Ultimate Guide to Backpacking New Zealand

Active volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, rugged coastlines, and lush rainforest cover the entirety of New Zealand. This magical place remains one of our favorite all-time backpacking destinations. There are world-class adventure activities from hiking, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, and skiing during the winter. Outdoor lovers and adventure junkies swear by New Zealand. So do we. New Zealand tourism has boomed in recent years with double-digit growth, and it comes as no surprise. While it is also a popular destination for vacationers and honeymooners, the best way to explore the country is to strap on your backpack and spend some quality time exploring. We loved New Zealand for all the hiking and epic road trips. A New Zealand trip is one of the best, and there is a bit of something for everyone!

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Mount Awful, Aspiring National Park

 

 

When to Visit

New Zealand tourism is very seasonal. The summer between December and February gets very busy at all the major tourist attractions. December is school break in New Zealand, so Kiwis are also on holiday at this time. Campsites and backpackers in New Zealand can book up, and tourist sites feel like Disney World. We recommend going in the shoulder season just after the summer peak. April and May is the perfect time to visit New Zealand. Temperatures start to drop, but so do the tourists and the sandflies. If you are coming for winter activities, there is a winter rush around Queenstown for skiing and snowboarding.

 

Visa Options

Visitor Visa – If you want to stay longer than three months or you are not from a visa waiver country, you must apply online before your trip. This visa is valid for up to nine months to stay in New Zealand.

Visa Waiver Visitor Visa – If your passport is from a visa waiver country, you do not need to apply for a visa before arriving. A three-month visa is provided.

Working Holiday Visa – If you are between the age of 18 and 30 and mostly want to come to New Zealand to travel, but also want the option to work or study, this is the best option. The visa is valid for 12 months and requires proof of $4,200 NZD equivalent in your bank account as well as full medical insurance.

To read more on visa options related to your country and interest, check out the New Zealand Immigration page.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

A waterfall in the Catlins

Sim Card

There are several phone carriers in New Zealand, but we preferred Skinny Direct. They are a great budget mobile carrier with the cheapest data plans and good service. Prices are $30 NZD per month for 3 GB of data or $50 NZD per month for 10 GB of date. All plans come with unlimited text and minutes.

 

Banking

ATMs are wildly available and most establishments take credit card. If you are coming for a long holiday such as a working-holiday visa, it is good to open a local bank account. We recommend ANZ Bank for their free basic checking account. To open a bank account in New Zealand, you will need a document with a local address, and possibly a copy of your working-holiday visa. We used our vehicle registration and insurance paperwork. This also was a cheap method to wire transfer money to our bank in the United States.

 

Backpackers Guide to Buying a Car in New Zealand, beardandcurly.com

Get a car that (hopefully) will not cause you any problems.

Transportation

Shared Rides

Shared rides are very common with backpackers, which includes hitchhiking. The best way to partner up with another traveler is by posting a request on Backpacker Boards or the New Zealand Backpackers Facebook group. People will ask for rides, or often mention a destination in mind looking for another backpacker to split fuel costs.

 

Public buses

Between major cities there are some public buses, however, we felt their prices were very high considering the distances. For example, a bus from Wanaka to Queenstown cost $50 NZD for an hour drive.

 

Hop-on/Hop-off Bus

There are two major companies in New Zealand, Kiwi Experience, and Stray Travel. Prices range from $650 NZD for a two-week package to $1200 NZD for a 6-week package. These services gear towards a younger backpacker crowd.

 

Rent a Vehicle

Renting is the best choice for those coming for only a few weeks or one month. New Zealand is perfect for self-driving enthusiasts and having your own vehicle allows the freedom to create your own New Zealand itinerary. Jucy has a good range of vehicles from small cars with camping equipment to large campervans. Costs range from $700 to $1,500 NZD for one month. They come stocked with beds and cookware.

 

Buy a Vehicle

If staying more than two months, buying a car or campervan is the most economical option. This is a popular option for backpackers and a great way to travel New Zealand on a budget. Try to find a vehicle with good resale value. It is also important to consider the seasonality of buying/selling. It is common to buy in the summer and sell just before winter. Depending on when you intend to sell a vehicle, there is sometimes a potential for a serious loss. We recommend buying a station wagon such as a Nissan Wingroad. Seats fold flat and can sleep two, they are fuel efficient and have a better resale value. For an in-depth guide, check out our article the Ultimate Backpackers Guide to Buying a Campervan in New Zealand.

