My girlfriend and I are going to NZ for 3-4 weeks in November and would love some advice.
We will rent a camper and drive both the North and South Island, but besides that we are very open to suggestions.
We love nature, great food, hiking, diving, mountainbiking, but are not really interested in extreme sports.
Thanks a ton, Matthias
New Zealand is a beautiful place and there is so much to see and do. Definitely spend 4 weeks there if you are planning on doing both islands. The South Island definitely has a great range of landscape as well - lakes, mountains, plains, glaciers etc.
From there you could look at going to Nelson and through Motueka to Abel Tasman National Park. There is some beautiful hiking here, but you would need about 4 days to do the full walk. Up around Golden Bay is also beautiful.
From here, drive down to my home town, Christchurch. For all my personal tips, especially food, check out my blog post: http://www.alifelessbeige.com/article/what-to-do-in-christchurch-a-locals-guide/
Then head up the West Coast to Franz Josef for a walk on the glacier. There are great hot pools in the town to soak in afterwards as well. Spend a night, then check out other towns on the West Cost and the Punakaiki. You could then continue from here to finish in Nelson?
So many recommendations. When you have more of an idea, I could help with more. New Zealand has so many options when it comes to the outdoors. Hope this helps as a starting point.
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Since Nicole so awesomely wrote about the South Island, I'll cover the North Island (kinda my speciality anyway, I'm not a pro on the South, haha).
Okay, so Chances are you'll fly into either Auckland or Wellington if you're landing in the North Island.
I live in Wellington so I'm pretty biased, but here goes. In Wellington you could easily spend a few days getting acquainted with the place and the people. There are a large number of cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs in the city area.
There are a plethora of accommodation options as well - from 5 star hotels, to dorm rooms in backpackers. Every budget is covered.
November is early SUMMER! (Excitement). So it'll be warm but not overly hot. You'll need to prepare for cooler weather the further south you are, so the south island may feel a lot colder in some areas than the north will.
Wellington as a city has a lot of options from people watching while you're relaxing in a cafe, to visiting places like museums and art galleries (there are a number of them). Must see is Te Papa Museum it took me a full day to walk around and look at every single thing, but if you only want to see certain parts (visit the New Zealand area and the Awesome Forces space.) It is Free except for the Visa Platinum Gallery which has a "door charge" (entry fee). This fee varies depending on what is showing. (It can be anything from $5-$50 per person. *Enquire when you're there).
The Botanical Gardens are lovely to walk through, there's a beautiful rose garden as well as Herb gardens... and lots of greenery! http://wellington.govt.nz/recreation/gardens/botanic-garden
North of Wellington there are a few routes you could go to meander up the North Island, if you went the Eastern coastal side, you'd travel through Masterton Carterton and the Wairarapa area. It's beautiful. Stop off at the vineyards (Although I forget which time of year is best for that!) In Carterton you can also go Hot Air Ballooning, if that's your thing.
If not continue up the road (for a few hours) to reach the Hastings St (that should be Hastings town) and Napier area. It's great to sit and people watch in the cafes there too, so much calmer than Wellington!
You can travel inland to Taupo, Rotorua and the likes if you like. The scenery along here is breathtaking. You'll want to stop and take a bunch of photos.
From there you'd go north to Gisborne which is a surf type area, and it's really laid back. Further north still you end up in the hustle and bustle of Tauranga (my birth place), where there's surfing, nightclubs, pubs, bars, loads of cafes and restaurants.
Visit The Mount and go to the hot pools. (And climb the mount!)
Alternatively, travel from Wellington north up to Palmerston North through to Bulls -- definitely stop here, it's remark-a-bull (see what I did there? they have lots of Bull puns everywhere; it's a great spot for a laugh).
Travel further north up to New Plymouth (my hometown)... visit the mountain Mount Taranaki climb it. You'll need a guide to take you up. But it's a day hike easy. *You need a good level of fitness to climb it. Or visit the Information centre at the mountain house. Visit the cafe when you're there. The food (and view) is to die for!
Stay in New Plymouth for at least a day, there's cafes, and museums and stuff to see and do. You won't be bored! Good to also be able to explore the town and relax. Belt Rd Motor camp is one of my favourite spots to stay. http://www.beltroad.co.nz/ it's relatively cheap too.
