When: 22 Sept – 11 Oct 2016 (21 nights and 19 days of exploring)
New Zealand is known to be a famous destination for lots of travelers. We knew that going there was going to be an epic experience but we did not realized how deeply breathtaking and unique are the landscapes we were about to see. From high mountains covered with fresh snow to infinite white sand beaches, strong cultural identities and the kindness of this people, New Zealand is more than just a tourist destination. It’s the kind of place that you’ll keep in mind forever.
We put up together this guide with everything you should know before leaving and our favorites and tips to help you plan your trip. We will post our itinerary with tips from every location we went to in just a couple of days until then you can check out our video bellow.
WHAT TO KNOW/EXPECT
Visa: No need to apply for a visa if your country figures in this list here you will be granted one upon arrival and you will be able to stay up to 3 months.
Health: No vaccins are required to enter the country. The sun is very harsh in NZ as there is a whole in the ozone layer, so always carry sunscreen and put it on even when it’s cloudy.
Safety: New Zealand is the safest country I travelled to, the inhabitants are the most kindest in the world and the crime rate is very low. You should still take the same care with your personal safety and your possessions as you would in any other country.
Language: English and Maori.
People: New Zealand was originally inhabited by the Maoris, indigenous Polynesian people, and was then colonized by the British in 1840.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar NZ$
Bank & Atm: All major credit cards can be used in the country and ATM’s are widely available.
Biosecurity: Since New Zealand drifted away from the super-continent, a unique flora and fauna has evolved, leaving a land full of interesting plants and creatures and to protect them you can not bring anything you want to the territory and you will have to pass the biosecurity upon arrival. Make sure you declare everything otherwise you will have expensive fines, and they’re not kidding there.
Geography and Geology: New Zealand has become very popular these past years and there is no wonder why as this country offers a variety of awesome landscapes from glaciers to beaches, volcanic plateau to subtropical forest. Lying in the south-west Pacific, New Zealand consists of two main islands.
Climate: Most of the country belong to a temperate zone with a maritime climate with four distinct seasons. The weather in New Zealand can change unexpectedly so be prepare.
Best time to go: It is always a good time to go to New Zealand it will just all depends on what you want to do, chill at the beach, do some hiking, skiing. Just be aware of the high season that runs from December through March and the cheapest time to travel is from June to October.
Driving in New Zealand: We drive on the left in New Zealand and you will need an international driving license.
Phone and wi-fi: The best and cheapest pre-paid sim was Stark NZ$49. Wi-fi is quite slow and difficult to find comparing to Australia or USA.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
OFFICIAL TOURISM WEBSITE
The official website of New Zealand is the best tourism website ever. It is a real goldmine of informations and you should definitely use it to plan your trip: www.newzealand.com
The good old travel guide book is one of the best way to plan a trip as it contains everything you need to know, but it can be heavy and inconvenient if you travel long-term to a few countries. If you do not want to buy one just go to libraries and write everything down on your computer. The good alternative is to check out amazing guides written online by bloggers like we do here. You can copy everything or do screenshots on your phone.
We mainly used Pinterest to help us find the best of New Zealand written by bloggers and it was very easy and so inspirational as it full of breathtaking pictures.
Check out my board: HERE
Instagram can be very useful and inspirational too and even more now that they added the saved button. Most tourism accounts feature incredible photos with all the details about the location. Check out those four: @purenewzealand @destinationnz @newzealandguide @destinationnz
HOW TO GET THERE
As it is the most isolated country on our planet the only way to get to New Zealand is by plane. There are 6 airports in New Zealand but Auckland is the most busy one. The nearest country is Australia and it takes 3h30 from Melbourne and 6h from Perth to get there. Be aware that it is very long to get out of the airport in New Zealand as you have to pass the borders and then the biosecurity. It took us two hours from the moment we went out of the plane to the moment we left the airport.
FROM EUROPE/AFRICA: No direct flight 24h with a stopover in Asia
FROM AMERICA: Direct flights 12h from Los Angeles…
FROM ASIA: Direct flight 12h from Kuala Lumpur, Beijing…
I use SKYSCANNER to find the cheapest flight but I would also recommend you to check directly on the companies’ website.
How we got there:
From Australia to NZ: With Qantas AU$179, suitcase up to 30kg, good food, seats confortable, 3h30 from Melbourne.