 

Self-Contained Vehicles

Only a few years ago, New Zealand allowed freedom camping at nearly all of their campsites. With the booming New Zealand tourism, that all changed. There are now campgrounds designated for vehicles that are not self-contained (i.e. a pooper). Freedom camping is now only reserved for vehicles that are self-contained. If you are considering buying a self-contained vehicles, while the cost is higher, you can sleep for free every night if you are smart with where you stay. For more on self-containment, check out the NZ Motor Caravan Association.

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Some camping essentials

Accommodation

Camping in New Zealand

A great way to save money and travel New Zealand on a budget is to camp. If you do not have a tent, you can easily buy one in New Zealand for your trip. Another option is to have a vehicle with a bed inside. Campsites are either private or run by the Department of Conservation. They range from basic campsites with only vault toilets and no running water to full kitchens and shower/laundry facilities. Costs range from $6 to $18 NZD per person. There are also a decent number of free campsites for both self-contained vehicles and non self-contained vehicles. In cities, there are limited campsites available and freedom camping is always prohibited.

 

Holiday Parks

If you are looking for an upgrade from camping, holiday parks are your best bet. They have secured grounds with electric hookups and assigned spots for your vehicle and/or tent. They typically include showers, laundry facilities, and wifi. Prices typically range from $40 to $60 NZD per vehicle.

 

Backpackers

In cities, backpackers are a great choice to meet other travelers. Backpackers charge between $20 and $30 NZD for a dorm bed and up to $80 for a private room. Base Backpackers and Nomads are popular options and located in most cities in New Zealand.

 

AirBnB

We stayed at AirBnB’s while we were in a few of the major cities. This is a great option for couples. You can score a nice room for $30 – $40 NZD. Use our link for $40 credit for first-time users!

 

Hotels

Hotels are expensive in New Zealand, starting from $100 NZD per night.

 

 

Campermate

Before going to New Zealand, download the Campermate App on your mobile device. This app is FREE and an incredible resource during your trip. We used it daily to look up top things to do, wifi hotspots, toilet locations, supermarket locations, and most importantly, campsite information. The user reviews and comments are also very helpful.

 

Best Campsites in New Zealand

There are hundreds of campsites in New Zealand, but these stuck out to us as a great deal or just an overall amazing campground. All prices in NZD.

Whatipu campground – $7.50
Earl’s Paradise Coromandel – $10
Mangaowkewa Gorge Scenic Reserve – Free
Kidd’s Bush Lake Hawea – $8
Lake Pukaki Reserve – Free
Mrs. Woolly’s campground Glenorchy – $16
Moke Lake – $13
Lumsden parking area – Free
Milford Sound Lodge – $27

 

Wwoofing

Wwoofing is an opportunity to work on a farm in exchange for housing and food. Although typically unpaid, during high season, paid jobs may be offered. We heard a lot of horror stories about unfair working conditions and unpaid jobs that were serious hard labor. Be smart about what you sign up for, you may be better off trying to find a minimum wage job.

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Great Backpacker Food Options

What to Eat

Restaurants are expensive in New Zealand and are not ideal for most backpackers. In cities such as Wellington or Queenstown, there are some affordable and great spots for dishes under $12 NZD. Takeaway food is widely available throughout New Zealand. Typically they serve fish and chips, Chinese food, or burgers. Takeaway can be cheap with meals for $6 NZD, but at times could creep up to $10 NZD. Cooking is popular since most campervans come equipped with a stove and cookware.

 

Where to Stock Up

Four Square – small convenience store with basic needs and food. Slightly higher price, but not by much. We found deals on veggies quite often.
Countdown – a large supermarket chain, often with the best prices. They are located in most small towns.
New World – more upscale supermarket with good quality products, some prices are good. Now as common as Countdown, but still available in most mid-size towns.
Pak’N’Save – only located in larger towns and cities. They have great prices and the best for dry food and bulk.
The Warehouse – some stores carry dry food. They have the cheapest canned chickpeas, four bean, peanut butter, chocolate, and candy.
Bunnings or Mitre 10 – building supplies stores for fuel.

 

Specialty Stores

Fruit and Veg – there are many fruit and veg stores throughout NZ, especially located within proximity to farming areas. There are also often fruit and veg stalls or fresh produce sold directly from farms with signs on the road.
Asian – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and some other cities have good Asian supermarkets with great specialty Asian/Indian items.

