The land of the Sheeps

New Zealand

How to travel around New Zealand?

The best places in New Zealand

How many days do you need for traveling New Zealand?

In New Zealand we stayed for round about 2 months. We visited both islands and we still missed out on some spots. So you need enough time for visiting all great spots of this stunning country.

The best way to get around is by car or campervan.

In general New Zealand is a really expensive country, but if you know some insider information it is possible to travel on a budget.

South Island

Travel time – 4 weeks

Christchurch to Kaikoura

We started in Christchurch, where we picked up our campervan at Backpackers Sleepervan. Heading North on the way to Kaikoura the first hours of driving were absolutely beautiful. Kaikoura is famous for whales and dolphins – book a tour if you can, as this is probably the place where you need to do it. Along the east coast it is worth it to stop every now and then because it is possible that you see some seals (especially at the Ohau Point Seal Colony).

Picton

Our next destination was Picton, where you can take the ferry to the North Island, what we didn’t do. At the i-SITE office in Picton we booked a boat cruise around the Marlborough Sounds. They took us to the starting point of the famous Queen Charlotte Track (the landscape is similar to Milford Sounds). We hiked about 15 km and were picked up again at a different pier from where the boat took us back to Picton. You can also hike the whole track (70 km) and camp in tents on the way.

Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park is one of our must-do’s of New Zealand. You can book a kayak in any I-site office on the way up. The company drives you to the beginning point of the national park, gives you a brief introduction, you get a kayak plus a map of the area and off you go. It is up to you how far you want to kayak (there are certain spots marked on the map where you can drop your kayaks). Along the way you can see seals on rocks (or swimming around) and you can stop at beautiful beaches or very calm bays for cooling down. After you drop your kayak at a bay of your choice, you need to hike back on a nice path with spectacular viewpoints.

Cape Farewell to Wharariki Beach

The very northern part of the South Island is pretty far but you should go there. Again, the landscape is very special and unique. Don’t miss Cape Farewell and Wharariki Beach. You can witness huge rock arches and even walk through several parts of them during low tide (better check online or ask at the i-Site).

Buller-Gorge Swing Bridge to Fox and Franz Josef Glacier

Another highlight is driving south along the west coast (maybe via Buller Gorge Swing Bridge –  State Highway 6). It is so cool to stop every now and then, whenever you see a beautiful spot. We had breakfast and lunch breaks while enjoying fantastic views. On the way south you can see the Pancake Rocks. Further down in Okarito we were looking for Kiwis  (amazing hikes are possible around this area but we dind’t see any Kiwi). From Oamaru it is a short ride to the Fox and Franz Josef Glacier. Unfortunately the glaciers are melting! The view was great, but it is also sad to see how they slowly disappear.

Wanaka to Queentstown

After a relaxed time in Wanaka you need to get an adrenaline rush in Queenstown. This town is crazy and different to the rest of New Zealand. We went Skydiving which was one of the best experiences of our whole trip! You can also do bungee jumping, jet boating, canyon swing and much more.

Dunedin and back to Christchurch

Most tourists visit Milford Sound, but due to lack of time we didn’t make it. Instead we chose to go to a nice student city on the east coast: Dunedin. A day trip to Otago Peninsula is a must-do. Chances are high to see sea lions, penguins or the famous albatros. Going north, be sure that you see Moeraki Boulders while low tide. Further inland enjoy a very comfortable hike to see Mount Cook. You get to see amazing blue lakes around that area, too. On the way back to Christchurch, the turquoise Lake Tekapo was one destination we couldn’t wait to see and it is absolutely gorgeous.

Dunedin and back to Christchurch

Back in Christchurch we visited the city itself and were impressed by the temporary container mall (Re:Start Mall). A couple of years after the earthquake, the scars of the disaster are still omnipresent.

We only stayed for a couple of hours as we were heading to Banks Peninsula, where it is possible to swim with dolphins. We booked a tour but unfortunately we couldn’t go due to bad weather conditions. It is supposed to be a great tour! On the North Island there is no comparable tour you could do, so if you want to swim with dolphins, do it on the South Island. From Christchurch we flew to Wellington.

North Island

(travel time: 2 weeks + 11 days of WWOOFing on Waiheke Island)

Wellington to Turangi

We started in the nice city Wellington. Some people compare Wellington to Berlin. Here you find pubs, street art the famous Te Papa Tongarewa Museum.

On the way north, we stopped in Turangi where we booked our tickets for the popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing at the i-site office. This hike is about 20 kilometers long, but you do some additional walks to the summits. The expiration is as follows: you book the bus which takes you from the car park (end of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing) to the beginning of the path. After you hiked all the way through the Alpines you end up at the car park again. We were so happy our car was waiting for us! After this hike all you need is a shower and a nice meal.

Taupo

The area around lake Taupo is located on volcanic ground. Take the chance to relax for free in hot natural pools at the Otomuheke stream. You can also visit the blue Huka falls for free or walk around the stunning craters of the moon.

Rotorua

Rotorua is known for its thermal Wonderland Wai-O-Tapu. Geothermal activity makes it possible to see natural wonders you have never seen before. But don’t expect to much from geyser! This one was a disappointment.

Mount Maunganui to Tane Mahuta

Mount Maunganui is a relaxed beach town and part of the Bay of Plenty. The beach is beautiful and you won’t believe it, but the big green Mount Maunganui is situated  just on the seafront. Further north there is the Coromandel Peninsula, where you should visit Cathedral Cove and the hot water beach. Here you can rent a spade and dig a hole. When you are lucky hot thermal water will fill up your hole and makes it possible to enjoy a spa day on the beach. The next big stop was Bay of Islands. We did a Dolphin Cruise and also booked swimming with dolphins. Unfortunately it was not possible because the dolphins had babies. So better ask before booking if swimming is possible for sure. Otherwise you will be disappointed (and pay a lot just for a boat cruise). On the west coast you should stop to see the huge Kaori tree Tane Mahuta located in the Waipoua Kauri Forest. We didn’t make it to the Ninety Mile Beach, because we were already rushing a lot!

Auckland and Waiheke Island

We dropped our car in Auckland, which is really a big city compared to other cities in New Zealand. If you have time, take the chance to explore the close island Waiheke. We used the website Workaway to find a place for WWOOFing on that island and the experiences we made are irreplaceable.

6 must do’s in New Zealand

Do it!

  • Kayak and hike through the Abel Tasman National Park.
  • Drive along the West Coast of the South Island which offers spectacular view points.
  • Try to find Kiwis in Okarito and enjoy views where you see how the forests meet the glaciers.
  • Find your limits during the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
  • Walk through the craters of the moon and experience the geothermal area around Rotorua and lake Taupo.
  • Visit the Waipoua Kauri Forest where you find the biggest trees on earth.

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