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Planning trip to New Zealand

Lux782Lux782 Registered User regular
edited June 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hello everyone. I would like to plan a trip to New Zealand but I have no clue were to start. As of right now I am looking to go solo. I don't have a ton of money so I am also trying to keep it cheap. Finally I am looking to spend a week and a half to 2 weeks in New Zealand.

First off does anyone have any experience getting a visa for New Zealand? If I could get some tips to make the process easier, that would help me a lot. Also, from my initial research I should have no problem getting a car considering I have a valid drivers license but if you have any advice on this, please tell me.

Next regarding money, I don't know were I would be staying but considering my budget is low I won't be staying in any 5 star hotels or anything. So if you know of cheap places to stay then please give me their names / locations and if you have it approximate price per day. Since I will most likely be getting a car, what should I expect to pay to rent one? What is the average fuel cost in NZ? What should I expect to pay for a meal? Again I am not going to be eating in some fancy place but I also don't want to stuff myself with fast food for 2 weeks.

I enjoy nature in general so hiking, kayaking, cave exploration, those types of things are what I am looking to do. So if you know of places that you would recommend then please tell me so I can read up on them.

Any museums that I may be interested in? I don't want to spend the entire vacation doing physical labor so a day or two spent looking at cities would be nice. If you have any recommendations on places to visit then that would also help.

Well I think that is about it. If you have any advice in general about planning a trip I would love to have it as this is the fist time I will be planning such a trip. Thanks again.

Lux782 on

Posts

  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Gonna re-post an e-mail I wrote to a friend about a trip I took down there two years ago - maybe it'll help with some ideas for you! Mostly about the South Island.

    ****

    I spent about a month traveling around NZ with an old college housemate. We spent about 4 days in Queenstown, and it was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I’m not sure exactly what you’ll be interested in doing, but there’s no shortage of excitement!

    Personally, I’d recommend getting out to the Shotover river, either via Jet Boat or raft. We ended up doing both – I enjoyed the jet boat, but felt it quite tame compared to the rafting. The Shotover is the site of many historic gold mining sites, and running the river on a raft is the best way to see everything. The NZ gov’t put a stop to gold mining in the 70s, but there’s still a great deal of it in the river – you’ll actually see flakes floating around during the calmer parts! It is, however, home to some fairly serious rapids, but nothing too crazy.

    As for the town itself, it is somewhat touristy (though nothing compared to American tourist spots!), but there are a lot of great local places if you look. I’d specifically recommend the Red Rock beer garden if the weather’s warm. Also, be sure to take the gondola up to the mountain station for some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see. Another great thing to do is rent bikes and spend a few hours riding around the lake. There is an easy bike trail that goes out from Queenstown around lake Wakatipu, taking you past some pretty amazing vacation houses. Depending on your level of comfort, I’d also recommend paragliding! I went off of one of the many amazing mountains (Mt. Coronet), and it’s a fantastic way to see the area. We did not get a chance to visit Milford Sound, something I regret a lot! It takes at least two days to see the place properly, and we did not have the time.

    From Queenstown, we rented a car and drove down to the west coast, following the route dad described in his last email. The drive itself is stunning! Where else in the world can you go from crystal-clear alpine lakes, passing through a rainforest, to a glacier in a five hour drive?! Franz Joseph is a small town almost entirely supported by tourism to the glacier, and I would definitely recommend at least walking up to the face. There are outfitters, who offer tours on the glacier itself, and I’m told it is a great experience (we chose not to, as the weather wasn’t fantastic). From there, we chose to continue north, up the west coast, stopping again in a tiny town called Punakeiki. For many kiwis, the west coast is sort-of a last frontier. To put it in perspective, 3 quarters of NZ’s population live in the North Island, and those who live in the South are almost entirely in and around Christchurch and Queenstown. Anyway, driving up the west coast was one of the best parts of our trip. It almost has a sort of “Lost World” vibe to it, and the people there are incredibly friendly.