 

Awesome Backpacker Food Options

Cheese – Mainland Vintage Cheddar 1kg $11.49
Tuna pouches – Sealord Lemon, Sesame & Ginger Tuna pouch $2.50
Soba noodles – Hakubaku organic noodles from $3
Indian spice mixes – Mother’s pre-made sauce and spice mix $1.79 (Only saw these in Auckland so stock up)
Watties WOK creations – Thai Coconut Chili and Lime, Ginger and Sesame 3 for $5
Pad Thai noodles – Erawan noodles from $2
Thai curry paste – Mae Ploy green curry paste (spicy) $1.50
Ramen: Just Noodles – Mexican Salsa, Indian Butter Chicken $6 for 5 packets
Bars – Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slice bars, Afghan and Sultana & Manuka honey flavors 2/$6
Dehydrated Peas – Continental Surprise Garden Peas $6 large bag
Hot Sauce – Mr. Number One Sriracha hot chili sauce $6

All prices in NZD.

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Wharariki Beach

How Much Time Is Needed?

The more time the better. We spent three months in New Zealand, with one month in the north and two months in the south island. We wished we had more time, especially in the south island. While it is not always possible to come for several months, try to come for at least two weeks. With less time, focus a smaller area such as Mount Aspiring and the Fiordlands in the south island. Check out this 7-day itinerary of the South Island or 7-day itinerary of the North Island

 

How Much Will It Cost?

New Zealand is an expensive country by most standards. However, New Zealand travel does not have to be and can be done on a budget. It is a great place for backpackers. Renting a vehicle will be your biggest expense, so if you can come long enough to buy a campervan, you can save a lot of money. If you enjoy hiking, New Zealand just got cheaper! We spent 45 days hiking, and aside from food, we only spent $92. How!? Outside of the New Zealand Great Walks (more on this later), all of the huts in New Zealand are covered with a DOC Hut Pass. It costs $92 and is valid for six months. We stayed in huts for around 30 nights, costing us $3 per person to sleep! New Zealand is a small country, so distances are not far, but the price of petrol is expensive. For two people, we spent an average of $84 NZD ($60 USD) per day. This includes all costs in New Zealand, except for our international flights. We sold our vehicle for the same price we bought it, so our vehicle costs were only for petrol.

 

Typical Costs (stated in NZD):

Total Daily Budget – $60 to $100 per couple, not including cost of renting a vehicle

Basic Campgrounds – $6 – $10 per person

Dorm Rooms at a Backpackers – $20 per bed

Fuel/Petrol – $1.70 – $2.20 per liter

Eating – $5 – $15

Alcohol – $8 pints at a bar, $12 for a six-pack at a supermarket, $8 – $12 bottle of wine or $20 box of wine at supermarkets

 

 

Top things to do in New Zealand

Backpackers Guide to Buying a Car in New Zealand, beardandcurly.com

Road Tripping in New Zealand

Road Trip

A visit to New Zealand is not complete without an epic road trip. Whether you plan to search for the best surf spots, waterfalls, mountain hikes, or complete the drive from Cape Reinga down to Bluff, road-tripping should be #1 on your list. It is a perfect way to explore the country. It’s even a great way to see New Zealand with kids. For the best road trip, we recommend starting in Auckland and ending in Christchurch. Spend more time on the South Island. There is much more to see!

 

Surf

New Zealand has some stunning coastline. While the water is cold, it does have some pretty good surf. Some of the popular surf spots are Raglan, Piha, Shipwreck Bay, Ahipara Bay, Fitzroy Beach, St Clair Beach, Kahutara, Westport and Colac Bay. Don’t forget to bring a wetsuit!

 

Abel Tasman Coastal Track, The Nine Great Walks of New Zealand, Check out more at www.beardandcurly.com

Kayaking in Abel Tasman

Adventure Activities

Take your pick at one of the ohh so many adventure activities. Queenstown is a perfect base and known as the adventure capital of the world. Choose between bungee jumping, skydiving, kayaking, white river rafting, canyoning, cave exploring, jetboat tours, and for those craving some fresh winter snow, nothing tops heli-skiing. Activities are very expensive in New Zealand and can range from $100 NZD to several hundred for tours. Heli-skiing starts at $1,000 NZD per person.

