

Fishing, diving, hiking, and relaxing are some of the activities you can do on your visit to Stewart Island. This is New Zealand’s third largest island and can be found right at the bottom of the South Island. If you can make it this far south then you may be faced with the opportunity to see Kiwi birds in the wild. 

Great Barrier Island

Some say the best things in life are those you have to wait for… Great Barrier Island is one of them. After a 4-hour ferry ride, you can discover the magical beauty of this island. White sandy beaches, hidden waterfalls around every corner, and natural hot springs are just some of the highlights.

Hanmer Springs

North of Christchurch is Hanmer Springs which boasts amazing natural hot springs, white water rafting, jet boat rides, and plenty of great hiking. Soak in the hot pools and enjoy the small boutique shops in this small yet magical town.

Raglan

For our inner surfer dude. This little surf town is perfect for those who want to take things a little bit slower… One of the best off-the-grid places to visit in New Zealand. You and your travel companions can sit back and enjoy the rugged beauty this west coast town has to offer. Enjoy some great coffee from Raglan Roast after a surf in the waves. A good hike to do is either Karioi or to Marokopa Falls.

Getting Around New Zealand

New Zealand is a big country with a relatively small population meaning transport options are not as frequent as other countries but with a rental car or camper van you can optimise your time in this beautiful country. Having the ability to reach remote areas and stop on the ride of the road to snap a picture is ideal but if this is not in your budget the list below will explain your other options.

Bus

Intercity is the main company to travel between the main cities and towns of New Zealand. Visit their website to check the schedule and book your ticket. If you are relying on public transportation to get around a city you can expect to struggle in any small town. The main cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have great bus systems.

Air

Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main airlines that operate in New Zealand. Air New Zealand service all cities where Jetstar doesn't have as many travel routes. The flight times are usually short with the longest domestic flight being just over two hours. 

Car or campervan rental

Ultimately the most efficient way to travel is by camper van or car. Jucy or Happy Camper are two trusted rental companies in New Zealand. You can collect your home on wheels at the Auckland Airport when you land. If you prefer to book a proper bed on your travels then a small car will be sufficient. 

Inter- Island Ferry

As this country is made of two main islands travels should be informed of their options when it comes to crossing the Cook Strait. InterIslander and Bluebridge are the only companies completing the ferry crossing offering both foot passengers and vehicles. Book your ticket in advance to ensure you have a ticket as these ferrys can often sell out.

Kiwi Experience

If you are wanting an easy and fun way to travel with other backpackers then sign up for the hop-on hop-off bus tour called Kiwi Experience.

What does it cost to travel to New Zealand

New Zealand is on the higher end of the scale in terms of prices so budget wisely on your travels. The high prices should not stop you from enjoying your time on this far away enchanting place. 

Daily costs, on average to consider when traveling to New Zealand:

a) Budget-friendly: NZ$75 (45€)

b) Mid-range budget: NZ$272 (166€)

c) High budget: NZ$328 (200€)

Accommodation:

a) Budget-friendly:

·  a hostel: around NZ$27 (16€) per night for a single bed in a shared dorm

·  a small and basic hotel room NZ$80 (48€)

 

b) Mid-range budget:

·  Hotel rooms with private bathroom can be anywhere around NZ$130 (80€)

·  a simple one-bedroom apartment NZ$155 (95€)

c) High budget:

·  a private hotel room NZ$180-260 (110-160€)

 

Food:

a) Budget-friendly:

·  Sandwiches or salads from cafes can be around NZ$12 (7€)

·  Many takeaway places have lower prices such as a burger for NZ$15 (9€)

 

b) Mid-range budget:

·  A meal in a simple restaurant will cost around NZ$22 (13€)

 

c) High budget:

·  Upper restaurants: about NZ$32 (19€) and upwards for a meal without drinks

 

Transportation:

a) Budget-friendly:

·  Inter city bus: NZ$36 (22€)

 

b) Mid-range:

·  Plane: A short domestic flight can range anywhere from NZ$80-230 (48- 140€)

 

c) High budget: 

·  Hiring a car is the preferred mode of transport as it allows you to see more. It could cost approximately NZ$3500 (2140€) for one month. 

Must-Try Foods in New Zealand

When you are in New Zealand you will have to try these unique tasty treats. The list below will tell you what to order as you travel so you can blend in as one of the locals. 

Mince Pie

One of the most classic foods that is loved by Kiwis is the Mince Pie. With many variations this cheap and quick takeaway is a great chance for you to taste the real flavors of New Zealand.

Marmite on Toast

Perhaps not for everyone, Marmite on toast is a very common breakfast option for Kiwis. Don’t knock it til you try it but make sure you spread it thinly to have it the most authentic way.

Paua Fritters

Seafood is a huge part of New Zealand culture, naturally with is being surrounding by oceans. Paua is a black shell fish that can be made into tasty fritters. Don’t be so fast to throw away the shell as it has a beautiful mosaic like interior that many make into jewellery. 

Feijoa

This fruit has a unique flavour that has been compared to pineapple and guava. During the autumn months you can try this delicious fruit, most popularly used as a juice or eaten with a teaspoon straight from the tree. 

Hangi

Mostly prepared for special cultural occasions, a Hangi is a traditional form of cooking with hot rocks and baskets of food buried under the ground for 7-8 hours. Vegetables such a potatoes, kumera (sweet potato), pumpkin and meat like pork, chicken or lamb are all cooked in this earth oven to create amazing smoky flavors.

L&P

This refreshing lemon flavoured drink can be found almost everywhere across the country and will become your new go-to. L&P stands for lemon and Paeroa, named after the main ingredient and the town in which it was founded. If you drive through the small town of Paeroa you will see the giant L&P bottle statue and can buy a bottle from the original store.

Travel Tips for New Zealand 

Here are some important things to note before visiting New Zealand. Knowing this information will help you enjoy your time here.

Entry requirements

As each nationality has different requirements to enter the country. To find the relevant information for your own visa to New Zealand, check through the Immigration Government website. 

Currency

The currency used here is the New Zealand Dollar. ATMs are plentiful and it’s possible to exchange cash at the airport if you carry USD or Euros. Card is commonly used throughout the country so you can easily travel without cash.

1 NZD  = 0.64 USD

1 NZD  = 0.61 Euro

Language

New Zealand has three offical languages, English, Maori and Sign Language. English is the primary language, however, you will need to familiarize yourself with the pronunciation of Māori as many place names are in Maori. For example, Tauranga is pronounced ‘toe-rong-a’.

Tap water

New Zealand has very clean water and is very safe for drinking everywhere you go. Bring with you a reusable drink bottle to save buying plastic water bottles. 

(Updated: 2022)

As featured in