New Zealand Travel Guide
“There’s only one for word New Zealand —EPIC!” —Bear Grylls.
Before You Go
Places to Visit
Cities to See
Aotearoa. New Zealand.
Author: Amelia-Jayne Banks
The Land of the long white cloud. Why not visit the historical sacred land of the Maori? Discover their culture and learn their language. With white sand, hot water beaches in the North Island, spectacular starry skies and Milky Way views in the South. It’s not hard to figure out why New Zealand is one of our favourite starting destinations for any first time traveller with an extreme adrenaline addiction.
Take the chance to see the mighty All Blacks play on their home soil, celebrate with a beer and bonfire at the beach, try L&P, cycle through exotic vineyards on Waiheke Island, hike the Rocky Mountains beside sleeping volcanoes, visit snowy Mackenzie Basin, visit Surfer’s heaven on the west coast with black sand beaches and see the rolling hills of “Hobbiton”. Whatever vibe you’re looking for, we can guarantee there’s something in New Zealand for you!
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5 Things to Know Before You Visit New Zealand
The native people of New Zealand are called Māori’s and they speak Māori (also known as ‘Te Reo’). Due to British influence, English is now the most common language and New Zealander’s (also known as Kiwi’s) are usually fluent. The Māori Language is slowly dying out yet; the native Māori’s still use it to communicate with each other. The Māori language can still be seen and even heard in New Zealand as names such as; “Rotorua” and “Mt Taranaki” are of a Māori origin. Also, a common greeting used by all locals and natives in New Zealand is “Kia Ora”; it is Māori for Welcome.
Currency & Tipping
New Zealand currency is the New Zealand Dollar ($) and it is very easy to convert into the USD and GBP. New Zealand are quite up-to-date with banking and there are a good selection of ATM’S and places to send/transfer money overseas. You can keep some cash on you for transport costs but most stores accept cards. Also, tipping is usually not encouraged in New Zealand as locals generally get decent wages and don’t want to encourage the idea of tipping.
New Zealand Cuisine
New Zealand cuisine is very similar to that of which you can find in Great Britain or the United States. Of course, there are some items which are exclusive to New Zealand (such as L&P!). If you are Vegetarian, there is a good selection of fruit and veg available in the supermarkets and there are certain regions known for great vegan/veggie restaurants. New Zealand is still slowly developing vegetarian/vegan options so; some restaurants may not cater to these requirements. Although, with a little help from google, you will be sure to find somewhere suited to your needs including international food places such as New Zealandese, Italian and much more.
New Zealand has Wi-Fi however; it is not as freely available as you may be used to. Due to the Wi-Fi signals being sent from oversea the connection is often slow and inconsistent. You can expect to have to pay for Wi-Fi in New Zealand whether you’re in Starbucks or staying in a Hostel. If you change your sim card you will usually get a good data package for your travels and can make keeping in contact much faster and a lot cheaper. Remember to get your phone unlocked from your carrier!
Kiwi’s are well known for their laidback, chilled lifestyle and this is evident regardless where you visit in New Zealand. They are extremely friendly and the native Māori’s are more than willing to get you involved in their culture and teach you the words and pronunciation of their language. There is a heavy European/British influence in New Zealand however both cultures live in harmony and encourage visitors from all over the world. New Zealand is open to everybody and one of the top destinations for emigrating!
Tourism in New Zealand
When is the best time to visit New Zealand?
New Zealand is so beautiful that it doesn’t matter whether you visit in the winter or the summer. However, to help you decide it would depend on what you were hoping to gain from your travel experience.
Summer is great for that nice Australasian weather; you’ll be guaranteed sunshine for all your tourist activities, bus journeys will be filled with other travellers like yourself and nightlife will be buzzing however, you can expect peak prices and very crowded beaches. New Zealand’s best can get extremely popular with locals and tourists during summer. Winter is perfect if you enjoy snowboarding or want to see the picturesque snowy-tipped mountains. Tourist act ivies are cheaper, beaches are less crowded and you get beautiful snowy scenery but do remember Kiwi winters are usually around 12-16 ˚C (53-61˚F) sometimes reaching -10˚C in the very south.