 

Kepler Track, The Nine Great Walks of New Zealand, Check out more at www.beardandcurly.com

Hiking the Kepler Track

Hiking

Great Walks of New Zealand

There are nine Great Walks in New Zealand (plus a new tenth one). There are the most popular walks in the country. They are marketed by the DOC and have world-class infrastructure. The huts are very pleasant to stay at. Because of their popularity, they can feel like a highway at times and are not good for solitude. If you want to do the best ones, we recommend the Tongariro Northern Circuit, the Routeburn track, the Kepler track, and the Milford Sound. These hikes require bookings in advance and cost between $30 and $70 NZD for a bunk. Check out our full guide on the Nine Great Walks of New Zealand.

 

Hut System

With over 1,000 huts across New Zealand, this is a perfect way to explore the outdoors. Hiking is a major part of the Kiwi culture, and getting out to the huts are the best way to do it! The DOC manages nearly 1,000 huts. Aside from a few popular huts that require a booking, nearly all of them are included in the DOC Backcountry Hut Pass. Buy a pass from one of the DOC Visitor Centers for $92 (valid for 6 months).

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Brewster Hut

 

Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

New Zealand has so much hiking, you do not have to head too far into the mountains to get some of the best views. New Zealand mountains are so accessible, so don’t exclude the top day hikes. Because of the popularity of hiking in New Zealand, most day hikes are very busy. The best day hikes in New Zealand not to miss are Mount Taranaki, Roys Peak, Isthmus Peak, Diamond Lake, Mueller Hut, Ben Lomond, Gertrudes Saddle, Key Summit, Lake Marian, and Avalanche Peak.

 

Best Multi-Day Hikes in New Zealand

Ohh where to begin. We came to New Zealand for the hiking, and our preference is getting into the backcountry. In New Zealand, this is called tramping. Even though there are huts to sleep at, with a mattress provided, these hikes do require more gear such as a portable stove, sleeping bag, and possibly camping gear. Our best memories of New Zealand were days in the middle of the mountains with no people or towns in sight. There are so many great hikes in New Zealand, but our favorites were the Tongariro Northern circuit, Travers-Sabine circuit, Cascade Saddle, Gillespies Pass, Mount Brewster, Copeland track, Routeburn track, Kepler track, and the Milford Sound track. A few of these are Great Walks and require advanced booking. If you have to only choose one multi-day hike in New Zealand and you are an experienced hiker, go to the Cascade Saddle, our favorite hike in New Zealand.

 

 

 

Top Places to Visit in New Zealand – North Island

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

90 Mile Beach, Northland

Northland

The northernmost region of New Zealand has a stunning coastline. The drive through the Northland is very scenic with beautiful farmland and rolling hills. If you want to see the entire country, you have to make it up to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point. Two other great places to check out are the Bay of Island and 90 Mile Beach.

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Piha Beach

Waitakere Regional Park

Only a short drive from Auckland, Waitakere has beautiful black sand beaches and stunning coastline. Piha is one of the country’s most popular beaches and great for surfing. Our personal favorite beach was Whatipu beach. There were very few people here and a great coastal walk called the Omanawanui Track.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Coromandel

Only two hours from Auckland is the Coromandel Peninsula. Known for Cathedral Cove, this is a must visit in New Zealand. The white sand beaches here are beautiful. Also check out New Chumms Beach, Hot Water Beach (low tide only), and the Karangahake Gorge. It is best to visit Cathedral Cove during low tide, and preferably at sunrise or sunset.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Rotorua geothermal springs

Rotorua

Bursting with volcanic activity and geothermal hot springs, Rotorua is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand. Wai’o’tapu is the main attraction, but Hellsgate Geothermal Park and Kuirau Park are other options. Entry prices are around $30 NZD per person. Check out the Redwood Forest for some short hikes and mountain biking trails. If you are on a budget,  there are several free natural hot springs in the area including kerosene creek and the secret spot.

 

 

New Zealand Ultimate Guide for Backpacking, Tongariro Northern Circuit, The Nine Great Walks of New Zealand, Check out more at www.beardandcurly.com

The Emerald Lakes, Tongariro

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro is known for its famous alpine crossing. This is most popular day walk in New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings was filmed here with the famous Mount Doom, Mount Ngauruhoe, the main attraction. Hiking up is a two-hour side trip while doing the crossing. There are several stunning emerald lakes and while this hike is very busy, it is one of the best in New Zealand.

