The land of Hobbits and sheep shaggers, New Zealand is an outdoor lover’s paradise. From volcanic mountains to lush fjords those seeking solitude can find it throughout the sparsely populated and beautiful country. For those that the epic landscapes aren’t enough, New Zealand has developed into the world’s leader in adventure activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping and Zorbing. For those with more refined tastes New Zealand has beautiful wine regions complete with vineyards, restaurants and inns. Located even more down under than the land down under, traveling here requires a time commitment, but will reward visitors.
DON’T MISS: The Great Walks (we hiked Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Milford Track and Routeburn Track), they worth the time and money to enjoy some of the world’s best scenery.
MUST TASTE: Ferg Burger in Queenstown, featuring massive burgers made from any meat you want. Make sure to stop by the next door Ferg Bakery and savor their meat pies, hands down the best meat pies we had in both Australia and New Zealand.
TRIP PLANNING: New Zealand is a small country, but if you want to enjoy their world famous hikes plan for at least a month.
GETTING AROUND: Naked Bus, by far the cheapest and easiest option, we would recommend purchasing a “passport” that allows you to change your itinerary for no cost. Contrary to everything you read, don’t rent or buy a car as the cost for gas alone is astronomical.
OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $66.77
COST OF A BEER: $3 from a liquor store, $6 at a bar. A six-pack at a liquor store costs at least $15 NZD, making New Zealand a pricey place to be a drinker. Wine is much more affordable at under $10 a bottle.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Just like Australia Couchsurfing was a great tool, but the biggest money saver was traveling by bus instead of renting/buying a vehicle.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: Internet is not widely available and it’s never free, so don’t plan to do a lot of web browsing in this country. But hey, with views this great who needs the digital distraction?
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We’d move a little faster as traveling in New Zealand is tough on the wallet. We could have cut down our travel to four weeks instead of six and focused on the hiking highlights only.
WE WERE THERE FOR: Six weeks.
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Tramping as New Zealanders call it, hiking as we know it, New Zealand is home to some of the world’s best tracks. We were left in awe by the “Great Walks”, especially Routeburn, Milford and Abel Tasman. If multi-day hikes aren’t your thing, the Tangariro Crossing and dayhike of Abel Tasman may be perfect for you.
WE REGRET MISSING: The North Island highlights mentioned by many backpackers, such as Bay of Islands and Bay of Plenty.
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- Crumbling Christchurch. After two years the city is still in disarray.
- Auckland: The sights and smells of an underrated city.
Auckland sprawls over a narrow isthmus between the sparkling blue waters of the Waitemata Harbor on the Pacific Ocean and Manukau Harbor on the Tasman Sea. This is where we started our New Zealand adventure. The large urban center houses 31% of the country’s population. The volcanoes, lively downtown, fresh seafood and forested hills were a wonderful welcome to the island of New Zealand.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the country’s third-largest urban area. Unfortunately the central city area of Christchurch and some of the City’s eastern suburbs suffered damage from significant earthquake events in September 2010 and again in February 2011. The rebuilding process is slow going and the city was much quieter than we expected. We hope that the city and it’s residents are able to re-build from this disaster.
Hawke’s Bay is located on the east coast of the North Island. The hilly coastal area is beautiful and offers the perfect growing region for grapes. Hawke’s Bay is recognized on the world stage for its award-winning wines. We enjoyed biking to the local wineries, kayaking in Havelock North and strolling through the art deco streets of Napier.
Franz Josef is a one street town, with no stoplights, in the West Coast of New Zealand. The main attraction is the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier where we spent a day exploring. The town is named after the Franz Josef Glacier – itself named by Julius von Haast in honour of the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I of Austria.The beautiful surrounds make the glacier even better. The Waiho River runs from the Franz Josef Glacier to the south, through the town, and into the Tasman Sea to the north-west offering a very picturesque scene.
The Routeburn Track is a world-renowned hiking track found in the South Island of New Zealand. The 32 kilometer hike took us three days and we stayed in the huts, although camping is allowed on this Great Walk. The scenery was stunning and day two of the walk was quite possibly the best hiking we have ever experienced anywhere in the world.
Once described as the finest walk in the world, the Milford Track is New Zealand’s most popular walk, with approximately 14,000 people completing the Milford track each year. The 54.4 kilometer hike takes four days and you must stay in the well maintained huts along the route. We undertook the walk with LOCAVORista’s parents, we enjoyed the scenery and came out with quite a story as LOCAVORista’s father broke his leg and had to be airlifted off the track.
The Kaikoura Peninsula extends into the sea south of the small town, and the resulting upwelling currents bring an abundance of marine life from the depths of the nearby Hikurangi Trench. The town owes its origin to this effect, as it developed as a center for the whaling industry. The name ‘Kaikoura’ translates to ‘meal of crayfish’ (‘kai’- food/meal, ‘koura’ – crayfish) and the crayfish industry still plays a role in the economy of the region. With less than 3,000 people it’s a safe bet that there are more whales in the sea than people in the town.
This tourist mecca on the South Island of New Zealand is a small town with lots of charm. There are various stories about how the town was named, the most popular suggesting that a local gold digger exclaimed that the town was “fit for Queen Victoria”. It is now known for its commerce-oriented tourism, especially adventure and ski tourism. It is popular with anyone who wants to throw themselves out of a plane or off a bridge, we used the town as our base to hike the Great Walks of Milford and Routeburn.
Taupo is located at the center of the North Island on the shores of the huge Lake Taupo. The name Taupo comes from Māori Taupō-nui-a-Tia. Literally translated, it means “The great cloak of Tia” where Tia is the name of the discoverer of the lake. The main attraction in Taupo other than the lake is the 18 kilometer Tangariro Crossing, which has been dubbed as the most beautiful one day walk in the world.
Nelson is a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay established in 1841, it is the second oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island. The nearby Abel Tasman National Park attracts hikers and offers golden sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and well kept paths to enjoy it all. We enjoyed the small town of Nelson as well as the surrounding wine region.
Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand. It is at the southwestern tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range. It is home to 393,400 residents, a robust arts community and the huge Te Papa Museum. We enjoyed this city and it’s beautiful waterfront area.