    From Punakeiki, we continued north to a town called Graymouth. I took another rafting trip on the Buller River, which I cannot recommend enough. Somewhat less wild than the Shotover, but the scenery is AMAZING. Finally, we drove to Nelson, which is the “big town” on the northern area of the South Island. Nelson is great – it’s pretty much Napa set in New Zealand, complete with many great wineries. From Nelson, we traveled to Picton, which is where the Inter-islander Ferry departs. Regarding the crossing, the scenery leaving the south island is stunning. However, it can be a fairly rough trip, even in the best of weather. Having taken the trip (it’s about 3-4 hours in good weather), I would recommend using one of the small airlines that flies between Nelson/Picton and Wellington, as it doesn’t cost much more than a ferry ticket. I very much enjoyed the time I spent in Wellington (two nights), but definitely experienced a sort of culture shock, having spent the two weeks prior traveling through such sparsely populated areas.

    Anyway, sorry for such a long winded email – it’s a slow morning at work! I would be more than happy to help answer any questions you may think of. Long story short, you could spend a year in the south island and not see everything there is to offer, but know that no matter where you go or what you do, you’re sure to have a great time. I don’t think there’s another country on earth as traveler-friendly as NZ!

    PSN: TheMakersMark
  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Here's another thing I wrote re: NZ's North Island:

    It's been a few years since I've been to the Bay of Islands, but I remember it being very cool and beautiful. When last I was in NZ, my friend and I drove up to Whangarei so he could go diving off of the Poor Knights island - which by the sound of it, was spectacular.

    Personally, the next time I go down, I'm going to be spending the bulk of my trip on the south island. I have a lot of family in / around Auckland, so I'm obligated to make the rounds there, but you can be sure I'll be in back down in Queenstown ASAP. So yeah, if I were you, head south.

    I've only spent about a week total in Wellington, but I enjoyed my time there a lot. We stayed at the YHA near Courtenay Place, and had a blast. Lots of cool bars (as well as shitty ones, like anywhere). Also, Wellington is windy as hell. Like really windy. Like I can't do it justice windy. Bring a hat.

    Te Papa was pretty cool, although when I went I was fairly hungover, but that's my fault, not the museum's.

    Man, I can't wait to go back. You're going to have a blast for sure.

    EDIT - Whangarei is about 40 or so miles south of the Bay of Islands. Also, the advice about travel times is golden. Yeah, it won't look like much on the map, but the reality is always longer. Still, driving up the West coast of the south island is one of the all time best experiences I've had in life (even if it was in a shit-box Corolla!).

    PSN: TheMakersMark
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    You should be able to check the NZ government website to check what visa you need - you should be fine, being American, just so long as you don't try and work.

    Re petrol - well NZ is like a European country in that regard - it isn't as cheap as the US apparently is - perhaps buses might be cheaper. The usual suspects for car hire are present in NZ too, so check out their websites perhaps. Intercity rail doesn't really exist for passengers to any useful degree, so its cars or buses basically, or flights if you can afford it.

    Places to visit will depend on what island you focus on, or if you are going to try and do the big two.

    The South Island (where I am from) is the larger of the two, but rather low in population - it has two large cities (by our standards) called Christchurch and Dunedin. The main tourism centre is called Queenstown, in the south of the island - it is a mountain lake resort popular in winter and summer alike. The tourism focus is either adventure or nature, so far as I can tell being a local. To get to the South Island you will either fly to Christchurch (international airport and main SI airport) or take a ferry to Picton (top of the SI) from Wellington (capital and a large city at the bottom of the North Island).

    Edit re above - most people in the SI live on the East Coast between Dunedin and Christchurch - everywhere else is very rural or small scale. The tourist town Queenstown has between about 12 to 15k permanent population (last time I checked).

    The North Island has about 3x the population (3 million+) and is where you will find the bigger cities, if that is what you want. Auckland is to the northern end of the island and is about 1.4 mil or so. Wellington is in the far south and is about a quarter the size. Wellington tends to be easier to visit as a tourist as the fun stuff is all focused in an easily walkable city centre. Auckland is also good fun and rather pretty, but a bit more like big cities anywhere (IMO). The North Island also has a bit of the nature stuff too, but you are talking to the wrong guy here for that kind of advice.

