I'm going to be coming from Australia to New Zealand but I'm not sure what areas to find accommodation. My trip is really open ended so I can go anywhere I'd like. Where are the best areas for a first time visitor to really get a feel of local culture and attractions?
Depends what you are into. The South Island is great if you're into the outdoor adventure thing. North Island is better for beaches, maori culture, bigger cities. Most people trip around both islands.
You already have great advice about where to go, but you asked about accommodation. You will find somewhere to stay everywhere you go. There are backpacker hostels where you can swap advice with other travelers, or motels, which all have cooking facilities and laundries. B & B's are more expensive and you are likely to become hostage to the owners, who want company in the evening, but are available away from towns. Happy traveling!
I agree with Agnes.
On the South Island, Queenstown is a popular destination, especially for younger people. It's considered to be the party and adventure capital of New Zealand (bungee jumping, canyoning, skydiving etc.). Also, you could visit the stunning fjords (Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound) from Queenstown. If you're into hiking you should walk the Ben Lomond Track, a great (and exhausting) daytrip up a mountain located next to Queenstown. The nature around Queenstown is amazing and if you're still into hiking after the Ben Lomond Track you could move on to Wanaka, a beautifully located small town with many hiking options.
However, if you're more into beaches, you should definitely go to Auckland and plan some trips from there. The most beautiful and most deserted beaches are in the Northland. The best thing you can do there is rent a car and stop whenever you want. Also, the Coromandel Peninsula is not far away from Auckland and definitely worth a trip (Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and lots of empty land).
Going to Wellington, which is the coolest town in New Zealand in my opinion, and then heading over to the South Island is also an option. On the South Island you'll arrive in Picton, a small town in a beautiful scenery. From there you could either continue to Kaikoura which is THE best town for any marine wildlife experience you can imagine (swimming with dolphines, whale watching etc.). Or you could head to the Abel Tasman National Park which is a breathtaking piece of land with turquoise water and golden beaches. It's known for its famous cost track where you can walk from hut to hut along the coast.
No matter how you decide, your trip is gonna be awesome! New Zealand is such a beautiful country, after I travelled it for 2 months I got the feeling that it doesn't really matter where you go, because there's so much beauty everywhere.
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