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New Zealand | The Ultimate Travel guide

From what to do to how to get around, this guide has everything you need know to plan the perfect trip when hopping across the ditch.

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Comprised of two main islands simply known as the North and the South, New Zealand is a nation of unparalleled beauty. Its mountains, volcanoes, fjords, lakes and glaciers are like no others on earth, and neither are its extreme activities, which is why it's dubbed the "adventure capital of the world" with caving, diving, bungee jumping and canyon swinging just some of what's on offer.

During winter, the nation transforms into a major ski destination. It offers 18 major ski resorts across its two islands with a season that welcomes soft, fresh powder as early as June and keeps it well into October.

Whatever month you're planning to visit, this guide can help you organise your itinerary so you won't miss out on a single must-do in this beautiful country.


Best places to go in New Zealand

  • Rotorua: This North Island town is renowned for its geothermal activity, lake access and Maori culture. From here you can visit Whaka Thermal Reserve, Whakarewarewa Forest and up to 14 scenic lakes. Activities in the area include zorbing and Maori shows.
  • Milford Sound: On the west coast of the South Island is this dramatic landscape of fjords, cliffs and waterfalls. Boat cruises through the fjord depart often. Limited accommodation is available but day trips can be made from Te Anau or Queenstown.
  • Queenstown: Queenstown is the home of adventure sports, offering bungy jumping, whitewater rafting, canyon swinging, caving and snow sports on top of its four popular ski resorts.
  • Wellington: Situated on the North Island's southernmost tip, Wellington is an ideal base for anyone wishing to visit both islands. From here, a short ferry ride takes you to the tip of the South Island where you can hike the Queen Charlotte track and clink glasses in the Marlborough wine region.
  • Lake Tekapo: Located on the South Island, Lake Tekapo is a three hour drive from Christchurch. It sits at the foot of the Southern Alps and boasts breathtaking views of the mountains, including New Zealand's highest peak, Mount Cook. It's New Zealand's fourth largest lake and is part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve making it an optimal location for stargazing.

Top things to do in New Zealand

  • Snow sports: New Zealand has 18 ski resort destinations. Queenstown is home to four of the most well-regarded and tourist-friendly ones, which are: The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Treble Cone.
  • Experience Maori culture: When in New Zealand, a Maori show is not to be missed. These can include a haka performance, warrior training, arts weaving and facial tattooing.
  • Visit Middle-earth: Any Lord of the Rings fan will know that the movies were filmed in New Zealand. Located on the North Island, in the recreated town of Hobbiton, you can tour the movie set and dine at the Green Dragon Inn.
  • Extreme sports: You can't visit New Zealand without doing at least one adventure sport such as skydiving or canyon swinging. And even if you don't take the plunge, there are plenty of tamer activities such as caving that you can enjoy.
  • See glow worms in Waitomo Caves:: Travel by boat and marvel at this underground galaxy of light. It's a unique experience for all.
  • Cruise Fiordland: During the Ice Ages, glaciers carved out the arresting landscape of New Zealand's Fiordland. Just a few hours from Queenstown, Milford Sound offers frequent trips through the fjords where you can witness the sheer cliffs and plentiful waterfalls up close.
  • Drink wine:: New Zealand produces some of the most highly-lauded wines in the world. Regions to visit include Marlborough, Central Otago, Canterbury and Waikato.
  • Kayak Abel Tasman National Park:: Its golden beaches, unique granite rock formations and clear waters make Abel Tasman National Park paradise on earth. Hiking tracks and mountain bike trails abound, but for a different perspective, opt to travel by kayak.
  • Take a scenic flight over Mount Cook:: The highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook stands at 3,724 metres above sea level and is a sight from above. It belongs to the Southern Alps region, which features many hiking trails, each boasting spectacular views of the landscape.
  • Stargaze: 4,300 square kilometres of the South Island's sky is an International Dark Sky Reserve. Not only is it the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, it's also one of the planet's best stargazing sites.

How much will a trip to New Zealand cost?

Accommodation

  • Budget: Hostels and backpackers accommodation from $21 per person/per night.
  • Moderate: 2-3 star hotels, motels and apartment hotels from $75 per room/per night.
  • Luxury: Luxury villas and resorts from $150+ per room/per night.

Typical meal

  • Main: NZD$8.90-$11.50 for a burger.
  • Drink: NZD$5.87 for a 400ml glass of beer.
  • Coffee: NZD$5.00 for a flat white.

Getting around

  • Uber: Uber is available in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. The cheapest rates are in Auckland where rides are charged at NZD$1.30 base fare, NZD$0.30 per minute and NZD$1.35 per kilometre. You can expect to pay NZD$31-$42 for an uberX into the city.
  • Taxi from the airport to the city: In Auckland you can expect to pay NZD$75-$90 for a taxi into the city. In Christchurch you can expect to pay NZD$45-$65 and in Wellington you can expect to pay NZD$30-$40. Prices vary due to the distance between airports and the city centres.
  • Local transport fare: In Auckland, the SkyBus into the city costs NZD$18 one way or NZD$32 return. In Christchurch, a bus into the city costs NZD$8.50 one way or NZD$15 return. In Wellington, a bus to the city costs NZD$5.50 one way.

Book your flight to New Zealand

Which New Zealand airport should I fly into?

New Zealand has four major airports, which are located in Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington. You can fly direct from Australia into these airports. There are regional airports throughout the country, which can be accessed via connecting flights from the

If you're not planning on staying in any of the cities above or doing a large road trip covering the whole of each island, consider flying into each airport for easy access to:

  • Auckland, North Island: Bay of Islands, Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Taupo. Also consider flying into Auckland if you want to see attractions like Hobbiton, Waitomo Glowworm Caves or hike the Tongariro Crossing.
  • Wellington, North Island: Marlborough, Abel Tasman National Park. Most of the attractions near Wellington that lure international visitors are at the north of the South Island. You'll also want to fly into Wellington for easy access to the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry down to the South Island.
  • Christchurch, South Island: Akaroa, Kaikoura, Arthurs Pass, Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, Tekapo, Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. Christchurch tends to be cheaper to fly into from Australia than Queenstown. If you're planning a trip to the South of the North Island and done mind a few hours' scenic drive, it could be worth comparing the price of flights.
  • Queenstown, South Island: Wanaka, Milford Sound (and the surrounding Fiordland National Park), Te Anau. Queenstown is also the closest airport to ski resorts including The Remarkables and Cardrona.

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