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • TheRealBadgerTheRealBadger Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Tourism NZ site is pretty awesome. Have a browse and see what you think. Also worth looking at is the AA's 101 must-dos in NZ (obviously you can't do all of them but if gives you a fair idea of what's around). Definitely, definitely make a big part of your trip getting down to the south island and checking out the walks and the scenery and everything else. I can't give inside knowledge on what's good down there (as I am from the North) but it is absolutely stunning, and you'll love it.

    North Island I can speak on. A few things that I think are worth doing:

    - Take a guided fly-fishing lesson in Taupo. Scenery is amazing and the fish are badass. There are also some cool walks around the Taupo region, including the Tongarairo Crossing.
    - Like caving? Go check out the glow-worms in the caves in Waitomo. They also do black water rafting, which is hella fun
    - Check out the hot pools and thermal hijinks at Rotorua. It's also a pretty cool place to be if you want to learn a bit about Maori culture. Also, you can get a tour out to Tarawera and check out the buried village, which is really cool.
    - Come to Wellington!. It is our capital, has an incredible amount of cafes and restaurants and you will find some of the best coffee in the world here. It is also home to Te Papa (excellent museum for learning about NZ), Parliament buildings, Weta workshops and their museum. Also I live in Wellington. But that's hardly a drawcard.

    Anyway, those would be my favourites from the North Island. But take firewaterword's advice and spend a good amount of time exploring the South.

    Cheapest accomodation is to stay in backpacker hostels, of which there are many.

    Rental cars are kinda pricey (or I'm kinda tight). Expect to pay about 60-80NZD per day for a car, plus fuel and miscellaneous fees and costs. It's cool having your own ride to buzz around in but definitely think about doing using a backpackers tour for travel. From what I can see you can pay for unlimited travel and just jump on or off the trail at whichever city you feel like.

    As far as food and drink goes: Make sure you find and sample some decent fish and chips, and take some time out to sample NZ beer. There are dozens of boutique breweries around NZ who produce some outstanding beer.

  • CerpinCerpin Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Gonna re-post an e-mail I wrote to a friend about a trip I took down there two years ago - maybe it'll help with some ideas for you! Mostly about the South Island.

    ****

    I spent about a month traveling around NZ with an old college housemate. We spent about 4 days in Queenstown, and it was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I’m not sure exactly what you’ll be interested in doing, but there’s no shortage of excitement!

    Personally, I’d recommend getting out to the Shotover river, either via Jet Boat or raft. We ended up doing both – I enjoyed the jet boat, but felt it quite tame compared to the rafting. The Shotover is the site of many historic gold mining sites, and running the river on a raft is the best way to see everything. The NZ gov’t put a stop to gold mining in the 70s, but there’s still a great deal of it in the river – you’ll actually see flakes floating around during the calmer parts! It is, however, home to some fairly serious rapids, but nothing too crazy.

    As for the town itself, it is somewhat touristy (though nothing compared to American tourist spots!), but there are a lot of great local places if you look. I’d specifically recommend the Red Rock beer garden if the weather’s warm. Also, be sure to take the gondola up to the mountain station for some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see. Another great thing to do is rent bikes and spend a few hours riding around the lake. There is an easy bike trail that goes out from Queenstown around lake Wakatipu, taking you past some pretty amazing vacation houses. Depending on your level of comfort, I’d also recommend paragliding! I went off of one of the many amazing mountains (Mt. Coronet), and it’s a fantastic way to see the area. We did not get a chance to visit Milford Sound, something I regret a lot! It takes at least two days to see the place properly, and we did not have the time.

    From Queenstown, we rented a car and drove down to the west coast, following the route dad described in his last email. The drive itself is stunning! Where else in the world can you go from crystal-clear alpine lakes, passing through a rainforest, to a glacier in a five hour drive?! Franz Joseph is a small town almost entirely supported by tourism to the glacier, and I would definitely recommend at least walking up to the face. There are outfitters, who offer tours on the glacier itself, and I’m told it is a great experience (we chose not to, as the weather wasn’t fantastic). From there, we chose to continue north, up the west coast, stopping again in a tiny town called Punakeiki. For many kiwis, the west coast is sort-of a last frontier. To put it in perspective, 3 quarters of NZ’s population live in the North Island, and those who live in the South are almost entirely in and around Christchurch and Queenstown. Anyway, driving up the west coast was one of the best parts of our trip. It almost has a sort of “Lost World” vibe to it, and the people there are incredibly friendly.