From NZ to Bali: Jetstar AU$534, suitcase up to 25kg, 10h with a stopover in Australia.
New Zealand is quite an expensive country so you should definitely consider how much you are going to spend prior booking your tickets to avoid surprises and disappointment. We managed to spend AU$75 (51€) each per day but we were really living on the budget and mostly eating chick peas and tuna.
HERE IS WHAT WE SPENT DURING 3 WEEKS:
Flights: Australia>NZ>Bali = $713 each
Van rental: $567
Pre-paid sim: $46 for one month
TOTAL: AU$3160 for two = $75 per day each (without the flight tickets)
HOW TO GET AROUND
There are a few ways to explore New Zealand but the best and certainly the most economic of all is definitely by motorhome. If you do not like to sleep in a campervan you can simply rent a car and stay in motels or hostels but it will be more expensive in the end, and what an experience to wake up surrounded by the beautiful wilderness in the morning?! Freedom camping is permitted almost everywhere if you have a self-contained vehicle which is very convenient. And if you do not chose to be self-contained because you are on the budget, you will still managed to find free camping but you will have to drive a little bit further.
Lots of companies offers camper van rental and the most popular are: Jucy, Britz, Maui, Star RV… We chose Lucky Rental which is very very cheap but we will would definitely not recommend it at all. All their vehicles are old and can die at any time. Ours broke down on our first day only after a few hours of travels and the roadside assistance left us on the side of the road for one night and a full day. Not to mention that they were really mean and unprofessional over the phone. But you get what you pay for!
It is not very easy to find showers and sink to wash your dishes if you are not self-contained comparing to Australia. That’s why we stayed in caravan parks sometimes to have a shower and do our laundry. Also because in some locations there are no freedom camping for self-contained.
There is so much to see and do in New Zealand that it is very difficult to see them all in just one trip, you will certainly have to make choices and/or come back. Just keep in mind that the weather can change in no time. I put up together a list of all our favorite things and if some famous location are missing it’s because we were not able to visit them unfortunately.
AORAKI MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
There are no words to describe the beauty of this wonderful national park. It was by far the most breathtaking place we saw on our trip and even the road to get there is absolutely stunning (first picture of this guide). The Pukaki lake is the first thing you will see as you will drive along it to get to the national park, it has a surreal milky turquoise color that is insane, we couldn’t get our eyes of off it. And then when you will arrive closer to the park and see the snowy mountains it will leave you speechless. We only stayed one day and it is absolutely manageable to see all the majors lookout but we would have love to stay one more to sleep inside the park and take our times on the hikes. So I would advice you to stay two days if you have the time to do so.
Our favorites tracks and lookouts: Summit lookout, Kea point track, Hooker Valley track, Tasman Valley tracks.
Tip: If you have a camper van plan to stay inside the national park rather than the caravan park located 20min from there it is better and cheaper!
MOUNT ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK
It is the third largest park of New Zealand and we only saw a tiny tiny bit of it. We were so sad to miss the best part but to be able to see it we would have had to do long walks of 4-5hours up to 5 days and we didn’t have time to do so. We went to the Blue Pools Walk which is a very easy track that leads to a very clear and surreal blue river (picture above) and will offers stunning views over the mountains.
Queenstown is such a beautiful city with a stunning scenery! It is surrounded by mountains and lakes so wether you visit in summer or winter, you will always find something awesome to do. It is known to be the adventure capital of New Zealand and some would even say in the world!
The Wanaka lake is long of 45km and it from the town of Wanaka which is so a lovely. The Wanaka region offers activities from winter to summer from skiing to fishing, hiking to kayaking. The road from Fox Glacier is absolutely stunning and will make you want to stop every 10 minutes to take pictures. We arrived there at dawn and enjoyed a beautiful sunset with a view over the lake and the snowy mountains, the perfect spot to have a picnic. Make sure you make your way to the Wanaka tree, the most photographed tree in the world and hike to the Roys Peak track.
NELSON LAKES NATIONAL PARK
This was the first stop we make on the South Island and it was just what we expected New Zealand to be. Walking and hiking are the main reasons to visit this national park and in summer you will enjoy to swim in the lakes. The most photographed spot of Nelson is the wharf on the lake Rotoiti (picture above) and is easy to access via St Arnaud.