 

 

Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Puakai Tarns, Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

This volcanic peak stands alone and on a clear day can be seen from hundreds of kilometers away. It is picture perfect and one of our favorite places on the north island. For the best views of the peak and famous shot as seen above, it is a four-hour hike to the Pouakai Tarns. It is best to visit on a clear day with little wind. The summit hike is one of the hardest hikes in New Zealand. The grade is incredibly steep and this grueling seven-hour hike has panoramic views of the north island. On a clear day, you can see the south island.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Castlepoint. Photo by @mitchperfect.nz.

Castlepoint

I think I have mentioned New Zealand has some pretty scenic coastline right? Yeah, well Castlepoint is right up there as one of the best spots. Our favorite lighthouse in New Zealand highlights this coastal area. It is a 45-minute walk out to the lighthouse.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

Cape Palliser

Located a couple hours from Wellington, Cape Palliser has a few attractions worth visiting. There is a large seal colony that lives here. They are located just before the Cape Palliser lighthouse. The nearby Pinnacle is a great 1-hour walk that was featured in a scene of the Lord of the Rings.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Wellington skyline

Wellington

Ferries between the north and south island depart from Wellington, so this likely will be in your travel plans. It was our favorite city in New Zealand. There are so many great cafes to lounge during the day and hipster bars to enjoy a great cocktail for the evening. The Te Papa National Museum is free and one of the best museums in the world. We still talk about it to this day, for an incredible deal on amazing pizza, Tommy Millions has a two for $40 NZD offer on large pizzas.

 

 

Top Places to Visit in New Zealand – South Island

Abel Tasman Coastal Track, The Nine Great Walks of New Zealand, Check out more at www.beardandcurly.com

Abel Tasman NP

Abel Tasman

Located a couple hours from Nelson, Abel Tasman has stunning emerald water that looks like a tropical paradise. We do recommend visiting Abel Tasman, but it is important to know how. The coastal walk is a Great Walk and a popular reason for the visit. We did the hike, and personally, we did not enjoy it at all. It was very crowded and felt like a superhighway. Most of the walk was inland through the bush without coastal views. If you are an experienced hiker and looking for solitude, skip the hike and rent a kayak. The best way to explore Abel Tasman is by sea. Rent a kayak from R&R Kayaks starting from $60 NZD.

 

 

Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Wharariki Beach

Golden Bay

The cute hippy town Takaka is a great stop for some grub on the way to our favorite beach in New Zealand, Wharariki Beach. This beach is absolutely stunning. Come during low tide. There are seal pups that swim in the small pools by the rocks. Make sure to walk down to the end of the beach. There are caves to explore and stunning views of rock arches. The reflections are some of the best we have seen. Come in the late afternoon for sunset.

 

 

Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes

A popular stop to take a picture at the famous Lake Rotoiti pier is a must in New Zealand. This is the main draw if you are just stopping by. Nelson Lakes is a massive national park that does not have roads through it. The best way to explore this area is on multi-day hikes. For short hikes, Mount Robert or a night at the Angelus Hut are great options. For one of the better hikes in New Zealand, pack up for a 7-day hike on the Travers-Sabine circuit to the clearest lake in the world, Blue Lake.

 

 

Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge

Located 30 minutes inland from the town of Hokitika, this is a must stop when heading down the west coast. This glacier fed river cuts through a forest creating the stunning Hokitika Gorge. The short walk over a suspension bridge is a must. This is some of the brightest emerald green water we have ever seen.

 

 

Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Lake Matheson, West Coast

West Coast

When driving down the west coast, the main attractions are the glaciers. We felt these are over-hyped. These glaciers have receded significantly in the past twenty years. Hiking will only get you a few kilometers from the glacier, so unless you intend to shell out hundreds of dollars for a heli-hike, we recommend skipping these. For better options, head up to Brewster Hut (difficult) and get up close to the Brewster Glacier or save your glacier moments while at Mount Cook (easy). The best sight near the glaciers are not the glaciers themselves, it is Lake Matheson. Come for sunrise when there are reflections of the mountains!

