Before arriving in New Zealand a month seemed a lot of time for the small nation, however it turned out a month just wasn’t long enough to truly experience this magical country. Many don’t know what New Zealand is in fact split in to two separate islands, the North Island and the South Island.
I travelled New Zealand in September and October 2014 and because of the seasonal changes, I had fairly quiet travel until the end of September. As I hit October cities and tourist spots became busier as many made their way to New Zealand for summer season.
Our first port of call in New Zealand was Queenstown, located in the south of the South Island. The
Alpine ski town is a beautiful place with small cobbled streets and an incredible lake outside your door. The Skyline Gondola offered us amazing views of Queensland from above.My time there took in two days up at The Remarkables, a mountain range boasting some of the best beginner ski slopes you can find, a trip to Milford Sound with Kiwi Experience and a walk round the wonderful Queenstown Gardens.
From there I moved on to Lake Tekapo, a tiny town on the edge of Lake Tekapo (you’d have never guessed!) and I checked in to Lakefront Backpackers hostel. This small town is so small there is only one street and the famous Hot Springs. There wasn’t a lot to do, but it was an extremely peaceful place with amazing views wherever you looked.
The next day I arrived in Christchurch and bedded down at the YMCA. We would have stayed at Base in Christchurch however it has been closed following the devastating earthquake in 2011 and is yet to reopen. We wandered off in to Christchurch, visiting the reformed Cathedral, Quake. City exhibition and new shopping mall made out of shipping containers. The Quake City exhibition was truly brilliant and it was heart-breaking to watch the videos and see the images of the devastation the 2011 earthquake left.
After another day on the bus and yet another early start we arrived at the Lazy Shag in Kaikoura. Kaikoura is also fairly small town and the main attractions are a Dolphin Encounter tour or a Whale Watching tour. However, bad news, they were both cancelled the day I arrived and I ended up sitting in the hostel relaxing instead.
An early start, three hour Kiwi Experience bus to Picton and an atrocious ferry ride later we arrived in Wellington on the North Island. I headed to Cuba Street to see what was still open! Luckily the night market was open which was really good fun, with street food, music and lots of little stalls selling niche products.
Our fifth day on the road took us to Taupo located in the centre of the North Island. The best thing to do here is sky diving however if you aren’t in to that kind of thing, there are some beautiful walks around the lake and you can also relax on the wonderful beaches near the town. I didn’t get to see much of Taupo as I was only there for one night but I would highly recommend it if you love your adventure activities and want some adrenaline added to your trip.
A super-duper long day on the bus eventually took us to Auckland! I immediately to see what New Zealand’s biggest city had to offer. I grabbed dinner, had a few glasses of wine and then headed out for a walk around the city. Auckland is a beautiful city with lots to do and a lively atmosphere throughout! I also took a trip up the Sky Tower which was an amazing experience and provides amazing views across the city.
As an added excursion to our trip we decided to take the bus up to the Bay of Islands also known as Paihia in the far north of the North Island. I only had 24 hours in Paihia due to my busy itinerary and unfortunately it decided to rain for the more majority of my stay. I did however get on a boat tour when the weather improved and managed to see some of the beautiful beaches in the sun!
After 10 days of travel I started to head back down south, with my first stop being at Hot Water Beach to the east of Auckland. This is a huge summer destination in New Zealand and is based around a small township with a beautiful and unique beach – rated one of the world’s best. You can pop over to Cathedral Cove for amazing views and coastal walks and I am certain that in summer you could probably spend a week here. However in spring, autumn winter it’s only worth the over-night stay as the weather isn’t great and we didn’t even get to dig our own hole on the beach because of the tide.
Our next stop was Waitomo. There is nothing here except the glow worms and the caves, so unless you are interested in either then it may not be worth stopping here. It also rained most of the day which meant there was even less to do had the sun been out. A cool place to visit but unless you are caving, I wouldn’t stop here.
The next day we then ventured on to Rotorua, the world famous geothermal town. There is a lot to do in this small town north of Taupo including Kirura Park where you can wander round the springs and look at the geothermal activity, the Polynesian Spa where you can relax and chill out in their multiple natural springs.There is even a mud bath spa called Hells Gate where you can go and soak in natural mud before relaxing in their springs.
Rotorua is also home to the Maori culture and provides plenty of options for going to a cultural show – be careful though as some have a reputation for being touristy. I went on the Tamaki Tours trip and it was really good fun.
I then headed back down to Wellington and stayed three nights so I could really get a feel for this interesting city. Over two days I visited the national museum Te Papa and went for a hike up Mount Victoria which had incredible views across the city and surrounding areas. Wellington is prone to a lot of earthquakes as it is sits directly on top of a fault line.
Another excursion was stopping in Nelson, at the north of the South Island. I had family friends there so I stayed with them for a weekend and got to see the real Nelson. A small but striking town south of the Abel Tasman, it isn’t usually a stop for tourists but after visiting it now I would 100% go back on a return visit to New Zealand. I went on a boat, went paddle boarding, visited a vineyard, walked through the World of Wearable Art and also had a BBQ overlooking the beautiful views of the coast.
After experiencing the wonders of Nelson, Kaiteriterl was just a quick stop before I headed on down the west coast. The town is the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and a beautiful stretch of coast across a huge bay. The views are gorgeous with beautiful beaches hidden all over the place. I had one morning here and sat on the beach near the hostel to relax after my busy schedule. Just remember to take sand-fly repellent.
Next up was Westport, a cute little west coast town located just off the beach on the west coast. The scenery around this area is beautiful and even though the town doesn’t provide much, it is a good place to relax and go surfing or paddle boarding. I did paddle boarding down a river and it was great fun!! I simplystayed overnight with Kiwi but you probably wouldn’t need to if you were on a tight schedule.
If there’s one thing many do in New Zealand, it is climbing the Franz Josef glacier on the west coast of the south island. With heli-hikes to the ice glacier daily (weather dependant) and plenty of walking to do, it would be easy to find things to do over a few days in the summer. The town is tiny, and I mean tiny but it is still a lovely town. The climb itself was incredible and an amazing experience during my time in New Zealand.
As I came to the end of my trip and back to where I started in Queenstown, there was one last stop in Wanaka. The town of Wanaka is basically a small Queenstown, set against Lake Wanaka with beautiful views ofthe surrounding area and in winter is a haven for skiers and snowboarders. The town is small, but in winter it is a great ski destination for any budding skier or snowboarder. I also visited Puzzle World which is apparently one of their main attractions minus the skiing. If I came back I’d definitely spend a week here skiing in winter.
As we approached our final destination nearly five weeks later I felt extremely content and pleasantly surprised at this amazing country. I found throughout my trip New Zealand managed to shock me with amazing views and incredible activities. I also went zip-lining in the rain and stayed at the great hostel Sir Cedrics! To celebrate the end of such an amazing month I grabbed a Fergburger and went and sat by the lake taking in the impressive landscape surround Queenstown.
I travelled with the bus tour company Kiwi Experience on my journey around New Zealand on their Super Funky bus pass. Kiwi Experience have a variety of passes for all kinds of budgets ranging from $100 to $1900.Kiwi Experience are a great way to see New Zealand without the added pressure of making the journey yourself.
See http://www.kiwiexperience.com for more information.