- Travel Topics
We spent an average $67 each per day in New Zealand over the course of 23 days. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.
We flew into Christchurch and were picked up by our friends Susan and Paul. They were already staying with couchsurfers so we stayed with them too. We didn’t see any of Christchurch and instead spent the day at the couchsurfers’ sons’ dirt bike race. A first for me.
We were able to borrow some wet suits and boogie boards from the couchsurfing hosts and spent the day at the beach riding the waves.
We spent one night in the Mt Cook region and did two day hikes – the Hooker Valley and the Sealy Tarns hike. Both hikes were nice though I preferred the Hooker Valley one, where you walk up to a glacier lake. The Sealy Tarns one felt a bit like being on a stairmaster for hours at a time. A nice region with lots of hiking opportunities. The food options in this area are limited though so if you are on a budget make sure to stop by a grocery store before you get here so you can cook your own food.
We spent 3 days at a small family oriented folk music festival. I had never been to a music festival and really enjoyed the 3 days of relaxing in a farm setting and just listening to music. Highly recommend looking out for some music festivals when you are in NZ.
Queenstown is the adventure capital of NZ but we were there mainly to relax and catch up on some sleep after 3 nights of camping at the music festival. So instead of singing up for the various bungee, sky diving, paragliding, canyoning, we just walked around town and did a small walk around the lake and gardens. If you’re looking for a good burger Queenstown is home to FergBurger where we had an awesome tofu veggie burger.
We stopped in Te Anu as it was the last place to find accommodation before Milford Sound. A small but nice town center with a beautiful lake.
We went on a morning cruise of Milford Sound and while the weather was a bit grey and dreary we were able to see a whole pack of seals and dolphins on the cruise which more than made up for it. We wanted to do the Gertrude Valley hike which we had heard was one of the best day hikes in NZ but since it was raining we had to skip it.
Wanaka is a nice little town, with yet again another beautiful lake and less tourists than in Queenstown. There’s a great movie theater in town, the Paradiso which sells delicious cookies the size of your hand. The Rob Roy Glacier hike is an hour outside of Wanaka and was my favorite day hike in NZ – beautiful views and a great trail. We were even treated to an unexpected animal safari on our drive over there.
Gillespies Beach is one of those wild NZ west coast beaches with beautiful grey stones and driftwood all over the beach. It was too cold for swimming when we were there but we enjoyed our time walking around the isolated beach.
Hokitika is a cute little town right on the West coast of the South Island with a nice town center and a pretty beach with beautiful sunsets. Hokitika is famous for its pounamu – nephrite jade which is only found on the west coast. You will find a lot of stores selling jade with some even giving free introductions and workshop tours. At night stop by the Glowworm Dell where in pitch blackness you can seeing the sparkling glowworms all around you. Definitely an interesting experience.
In Greymouth we stopped by the Monteith’s brewery for a sampling of a few beers. Can’t say that we loved the beers, but it’s always nice to try some of the local craft beer either way.
The drive up the West coast of the South Island is said to be one of the most gorgeous drives in the world and so we slowly made our way north up to Karamea. We stopped by the Pancake Rocks, where you can take a 20 minute walk to see the amazing limestone formations and blowholes. I could have spent all day there just admiring the beauty of it.
Karamea is a secluded little town all the way up North on the west coast of the South Island. This area has hikes, beaches, wilderness, and a fairly low number of tourists compared to other regions in NZ. A main attraction nearby is the Operara Basin filled with fascinating limestone formations. At night we made a driftwood fire on the beach and cooked some sausages, potatoes, zucchini and garlic – a great meal outdoors.
The Abel Tasman National Park is nothing short of breathtaking. The national park trails curve along the coastline so as you hike you can walk down to the gorgeous beaches, and coves. We spent one night in Kaiteriteri before taking a boat the next morning up to Bark Bay. From there we hiked back to Marahua where we had left our car and then drove up to Pohara for the night. The following day we drove up to Wainui Bay and hike up to Separation Point and Mutton Cove before heading back. The third day we drove to Totaranui Bay and did a short walk to Goat Bay before heading back. You can camp in the park or stay in huts but since we did not plan anything in advance all the huts were booked up and we weren’t equipped to camp. It takes 3-5 days to walk the whole length of the park and I am sure this would be amazing, but I was also happy with what we were able to see and cover in 3 days, and we were able to stay in holiday parks instead of camping/staying in the huts.
The Blenheim region of the south island is known for it’s white wines and we spent one day driving to two vineyard and enjoying the beautiful views and the wine. The first vineyard we visited was the Wairau River vineyard and we had a great time there, enjoying a bottle of wine and a cheese platter.
From Christchurch we flew up to Auckland and with our one day on the North Island headed to Hobbiton – which we had been dying to see. The tickets may be overpriced but the experience itself really is wonderful and we loved seeing the magical Hobbit land. From there we drove to Raglan to meet up with Susan and Paul and just enjoyed the small town, before our flight of the NZ the following day.
Would we do it the same way?
I first visited New Zealand back in 2009, on a short 4 day trip to see my friends who were studying abroad in Auckland. On that 4 days trip I got to bungee jump, sky dive, see beautiful beaches and go on incredible day hikes. Ever since then I knew I would be back and almost 5 years later I was.