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Roys Peak, Wanaka

Wanaka

Wanaka was our favorite town in New Zealand. A smaller more laid-back version of Queenstown nestled on a picturesque lake. There are great food and lots of hiking in the area. We felt we could stay here for months! Make sure to get a picture of that Wanaka Tree, and then head out for a hike. Six kilometers from town is the Roy’s Peak hike. This five-hour hike is one of the most famous hikes in New Zealand. If you are looking for more solitude, Lake Hawea is a perfect option, and the Isthmus Peak hike is similar to Roy’s Peak with a tenth of the crowds.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Hiking in Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring

Mount Aspiring National Park was our favorite park for multi-day hikes. Access is not too far from Wanaka. For an easy hike, enjoy the valley and two-hour walk to Rob Roys Glacier or head into the East Matukituki Valley to the Aspiring Hut. For more experienced hikes, check out the French Ridge or Livermore hut. Our favorite hike in New Zealand is the Cascade Saddle. It begins from the Aspiring Hut on the Wanaka side and ends near Glenorchy, so transportation is required. This hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers and during good weather. It should not be attempted if wet or icy. Views of Mount Aspiring are epic and you get up close to the Dart Glacier. There are two ways to finish the hike, which we recommend the Rees Valley. On a clear day, this is the best mountain porn in New Zealand.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

Ohh Mount Cook. Where to begin. The tallest mountain in New Zealand, and one of the most scenic drives in New Zeland too! Views from Lake Pukaki are wonderful. Massive peaks, glaciers, jagged ridgelines, and the glacier-fed lakes beneath Mount Cook are stunning. There are several great hikes in the park. Mueller Hut is one of the best day hikes in the country, and if you score a reservation, you can stay the night watching the last sunlight on Mount Cook. The complete silence mixed with thunderous booms from nearby collapsing glaciers is incredible to experience.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Hiking on the Routeburn track

Queenstown – Glenorchy

Queenstown is one of the most touristy cities in New Zealand, the adventure capital of the world. While it is becoming more expensive to visit Queenstown, there still remains some cheap food options and several backpackers are located here. From hiking the Ben Lomond or skiing the Remarkables in the winter, Queenstown is a must stop on the south island. The drive to Glenorchy is considered one of the best in the world. The mountains surrounded Queenstown offer countless hiking opportunities. The Routeburn track begins near Glenorchy.

 

 

Milford Track, The Nine Great Walks of New Zealand, Check out more at www.beardandcurly.com

McKay Falls on the Milford Track

Te Anau – Milford Sound

Te Anau is a small town that is the last frontier of the wild Fiordlands National Park. The Milford Sound road leads you on a two-hour journey of one of the most picturesque drives anyone can experience. We thought this was the most scenic drive in New Zealand. Finishing at the Milford Sound is the icing on the cake. Mountains rise vertically from the glacier-carved fjord and the stunning Mitre Peak is impressive. We recommend going on a boat cruise of the sound to get up close to several waterfalls and a chance to spot some dolphins.

 

 

Best Photo Ops in New Zealand, www.beardandcurly.com

Nugget Point, Catlins

Catlins

The Catlins is a large area on the southern coastline of New Zealand. It is mostly uninhabited with coastal rainforest and rugged beaches. It is also home to the rare yellow-eyed penguin. There are several great waterfalls in the Catlins including McLean Falls, Purakaunui Falls, and the Matai Falls. One of our favorite coastlines is Nugget Point.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Moeraki Boulders

Dunedin & East Coast

Dunedin is a college town with some good nightlife and cheap eats. It is also very close to amazing nature and wildlife. Tunnel Beach is a famous sunset location, the rugged coastline near Sandymount has a great walking track to view the Chasm and Lovers Leap, and there are heaps of seals and penguin colonies. Just north of Dunedin is the Moeraki Boulders.

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula

Banks Peninsula

Christchurch was our least favorite city in New Zealand, but nearby is the wonderful Banks Peninsula. Akaroa is a charming little French town that is a perfect city getaway. There are nice restaurants and romantic bed and breakfasts to choose from. We enjoyed a two-night stay at a very traditional hut, the Packhorse Hut, along with a hike up to Mount Herbert.

 

 

 

The Pros of Backpacking in New Zealand

Nature

We have said it countless times and we will say it again, New Zealand is stunning. It is packed with things to do, and the best of it is the amount of wild. nature. From the rugged coastlines, the mountains, and the rainforests, there is almost too much to explore in New Zealand. If you enjoy being out in nature, your vacation will turn into a research project on how to immigrate to New Zealand. For some more inspiration, check out a few of our favorite photographers from New Zealand such as Rachel Stewart, Brent Purcell or Lee Cook on Instagram (@rachstewartnz, @brentpurcell.nz, or @leecook_images respectively).

