9th April 2019
Planning a trip across the ditch to the land of the long white cloud? New Zealand is known for catering to every traveller. Whether you like nature, seafood, wineries, surfing, cozying up by the fire, people watching, hiking, visiting the beach or injecting your holidays with some adrenaline, New Zealand has something for you.
Better yet, its size makes it super easy to drive from one side to the other in a day. The North and South Islands are vastly different, so you’ll need to ensure you give yourself enough time to explore both.
Check out our New Zealand holiday guide below. It provides some insider knowledge on when and where to go, as well as how much you will need to budget to get the most out of your NZD.
When to visit New Zealand
January - It’s mid-summer and peak season.
February - As summer comes to an end you’ll still have the heat, but with fewer crowds.
March - It’s still kinda hot as the country eases into Autumn
April - Beautiful days, chilly nights. Think autumn colours and warm sweaters. The Easter weekend is well known to be the last hurrah in a t-shirt, shorts and ‘jandles’ (or thongs for those playing at home.
May - Now we’re getting chilly. You’ll need a jacket to enjoy the crisp air and clear blue skies.
June - Winter is here. Strap on the skis and hit the powder.
July - This is peak winter season as families flock to the slopes. It can be pretty wet up in Auckland as well.
August - Winter begins to fade, though you will definitely still need your jacket. You can generally skip a lot of the crowds in cities; however, the ski fields will still be bustling.
September - New Zealand is in full bloom as Spring hits. September is also known to be the windiest month, especially in Wellington.
October - Both the wind and temperature become milder.
November - Spring brings more crowds soaking up blue skies and soft sunshine.
December - Summer begins with longer, hotter days. If you’re lucky, the sun can stay up to 9pm in some places.
New Zealand City Guide
A city with something for everyone, regardless of your interests. In the hotter months, you can put your adrenaline to the test with bungee jumping, skydiving, canyoning, river surfing, canyon swinging, white-water rafting… the list goes on. In winter you can do all of this (in some warmer clothes), though you might be too busy shredding it up on the slopes.
All year round you can take advantage of Queenstown’s killer food scene too, with delicious ice cream, fish and chips and burgers. Honestly, did you even visit Queenstown if you didn’t have Fergburger? As if this isn’t enough, you can also spend your days wandering and drinking your way through some pretty epic wineries.
With so much to do, the price of a trip to Queenstown can be a bit more pricey than its other South Island counterparts. If you’re dabbling in a bit of adrenaline or alcohol (though maybe not at the same time), we would recommend budgeting at least $200 per day.
Skydiving in Queenstown
Dunedin is typically known as a university town, though don’t let that stop you from adding it to your Kiwi itinerary. Not only does it host the world’s steepest street (wouldn’t recommend it for a hill start), but it is on the doorstep of some fantastic scenery and Speights Brewery. Regardless of what you do, be sure to pack your rain jacket as it is notorious for being a bit drizzly.
A city that has faced a lot of hardship in a small amount of time, Christchurch boasts a spirit like no other. It is likely you will fly into Christchurch when you enter NZ, as you can often get cheap flights there from Australia. It is worth dedicating a few nights to exploring the city and its surrounds.
Within a few hours drive of Christchurch, you will found the stunning Arthurs Pass as well as Akaroa and Darfield. From here you can take a hot air balloon ride to witness breathtaking views of the Southern Alps. They are so beautiful you’ll weep.
A cute little resort town where you can spend your days hiking, skiing in the winter or visiting ‘Puzzle World’. Alternatively, you can sit at a bar by the lake, watch the world go by and just live your best life. Whatever floats your boat.
Famous for its glacier, Franz Joseph is a tiny town on the West Coast. The city itself is pretty basic, though the locals are incredibly hospitable and you’ll be at the doorstep of the Franz Joseph Glacier. Choose to see this up close with a heli-hike or guided ice walk on the glacier itself. These options are pretty exxy so you can opt to see the glacier from slightly further afar with numerous hikes and quad bike adventures. Don’t forget to warm up at the end of the day with a visit to the hot pools!
The financial hub and busiest city in New Zealand. You can fill your day with activities or just spend your time wandering the viaduct waterfront and enjoying the markets, bars, cafes and art pop-ups.
Within 10km of the city: If you’re after a bit more cafe culture and Kiwi designers, head to Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. Alternatively, visit Mission Bay for cute little beaches and bars, and the North Shore for more beaches and shopping.
Within 30km of the city: Make your way to any of the fantastic breweries and markets up Matakana Way. We recommend paying Sawmill brewery a visit.
If nothing else, you must hop on the 30min ferry to Waiheke Island. Whether it is a day trip or an overnight adventure, the small island is bursting with amazing wineries and breweries, as well as some of the best art and shopping.
