Hi, I’m Nora from Germany and I’m currently in New Zealand for a six-week road trip. I decided to have a break from my everyday life and job, which was frustrating and uninspiring lately. So why not visiting one of the most beautiful and multisided countries of our world to do what I love the most – taking photographs? A mind hack from Mother Nature worked always fine for me.
First thing you have to think about when going to New Zealand is the duration of your travel. If you want to see all the best places of New Zealand, you will need at least four weeks of time. But if you don’t want to travel on pressure of time, you should plan some extra days. The next step is about reflecting on how you want to travel. Renting a car or a camper van? But you can do it also the way I did – I’m traveling with the buses from Kiwi Experience. A ticket for traveling the whole country is about 950 NZD. The advantage is that this ticket is valid for 12 months and you can do the tour as often as possible. Besides the driver guides book your accomodations and the activities you would like to do. So there is no stress for you at all. You can save a lot of money, because Kiwi Experience gets discounts for groups and cheaper prices in general. The accomodations are mostly hostels with 4-8 people in a room. The first night of accomodation is always guaranteed with Kiwi, but you can pre-book if you would like to stay longer at any place. As a real backbacker with focus on traveling you don’t need any expensive hotels, you only need a place to sleep.
If renting a car in New Zealand is worth it depends on your travel duration. The costs per day for a car rental are between 50-180 NZD. There is no fuel included. So if you travel alone and stay at least a month in New Zealand, this is way more expensive than traveling with the Kiwi bus. A bus full of people in your age from all over the world is probably the better choice for a single traveler. If you bring your friends or family to New Zealand, you can split the costs for a car or a van and a private road trip could be even better.
From Cape Reinga to Bluff and back to Auckland
On the morning after the night of my arrival in Auckland the first trip led me to Pahiha, which has a beautiful rocky bay area and a lot of activites to do. I did the Hole In The Rock Cruise. It’s a half-day boat cruise. With a little bit of luck, you can see dolphins. The dolphins usually show up in the late afternoon as well and you can see them from the beach. Pahihia is also a great place for shooting its breathtaking sunrises.
In the very north of New Zealand is a sweet little lighthouse in a place called Cape Reinga, where the south pacific and the tasman sea meet each other. On our way we stopped at the dunes for sand boarding which was pretty fun. I have also seen the famous Ninty-Mile Beach, which is actually 66 miles long. It’s a whole day trip. Never underrate New Zealand’s streets. Distances always take a lot of more time as you think.
This stay in Auckland was just a quick one for a single night, but if you want to take a great photo of the cityscape you can do it from the Auckland Harbour Bridge or the Sky Tower. AJ Hackett is the name for extreme activities like SkyWalk, bridge climbs or SkyJumps.
Auckland-Hot Water Beach
New Zealand is full of hot springs. That’s why it’s called Hot Water Beach. You can scoop a hole in the sand and you have your own private hot pool. Pretty cool. Some people said it was too hot to sit in, others said it was too cold. You probably need a bit luck to find the right spot. It’s only possible during low tide, so you need to be right on time. Just 700 metres from the beach we had our unique accomodation called Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park. Beautiful little cabins with glass doors. When you are there, you also should do a kajak trip to Cathedral Cove. It’s a beautiful place.
Hot Water Beach-Waitomo
In Waitomo you can do Black Water Rafting and visit the Glowworm Caves. I didn’t do any of these activities, but the glowworms glow blue in the dark which should be very impressing in a cave. The Kiwi Paka is a nice accomodation with a sun deck and a bar.
When reached Rotorua, you can do a lot of awesome stuff. Lord of the rings fans should visit the Hobbiton Movie Set, of course. Te Puia is a thermal valley with the largest geysir in the Southern Hemisphere. Pohutu erupts very hour up to 30 metres high. But the best experience you can probably have is in the Tamaki Maori Village. It’s in the Tawa forest and you learn about the Maori rituals, stories and the history of Maori culture. You are part of traditional ceremonies, sing and dance performances. At the end of the day there is an all you can eat dinner, which is really delicious. If you want, you can even stay in the village for a night.