New Zealand is simply an incredible country. Words cannot describe how beautiful the scenary and nature there really is. The vibrant colors and adorable animals, the high mountains and deep colored lakes; I just don’t have the word to describe it to you.
It is a nature lovers dream. There is no shortage of outdoorsy activities and you could go from Great Walk to Great Walk and never run out of places to explore. There are so many outdoorsy activities it really is the country for exploring. So pack your sporty clothes and sneakers and get out there.
The cities themselves are all fairly small and built within the last 200 years so you will not find the kind of history or museums you can in Europe, but that’s ok. If you’re looking for a bit of culture to add to an outdoorsy trip there are museums and exhibits in the larger towns, though we ourselves did not check any of these out. And of course there is the wine region where you could spend weeks sampling the delicate whites and reds and enjoying cheese platter after cheese platter.
Overall we absolutely loved our time in the South Island of New Zealand. There were 4 of us so we rented a car and were free to go wherever, whenever. We did very little planning ahead of time and just grabbed a map and decided each day how far we wanted to go. In terms of accommodation New Zealand is awesome because of their chains of Holiday Parks. These parks have camping sites, RV areas, and cabins. We usually stayed in cabins with shared facilities which included bathrooms, TV lounge rooms and kitchens. Since all of the Holiday Parks have shared kitchen facilities (or you can rent a cabin with a kitchen included) we generally cooked all our own meals. In a hostel I usually don’t like the shared bathroom rooms and am turned off by the kitchens but somehow I felt completely differently towards the Holiday Park shared facilities. I found the kitchens to be very clean with tons of space, lots of burners and sometimes even free stuff to use. We would usually just pull up to the Holiday Parks (you can get a map where all the ones in the chain are right on it) and see if they have availability. A couple times we were turned down, so if you are traveling in peak season you should call ahead, but we generally didn’t have too many problems.
We couchsurfed once with a hilarious Kiwi family with the firefighter husband showing off pictures of himself with Russel Crowe when he came down after the Christchurch earthquake and the wife rattling off hilarious Kiwi phrases and just keeping us laughing. In general we found the locals to be friendly, though the accent can be a bit difficult to decipher at times.
Overall nothing negative to say about New Zealand except that it’s pretty expensive and the costs really do add up!
We went out to eat a few times in New Zealand and generally found the food to be overpriced and disappointing. Our favorite meal was definitely at the famous Ferg Burger in Queenstown where we got a tofu veggie burger. In second place is the enormous and delicious chocolate chip cookie from the Paradiso Cinema in Wanaka.
Traveling around New Zealand with one of my best friends, Susan was the best experience for me. We had a blast goofing off and just had laughing fits for hours on end. Dave and Susan’s cousin Paul jumped in on the fun occasionally too. I loved traveling as a group and really enjoyed the company of our extra travel companions. In terms of where we went I’d have to say the 3 days we spent in the Abel Tasman region were incredible and this was my favorite spot in New Zealand.
The best way to get around New Zealand is by car. There is a bus network in New Zealand but having your own car allows you to stop wherever you want and really go at your own pace. There were 4 of us so we each ended up paying less than $7 a day each for the car rental. Not having to drag our bags everywhere was super convenient as we were traveling fast and changing places every couple days. Parking at the holiday parks where we stayed in usually free, so we only had to pay for parking a couple times, like when we went to Queenstown. We didn’t have to pay for any toll roads, though gas prices are high and this quickly adds up. I was really glad we had the car though and were able to be much more flexible with our travel planning and not have to figure out logistics daily.
We didn’t take any local buses in New Zealand.
We didn’t take any trains in New Zealand.
We didn’t take any cabs in New Zealand.
We didn’t take any long distance buses in New Zealand.
We didn’t use our student IDs at all in New Zealand.
Public bathrooms are easy to find. The public beaches usually have bathrooms as do the national park.
We felt very safe in New Zealand.
Going out to eat is fairly expensive in New Zealand and the few meals we had out were fairly disappointing. New Zealand is known for its pies, (think chicken pot pies but with a thicker sauce) but we didn’t love them. Since we stayed at Holiday Parks which had a communal kitchen we cooked most of our own meals and made sandwiches to take for lunch. Credit Cards And Money We had no problems using credit cards in New Zealand.
Internet is a problem in New Zealand. Everywhere we stayed you had to pay for internet at least $5 (per device) for 24 hours and the speed went from slow to fairly ok.
Accommodation ( 1.20 = ~1 USD) We stayed entirely in Holiday Parks which are all over New Zealand. These are big complexes set up with sites for RVs, camping sites and cabins or rooms. There are ensuite units or more budget friendly ones with shares facilities. On site you will find bathrooms, tv rooms, kitchens and dining areas. There are two main holiday park chains – Top 10 Holiday Park and Kiwi Holiday Park. You can get a map both of the islands with the different holiday parks shown right on the map. We used this to find the holiday parks and normally just pulled right up to them without making reservations in advance. Some holiday parks are nicer than others but generally we found the standard to be high everywhere and the kitchens and common areas were always fine. For internet you always have to pay at least $5 for 24 hours per device.
Usually a room for 2 with shared facilities goes for about 50-70NZD with 15-20NZD extra for a third and fourth person.
We couchsurfed once in New Zealand but our friends found the couchsurfers.
We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:
So where did we end up? $67 per person, per day.
Would we go back to YES?