New Zealand

In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!

Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.

U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/new-zealand.html
Currency: http://www.xe.com/currency/nzd-new-zealand-dollar
Tourism Site: http://www.newzealand.com/
Other Useful Site: http://www.doc.govt.nz/

Accommodations

Assuming we will be spending plenty of nights in various Airbnbs along our journey, New Zealand is our chance to do something different. Where else on our trip will we get the opportunity to sleep in a campervan! Well maybe Australia, with both countries being known for being backpacker friendly and having great campsites/holiday parks.

  • NewZealand.com is a great resource for finding campsites along the way, including Department of Conservation campsites with some sites in the national parks.
  • Another helpful resource will be the Camper Mate app, which in addition to giving information on campsites, also directs you to areas with WiFi access and the ever-needed public toilet.
  • The site I was most excited to have stumbled upon is Okay2Stay.co.nz. For a small membership fee ($45 for 1 year) you get to park your campervan/RV at various businesses around the country. This is the average cost you are going to pay for just one night at a regular campsite! These business can be anything from a local cheese makers and cafes to vineyards and craft breweries. Sounds great, right?!

We are very fortunate to have friends in Christchurch, New Zealand who have offered to have us stay with them during our exploration of the South Island. This will help tremendously! They are wonderful people with lots of knowledge of the area, avid kayakers, and have already provided us with tons of insight into Southeast Asia, a place frequently traveled by Kiwi’s.

Transportation

Transportation in New Zealand is a big expense from what I have read, given long distances between destinations and high gas prices. One option is to let someone else do all the driving.

  • For point-to-point travel, the most popular option is by bus, such as the Intercity Bus or the Naked Bus, starting around $10NZ.
  • For those wanting hop-on-hop-off type of travel or to be part of a group, there are companies such as Kiwi Experience, which have various itineraries to chose from and include staying at different hostels along the way. Prices vary depending on the length of the trip and where you stop along the way.

If going at your own pace is more your thing, and driving on the other side of the road (in our case) doesn’t scare you, either renting a car or campervan/RV are your options (check out a money saving tip below). There are way too may rental companies to list here. All have similar cars and rates, however the big things to watch out for are where your pick up and drop off points will be, and those famous hidden fees. For us, we will need pick up at Auckland Airport and drop off as close to the ferry (which connects the North and South islands) as possible when we rent the campervan for our travels on the North Island. We plan to then rent a car once we get to the South Island since we will be mainly staying with our friends.

  • One example I found for renting a compact car (pick up in Picton and drop off at Christchurch Airport) was $525 for 14 days through Discount Car Rental.
  • For a Jucy brand campervan (Auckland to Wellington) the cost was $290 for 7 days through websites such as VroomVroomVroom.com and camperchamp.motorhomerepublic.com.
  • We can’t forget about the cost of the ferry, of course. There are two main ferry companies, the Interislander and Bluebridge, which each cost around $106 for the two of us.
$$ MONEY SAVING OPTION

There are ways of getting a car/campervan for a very very low cost such as $1-5 per day, or even free! Car rental companies need to get vehicles that have been rented and dropped off at one location to a different location for the next rental opportunity. In some countries, such as New Zealand, these companies will actually rent you the car/campervan for next to nothing with the agreement that you will bring it to the location needed. They give you ample time to get there and occasionally some added perks. 

One example we found was taking a campervan from Auckland to Christchurch over 5 days, $100 towards gas, and a free pass for the ferry.
Cost = $0

This sounds like a great option, and most likely is the option we will try. According to some blogs I have read, companies will list relocation requests several weeks in advance, but some only the day before. So it will be interesting as we get closer to our departure to New Zealand whether we will find something in advance, or will we just wing it, show up and see what’s available. Websites to check out that list relocation requests are https://www.imoova.com, https://www.drivenow.com.au/onewayrentals.jspc#/relocations/NZ, and https://www.transfercar.co.nz.

Landmarks/Activities

There are many different activities and landmarks to consider in New Zealand. Some of the most visited natural landmarks are the Bay of Islands on North Auckland, Abel Tasman National Park, the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier.

Activities that are free are always good. Some free or low cost possibilities are hiking the Tangariro Alpine Crossing, the Mount Victoria Loop, Kaikoura Range, and visiting the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. On days we are seeking water maybe we will kayak some of the gorgeous bays (because our awesome friends have a kayak hopefully we can borrow), snorkeling at Goat Island, and soaking in the Kerosene Creek hot springs, hot water beach, or Wanaka’s blue pools.

Of course there are those activities that will cost us money, but sound like a great time and worth it, such as white water rafting, riding the Christchurch gondola to take in beautiful views of the surrounding area, and taking a tour of Waitomo glowworm caves.

Wine

Sure, visiting wineries could fit under “Activities” above, but as HUGE wine lovers we feel that wine requires it’s own category! We are looking forward to is visiting some of the amazing wineries in New Zealand to try some terrific sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, sparkling wine, etc. Particular wineries of interest include the following, but we are trying to keep our options open and let fellow wine-loving Kiwis direct us in the right direction!

Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!

4 Comments

A&L · February 23, 2018 at 7:14 am

Hi Guys. Just a few comments if you are coming to NZ in winter (Aug – Sep is the equivalent of Feb-Mar in USA). NZ stretches from about 34S to 47S. If you compare this to 34N to 47N up the eastern Seaboard of the US, it takes you from Wilmington, NC to the northernmost point of Nova Scotia in Canada. While NZ is a little more temperate due to being surrounded by sea, the winter winds do come straight from the Antarctic, so do be prepared for cold weather, especially in the South Island – Christchurch is approx equivalent to Portland, Maine.

In other words, if you are going to leave your camper in Wellington and use a car in the South Island, you will be looking for motels (or our house) each night, as somewhere warm to stay. Do note that campers travel on the ferry just fine, and if you are booking for a week or two in the Nth Island, the extra couple of weeks for the South Island may be cost effective. On the other hand, a car with chains may mean you don’t get stuck in snow or ice so easily. The South Island is one long mountain chain with relatively narrow flat bits on each side where the erosion from the mountains creates gravel flats by the sea. The Canterbury plains, north and south of Christchurch are the only large gravel plains, although there also some flattish bits in the Southeast, caused more by glacial scouring in the last ice age. There are 4 roads over the mountains between the east coast and the west coast (and one rail link, from Christchurch, which is well worth doing as a day trip). All are generally open, but do get regularly closed due to snow or landslides in winter.

The South Island is way too big to do as day trips from Christchurch. eg Christchurch to Queenstown will be an 8 hour drive in winter (if the Lindis Pass is open) and you would actually want to break it into smaller chunks and do some sightseeing at Tekapo/Mt Cook/Tasman Glacier on your way there (probably taking 3 days to get that far) Milford sound is justly reknowned for the beautiful fiords, and can be done as a long day trip from Queenstown, but in winter the only road in/out is often closed for a week or more due to avalanche danger. You then have to decide whether to go west over the Haast pass from Wanaka to the west coast and north, or go east to Central Otago and Dunedin – generally you will make that decision at the time depending on the weather forecast. In the South Island, if the weather is good on the east coast, it will be bad on the west coast, and vice-versa 🙂

The glaciers on the West Coast are worth a visit, but if you have driven up beside the Salmon Glacier in the US/Canada, (or the glacier by Seward, or the ones on the Icefields parkway) you will be disappointed, and the NZ glaciers are getting harder to get to, as they are retreating due to climate change. The good thing about coming in winter is that you can ski the Tasman glacier, or go heliskiing in the mountains around Wanaka or Queenstown, if that’s your thing and you don’t want to bungee jump or jet boat where they were invented.

Anyway, hopefully you get the idea that while NZ looks like a small country on the map, due to narrow windy roads and lots of mountains, it can take quite a while to get around. Given you are not on deadlines and want to see stuff and follow the roads less travelled (you do, don’t you?) I’d suggest you won’t want to spend more than 5-6 hours driving each day, and should aim for a maximum of 400km in a day, and often just 200km or less. The loop Christchurch – Mt Cook – Queenstown – Wanaka – Haast – Hokitika – Greymouth – Westport – Christchurch will take a week at least, and there is still the northern part of the South Island to do before (or after) that, including the one way in/out to Takaka and Farewell spit plus Abel Tasman Nat Park (a great walk) and Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds.

Finally there are nine “Great Walks” in NZ that are multi-day hikes with nice huts on the routes, and there are also countless hiking trails in the national parks, although you will not want to attempt the alpine ones in winter (which are many of them) unless you get into the serious mountain eqpt. If possible, I suggest you do try and do a couple of the great walks – most are best in summer tho’. http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/walking-and-tramping/great-walks/

    Peter & Rachel · February 23, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you for such terrific and thorough information! Climate considerations are definitely important for this type of trip, especially as we try to target “shoulder seasons” when at all possible for more affordable accommodations, etc. The Great Walks sound wonderful!

A&L · February 23, 2018 at 7:32 am

Oh, and wineries – I’m afraid we will not be much help as while Alan knows a fair bit due to associating with wine buffs, Leanne doesn’t drink at all, and Alan only drinks when out with others, so we don’t go winery visiting. All that aside, there are a few main areas worth visiting (Nth to Sth):
1. Gisborne and Hawkes Bay
2. Wairarapa (Martinborough)
3. Marlborough
4. Central Otago
There are lots of other areas that grow grapes – more every year, but those areas above all have large concentrations of wineries and are set up for wine tours/visits/tastings and often lunches (I’m sure I’ve forgotten some around Auckland, such as Waiheke island, but you could spend a month doing nothing but winery visits)

    Peter & Rachel · February 23, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    We may have to drag you guys out to a winery for a nice lunch! 🙂

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