This page gives you basic information to help you plan your trip to New Zealand and stories from my New Zealand travel blog. If you’d like to go straight to the stories, click on ‘Latest New Zealand Posts’ on the image 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 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– 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. WorldNomads insurance has been my go-to choice for years and many travel experts agree that it’s one of the best available internationally.
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
I’ve picked out some cool accommodations to stay around the country, very similar to the ones I stayed at. 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 and also find and compare on Booking.com to get the cheapest deal.
Book your hotel in Auckland or consider one of these options:
Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour
The Langham, Auckland
Auckland Harbour Oaks
Winsun Heights Apartments Auckland
Waldorf Tetra Serviced Apartments
YHA Auckland International – Hostel
Nomads Auckland Backpackers
Freemans Backpackers Lodge – Hostel
Somersal Bed & Breakfast
Waitomo Orchard Estate B&B
Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge
Book your hotel in Rotorua or choose one of these:
Arista of Rotorua
Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Book your hotel in Nelson or consider one of these options I picked out:
Century Park Motor Lodge
Cedar Grove Motor Lodge
Book your hotel in Christchurch or consider one of these options:
Ramada Suites Christchurch City
Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch
Bella Vista Motel and Apartments Christchurch
Book your hotel in Greymouth or consider one of these:
Gables Motor Lodge
Alpine Rose Greymouth Motel
The Ashley Hotel
Noah’s Ark Backpackers
Book your hotel or B&B in Fox Glacier village or consider one of these options:
The Church at FOX
Fox Glacier Lodge
Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier
Mt Cook View Motel
Lake Matheson Motel
Book your hotel or B&B in Queenstown or consider one of these options:
Pounamu Apartments Queenstown
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
Scenic Suites Queenstown
Mercure Queenstown Resort
Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park
Holiday Inn Queenstown Frankton Road
Haka Lodge Queenstown – Hostel
Nomads Queenstown Backpackers
YHA Queenstown Lakefront – Hostel
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
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Abel Tasman National Park
Multiday Tours in New Zealand
If organized tours are more your style, here are some tour recommendations.
New Zealand Journey
11 Day Trip going to 10+ destinations on North and South Island of New Zealand for USD 2,999, starting in Auckland and ending in Queenstown.
21 day trip going to 14+ destinations on North and South Island for USD 3,199 starting in Auckland and ending in Wellington.
16 day trip starting in Sydney ending in Queenstown for USD 3,570.
New Zealand Adventure Northbound (ex Christchurch)
22 day trip going to almost ALL the best spots on the North and South Island for USD 5,605.
17 day trip starting in Nadi and ending in Queenstown covering 14+ destinations for USD 4,720.
Some links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you use them to book, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, which goes towards running this blog. That said I never recommend tours, accommodations and products that I wouldn’t book or haven’t booked myself.