    From Punakeiki, we continued north to a town called Graymouth. I took another rafting trip on the Buller River, which I cannot recommend enough. Somewhat less wild than the Shotover, but the scenery is AMAZING. Finally, we drove to Nelson, which is the “big town” on the northern area of the South Island. Nelson is great – it’s pretty much Napa set in New Zealand, complete with many great wineries. From Nelson, we traveled to Picton, which is where the Inter-islander Ferry departs. Regarding the crossing, the scenery leaving the south island is stunning. However, it can be a fairly rough trip, even in the best of weather. Having taken the trip (it’s about 3-4 hours in good weather), I would recommend using one of the small airlines that flies between Nelson/Picton and Wellington, as it doesn’t cost much more than a ferry ticket. I very much enjoyed the time I spent in Wellington (two nights), but definitely experienced a sort of culture shock, having spent the two weeks prior traveling through such sparsely populated areas.

    Anyway, sorry for such a long winded email – it’s a slow morning at work! I would be more than happy to help answer any questions you may think of. Long story short, you could spend a year in the south island and not see everything there is to offer, but know that no matter where you go or what you do, you’re sure to have a great time. I don’t think there’s another country on earth as traveler-friendly as NZ!

    This is a really good summary. I live in Greymouth and this whole thing describes pretty accurately what its like.

  • DarwinsFavoriteTortoiseDarwinsFavoriteTortoise Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Abel Tasman is a place that you MUST visit. Spend a good three or four days there, minimum.

    It is a hikers and kayakers PARADISE.

  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    You should search the forums, H&A has many previous threads about NZ.

    You don't need a visa if you're visiting for a short time.

    Wellington > Auckland.

    If you like museums, the national museum is Te Papa in Wellington.

    To stay cheaply, stay in YHA hostels. The YHA certified places are clean and cheap.

    From what you've said, you will like Queenstown best.

  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Cerpin wrote: »
    I live in Greymouth and this whole thing describes pretty accurately what its like.

    I feel bad for you :(

    Unless you like rural living...?

  • Funguy McAidsFunguy McAids Registered User
    edited June 2009
    I'm a Kiwi/Canadian and only just visited NZ 2 christmas' ago. My dad is from Taranaki province in the north island which is crazy beautiful. It has a giant volcanoe in the center that looks a lot like Mt. Fuji in Japan. All around it in a circle are rolling hills radiating out. This is also where they filmed hobbiton in The Lord of the Rings and it looks very fairy-tale-ish.

    I think we did almost a complete circuit of the north island and everywhere is pretty much amazing. Make sure to go into some old jungle. The plant-life is thick and looks like something out of Jurassic Park.

    Everyone in NZ ate waaaay the fuck too much fish and chips. I got so sick of them. Be prepared to hate fish and chips until you come across a unique potato-like vegetable that I can't remember the name of. They make chips from it some places and it is fucking amazing.

  • ecco the dolphinecco the dolphin Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Everyone in NZ ate waaaay the fuck too much fish and chips. I got so sick of them. Be prepared to hate fish and chips until you come across a unique potato-like vegetable that I can't remember the name of. They make chips from it some places and it is fucking amazing.

    Kumara?

    Penny Arcade Developers at PADev.net.
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Isn't Kumara pretty similar in taste to sweet potato though? The stuff I can get in London certainly looks like Kumara anyway

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • mkissinmkissin Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I don't think Kumara are unique to New Zealand. The Americans just call them Sweet Potato. We may have different varieties though, not too sure.

  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    mkissin wrote: »
    I don't think Kumara are unique to New Zealand. The Americans just call them Sweet Potato. We may have different varieties though, not too sure.

    That would make sense. Note to OP - consider investigating whether or not there is a Kumera or Sweet Potato Theme Park somewhere in NZ. Bonus points if you visit and post pictures

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • DarwinsFavoriteTortoiseDarwinsFavoriteTortoise Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Oh and I almost forgot!

    Go Zorbing! Its in Rotorua!

