New Zealand is located in the Southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, about a four hour flight from Australia. It's often called the backpackers paradise, a name gained not only for its remarkable safety, the abundance of places of interest, and the youthful and friendly attitude of the locals towards tourists, but also for the outstanding infrastructure and facilities that the country offers to budget travellers. Among young people, it's common to arrive in New Zealand with a work and holiday visa and stay in the country for a prolonged period of time, taking temporary jobs and travelling around in between. When visiting the country, one is spoiled with choices of things to explore. Given the relatively short history of the country, it does not abound with historic buildings and monuments. But the unparalleled beauty of its nature, the variety of landscapes it offers, and the authentic encounters with the Maori culture will definitely make New Zealand stay in your heart for a very long time.
The country is situated on two large islands, North Island and South Island. There is a spectacular diversity between the South Island with its fjords, glaciers, and mountain peaks that are covered in snow most of the year, and the North Island with its volcanic formations and tropical beaches. North Island is the smaller of the two, and despite its smaller size, it actually hosts both the capital city of Wellington and the biggest city of New Zealand, Auckland. It also has some places of great Maori tradition like Rotorua, Taupo, and New Plymouth. On the South Island you will mostly probably stay in smaller towns like Kaikoura, famous for whale watching, Motueka, the gateway to some great hiking and Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.
The best thing in the country is that one does not have to travel far to find something completely new and breathtaking. The country will please both those longing for a solitude with its vast uninhabited spaces and beaches where you will bump into nobody for weeks (ideal for that would be places on the Coromandel peninsula, like Hahei or Punakaiki) as well as busy tourist spots where everything revolves around young people (like Wanaka, Queenstown, Franz Josef ,and Fox Glaciers). The country is one of the most popular around the world among the enthusiasts of extreme sports, like sky diving, bungee jumping, mountain biking, skiing, sea kayaking and white water rafting. As well as that, it offers some of the best hiking worldwide, with its 9 Great Walks that are tracks of outstanding natural importance and the Milford Track, which is considered by many as the most beautiful hiking track in the world. To be able to do the tracks and stay in hostels nearby, you will have to make sure to book a long time in advance. Your best bet is to look for a hostel in Te Anau as that is close to most of the Southern hikes.
Hostels all around the country are relatively cheap and of a consistently high standard. Cleanliness is of a high priority in most places, surprise extras (such as Jacuzzi spas or a free soup for dinner) are quite common. You can normally expect an extremely friendly, familiar atmosphere, and an emphasis on keeping the place cosy and well-serviced, with attention to each individual as opposed to the ambition of hosting a huge number of people. However, this also means that the best places fill up quite quickly, therefore, booking a few days in advance is definitely recommended.
All in all, in New Zealand, every effort is being made to keep backpacking as easy and enjoyable as possible and you are likely to encounter lots of other budget travellers on the road. Transportation relies mostly on long distance buses, with one of the two national companies selling packages of certain miles that you can use up on any of their buses within a given period of time and the other offering the first seat on every bus for only a dollar. Ferry transportation is easy and cheap between the two islands, but those who prefer can also take one of the many daily flights that operate between major cities of the two islands. Food is reasonably priced and eating in fast food and take away places won't blow your budget either.
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Whangarei is a lot bigger than what we thought it would be. It has a cute city centre, and alot of surrounding suburban areas. It also has a small waterfront area. It is midway between Auckland and the Bay of Islands and a good place to lodge while exploring the surrounding areas.
I've been kayaking with Golden Bay Kayaks in Abel Tasman and although it was cheaper than the other kayaking companies it was beautiful and exciting. Even though I was beginner at kayaking, I could see a lot of great views within a half day. Awesome place for swimming and remote beaches. Friendly company stuffs. Love …
Hokitika is a lovely place for a night or two, and probably one of the nicest towns in the country.
One of the most interesting tours I've done on my world trip was Murray Baker's volcano tour of Auckland (www.geotours.co.nz). Price is around €40-45. Also useful if you're going on to Hawaii afterwards.
We found Oamaru to be a happy, friendly place full of history and we look foward to shifting there in the near future. I hope we can make a positive and creative addition to the community.
Roxburgh is a nice town with friendly people. It's very far from the next city Alexandra (40 kms).
Kaikoura is a beautiful place, the mountains, the sea, the dolphins, the whales - wicked!
Palmerston North is a beautiful place!
Methven is a small but beautiful country and ski town. It is situated between beautiful mountains and green fields. The overall atmosphere is friendly (although we didn't see many people). It is not a busy town with nightlife and lots of bars. It has a country feel to it, so if you want to get away from busy and big …
Motueka is a great place. Looks on the map like a small place to pass through on the way to Abel Tasman, but there's a lot to do there and for staying for a while there can't be many better towns in New Zealand. Small but with the facilities and nightlife of a much larger town, extremely friendly and welcoming locals …
Wellington is wicked. Loved it, you have to go.
Dunedin is a great city, full of atmosphere and interesting corners. Don't miss the Otago Museum and especially the Royal Albatross Center.
I spent 6 weeks working in Glenorchy, and it was the highlight of my 6 month stay in New Zealand. I went jet boating with Dart River Safaris, and that was spectacular. I highly suggest a visit.
Queenstown is definitely a party town - there's a lot of fun to be had here so make sure you pop in.
I was really dissapointed by Raglan. The town is REALLY small and the beach was nice, but not all the trouble that my friends and I put into getting there.