Finally, if you’ve conquered Auckland and its surrounds, you can hire a car and head to Tauranga and The Mount. Less than a two-hour drive from Auckland boasts some epic beaches. Go for a surf, walk up the mountain, grab an ice cream and enjoy your life.
Don’t forget to schedule a trip to Hobbiton if you’re an avid Lord of the Rings fan! It’s about 2.5 hours out of Auckland and definitely worth a day trip.
House in Hobbiton
The nation's capital, you really cannot beat Wellington on a good day. The city and its surrounds are stunning. Boasting a bustling waterfront full of bars and restaurants, not to mention the beaches, eclectic Cuba street and world-class museums.
Te Papa, New Zealand's National Museum, is packed full of enthralling exhibits and is definitely worth a visit. Pay under $10 for a ticket on the Cable Car to take in glorious views of the cityscape and Wellington Harbour.
Wellington is the perfect city for you to lose yourself wandering in. Just don’t forget a windbreaker, it’s known as ‘Windy Wellington’ for a reason.
Straight up, this city is known for the slightly pungent odour (it smells like farts) stemming from the sulphur. Once you learn to ignore the smell, Rotorua has SO much to offer its guests.
White water rafting in Rotorua
Immerse yourself in Maori culture by attending one of the traditional Maori villages and sharing a delicious meal. You can also take a thermal safari and enjoy the hot pools.
Alternatively, if adrenaline is more your thing, go white water rafting down the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world - Tutea Falls. You can also hike up Mount Tarawera and ‘scree run’ down its crater. Scree running is essentially digging your heels into rocky surface as you run down a steep slope. Sounds dangerous, looks dangerous and even feels dangerous. Can confirm it is super fun though.
Located near the centre of the North Island, Taupo is known for its gorgeous lakefront setting. Soak up the lake views from the shore, treat yourself to a sunset cruise, explore the beautiful landscapes with a hike, try your hand at some trout fishing or even enjoy a game of putt-putt. In the winter you can also make the most of some epic skiing.
This art deco hotspot is the entry to the world renowned wine producing region that is Hawkes Bay. Soak up the sun, wander through the vineyards, enjoy the waterfront and reach peak holiday mode.
Bay of Islands
Travel to the top of the North Island, and you will find an enclave of more than 140 islands. Park up at the beach or, even better, organise a boat trip around the islands. A boat trip like this is good for the soul, as you enjoy some delicious food and wash your worries away with a swim. Either way, make sure you get yourself near the water.
How much to budget for New Zealand
Travel costs will vary on your travel style and activities. If you plan on staying in five-star hotels and bungee jumping every day, naturally you should expect to pay a bit more than those staying in backpackers. With this in mind, we recommend budgeting the following amount per day for your time in New Zealand:
Budget - $100NZD
Mid-range - $150 - $250NZD
Top end - $300NZD
Coffee: AU$4.10 (long black)
Water: AU$2.20 (from supermarkets)
Beer: AU$5 (even less at happy hour!)
Food: AU$12 (classic fish ‘n’ chips)
Taxi: AU$30 (Wellington airport – city)
Big Mac: AU$5.80 (about the same as Oz)
When budgeting for your trip to NZ, it’s safe to assume most items cost the same as what you would pay in Australia. Of course, there will be some differences like, for example, alcohol is slightly cheaper (and so is car rego if you are planning on buying a car).
How to get around New Zealand
New Zealand is stunning. Like, your neck will hurt from continually gawking at the landscapes. One minute you’re driving through lush rainforest, the next you can be driving through desert-like terrain. With this in mind, most people choose to hire a car and drive around at their own pace. You can drive from east to west in just over four hours in some places, and drive the North Island from top to bottom in 12 hours.
Take it up a notch and hire a campervan so you can pull up stumps and call it a day wherever you please. New Zealand boasts heaps of free campsites, as well as plenty of caravan parks offering powered and unpowered sites for a small fee.
If driving isn’t your style, you can purchase bus passes with companies such as Naked Bus and InterCity which offer routes across both islands.
Finally, if you’re in a rush with some cash to splash, you can fly between most major cities. Flight costs vary depending on seasonality, and you will still need some sort of road transport to reach smaller towns.
Random New Zealand Tips and Tricks
- Don’t say a bad thing about Air New Zealand… they are strangely patriotic about the airline.
- If you’re there during rugby season go and see the All Blacks play. The atmosphere is incredible, and everyone really gets behind their national team.
- Don’t judge a city by its main street or airport, there is so much more to explore.
- The road rules are pretty identical to Australia.
- There are 60 ATMs per 100,000 kiwis which is less than half the ration for Aussies.
- You legally can’t spend more than $5 with just 10c pieces.
- i-Sites are great if you are lost
- Auckland is by far New Zealand’s most expensive city.
Ready to start your New Zealand adventure? You can purchase your NZD in-store or online. Don’t stress if you forget either, you’ll find our friends Travel Money NZ in all major cities as well!
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