It’s impossible to do New Zealand’s natural scenery justice in words. Jaw droppingly stunning, or a simple WOW! Sums it up best, but I will try to expand.
Towering Snow Capped Mountains. Ancient Forests. Unspoiled Beaches. Raging Rivers. Placid Lakes. Glistening Glaciers. Take your pick; NZ has them all in abundance.
New Zealand is a natural treasure. Nowhere else in the world is there such a variety of such high quality natural sights. Below is a taster of highlights to get your juices going and help you plan a rough itinerary.
The Bay of Islands
The bay of islands is a stunning formation of small islands just off the beautiful coastline of the far north of New Zealand. Get out and explore them by almost any type of boat you can think of – Absorb some culture by taking a tour on a Woka (a Maori canoe) with a Maori tour guide, or jump on a fast boat for a wet and wild ride. Wildlife is a key element to these trips. You can go dolphin spotting or even swim with them and on most tours you are highly likely to see the resident colonies of fur seals.
Auckland – Islands, Volcanoes and city life
Auckland is a sprawling city located amongst dozens of dormant volcanoes, cloaked in a vale of rainforest, and within a stones throw of a plethora of idyllic islands. The CBD is small, yet has a vibrant backpacker scene with traditional cheap and lively backpacker bars, as well as a solid alternative quarter. If on a short trip then a few days should suffice, but dig around a bit to uncover some real treasures.
Rotorua – Geothermal Hotpools and Geysers
Rotorua is most famously a hotbed of geothermal activity and is a must visit for any backpacker for this alone. It offers so much more than this, however, being a centre for Maori culture and home to many activities such as Zorbing and luging! Don’t miss the Tamaki tours culture evening and of course the geysers and bubbling mud pools that give Rotorua its, shall we say, enchanting, smell!
Waitomo – Glowworm caves!
Waitomo is included in most backpackers’ itineraries due to its fantastic caving systems. You can visit these either by partaking in numerous adventure activities such as blackwater rafting and under ground abseilling, or by a more sedate walk through tour. Although not for the clausteraphobic, these caves are amazing natural wonders and not to be missed.
See glowworms on pretty much any of the trips – just don’t be too disappointed when you find out just what makes them glow! Above ground options include horseriding and quad biking through the beautiful ‘King country’, or simply take a stroll amongst the lush farmland and glorious landscapes that surround Waitomo.
The adventure capital of the North. Bungy, Sky dive, Ski, Hike. With amazing scenery and on the doorstep of Tongariro national park this is one town you dont want to pass by. If adventure sports aren’t your thing then not to worry. You can take a walk surrounded by breathtaking scenery or sit back in a geothermal hotpool all day! Taupo is also a town with a lively backpacker scene – for any of you after a bit (or alot) of a party then the holy cow is not to be missed!.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National park is a landscape of unparalleled beauty and diversity. On the Tongariro crossing hike you will see snow capped mountains, climb volcanic peaks, overlook emeral lakes and walk over desolate lava fields. It provides a magical feeling, akin to (I would imagine!) standing on a different planet. To do the crossing you have to get up pretty early but whatever you do, please don’t let this put you off!
Wellignton, New Zealand’s capital city, is the last stop before the south island, or the gateway to the north if you’re heading upwards. Either way, try to spend a few days here to soak up the atmosphere. Home to a stunning harbor and surrounded by rolling hills, it has its share of attractions, but it is that atmosphere that grabs most backpackers. Wellington has a truly laid back, chilled out vibe whilst still having the heartbeat of a cosmopolitan city. Our priceless tip: Head to Fidel’s cafe on Cuba street for some alternative culture, and try the Chocolate Fudge cake!
Nelson is a small town with a lot to offer. One of the main plus points is its close proximity to the Abel Tasman National park. It is the place to stay to start your treks into this beautiful coastal area. In the town itself there is a strip with a number of backpacker bars, and a walk to the ‘centre point’ of New Zealand. This is a short walk from the town center but is up a very steep hill so ends up being quite a treck.
It’s well worth it though for stunning views over the town and surrounding scenery. Go at sunset for the best views. Also for you Lord of the Rings fans this is the place to see ‘the one ring’ that was used in the movie.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park is a stunning coastal reserve. Famous for its golden beaches, granite cliffs, and marine wildlife it is a must visit on any backpacking trip to New Zealand. The coastal hiking treks offer amazing views, and you can camp overnight if that’s your thing. Canoe trips are another great way to see the park and really get amongst the wildlife. One word of advice though – Take some good insect repellent as the sand flies can be brutal!
Westport is the largest town on the South Islands rustic east coast. The rugged coastline offers tremendous views and there is plenty to explore.
Franz Joseph Glacier is a must visit whilst backpacking New Zealand. Almost every visitor to New Zealand has the hike up the glacier amongst his or her top experiences. Walking or climbing up what is literally an earth moving piece of scenery that you just don’t get to do every day – a genuine once in a life time opportunity. The town itself is a pleasant little place with a certain charm to it as well as a couple of good backpacker bars to boot!
The approach to Wanaka is one of the most beautiful drives you could imagine. Glorious lakes framed by towering mountains as far as the eye can see. Wanaka itself is a hidden gem, and is particularly good for backpackers in the ski season. Even if you dont plan to stay in Wanaka it is worth making a detour to drive through the town and its surrounding beauty.
Queenstown is where it all happens. The adventure capital of New Zealand does not disappoint. If you can think of an activity, you can do it in Queenstown. Famous for bungy jumping, sky diving and skiing it has turned into an adventure sport haven. Not only is it a town where you can do any activity known to man, particularly if it has an element of danger, it is also a place of immense beauty.
Nestled in amongst snow capped mountains and situated on a stunning lake Queenstown has something to offer to anyone. Particularly great for young backpackers, with a thriving scene of backpacker bars offering cheap drinks and cheesy music long into the night.
One of the truly iconic New Zealand images, and for good reason. Make sure you don’t miss out on taking a trip to Milford Sound. The drive through winding mountain roads with sheer cliffs and sheer drops is both stunning and exhilarating. Upon arriving to the sound you will get on a boat and embark upon a journey of jaw dropping beauty. Gorgeous in both clear weather and rain, this is yet another must visit place on any backpacking trip.
The resort town of Te Anau lies on the edge of a beautiful lake, with spectacular views of Mt Luxmore and the Murchison mountains. Often used as the gateway to Milford Sound the town offers something in its own right. Its a quiet town made for relaxing – a good break from Queenstown after an active few days perhaps!.
One of the largest cities on the South Island, Dunedin is a city with plenty to offer. It has some splendid architecture if that’s your thing, with the train station a particular highlight. Also a University town so plenty of bars and entertainment to go at.
Christchurch is a gorgeous little city reminiscent of a quaint English town. There is Cathedral Square, which is pretty much the center of the town and now surrounds the damaged Anglican Cathedral as a result of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. A town with a peaceful vibe, a great place to relax and take in the kiwi culture.
Kaikoura is used as a base to see a vast array of marine wildlife. Swim with acrobatic dusky dolphins or take a trip out to go whale watching.
All Types of Accommodation in New Zealand
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation options including motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, lodges and farm stays to suit travelers’ needs. When deciding where to stay on your trip to New Zealand, consider browsing websites online there are various comprehensive Kiwi Accommodation directories for you to choose from.