New Zealand Advice

I’m considering a trip to New Zealand this winter (winter in Taiwan) and was wondering anyone here had any thoughts on the following:

(1) I am leaning toward the South Island because I’ve seen some really beautiful pictures of mountains, fiords, and other beautiful scenery there. Am I right to be focusing on the South Island if mountains and fiords and open-spaces are what I’m after?

(2) Has anyone done any camping there? Since camping means different things to different people – what I have in mind is renting a car, using a tent, and finding an accessible but out-of-the-way place where we can make a campfire and not be overrun with other people. I know that may be hard to find – does anyone have any suggestions?

(3) Anyone know of a nice bed-and-breakfast near Fiordland or other pretty places on the South Island?

(4) Any other ideas or suggestions for places to see or things to do?

I realize that there is plenty of information on the above on various websites and in travel books – and I’m looking at those sources too. But I just thought it couldn’t hurt to see if any of my fellow forumosans had any ideas that I might not have heard about.

I think I’ll have about a week to spend there, and I have a flexible/moderate budget in mind for this trip (i.e. I would have nothing against bargain/backpacker accomodations but also wouldn’t mind splurging on a nice hotel if it was worth it).



From two trips to New Zealand, this is what I can offer for advice:

While the North Island does have a lot to offer, if you are interested in scenic beauty and the outdoors, the South is definitely the island to concentrate on. Besides Fiorland, consider the glaciers (Fox and Franz Josef). They’re beautiful in the summertime and easily accessible for hiking if you can get a ride out to them from town. If not, there are lots of tour operators that will take you out there, as well as set you up with gear.

Another must is Milford Sound. It’s a little tough if you’re busing or hitchhiking, but there is a hostel that allows camping on their grounds just up the road from the mouth of the sound. I seem to remember that this was the only accomodation in Milford, but there are lots of inns and hotels in the towns outside Milford.

Hiking opportunities abound all over the island and, if you like the water, you can do combined kayak and hiking trips that will take you to places far away from the tour buses and picture snapping masses.

If you’re fond of wine and touring vineyards, you might also consider spending a day or two in the Marlborough region around Picton. It’s considered one of the emerging producers of fine new world wines and all of the vineyards have showrooms where you can taste a sample from their vines.

One last thing, food! One of the highlights of our trip there was revelling in the freshness of ingredients and creativity brought to making truly sumptuous dishes. If you have a night or two in Christchurch, head down to the street that borders the river and you’ll have at least a dozen good restaurants where you can sit on an open air terasse over dinner.

If you can afford it, I’d suggest renting a car, as it gives you a lot more options for where you will lay your head at night and the freedom to wander about as you please. We found it very affordable, an Opel Vectra for about NZ$50 a day. My wife’s a bit of a fanatic when it comes to peguins and seals, so having the car gave us the chance to pull up along the side of the highway and have some fun watching them wherever we came upon them.

One more idea, if you’re interested: winter is when the whales are all down and around the South Island. Get on a boat and take a whale-watching tour. As touristy as it sounds, it’s an experience that I’ll never forget!

Good luck and happy travels,

I’ll see what I can offer, although I know there are better people than me here to advise you:

If you’re all about the fjords, Fjordland in the southern part of the South Island is for you. Mountains? South Island more than North. As for open spaces, the whole damn country is one giant open space :laughing:

Never been camping in the SI, but up north it’s a piece of cake to find a nice little campground and set up tent. The campfire thing, might want to be careful, there’re often fire bans on in summer, and if you’re out in the bush and camping - which might not really be that great given the way the bush goes up north - don’t even think about campfires, you’ll set the whole damn place on fire.
You can go camping off on the side of the road or something in a nice quiet area, but it’s best to check with local authorities if it’s OK first.

Can’t help you, sorry.

I can’t help with South Island spots. If you’re interested in the North, let me know, I’ll try and help.

Backpacker accomodations are pretty good in general. I’ve only stayed in a couple, but they were excellent and reasonably priced. Another option is bed & breakfasts, if you’re just on the way through. A lot of farmers run B&Bs in guest houses and stuff, and there are quite a few nice little old homes run as B&Bs too.

I’ll try and think of other stuff, but seriously, SI is not my area (literally).

Thank you so much CK – your suggestions were exactly what I was hoping someone might be able to provide! I particularly liked your suggestions about the vineyards and the whales, two things I will certainly look into.

You didn’t, by any chance, rent the car using a Taiwanese driver’s license did you? (A Taiwan license may be our only option.)

EDIT: Just saw your post Tetsuo – thank you for the feedback as well. I have also found that campfires tend to be strictly regulated in summer months (regardless of what country one is in) – so I know I’ll need to be careful about that. The more I read about New Zealand the more excited I am to visit!