 

 

Hiking

This is one of the best places in the world for hiking. Not only can you get lost in the mountains, you can do so with an amazing hut system. Hiking here is perfect for all levels of experience. There are day hikes that are easy and advanced. The Great Walks are perfect for beginners, and there are advanced hikes that are suited for those looking for solitude. We have not touched on mountaineering in this guide, but if you are technically trained, New Zealand is also one of the best places in the world for mountaineering. There are hundreds of glaciers and summits to climb!

 

 

Road Trips

For self-driving enthusiast, pack your gear and pick your road. There are endless amounts of road trips in New Zealand. For the ultimate road trip, with around 10,000 kilometers to go, drive from Cape Reinga to Bluff and everything in between. Our favorite sections were on the south island. We loved the Mount Aspiring, Fiordlands, and Mount Cook areas of New Zealand.

 

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com

Hiking can bring you to amazing places. For example…glaciers.

 

 

The Cons of Backpacking in New Zealand

Lots of Tourists

The downside of New Zealand is that you have to share it with so many people. With the growing tourism in New Zealand and the seasonality, summer is just straight up hectic. It is not a large country and we would see people on the north island and bump into them two weeks later somewhere on the south island. As a result of the crowds, we recommend going in autumn.

 

 

Weather

Visiting New Zealand is seasonal. Because of the harsh winters, most of the tourist attractions can only be visited during the remainder of the year. In addition to the short tourist season, the weather is completely sporadic. New Zealand is in the middle of the ocean and has subtropical weather. It can change very quickly. In our three months, we experienced two major cyclones. The weather in the mountains can change in a matter of minutes. We always found ourselves chasing the good weather in New Zealand, and you probably will too!

 

 

Costs

New Zealand is an expensive country. We made it cheaper by spending 30 nights in huts while hiking, and always tried to stay at free campsites. Most of all, we never went out to restaurants or bars. Staying in backpackers and some of the activities in New Zealand will quickly add up, making it very easy to blow a budget. Because of this, we recommend trying to do all activities independently. Buying a campervan can also save heaps!

 

 

 

Should You Visit?

Our experience in New Zealand was incredible. We met some amazing people, saw some epic landscapes, and enjoyed some of the best hiking of our lives. After spending forty-five days hiking over 800 kilometers, we still feel like there was more to see. We cannot wait to get back to New Zealand, and we think you will feel the same way. New Zealand is a place that is easy to fall in love with, and you absolutely should visit New Zealand! So what are you waiting for, it is time to book your flight and pack your bags. New Zealand is waiting for you…

 

 

Travel Insurance

We have dealt with some unfortunate instances while traveling in the past. Our baggage misplaced, laptops stolen, and the need to change our travel plans. All of this is a major headache and costly. We highly recommend getting travel insurance so you are fully covered for your trip. World Nomads has some of the best international travel plans out there. Don’t get caught without it!

 

 

 

 

New Zealand Travel Guide

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Check out some other great content on New Zealand:

Backpackers Guide to Buying a Campervan in New Zealand

 

The Nine Great Walks of New Zealand

 

 

 

 

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New Zealand Country Guide. Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com. New Zealand Country Guide. Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com. New Zealand Country Guide. Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in New Zealand. Top places to see in New Zealand. Blog Post. Goats on the Road. See more at www.beardandcurly.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about all our posts on New Zealand:

 

 

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10 comments on “Ultimate Guide to Backpacking New Zealand”

  1. Michelle Reply

    New Zealand looks like a place where I could go to find some solitude in this crazy world. Thank you for creating such an all encompassing post. I will definitely be saving it for future reference. And your pictures are beautiful!

    • Beard and Curly Reply

      Thanks Michelle! It is absolutely a place where you can find lots of solitude. The south island has so many mountain tracks with beautiful huts the “get away” and take in so much beauty. Glad you enjoyed the read.

      Cheers,
      Timon

    • Beard and Curly Reply

      Glad it is helpful. Let us know if you have any questions about planning for NZ! Enjoy your trip.

      Cheers,
      Timon

  2. Jordan Reply

    Your photos have me absolutely swooning and you give such practical advice. Can’t wait to eventually visit New Zealand!!!

    • Beard and Curly Reply

      Thank you Jordan! It is such an amazing place to visit, definitely add it high to your list of places to go!

      Cheers,
      Timon

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