New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular destinations for independent travellers, many of whom choose to stay for up to a year on a Working Holiday Visa partaking in seasonal jobs such as fruit picking and bar work in Ski resorts. As befits a country with such a huge backpacker scene, there is a strong network of budget accommodation in the country with prices starting from around $12 for a dorm room. Aim to budget around $40 - $50 a day, not including the more expensive tours such as glacier hiking or the, much touted, bungee jumping
New Zealand: the facts
- The country is divided between the volcanic North Island and glacier strewn South Island.
- It has an average maximum temperature of about 20-30ºC in summer (Dec. to Feb.) and 10-15ºC in winter (June to Aug.)
- New Zealand saw an increase in tourism after providing the backdrop for Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings Movies; tourists flock to Mount Ngauruhoe which was used for Mount Doom in the films.
- The country has a strong Maori culture which is highly evident throughout; the most famous element of this being the ancient Haka dance which is most often performed at the New Zealand’s beloved Rugby matches.
- There are 3100 glaciers over 100m in New Zealand.
Going it alone:
New Zealand is a great place for independent travel; no language barriers, a wealth of activities and no shortage of other like-minded travellers. Hostels provide a great way to get to know fellow backpackers. Here are a selection of hostels that I have come across, check the map for the location of each one.
Mountain Vally - Napier
Adventure Lodge with accommodation and activities. Sleeping options include Cottages, chalets, Lodge rooms, Bunkhouse rooms, camping and campervans. Dorm rooms from $20.
Portside Inn - Napier
Only backpackers in Ahuriri, safe beaches, water sports and sailing are just minutes away. Accommodation ranges from family rooms to eight person dorm rooms; prices from $25 a night.
Yaping House - Auckland
Located at the foot of Mt Eden with great views overlooking One Tree Hill (made famous by U2). Very quiet, close to Eden Park and Mt Eden village with restaurants and bars. Rooms from $20 for an eight person dorm.
City Garden Lodge - Auckland
Located in one of Auckland's oldest residential areas, full of historic architecture and character. Restaurants, cafes, art galleries and upmarket shopping all within easy walking. Offers free parking, undercover bicycle storage, fast internet access and free unbiased travel information and bookings. Can arrange door to door transport to and from Auckland airport for a minimum cost. From $24 for an eight person dormitory.
Tongariro Hostel - Tongariro
Located in a quiet location in theTurangi town area - Tongariro region, with large gardens, close to shops, banks, bars, restaurants, bus station and information centre. Set in one acre of landscaped grounds and gardens, Close to the world famous Tongariro National Park and Lake Taupo, about 35 minutes' drive to the Whakapapa ski area on Mt Ruapehu. From $21 for a dorm room.
Moana Lodge - Wellington
Absolute beachfront and highest rated hostel in Wellington region for 12 consecutive years. Lonely Planet recommended it as “exceptional, immaculate and inviting.” Located 20 minutes north of Wellington City by car. Staff are available from 8am until 9pm, aiming to offer friendly, informed & personalised service. Travel information, ferry bookings, hire cars, airport transfers, special trips & onward accommodation can all be arranged. From $27 for a shared room.
Chillawhile Backpackers - Oamaru
Aims to be a haven for musicians, artists, and all lovers of people, music, art, literature, food and wine. Chillawhile has a series of activities every week - Open Mic Night, Lucky Pot Dinner, Djembe drumming circles, Maori Poi dance, whilst Friday a visit to the famous live music venue The Penguin Club for the free jam night with other guests. From $20pp for a family room and $28 for a six person dorm.
Swaggers Backpackers - Oamaru
Explore the old victorian era buildings and shops of the city centre, or see the penguin colonies down the street. Owned and operated by camp mum Agra, who aims to make all guests feel welcome, informed, and perhaps a bit mothered. Free parking and common area with Sky TV, DVD library, VHS, games, guitars, book exchange, and radio. From $22 for a dorm bed.
Point Break Backpackers - Christchurch
Located outside the centre of Christchurch this beachside hostel offers the opportunities for dawn swims followed by a free breakfast plus surf and bike hire. There is also a huge TV and DVD library for rainy and lazy days. Dorms from $17.