Thanks again,


You can use your Taiwan license to get an International Driver’s License at the DMV here in Taiwan. Takes about five minutes and a couple passeport photos and then you’re good to go!

Good luck!

I’m a Kiwi, and I had a holiday in my own country a few years ago showing my wife around.

If you’re on limited time, probably stick to the South Island. It’s got more of the stuff you want to see.

A week is really too little though. Yopu might have underestimated the size fo NZ. The South Island alone is about 5 times the size of Taiwan. You’l spend a lot of time driving.

Some suggested places to stop:

Nelson - A nice little city with great atmosphere and cafes. If you’re driving, you can then drive the Lewis Pass to Christchurch, which is a good drive, and you might be able to find a little hot spring near the road for a dip.

Christchurch - the tourist’s favourite for cities, and actually really nice with the river, the tram and the arts centre. From Christchurch, a trip to Akaroa is good to see this charming town, and take a boat to see some dolphins.

Punakaiki - you won’t see many mentiuons of this place, but if you get to the West Coast but don’t have time to make it down to Fox, avoid Greymouth like the plague, and stay here instead. It’s a grteat little place.

Fox - if you’ve only got time for one of the W Coast Glaciers, pick Fox. Also has the beautiful Lake Matheson.

Wanaka - A good stop near Queenstown. Puzzling World is a must see, and has an awesome maze.

Queenstown - I was surprised how much I liked it, despite it being NZ’s most touristy and most expensive town. Good food and any outdoor adventure you might want - paraponting, luge, white water rafting, jet boating (really scary jety boating), canoeing, bungy etc etc - andf all in an amazingly beautiful place.

Fiordland and other Southern parts - well, I never made it that far actually :blush:

Some general tips: If you’re flying into Auckland or Christchurch, go to the tourist information centre. Then in every town you stop also go to the tourist info centre. These are an excellent source of info. You’ll see loads of brochures with all the stuff that’s available. You can plan out the details of your trip easily. There’s a free backpackers guide for the South Island. Backpackers’ are excellent, and the guide will let you phone ahead and book. There’s also one for B&Bs (more expensive and maybe cater more to elderly travellers), but you may have to pay for that.

I don’t even have an NZ licence, but I found out you can drive on a Taiwan licence no probs (according to the MOT website). But if you’re renting a car, maybe you’ll want an international licence just to make sure.

Free, or very cheap, camping is not hard. There’s places around. But take note of the fire warnings. It’s likely that you won’t be able to light a fire, the whole time you’re there.



Bu Lai En is correct and his suggestions sound the best. I am a kiwi too, what is more, a Sth Island Kiwi. On the money all the way. Perhaps there is a little much to fit in a week, but make a choice on the best stuff and see how it goes. I always find that I don’t get much out of a week in NZ, but that’s just me.

And there you have it - the word from the two people I was talking about when I said there were “better people” :laughing: But seriously, if you end up looking around the North Island, let me know.

Hi I’m a kiwi also, and Brian has some good advice.

My 2 cents worth…

Definitely stick with the South Island if you only have a week…but try and push it out to at least 10 days.

Get the AA (automobile association) accommodation guide book and possible ‘Jasons’ guide book. Most entries have good descriptions, and prices etc.

Consider a farmstay at least once. There are places around that are cottages on working farms etc, so a good way to get in amongst it.

There are heaps of camping grounds you can pitch a tent beside the car, but the advice above about fires is correct. You will need to use a gas cooker or provided facilities.
Be aware that at certain times of the year i.e Dec 20 to around Jan 20, some camping grounds will be pretty full, even for a small tent.
Some people light campfires on beaches using drift wood. While it’s technically way safer than in the forests, I’m pretty sure it is still illegal during the summer months.

Consider going going for a hike, even if it’s just a day trip, but you can overnight in Dept of Conservations Huts in the wild too.

Go to a Super 12 Rugby game (if one is on)…and preferably in Jade Stadium in Christchurch…not that I’m one-eyed :wink:

Some of my favorite places:

*Nelson Lakes National Park - Lake Rotoiti area, Murchison.
*Arthurs Pass - You can take the “tranz alpine express” train from Christchurch to the West Coast which is supposed to be fantastic.
*Marlborough - if you like good food and wine, you will be blown away by this region. There are several boutique hotels around. Also consider checking out the Marlborough Sounds.
*Kaikoura - Whale watching, swimming with Dolphins, fantastic sea food.
*Christchurch - The central city is great to wander around, the “port hills loop” above the city is great to drive around and offers great views of the city one side and banks peninsula on the other (about 1hr)
*Hamner Springs - famous for it’s hot pools, but now a trendy eco-adventure hub.
*Haast to Wanaka road - amazing Rain forest road.
*Arrowtown - Old Gold town about 15min drive from Queenstown. A couple of camping grounds.

no doubt I’ll think of more, but that’s off the top of my head.

