Welcome to New Zealand!
The small country in the South Pacific Ocean that has so much to offer – magnificent nature experiences, vibrant cities and an interesting culture. In addition, it’s the number one adrenaline country in the world. New Zealand is a must do at least once in a lifetime, but I’m sure you want to go back after your first visit!
About New Zealand
New Zealand is located in the South Pacific Ocean with Australia on the western side as its closest neighbour. New Zealand consists of mainly two islands, the North Island and the South Island that are separated by the 23 kilometres long Cook Strait, and more than 700 smaller islands. The two main islands are very diverse and offer a variety of different experiences. The smaller North Island is most famous for its active volcanos, vibrant city-life and Maori culture while the bigger South Island is most famous for its wild nature, the Southern Alps, magnificent lakes and glaciers. Altogether, New Zealand is a dream destination for adventure seekers and nature-lovers.
New Zealand Map
Where to go
Christchurch is the biggest city on the South Island and is an interesting city to visit. In 2010 and 2011, several earthquakes hit Christchurch and destroyed large parts of the city centre. Today, more than seven years after the natural disasters occurred, the damages are still clear. And it’s inevitable not to be impacted by what had happened back then when strolling around the city. However, it’s life-affirming to experience how the people of Christchurch manage to continue their lives and stay grateful. Christchurch offers a funny mix of urbanism and creativity combined with a traditional English architecture and feel, and the city is definitely worth a short visit.
Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier is placed on the western side of the South Island and is one of New Zealand’s many World Heritage sites. The glacier is 12 kilometres long and is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. There are several ways of exploring the majestic glacier. First, you can take the Glacier Valley Walk either alone or with a guide. From here, you’ve got a great view of the terminal face of Franz Josef. If you want to experience it from a closer distance and be in contact with ice, you can purchase a guided Ice Walk or a Heli-Hike. You can find all tours here. We only explored the glacier from the valley and afterwards, we decided that we should probably have splurged and bought the helicopter tour to get the most out of the Franz Josef Glacier.
Wanaka is known as ‘Little Queenstown’ and is definitely worth a visit. In fact, Wanaka was, without doubt, the place I liked the most on our trip. And I could easily have spent more time there. Wanaka is located next to the stunning Lake Wanaka and around the lake, there are so many things to do. Incredible hikes, such as the easy Lakeside Walk to the famous Wanaka Tree and the more challenging hike to Roys Peak, great mountain bike routes, various water sports activities etc. During winter, it’s also one of the best spots for skiing. In addition, Wanaka offers great food, a vibrant nightlife and much more.
Central Otago is the term for an area on the South Island that is mostly known for its beautiful landscapes, gold mining history and not least vineyards. We went to Central Otago for the sole purpose of drinking wine. Thus, we spent a day on the Roaring Wine Tour that took us to some of the many great vineyards that are placed all over the area – highly recommendable!
Milford Sound is located in the Fiordland National Park on the southwestern side of the South Island. Although it’s named Milford Sound, the term actually covers a 15-kilometre long fjord. Milford Sound is, without doubt, the main attraction in the national park, and when you see it you understand why. The fjord is a stunning natural attraction made up of mountains, cliffs and deep-blue water and is a must visit. We took a day trip with Mitre Peak from Queenstown, which was beyond great!
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, and maybe the whole world. In Queenstown, you can go skydiving, bungy-jumping, whitewater rafting, canyon swinging etc. However, Queenstown also offers much more. For example, a nice and pretty city centre, delicious food, a vibrant nightlife and scenic landscapes – don’t miss the scenic drive to Glenorchy!
Best time to visit
New Zealand has four seasons where summer that runs from December to February and winter that runs from June to August are high seasons. The weather during summer is warmest with temperatures around 15 to 25 degrees and the amount of rain is low. In this season, the cities are more vibey and lots of festivals and events are held. However, during this time of the year, the popular attractions can be very crowded and prices may rise. In winter, the ski season peaks. We visited New Zealand in late November/start December where the weather was mild and the prices hadn’t risen much yet.
Getting there and getting around
For most people, New Zealand is far away and getting to New Zealand requires a flight. Momondo (affiliate link) is my preferred site for finding cheap flight tickets. There are international airports in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and various domestic airlines. We flew with my preferred airline Emirates between Sydney and Christchurch, however, the biggest New Zealandic airlines are Air New Zealand and Jetstar.
The most popular way of exploring New Zealand is by car. Most of the different cities and towns are connected by highways and roads, which makes it quite easy to get around. However, you should know that the Kiwis drive on the left side of the road. We used the rental car company Apex, which is highly recommendable. As an alternative, bus companies like Kiwi Experience, InterCity and AAT Kings offer bus trips around the island.
Time: +13 GMT.
Language: English (95%) and Maori (5 %).
Population: 4,7 million.
Capital: Wellington (North Island).
Currency: New Zealand Dollars (NZD) (1 NZD ≈ 0,69 USD). You can pay with credit card pretty much everywhere, and there are ATMs in the larger cities. It’s not common to tip in New Zealand except for excellent service. In that case, leave a maximum of 10% gratuity.
Visa: For most countries, tourist visas for up to 90 days aren’t needed. However, make sure that your passport is valid for at least three months beyond the time you plan to stay in New Zealand. Check if your country has a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand and apply for a visa on this site if needed.
Safety rating: 2/163 on the Global Peace Index.
Plug: Type I, 230V/50Hz.
Accommodation in average hotels cost around 100-200 NZD per night for a double room. Free wifi is common, however, some places only offer free wifi in the main areas. Free breakfast is usually not included.
Accommodation in average hostels cost around 30-50 NZD per night. Most hostels have several room options from private double rooms to big dorm rooms that accommodate several people. Wifi is typically available, but be aware that wifi isn’t always included in the price. Free breakfast is usually not included.
In addition, Airbnb is widely available in New Zealand, and there are various campgrounds throughout the country.
Food and drinks
Eating out is typically expensive in New Zealand. A meal at an average restaurant costs around 20-35 NZD while fast food costs around 10-15 NZD.
Drinks range from around 10 NZD for a glass of wine to 20 NZD for a cocktail.
Not surprisingly, the price for flight tickets varies depending on where you fly from. However, it’s often quite expensive to fly to New Zealand because there are only limited airlines that go there. Likewise, domestic flight tickets are typically quite pricey. A domestic flight between Christchurch and Queenstown costs around 110 NZD.
The price for renting a car or campervan is decent. 10 days from Christchurch to Queenstown is 65-100 NZD per day for a compact car and 100-200 NZD per day for a campervan.
A bus pass for 11 days around the South Island with Kiwi Experience starts at 645 NZD.
Attractions and activities
The price level on attractions and activities is generally high. However, New Zealand has so many amazing things to see and do that you can’t miss out on.
Glacier tours range between around 80 NZD for a guided Glacier Valley Walk and around 460 NZD for a Heli-Hike.
Wine tours cost around 185 NZD for a half-day tour.
Day trips to Milford Sound cost around 190 NZD.
Adventure activities cost from around 300 NZD for sky-diving and 200 NZD for bungy-jumping.
Other expenses you should consider are travel insurance and, if necessary, visa. Travel insurance for 10 days in New Zealand costs around 45-65 NZD and visa costs from 165 NZD for a 90 days tourist visa.
1 week: The South Island highlights
1 day in Christchurch
2 days in Wanaka
1 day in Central Otago
1 day at Milford Sound
2 days in Queenstown
10 days: The best of the South Island
1 day in Christchurch
1 day at Franz Josef Glacier
3 days in Wanaka
1 day in Central Otago
1 day at Milford Sound
3 days in Queenstown