**There's also surfing all along the coast between Bulls and New Plymouth along State Highway 45.
North of New Plymouth is Mokau Rd (Mokau) another beautiful beach. Definitely stop here for a break, and sleep. The beach is great to walk along. Cellphone reception is patchy but you can climb to the top of the big hill (next to the motor camp/ camp grounds) to get mobile reception.
From Mokau, I've travelled in a day to Hamilton and Huntly or Cambridge: http://cambridge.co.nz/
All of these spots are sweet spots to stay for a day or so to explore.
And from Tauranga, or Cambridge it's not far to get to Auckland.
Auckland is a bustling metropolis, it feels a lot larger than Wellington (because it is). It is multi cultural and diverse. Lots of cafes and shops and little boutiques in nooks and around the city. I love to go there to explore. The city area is compact enough to walk around in, but past the University the suburbs do sprawl so be prepared to take public transport (the buses are good, they're cheap enough and run pretty well on time. *As far as I know anyway*) Or there's lots of taxis. Pretty much everything is within the city part so it's rare to need to go to the suburbs.
And of course if you flew in from Auckland you could do it in reverse of how I've described it above.
Contact the AA (Automobile Association, of NZ) http://www.aa.co.nz/ or the local Information centre (should be sign posted with an 'i' sign) for the area you are in, or travelling to for maps and information.
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My husband and I spent one month in New Zealand. I highly recommend more time in the South Island because it has more to offer in terms of natural beauty. A lot to see and do.
We started our Kiwi trip in Christchurch We rented a Britz RV with bed and small kitchen. Use the app Campermate to discover all the best camping spots, you’ll find reviews and info about amenities. Make sure you download the area of interest so you can have access offline wherever you are. You won’t find many spots with free internet in NZ.
From Christchurch, we made our way southeast to Akaroa because read that there were dolphins in that area. We stayed in a little village Onuku Farm. The price is $14 per person per night with a van. They have amenities and they offer excursions. We chose to go kayaking with dolphins for $30. Amazing experience.
After our adventure with dolphins, we made our way south towards Mt. Cook and stopped for the night at Waihi Gorge Campsite.
Mount Cook is a touristy area. The closest spot to camp is called White Horse Hill Campground and the price is $8 per person per night. The main point of interest and the most touristy hike is Mueller Lookout, a 3 hours walk (return included). The best time to enjoy the silence and sounds of nature is sunrise. Buses with big groups of tourists start to arrive around 9 AM.
We did a quick one night stop in Queenstown to refill at the grocery store then headed towards the magical Fiordland.
We spent the night at Gunns Camp The price is $13 per night with amenities (toilets, showers, kitchen). The campsite is one hour drive from Milford Sound and for this reason is busy. The amenities are not many compared to the demand but the story behind it makes it special (check out the museum).
Milford Sound is touristy but it’s worth it. Although I haven’t seen all the world yet, I can say that it’s probably the most spectacular natural attraction on earth. We did a one hour cruise with Jucy and we loved it. The price is $30 per person with brunch included. The captain was fun and entertaining.
After seeing the Milford Sound, we decided to head south, instead of going towards the northwest to see more glaciers (like most tourists do).
The gem of this off the beaten path area in the south is the Otago Peninsula for its unique access to wildlife. In stayed Dunedin at the Dunedin Holiday Park and Motels good campsite with amenities and unlimited internet. The price is around $14 per person per night. In the Otago Peninsula, you can join guided tours to see penguins, but we didn’t want to pay for a touristy experience. We wanted to see them in the wild. We did some research and read that you could spot them at sunrise or sunset at Sandfly Bay. We did see them and it was a magical experience.
We made our way back to Christchurch to drop the van and get another RV. We found a great rental deal for the road trip Christchurch to Auckland It was a relocation for Wilderness.
One of the main attractions in the North Island is the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland The entrance is $20 per person and the hike is around 75 min return.
The Rainbow Mountain is a free attraction and I recommend it instead of standing with one hundred people in front of the Lady Knox Geyser. The hike lasts around one hour and the ideal time to start is 9 AM so you can get to the top when the Lady Knox Geyser starts at 10.15AM.
In Auckland, we stayed at an in Mission Bay (Marina area). The area is the prettiest spot in the city, a bit removed from the center but it has all the services you need.
Visit my Travel Blog for more travel tips!
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My advice is to check the cost of taking the camper by boat between the north and south islands (you can google inter island ferry nz) because I was planning to do this in September but it seems the van will cost about $250 each way minimum, which is way beyond my budget!