Our trip to New Zealand was just under two weeks long and covered both the North and South islands. We started by landing in Auckland in the middle of the night. And we didn't have to take an expensive cab to our hotel. Because New Zealand has this wonderful, super-reliable, bang-on- time service called SuperShuttle, which specializes in airport pick-ups and drops, and is available in every major city. You could book your shuttle online on their website (Supershuttle.co.nz) or find one right outside the airport arrivals.
Queenstown, located on the South Island, is by far the prettiest town in New Zealand. The flight into Queenstown itself is very scenic - you fly over the Southern Alps and over quite a few 'fjords' before landing amidst the mountains in what's one of the prettiest airports ever. Pay the extra $10 NZD for a window seat - you won't regret it!
Spend Two Magical Days In RotoruaRotorua is deeply entrenched in the culture and traditions of the Maori people of New Zealand and its landscape is a major illustration of that fact. This however, is not the only unique characteristic of this city. Rotorua occupies a special place in the heart of travellers from all over the world owing to its many hot springs, geysers and mud pools. This sheer historical and geographical delight is an absolute shining gem of the North Island.Opt for an InterCity bus connecting Auckland and Rotorua. The bus services are fairly regular and come with WiFi, but you have to book your tickets in advance. They depart from Auckland Central and the journey should be around 3 hours long.Amazing Things to Do in Rotorua
Make Your Way To Two Fun Days In WellingtonThe capital of New Zealand, Wellington is vivacious for all the right reasons considering its many art galleries, museums, restaurants, pubs and high end boutiques. The traffic is the (not so sweet) cherry on top and makes it a bustling metropolis to the core. The weather is crazy but the city with its gazillion distinct features (including some great architecture and an impressive harbour) is beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable.
And the South Island is veddy, veddy British in many ways. Especially in the far south. Dunedin is a nice little university town with excellent coffee and a good music scene. The University of Otago give the whole town a youthful buzz. It’s the kind of place where you go to the bandshell on the weekends in the botanical gardens and listen to the local brass band resolutely huff and puff their way through Sousa and Dion alike while the sun shines down and you feel the grass between your toes.
Once the train docks into Chirstchurch, Uber to your acco. Ensure you stay in Central Christchurch, which is the heart of the quake-ravaged city and walking distance from everything. Check out the unique Re:Start mall that's made entirely of shipping containers; the Cardboard Cathedral, which is exactly what it's sounds like; and 185 White Chairs, a memorial to the victims of the 2011 quake. You could also walk to the lovely Botanic gardens and spend a leisurely 2-3 hours admiring nature permed to its finest. Hitch an Uber back. Spend some time walking around CBD because you'll find some lovely street art around every corner.
This small town with its well preserved architectural heritage, seaport in the Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of North Island is usually left out from the travel list. Yet, this small town has such a rich art deco architecture that it is easily the photogenic town of New Zealand. Tourists mostly flock this place in February when the famous Art Deco Weekend is held here. The town is bustling with people holding maps, but otherwise it is silent and peaceful for the rest of the year. The place is filled with art galleries and museums. The national Aquarium is a notable feature of this place too. On the whole it marks a calm end to your adventure in New Zealand.
We took an Intercity Bus to Greymouth to catch one of the best train rides in the world. The bus will pick you up from your accomodation and takes a little over 3 hours to get to Greymouth, well in time for the train. You get a short break in the gorgeous seaside village of Hokitika for breakfast. Make the most of it, because you'll spend most your 4 hour train ride with your jaw dropping to the floor. The TranzAlpine to Christchurch is an absolutely stunning train ride that's worth every penny. You'll cross rivers, mountains, fields and more. There's even a 'viewing carriage' purely for photography. I spent 80% of my time there, coming in only for some hot chocolate and wine. 5. Christchurch
Franz Josef Glacier
We took the state-run InterCity bus from Queenstown to the glacier town of Franz Josef. The bus takes one of the most gorgeous roads in New Zealand - the West Coast road. It's a 7 hour drive, but the bus is extremely comfortable, has Wifi and there are bio-breaks almost every hour. And it stops for photo ops along lakes, waterfalls - you name it! You'll get dropped off at your hotel in FJ - it's all of 2 streets big, a 7 min walk from one end to the other and a population of 300.
The Kiwi land is home to the most breathtaking caves and a caving tour here can be your introduction to underground sceneries like you've never seen before. Glow worms called arachnocampa luminosa are luminescent creatures unique to Waitomo, which can be seen in the caves. You can also take a quiet boat ride along the meandering Waitomo River to witness the surreal glow inside the caves. Black water subterranean rafting, rope dangling and rip roaring are some of the most thrilling things to do in New Zealand while visiting the Waitomo Caves in the Waikato region.
