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