New Zealand travel guide

New Zealand 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.

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.

Fast facts about New Zealand

Main airports: Christchurch, Auckland, Queenstown and Wellington.
On-ground transport: Train, bus and ferry.
Weather: New Zealand experiences four seasons. Summers are mild with highs of 30℃, while winters are chilly with lows of 0℃.
Visas: Australian citizens don’t require a visa to visit New Zealand.
Top 10 must see destinations: Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Milford Sound, Hobbiton, Lake Wanaka, The Remarkables, Waitomo Caves, Lake Tekapo, Bay of Islands, Marlborough and Rotorua.
Power point plugs: Type I (same as Australia).
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD).


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.

See what accommodation is like in New Zealand:


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.

MilfordSound.Shutterstock

Milford Sound, Fiordland

  • 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.

Best events to attend in the year

  • Queenstown Winter Festival: The beginning of winter is marked with a 10-day festival featuring street parties, live music, performances and fireworks. Queenstown, June 2017.
  • World Buskers Festival: This summer festival brings some of the biggest acts in Australasia to the streets of Christchurch to entertain and amuse. Think everything from burlesque and drag to circus performance and athleticism. Christchurch, 19-29 January 2017.
  • Maoriland Film Festival: Celebrating Indigenous talent, the Maoriland Film Festival is an annual event of storytelling, workshops and events by artists from across the nation. Otaki, 15-19 March 2017.

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.

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Stephanie Yip

Stef is the Travel Editor at finder.com.au and has been writing about travel for over a decade. She's visited over 50 countries and has had some incredible experiences, including hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, hitchhiking across Romania and seeing the Northern Lights (twice!). And while she’d never say no to a luxury escape, she's far more likely to stretch her travel dollars as far as they can go by keeping her ear to the ground for unbeatable travel bargains. And she'll tell you all about them, too! Stef has had articles featured on Travel Weekly, Escape and Hostelworld.

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