This page gives you basic information to help you plan your trip to New Zealand and stories from my New Zealand travel blog plus practical information on New Zealand itineraries and New Zealand road trips. If you’d like to go straight to the stories, click on ‘Latest New Zealand Posts’ below.
Blessed with a landscape that does not even begin to be described by the grossly inadequate word ‘beautiful’, New Zealand is possibly the most fascinating country I’ve traveled to. I’ve often said that my heart is in the mountains and on the trail and New Zealand has plenty of those places.
Traversing the length of the country from the North Island to the South Island, you get to experience everything that makes for an unforgettable New Zealand road trip; vibrant culture, friendly people, delicious food, and a never ending treasure of natural wonders unlike anywhere else. And it’s THE most tourist-friendly country I’ve been to- everything is easy in New Zealand even if you’re not from around.
Whether it’s looking up in stupefied astonishment at the starlit ceiling of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, watching seals sunbathe as you kayak through the Abel Tasman National Park, jumping off a cliff to paraglide in Queenstown or learning how to dance with the indigenous Maori, the country does not run out of experiences that truly amaze you, regardless of how well-traveled you may be. It is a great country to hire a campervan, take a long road trip, and chance upon gorgeous unknown spots that you may well have all to yourself. The local greeting ‘Kia Ora’ translates to ‘Be well’ and by the time you get to the end of your NZ trip, you’ll be so much more.
What To Pack
For the outdoors: In New Zealand, you will be spending most of your time outdoors, how can you not? You’ll hike, kayak, swim, ski, paraglide, zipline, bungee… you get the idea. So good adventure wear, waterproof hiking shoes and other gear is a must. If you plan to camp a few nights, then carry camping gear or buy it in the country (where it can be expensive).
If you’re visiting in winter, thick warm jackets, beanies, thermals, layers, scarves, gloves, socks etc need to be carried. Don’t count on ‘getting it there if you need it’ because stores shut early during winter in most towns, and this stuff is expensive in the country.
Other than the obvious things like clothes and shoes for the city (stress on comfort over style), here are a few things to pack for NZ.
Must Haves for New Zealand
- Hiking shoes
- Activewear t-shirts
- Hiking pants or activewear tights
- Swimwear to wear to hot springs and thermal pools
- Day pack
- CamelBak Water Bottle to carry on hiking trips or day tours
- Dry bag to put your valuables in for when you go kayaking
- Fast-drying Microfiber Travel towel
- A good camera
- Good, warm hiking shoes
- Warm jacket if you’re visiting in winter
- Warm hiking pant
- Warm buff or scarf
- Thermal underwear- bottoms and tops
- Merino wool socks
- Winter hat
For the cities: People are dressed simply and casually- it’s all very laid-back and I did not see an excessive or any obsession with big brands or such.
The official languages in New Zealand are English, Māori, and NZ Sign Language. Everyone speaks English and it’s a breeze to communicate everywhere in the country.
Need To Know
The best way to travel across the country is to rent your own vehicle and do a New Zealand road trip, whether it’s a car or a campervan you decide to get, shop around there are plenty of options across a range of budgets.
On road trips allow plenty of time for delays and unexpected stops- you will find spots that are so beautiful that you’ll want to stay longer, take photos etc. To truly enjoy everything NZ has to offer, do not rush. In NZ especially, it’s all about the journey.
If you’re traveling in NZ during or around winter and on a tight schedule, be prepared for some disappointment- adventure activities like skydiving, rafting or glacier walks are often cancelled due to unfavourable weather.
If you really have to do everything you planned, allow extra days to reschedule activities.
Your travels in New Zealand will take you to many exciting adventures and you need to ensure that you’re properly insured. Trust me, sound travel insurance saves your ass when you least expect it and can salvage a travel situation gone bad.
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home.
Where To Stay in New Zealand
I’ve picked out some cool accommodations to stay around the country, very similar to the ones I stayed at and some that are the same. While I chose budget and mid-range accommodations for the most part, the odd splurge for luxury hotels did happen in bigger cities. You can check prices for these hotels below:
Book your hotel in Auckland or consider one of these options:
Hilton Auckland Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour
Winsun Heights Apartments Auckland
Waldorf Tetra Serviced Apartments
YHA Auckland International – Hostel
Freemans Backpackers Lodge – Hostel
Book your hotel in Rotorua or choose one of these:
Book your hotel in Nelson or consider one of these options I picked out:
Book your hotel in Christchurch or consider one of these options:
Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square
Ramada Suites Christchurch City
Bella Vista Motel and Apartments Christchurch
Haka Lodge Christchurch – Hostel
YHA Christchurch Rolleston House
Book your hotel in Greymouth or consider one of these:
Book your hotel or B&B in Fox Glacier village or consider one of these options:
Book your hotel or B&B in Queenstown or consider one of these options:
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
Rydges Lakeland Resort Queenstown
Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park
Holiday Inn Queenstown Frankton Road
Haka Lodge Queenstown – Hostel
YHA Queenstown Lakefront – Hostel
Tours in New Zealand
Why might you be interested in a tour? The fact is that New Zealand isn’t a small country, driving times are long, and if you don’t travel across the country and instead choose to base yourself in one part, you don’t see everything that’s worth seeing.
If you’re short on time, don’t want to drive everywhere yourself, or want to skip the pains of organization, a tour might actually be more practical.
Alternatively, you could drive between bases, like we did, and then take day trips to see some places that are hard to get to or need an entire day of driving.
Either way, I’ve listed both day tours and trips in New Zealand, similar to the ones we took, all departing from major cities, and also ten to three week organized tours that take you to the best spots on the North and South Island. Whatever your style, I’ve done the groundwork, so I hope this helps you.
Day Trips and Tours from Major Cities
Auckland City Hop on Hop off Bus
Half Day City Tour with a visit to the Sky Tower
Tour of Wineries including Lunch and a visit to a Volcanic Black Sand Beach
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Tour of Maori Village, Cultural Performance and Traditional Meal
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park Cruise and Trekking tour
One Hour Double Decker Bus Tour
Four-Course Dinner on a Tramway Restaurant
Jet Boating and Underwater Observatory in Queenstown
Scenic Heli-Flight over Queenstown
Half-day Wine Tour from Queenstown
Visit Middle Earth from Queenstown
Milford Sound Coach, Cruise and Walk from Te Anau
Guided Half-day Hike on Milford Track
Milford Sound Cruise and Kayak tour