Tongariro National Park
Heading south, your first point of call for the day is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland- a site of amazing geothermal activity. You will visit New Zealand’s largest thermal mud pool, sinter terraces and stunning hot and cold pools of many different colours. Heading south, stopping at the mind-blowingly powerful Huka Falls en route, you will reach Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Winding your way around the lake, you will reach Tongariro National Park, where your accommodation is situated in the vicinity of New Zealand’s three most active volcanoes: Tongairiro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Overnight Tongariro.
Even if you are looking only for adventure in New Zealand, your trip will remain incomplete without a trip to the Hobbiton village movie set from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in Matamata. Visitors can take a guided tour of the movie set, which involves fascinating commentary on how the place was created. Stop at the beautiful cafes on the green pastures for a great afternoon. This is an unmissable adventure, especially when you're travelling with kids.
The lovely coastal city of Kaikoura, famous for whale watching, is a 2-hour Intercity bus ride away. The bus station is in central Christchurch - easily walkable if you're located centrally. The bus drops you about a kilometer away from WhaleWay Station in Kaikoura where you need to report for the activity (our tour was cancelled since the whales played spoilsport and went off deep into the ocean). You could also take a scenic Kiwirail from Christchurch to Kaikoura. 6. Rotorua
For the last leg of our trip, we took the Intercity bus to Auckland via Waitomo. It's an 8 hour journey inclusive of a two hour break in Waitomo and will drop you off to your accommodation in Auckland if requested in advance. Waitomo Caves are home to thousands of glowworms that can only be seen in absolute darkness and silence, on a boat ride. Imagine a sky full of blue stars - that's what it feels like. Photos are not allowed, but it's a truly unique experience.
At the bottom of New Zealand’s south island, the Milford Sound stretches its vast forests and pristine springs from coast to coast. Milford is considered one of the Wonders of the Natural World. The water here is so pure and cold, we could store our Montheith’s beers inside it like a fridge…
The Piha beach in Auckland is very popular with tourists and locals alike and not without reason. A beach of black iron sand, it is known for some serious surf, making swimming quite a dangerous activity here because of the rip tides and currents that have been known to break canoes! Apart from the beach, the cliffs and the Waitekere Ranges that lie behind the beaches also have trails and hikes.
Fresh out of university, this was our graduation trip. We set out being on a budget while cruising around New Zealand. That being said, we wanted to maximise our experiences, which called for splurging more on attractions. We compromised on Wi-Fi on-the-go, expensive food and comfortable lodging, for eye-opening experiences like learning about the Maori culture and hiking on ice at Fox Glacier. Part of the reason why flights and car rental was cheaper was also because we travelled during the off periods in May. If you're still hesitant about visiting New Zealand, DON'T. The scenery is to kill for. Driving in New Zealand has never been easier. The adventure activities? You've got to try them once in your life! Still have questions on how to plan a New Zealand budget trip? Ask in the comments below! ???? This post was originally published on Bel Around The World.
Take one of the prettiest and most dramatic journeys in the country, over the Haast Pass through to Wanaka. En route visit Lake Matheson, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Lake’ where on a clear day it is possible to see the reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (3,754 mts/ 12,316 ft). Tonight you will stay in Wanaka, one of the most popular Kiwi vacation hot spots situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Overnight Wanaka.
This morning in and around Wanaka there are many options. For those feeling adventurous you can take a walk up one of our favourite look out spots featuring 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka, Aspiring National Park and the Clutha River. The breathtaking views are well worth the walk! Other options include a visit to Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World or a kayak tour on the lake. This afternoon your South Island tour takes you over The Crown Range (New Zealand’s highest highway) to Arrowtown which was one of New Zealand’s most important towns in the gold rush to Central Otago in the 1860s. Then a further 2 hours to Te Anau, on the shores of the South Island's largest lake and the gateway to Fiordland National Park. Overnight Te Anau.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the little penguins at Penguin Place, nothing beats observing them in the wild. I could have spent the whole day here watching penguins (even though we only saw two).
By now, my time in the South Island was coming to a close so Anna and I headed over to Renwick in the Marlborough region to sample some of the wines. It was a magnificent afternoon, perhaps one of the best ones I’ve had in years. Drinking wine and having perfectly matched cheeses in perfect weather in what could be the perfect landscape. It’s hard to beat that. Anna even said so herself. But too soon, it had to end. I had to catch the ferry to Wellington the next day and she was off down toward Christchurch.