Taupo is of the same name like its lake, which is the biggest lake of New Zealand, but the flatest. The lake is actually a vulcanic crater. The vulcano is still active and had its last big eruption more than 1800 years ago. Best thing to do in Taupo is the Tongariro Alpin Crossing. I wanted to do it so badly, but due to bad weather it was canceled two days in a row when I was there. I have still another chance on my way back. The Alpin Crossing is a whole day trip with more than 15km of hiking. You can see blue mountain lakes if you are on top. At least I visited the Tangariro National Park. Its red rocks, waterfalls and the Mount Tangariro are pretty impressing.
River Valley is a remote place in the middle of nowhere, but absolutely beautiful. With no internet and no contact to the rest of the world, you are alone with yourself and the nature. We slept in the River Valley Lodge directly at the Rangitikei River, surrounded by sheep, wood and a waterfall. Unfortunately it rained all day, so it was quite cold. It’s New Zealand’s best place for white-water rafting. You can go horse riding as well.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and it surprised me the most. It’s also called the capital of wind, but I had an absolutely windless stay. In my opinion it’s also the capital of joggers, because joggers were passing my way along the harbour all the time. It’s a quiet, pieceful city and you don’t feel any hecticness. For a good shot of the cityscape you should climb up Mount Victoria. Wellington was my last place on the northern island before heading to the south. I took the ferry to Picton the next day.
The Abel Tasman National Park is known for its beaches with golden sand. You can go hiking, kayaking, skydiving (like anywhere else) or have a ride on a water taxi. At low tide you can climb and explore the rocks on the bay.
Westport is a kind of surfer town at the rough west coast. Bazil’s Surf School teaches you how to do it and it’s also a cosy hostel with hammocks and a chimney in it. It’s a quite long walk to the beach, but in the evening we had a little campfire at North Beach with all the other Kiwi travelers from the bus. But no need to stay longer than two days in Westport, honestly.
I stayed at Hotel Mahinapua and it’s also a big bar. The famous spots are the lake Mahinapua and the rough beach. No swimming recommended, because it’s too dangerous. There are just a few places or villages along the west coast, so Mahinapua is like in the middle of nowhere. There are no supermarkets in the near. I wanted to stay three nights, but after two days I was so bored that I hopped on the next bus to get me out of there.
Franz Josef was one of the best place I have been so far. A mustdo is the Fanz Josef Glacier hike. It’s a guided tour to the beautiful blue ice of the Franz Josef Glacier. You get there with a helicopter. Unfortunately the glacier will disappear in around 60 years due to global warming. That’s why you probably can’t find tours like this in a couple of years anymore. Franz Josef has also some beautiful hidden places. I went for a walk to Callery Walk. It’s a long walk but at the end I almost cried tears for happiness. I got to a nice rope bridge with a blue river underneath. The river shaped a beautiful cave and the sunset just gave the perfect light. My photographer’s heart was happy. Walking the extra mile is always worth it.
Wanaka is one of the most famous places in New Zealand, especially THAT Wanaka tree. It grows in the middle of the water. In the distance you can see the snow-covered mountains and Roy’s Peak, which I didn’t climb up, unfortunately. A cosy little town. Best things to do there are visiting Puzzling World and doing a bike tour.
Queenstown is my current place and if you want to stay here, you should book your accomodation weeks before you arrive. It’s THAT place of New Zealand. The music never stops in Queenstown, stores are never closed. It’s like a party town on the beautiful lake Wakatipu. Mustdos are going to have a burger at Fergburger and having a drink at the ice bar. The line at Fergburger is always long, so bring some time if you go. It’s known for having the best burgers in the world or at least burgers with the best value for money. Queenstown is also known for being the best place for Bungee. You can go jetboating as well. Take a ride up with the gondola if you want to shoot the cityscape or go for a ride with a bmx. Personally, I’m not a friend of extreme sports, so I went 6km up the Gorge Road to get to a place called Arthur’s Point. There’s a nice little bridge over the Shotover River, which is almost a hundred years old. A nice place for taking photos.
Next place I’m going to visit is Milford Sound. I will be doing a boat trip to the fjordland and it’s also a mustdo. After that I will be traveling the deep south of New Zealand before I head back along the east coast.
These are my upcoming places:
- back to Queenstown
- back to Wellington
- back to Taupo
- back to Auckland