Is it safe to travel to New Zealand?
New Zealand is extremely safe, everybody is so friendly and the hostel life is great. Locals will help at any opportunity they get and hostel staff/tourists are usually more than happy to recommend stunning locations, help you make travel plans or even book tourist activities. Of course, you still have to use your common sense and locals including hostel staff will often tell you of any “unsafe” areas to walk alone at night time, especially in Auckland, the capital however, overall New Zealand is rated high in the safest countries of the world.
In case of an emergency you can call 111 to get any emergency service, you can call this number even without phone credit. If you are backpacking it is recommended you keep a contact book of all key details including; family contacts, car rental number, method of transport (taxi number, coach details) and hostel contact number etc. This is just in case you get delayed, so you can easily keep people up to date of where you are. It would also be recommended to keep ICE contacts in your phone just ‘In Case of Emergency’.
Places to Visit in New Zealand
There are SO many awesome destinations to check out in New Zealand and just the thought of some of the amazing sights that can be seen gets us buzzing with excitement. Below we have listed some of the fantastic places you might want to visit which are suitable for all fitness types and will leave an amazing lasting impression on you and your time in New Zealand.
Franz Josef Glacier/ Fox Glacier
Franz Josef is a tiny village in the south island of New Zealand with no more than 200 residents and a voluntary fire service. Despite its small population, it is home to the Franz Josef Glacier, where you can hike, skydive or helicopter of the beautiful glacier. There is a range of different hostels around Franz Josef, where you can hang out with the awesome glacier guides and other backpackers too! Furthermore you can also see the Fox Glacier and get a similar experience if you’re short on time.
Hobbiton & The Weta Caves
Hobbiton Movie tours is set in Hamilton, in the north island of New Zealand. It is a uniquely amazing experience to witness the filming locations of one of the best movies to ever hit our cinema screens. You can also drink in the famous “Green Dragon” and take a wonderful fact-filled tour around the rolling Hobbiton hills and take selfies in the most iconic locations (including Bilbo’s house!) Just a little to the south in the capital city of Wellington you can take the Weta Caves tour which includes more Hobbiton film locations as well as a special tour around the special effects workshops where Narnia and Chappie props (just to name a few) costumes were made! Both are a great experience for any movie lover/special effects lover or just a perfect sourniver photo to sum up your New Zealand trip!
Raglan Black Sand Beach
Raglan is one of the largest surfer destinations in the whole of New Zealand. With large powerful waves, it is awesome for any beginner or greatly experienced surfer. If surfing isn’t your think then it is a perfect location to swim in some large powerful waves as well as exploring the mesmerizing black sand beach. The little surfing town of Raglan has lots of hidden gems from gift shops to vegan restaurants, be sure to check them all out!
Milford sound is an amazing day trip through the fjords of the south island of New Zealand. Typically after a rainy day, Milford has more than 100 hundred waterfalls visible on the cruise. This is a great activity for both winter and summer as during the winter the fjords become snow covered making a great cruise self-location with a glass of wine or a pint of beer!
Home to New Zealand’s Dusky Dolphin’s and Humpback whales, Kaikoura is a beautiful quiet location in the north of the south island. Here you have the opportunity to swim with dolphins and to spot some of the humpback whales that visit the coast of New Zealand. In the winter, you’re hidden in the snowy hills and are awoken by beautiful autumn style sunsets. Although Kaikoura, like Christchurch is still recovering from some powerful earthquakes, tours are still going ahead which means all year around you get the opportunity to swim with cheeky dusky dolphins.
Cities to See in New Zealand
New Zealand has so many different vibes and cities to offer students with universities placed throughout the country. With affordable public transport it is very easy and common to jump from city to city with a unique, different vibe and rich history in each and every place you go.