Jailhouse - Christchurch
Located in the former Addington Prison. Closest budget accommodation to the Christchurch Railway Station (free shuttle to the Station), CBS Arena (formerly Westpac Arena) and Addington Raceway for the famous Christchurch Show Week events. Voted best mid-sized Budget Backpacker Hostel (BBH) Youth Hostel 2007, 2008 and 2009 in New Zealand. From $22 for a dorm.
Dorset House - Christchurch
Boutique backpackers in historic 1871 character home, quiet garden setting next to Hagley park. Includes lounge, pool table, WiFi, DVD’s, travel desk, kitchen, laundry, off-street parking.The hostel is a ten minute walk away from Cathedral Square, the centre of Christchurch with museums and art galleries and a two minutes walk away from bars, cafes and restaurants.Comfortable, clean and warm. Prices from $28 to $76.
KIWI Basecamp - Christchurch
Located in Christchurch city centre, only a ten minute walk from Cathedral Square. KIWI Basecamp provides free use of the KIWI Basecamp courtesy van between 8am and 8pm for any shopping or airport runs, and also provides free continental breakfast, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. They also have a cinema room equipped with sky tv and dvds and well as a daily 'supermarket shuttle' (helpful if trying to cut down on meals out) as well as a resident cat, Tiki. Prices start at $23 for a six bed dorm.
Pinewood Lodge - Queenstown
27 units located in 20 separate buildings spread over three acres with free parking and open grass areas. Home to International ski teams in the winter, specialists in group accommodation. Five minutes walk from the centre of Queenstown. From $25 per night for a dorm room.
Taking a tour
Many travellers to New Zealand choose to put themselves in the capable hands of a tour company rather than go it alone. This has benefits in ensuring you see all of the key sights quickly and is also a great way to meet other travellers in a more structured setting. There are numerous tour companies throughout the country and the best one for you depends upon your individual needs and requirements; here is a selection to suit a variety of tastes and budgets:
With a private chauffer
New Zealand Splendeur tours are operated by Mark who will create highly customised tours for up to six people in either a Pergeot V6 , a minivan or Rolls Royce Silver Spirit.
One for thrill seekers
Haka Tours offers New Zealand adventure tours and snow tours for a variety of budgets. Tours range from six to twenty-four days, each tour has a recommended ‘extreme activity pack’ to help you customise your experience.
A luxury experience
Black Sheep Touring Company : New Zealand Escorted Tour Operator offer intimate tours for travel connoisseur. Also available are adventurer tours for the ‘young and young at heart’ and designer tours for a money is no object, anything is possible, type of experience. The Black Sheep Touring Company of New Zealand is a luxury tour operator offering escorted trips& vacation / holiday package deals for adventure travel in both the North and South Islands of NZ.
Combined with the South Pacific
Kiwi Travel and Tours specialise in escorted group tours in New Zealand and the South Pacific. Numerous travellers choose to combine a tour around New Zealand with a slice of tropical heaven in Fiji or Vanuatu.
Age is no barrier
Accessible Kiwi Tours offer tours that meet the needs of mature travellers and those with special needs. Disabilities requiring wheelchair hoists are no problem and all ages and needs are welcomed.
A sedate escape
Not all holidays to New Zealand need to be about thrill seeking; Relaxing journeys offer New Zealand coach tours, New Zealand self drive tours and New Zealand small group tours that put the emphasis firmly on a serene and relaxing experience.
River Valley New Zealand provides the opportunity to explore the wild rural landscape of the northern Rangitikei District by horse. Great care is taken to match riders to the correct horse and to keep horses healthy and happy.
Under the Stars or on a farm
Overland NZ offers a choice of 23 different holidays each offering a different type of experience. Different forms of accommodation are used, including working farms and camping. The company also operate the only purpose built overland vehicle in New Zealand.
Rest NZ Tours aim to deliver creative and innovative tours; one of the most unusual is a ‘self-fly’ Sky Safari option where tourists can fly in a single engine aircraft under the guidance of an experienced pilot.