New Zealand is by far the most beautiful country I have ever been to. It has everything; mountains, rainforests, volcanos, glaciers, desserts, beaches and unbelievable turqoise lakes. New Zealand is quite a small country which makes it easier for travellers who want to see (almost) everything but have limited time. I had only 2,5 weeks and it was more or less enough to explore the South Island.
Best way for people who likes to do things on their own pace is to rent a car, and that is what me and my friend did. They have buses that go around the islands and you can get a hop on hop off type of ticket for different routes. You can find more info about the bus passes here and here.
It is very common to get a van that has a bed inside, and there is various companies renting these kind of vans. New Zealand has many campsites along the roads, including many free ones for the vans that are self-contained. If you park overnight in a place where it doesn’t say that overnight parking is allowed, you will have a good chance to wake up in the morning with a ticket on the windshield (and isn’t cheap, about $200). The best way to find campgrounds is to use app called Campermate, it’s free and you can find it in the appstore. It shows campgrounds and everything else you would want to find when you are living on the road (public toilets, showers, wifi, petrol stations, supermarkets etc). Campermate was definitely our best friend on the road. (Campermate also works in Australia!)
When planning a route, it is good to remember that even though New Zealand looks small on the map and the distances looks short, it actually takes more time to travel between places because of the mountain roads. Also if you are travelling between the busy summer months (December-January) be prepared to have some company with you on the roads. February is the most ideal time to go visit, when the weather is still sunny and warm and the high season is ending.
I went to New Zealand on October, and it was cold. A few nights it snowed and the temperature went down between 10 – 0 celcius every night. We slept in a car and no need to say, we had our winter gear with us and a lot of blankets! Some nights we slept in the hostels when we had the chance. During the day time the temperature went up between +15 and +20. So, if you are wanting to have a nice summer experience in New Zealand, December-February are the months to go.
Here was our itenary. 2730km and 2,5 weeks was enough time for us to stay in one place between 1-3 nights. We would have had enough time to explore the northern parts of South Island too, because when we came back to Christchurch we still had 3 more days to spend. It might look like we rushed trough the country, but we had more than enough time to explore and staying one night in a place was enough to feel like we wanted to continue. We had a very flexible plan and we drove as much as we felt like driving, and if we wanted to stay somewhere longer, we did and didn’t try to rush things.
Here is how long we stayed in one place;
- Greymouth 1 night
- Lake Kaniere 1 night
- Okarito 1 night
- Makarora 1 night
- Queenstown 2 nights
- Milfordsound 2 nights
- Te Anau 1 night
- Queenstown 2 nights
- Wanaka 1 night
- Twizel 1 night
- Lake Tekapo 2 nights
- Christchurch 3 nights
Total 18 nights
If you are planning your trip to New Zealand, I recommend to look up their official website http://www.newzealand.com/int/ for more tips for things to see and to do. Now it is time to start planning your own route!