Auckland, also known as “the city of sails” used to be the capital of New Zealand. The city is thriving with life and a busy student atmosphere; it is also home to New Zealand’s biggest and international airport and The All Black’s rugby team. Auckland is the first touch point for many tourists and it’s a great destination to visit to get you settled in to NZ. You can bungy from the Auckland bridge, hike a dormant volcano or stroll around the vineyards on Waheke island’s just to name a few of the hugely popular tourist activities here! Auckland, being in the north island has moderately neutral temperature all year around and has never seen snow! There are great bars and a range of different restaurants and quirky hostels for you to try during your stay!
Wellington is the new capital city of New Zealand and is home to the beehive (also known as the political house of New Zealand), Te Papa museum ( a 7 floor museum about the history of New Zealand and the Maori Culture) and 70 miles per hour winds on some days! Wellington is quirky, artistic and definitely worth the visit. It has some fantastic coffee shops, awesome bars which schedule bar crawls as well as theatres which hosted the premieres for the hobbit!
Christchurch has changed over the years as it is slowly still rebuilding itself from the devastating earthquakes that they have faced. However, visiting Christchurch, that is so full of positivity will help you appreciate the true beauty of New Zealand and its diverse range of climates. You can take a tour around the city which shows the “Red Zone” of the earthquake and see the damage left on some of the city’s most iconic locations including great historical universities and cathedrals. The locals of Christchurch are so positive and this is reflected in the city as they work together to help rebuild and recreate their wonderful hometown. You can visit the touching memorial tribute in Christchurch, designed to pay respects to those, young and old, who lost their lives in the terrible earthquakes.
Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, you can bungy jump from 134 meters high, Snowboard or Ski down some of the best mountain’s in the world available for all abilities, visit the Fear Factory! New Zealand’s scariest haunted house WITH live actors and there is still LOTS more adrenaline packed activities available all with a good tourist price! Queenstown gets hugely popular with snowboarders, locals and tourists in the winter, so be sure to plan your accommodation well in advance to secure your spot.
Rotorua has the most geothermic activity in the whole of New Zealand, you can watch natural mud pools bubble away, cook an egg in a thermal pool as well as book a spa day in local hot pools available for tourists. Visiting Rotorua will open your mind to all of the geothermic activity that goes on underground throughout the whole of New Zealand. New Zealand has 48 volcanoes in Auckland alone, some which are only sleeping (dormant). To truly understand how some places were formed in New Zealand and How the Maori culture used the volcano’s to their advantage, Rotorua is definitely worth the visit.
New Zealand Blog Posts
Top 5 Things to Do in New Zealand’s South Island
New Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world, as well as some amazing opportunities for adventure. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of them!
Things to Do on New Zealand's North Island
Follow Clara, a 22 year old student at Western Washington University who traveled to New Zealand’s North Island for the adventure of a lifetime. Check out her top must-do’s.
Adventures in New Zealand
Bungy jumping is a guaranteed way of getting that adrenaline rush you’re after–and a rite of passage in New Zealand, aka the birthplace of the commercial bungy. New Zealand has plenty of bungy options, whether you’re hoping to jump from a canyon, plunge into the water or even free fall over illuminated city views at night.
You can’t come to New Zealand and not have a jet boating experience. Imagine speeding through scenic canyons and rivers, splashing near waterfalls and zipping along beautiful coastlines and beaches at top speeds of 100 kph (62 mph) with plenty of 360 degree spins that are sure to get you soaked and your heart racing.
Caving (even cave tubing!)
For all you seasoned spelunkers and beginner cavers out there: New Zealand is for you. Well known for its variety of cave systems ranging from novice level caves to expert, New Zealand can offer any type of caving adventure imaginable. There are caves to walk and/or float through by raft, glowworms to see, all with plenty of abseiling, climbing and squeezing in between.
In New Zealand, there is plenty natural scenery to see: the beautiful coastline and beaches, impressive mountains, plenty of forests, hills, lakes, canyons, rivers and even glaciers and volcanoes! And what better way to experience these sights than off road driving? There are plenty of off road driving trails to choose from and plenty of different vehicle options to suit whatever adventure needs you have.