I’m a kiwi too and you won’t have to splurge to get a nice hotel unless you’re in the main centres. I was pleasantly shocked at the prices after returning to my part of the world after a trip to North America Unfortunately I can’t help much on the South Island but you’re right to be leaning towards it if you’re after wide open space however after living in Taiwan and returning home. My two main thoughts are where is everyone and why is there so little traffic?

Just pitching a tent is illegal in a number of places from memory. You will find a week too little. I met people from the UK travelling on around the world tickets and all said they found they wanted and advised others to spend more time in New Zealand than Australia. I actually can’t tell you much about the South Island at all as it’s some years since I’ve been there.

However my North Island reccomendations are Lake Waikeromana, Rotorua (take nose plugs) and Wellington. However most of what you after is in the South Isalnd.

we stayed in the most amazing little lodge this week in kaikoura - for 120 per night you get a hundred year old house on a 100 acre farm with a great host - he also runs a local bed and breakfast on his farm. just outside the town. was fantasic - really private and beautiful. recommend kaikoura - even as just a break from travel

as everyone else has said the south island is better- i am a convert after living in the north island most of my life. i drove down to queenstown thre time this year and each time thanked God I get to live in such a beautiful and relatively untouched country.

can be boring to live here- but to visit- wow!

Can’t tell you all how much I appreciate you taking the time to give me your advice. People on this board are great. At first I thought I could just copy whatever helpful tips I got and paste them into a little “South Island Travel Cheat Sheet.” Now I’m thinking I may as well just print the whole thread out and take it with me.

Now if there is any way that one of you people could get me some extra time off work… :laughing:

Seriously – thanks again for feedback everyone!


um i’m a kiwi too…just wanted to say that since everyone else is coming out the closet…i have no relevant advice although i can say that the abel tasman national park north of nelson and motueka is the closest thing to paradise i’ve ever seen…

…almost enough of us to start a support group :smiley: …or a pub that sells speights.

To Hobbes: Make sure you try a “Monteiths Summer Ale” when you’re there.

God I love that beer. We need to talk Jason’s into stocking some Monteiths.

And Hobbes - if you do decide to head north and check out Lake Waikaremoana like Matchstick Man said, take insect repellent. Seriously. You think mosquitoes are bad here? They ridiculous at Waikaremoana.

For the north, here’s a few:

Auckland - coming from Taipei, Auckland has very little to offer. Skytower is alright, nice view and all, but meh. The Museum is excellent though, and another nice couple of hours can be had taking a ferry trip across to Devonport for lunch; Devonport’s a nice, quiet little place, with some good arty type shops.
If you’re into surfing, head to Raglan on the west coast of the North Island, about an hour west of Hamilton. IIRC Manu Bay, just out from there, has the longest left-hand break in the world.
If you want to, you could visit the set of Hobbiton from the Lord of the Rings movies, about 5 minutes out of Matamata (about half an hour from Hamilton). It’s a bit pricy, and honestly a bit shit, but it seems to be one of those must-do things.
Rotorua’s a big one for tourists - check out the view from the restaurant at the top of the Skyline gondolas, visit Hell’s Gate for a bit of a nature walk, and Whakarewarewa has another nice walk through a geothermal area, as well as a replica pre-European Maori village and regular shows, and a cultural center. (Get a guided tour - makes it so much better).
Taupo, in the center; since it’s summer, skiing Ruapehu is out, but the bungy jumping platform there is nice, even just for watching other people (the Queenstown bungy might be better for actual jumping though). Also, if you’ve got time to kill, I wholeheartedly recommend getting a trip out onto the lake and fishing for some trout. There’s some spectacular scenery out there, the fish are top notch, and the guys running the places (well, Ross Jolly at least - I don’t know about other agents) are excellent.

I can think of a few other nice spots and trips, but they’re largely the sort that can be done elsewhere, and probably more spectacularly. And unfortunately my knowledge of the NI is pretty much limited to Taupo northward.

sandflies not mossies innit?

Shit no, mozzies for Africa in that place.

I’m a big fan of kiwi-land. Question one is where are you flying into?

Auckland’s not worth wasting time on, so try and organise the best a better first stop. I was in Wellington the last time, which has pretty good connections and is a cool bustling little city. From there it’s just a short hop across the strait to the South Island and Marlborough Sound.

There’s a water bus on the sounds that does a tour of some very pleasant little hotels and guest houses to suit all budgets. You can stay at one overnight, leave your bags with the address of the next place on, walk the coast path, and find your bags waiting for you at your destination. Cheap, easy, and fun.

I recommend Furneaux Lodge and The Lazy Fish. The pictures don’t do them justice.

Then hire a car, and drive south until you run out of holiday time.

Screw it, here’s a pic for people who are too lazy to follow the links.

good lord thats a hell of a photo…surely a touch of the corel/photoshop business there?