FOX & FRANZ JOSEF GLACIERS
Those two glaciers are the most convenient to visit in the world as they flow almost to sea level which gives them a temperate climate at this low altitude. You can either walk to the foot of the glaciers or take a guided ice walk or a heli-hike.
Info: the hike to Franz Josef Glacier is very easy and will take 1h30 return.
It is said to be the eight wonder of the world and yes it is quite impressive but in my opinion I have been amazed by other places in New Zealand but it is just a matter of taste. We enjoyed a great 2 hours cruise though that was both relaxing and entertaining as we saw a few wild animals such as penguins, dolphins and sea lions.
Price: we chose to cruise with Mitre Peak as it was smaller boats with less people. It cost NZ$79 each with complementary tea and coffees.
(picture by Olivia Wolf)
TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK
This 20km hike has been labeled as the world’s greatest single day hike and it is estimated to take between six and eight hours. Unfortunately we were not able to do it as it was raining the day we were there and we didn’t have time to stay. I do not have any advices but I can tell you that it was looking fantastic when we saw it from the highway as you can see on the picture above and it looks like a fairy tale!
Price: NZ$30 for the shuttle to bring you down after the hike.
Rotorua attracts lots of travelers from all around the world to enjoy the thermal water and therapeutic mud pools. It was definitely the highlight of our trip to the North Island. The Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland park (picture above) is one of the most surreal place we have ever seen in our life and the Polynesian Spa will offer you a pure moment of calmness and peace while one of the few Maori village will immerse you into their culture and entertained you for a night to remember.
Prices: NZ$32.50 / Spa: $54 for 30min in a private pool with view on the lake.
Tip: plan one full day + one night to be able to see a show and to chill and relax at a spa!
HOBBITON MOVIE SET
This is the most visited attraction of New Zealand and we were quite skeptical before going as we were afraid it would be a tourist scam but it turned out we had so much fun and felt like kids all tour long. It is quite expensive so if you are not a huge fan and visiting NZ for a short period I would advice to pass on that are they are way better things to see in kiwi’s land. But if you have the time and the money it would be a shame not to see this fairy land and even if you are not a huge fan of Lord Of the Ring or/and The Hobbits you will have a great time!
Tip: book online and pick your tour time prior coming otherwise you will have to wait.
The Windy City as they call it, is such a lovely, quirky, colorful yet peaceful capital and we absolutely loved it! It is so easy to explore this city by foot and it is so pleasant to wander down the streets and along the bays. Eva street and Cuba street is definitely where you will want to go to eat/drink as it is full of nice restaurants, cafes and bars. The mount victoria will offer you a stunning 360° view over the city and Oriental Bay will make you want to buy a house there.
Tip: Freedom camping is permitted in Evans Bay Marina, you can find it on wikicamp.
Check out my guide to Wellington here.
SHOPPING: WHAT TO BRING FROM NEW ZEALAND
The Manuka honey is one of the most unique and beneficial honey in the world and it is only produced in New Zealand so you will definitely want to bring some home. It can range from $10 to $100. You can buy some at the supermarkets or in specialized shops. Just make sure you see the UMF sign on the pot, the higher it is the better it will be.
If you’d like to learn more about it and know the trick to bring the best Manuka Honey, check out this website here.
Beauty Products. New Zealand is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes, which are home to exclusive plants and wildlife. The varied wildlife produces many natural ingredients such as bee venom, which are used in a large range of beauty products.
Manuka Honey skincare. From facial cleanser to lip balm, scrub to hand moisturizer you will find everything you need. The most famous brands are WILD FERNS and MANUKA DOCTOR that has became very popular in the magazines and with celebrities.
Lanolin skincare. Same here, a large range of products products are on offer.
Rotorua Mud. People are coming from all around the world to enjoy the thermal water of Rotorua. Even if you do not go there (you’d be crazy not to)
Merino Wool. To symbolise the insane amount of sheep that New Zealand has, 60 millions of sheep for 3 millions of humans, brining a sweater or a pair of gloves is a good idea.
Maori Arts. Traditional Maori crafts include weaving, carving and tattooing. In Rotorua, North Island, there are many quality galleries where you can purchase lovely goods to bring back home.