    It is so amazingly fun.

    And as a poster has said before, Wellington >>>>>>>>>> Auckland.

  • CerpinCerpin Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Lewisham wrote: »
    Cerpin wrote: »
    I live in Greymouth and this whole thing describes pretty accurately what its like.

    I feel bad for you :(

    Unless you like rural living...?

    Don't feel bad, I've got a far better lifestyle here than I've had in any city in any country I've ever lived in. Wouldn't be here otherwise.

  • mkissinmkissin Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Go Zorbing! Its in Rotorua!

    It is so amazingly fun.

    Agreed, that would be a blast. While you're in Rotorua, be sure to check out the thermal stuff (boiling mud pools and whatnot), and ride on the Luge.

    Also, a wee while ago, the AA (automobile association) put out a guide: 101 Must-Do things in New Zealand. http://www.aatravel.co.nz/101/

    The website kinda sucks, but it should give you some tips. There's a book they put out too, I think, but I'm not sure if you'll be able to find it locally.

  • Lux782Lux782 Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    You guys rock with the advice. I'll keep you informed about information I come across, so keep on posting.

  • Unco-ordinatedUnco-ordinated Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    When do you plan on travelling down here? Because depending on when you do, you might want to go to some beaches or go to the mountains. You probably already know this but just in case you don't, in the southern hemisphere the seasons are the reverse of yours (so summer is at the start/end of the year and winter is in the middle).

    As for places to go, Rotorua and Queenstown are probably the most touristy places to visit so you'll probably want to go look around one/both of them. Don't go to Auckland, it's a bloody awful place and the roads are a disaster. Hamiltron, I like it but there's not a terrible amount to do. Wellington's a really fun city to go drinking in, made all the more fun by the ridiculously cold southerlies that freeze the crap out of you while you're going from club to club. Christchurch is a great city, I'd recommend spending a couple of days there.

    Oh and depending on when you visit, go to a rugby game. It's always great fun watching a good game live and I don't really think the rules are THAT hard to follow (American Football did afterall originate from rugby).

    Steam ID - LiquidSolid170 | PSN ID - LiquidSolid
  • GrennGrenn Registered User
    edited June 2009
    I'm copy/pasting most of this thread for my own research, cheers! My wife and I plan to visit next year, with the half-baked idea idea that if we like it we may move there in a couple of years. 8-)

  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Cerpin wrote: »
    Lewisham wrote: »
    Cerpin wrote: »
    I live in Greymouth and this whole thing describes pretty accurately what its like.

    I feel bad for you :(

    Unless you like rural living...?

    Don't feel bad, I've got a far better lifestyle here than I've had in any city in any country I've ever lived in. Wouldn't be here otherwise.

    I was only in Greymouth for two nights, as a tourist no less, but I really liked it. Cool people. Hokitika gave me a weird vibe though, not sure why.

    My life's goal is to retire in Arrowtown :P

    Edit - If you make it to Rotorua, you MUST raft the Kaituna river. It's a short trip, but you go over Okere Falls, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world (23 feet).

    It it, bar none, one of the coolest things I've ever done.

    PSN: TheMakersMark
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Actually if you do get a chance check out the Mackenzie Country/Upper Waitaki Valley - it is a rather beautiful area with snowclad mountains, mountain lakes and tussock clad hills/plains - it is also on one of the routes between Christchurch and Queenstown, and iirc you may well have the option to travel by bus through this route.

    It is worth a drive through, but unless you have time to stop to fish, row, tramp, ski or glide then don't stop. I grew up a little south of the route so I've got a sort of soft spot for the area

    Some photos of the area.
    Spoiler:

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • DukiDuki Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    mkissin wrote: »
    I don't think Kumara are unique to New Zealand. The Americans just call them Sweet Potato. We may have different varieties though, not too sure.

    It's its own species/variety of sweet potato, yeah.

  • FoodFood Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Definitely see the toothbrush fence. It's like a regular fence, but it has toothbrushes.

  • DukiDuki Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Also blackwater rafting in Waitomo is fucking great.

    Like super great. If you're fit as fuck they even do like 3 hour (or more) caving/rafting/climbing things inside the cave system.

    its amazin

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