Backpacking New Zealand

Backpacking New Zealand - here's all the information you need

If you're thinking about backpacking New Zealand, we can help.

Kayaks in the Coromandel - pic courtesy Adam Bryce

This amazing country is a backpackers paradise, and these days the backpacking community is seen as a vital part of the country's tourism industry.

So much so in fact, that the New Zealand tourism industry welcomes backpackers with open arms.

With stunning scenery,  so much to see and do, friendly locals, a great transport system, and a very favorable currency exchange rate, it's no wonder that New Zealand is so popular as a backpacker holiday destination.



What's on our Backpacking New Zealand page?

To make it easy for you to find what you are looking for just follow the links to go to that part of the page. When you finish just click on your browsers "back" button to return here:

* Some Top Tips for first time visitors

* Costs - is New Zealand expensive?

* Visa information

* Transport - getting to, and around NZ

* Our Top 6 pay to use experiences

* Our Top free activities

* Search our huge range of things to do

* New Zealand weather information

* Find a special place to stay

* Our Travel Planner will answer a lot of your questions




Our handy Backpacking New Zealand Travel Planner

If you are new to New Zealand, or don't know where to start, our travel planner could be helpful.

It's an easy to use guide to help you plan your trip and includes tips on things like "how long will I need", "should I visit one island or both", "planning your travel route", "driving or taking an escorted tour - pros and cons", "tours and products", "calculating your holiday costs" and lots more.

You can access our New Zealand travel planner here.

All sorts of other important Backpacking New Zealand information

For information on visitor information centers, electricity supply, disabled facilities, health and safety, driving in NZ, New Zealand currency, time zones, travel insurance and lots more please click here.



Top 6 Backpacking New Zealand experiences

There is so much to see and do in New Zealand, and we know it can be confusing trying to work out how to spend your time and money.

So we've listened to our customers and based on their feedback and on our own experiences, here are our suggestions for the Top 6 New Zealand experiences:

Bungy in Queenstown

jump off stuff at New Zealand's "Adventure Capital", Queenstown. Feel the adrenalin rush. It's a once in a lifetime experience.

Kawarau Bridge bungy Queenstown

Walk on a West Coast glacier

Come and experience Franz Josef glacier on a small group ice walk. Imagine standing in an ice cave!

Small group glacier walk Franz Josef

Kayak the Abel Tasman

Paddle the calm clear waters of the world famous Abel Tasman National Park, near Nelson on the South Island.

Full Day Astrolabe Kayaking Eco Tour Abel Tasman The Sea Kayak Company

Ride the famous Shotover jetboat

Imagine roaring through a canyon on the legendary  Shotover Jet!

The Shotover Jet Queenstown

Raft in Rotorua

This is awesome! Come and get wet in the rapids and freefalls of the Kaituna River near Rotorua.

Kaituna River Whitewater Rafting from Rotorua

Visit Weta Workshop

See where the legends were born with a tour of Wellington's amazing Weta Workshop.

Weta Workshop Wellington


Best FREE Backpacking New Zealand activities

New Zealand is loaded with free stuff to see and do.

Here's a few examples that we know you will love.

Oceans meet at Cape Reinga

Watch two great oceans meet below you at Cape Reinga at the very top of New Zealand. The lookout provides stunning views from your vantage point more than 160 meters above the ocean.


90 Mile Beach Cape Reinga

Relax in Kerosene Creek's hot springs

Around 30 minutes south of Rotorua, you can sit back and soak in the waters of Kerosene Creek.  The stream and a natural hot spring combine in this year round treat.


Kerosene Creek Rotorua Image courtesy Vaughan Brookfield

Dig a steaming bath at Hot Water Beach

The Coromandel is a stunning part of the North Island. And if you are up that way, Hot Water Beach is a must do experience. Hot springs run under the sand and allow you to dig your own steaming bath in the sand!


Hot Water Beach pic courtesy Tourism Coromandel

Slide down the Rere Rock slide

Gisborne, on the North Island's east coast, is a popular surf mecca. But just inland, the Rere Rock Slide is a natural fresh water playground. Thousands of years in the making, mother nature sure has excelled here.


The Rere Rockslide

Hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The one day hike along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a very unique New Zealand experience. This World Heritage listed area showcases an active crater, steaming vents, lava flows, and colored lakes. Not to mention stunning views.


The Tongariro Alpine Crossing pic courtesy visitruapehu.co.nz

See the stunning Blue Pools near Wanaka

Mount Aspiring National Park is one of New Zealand's most stunning parks. And just off the Haast Highway, the Blue Pools offer some of the "bluest" and clearest water you will ever see. And keep an eye open for the elusive local trout.


Blue Pools at Makarora pic courtesy lakewanaka.co.nz

Chase Fiordland's awesome waterfalls

Fiordland National Park has some of the most jaw dropping scenery on earth. Here massive peaks disappear into the heavens, and huge waterfalls tumble hundreds of meters into the deep dark waters below. There are some amazing walks in the region which should be high on your bucket list.


Fiordland waterfall

Check out the stars in Canterbury

Chances are you will never have seen night skies as clear as those in the Canterbury and Mackenzie regions. With so little artificial light, the region's are a star gazers paradise and have  International Dark Sky Reserve status - the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. Come and see the stars.


Canterbury Stargazing pic courtesy Julian Apse


Transport options

If you are planning your backpacking New Zealand adventure, then getting your travel sorted is essential.

Fortunately, New Zealand has an extensive transport system, including domestic airline services, an inter-city bus network, and a rail network.

Travel between the two main islands is also available on the Interisland ferry, one of the world's great ferry journeys.

Relaxing on Queenstown wharf - pic courtesy Julian Apse

Bus travel

Bus travel via the InterCity network is a cheap, reliable way of getting from point A to point B, and their FlexiPass allows you to pay for as little or as much travel as you need, including pay by the hour.

FlexiPass allows you to build your very own unique travel route with the country's biggest hop on / hop off bus network.

TravelPass gives you a pre-planned route but you have flexibility with your travel dates.

You can learn more here.

Air travel

New Zealand has an extensive air network with international airports in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Dunedin and Hamilton.

Auckland and Christchurch are the main international airports, taking flights from around the world, whilst the other international sites have access from a limited number of countries.

There are also domestic airports in many other major centers such as Nelson, New Plymouth, Napier, Rotorua, Taupo, and several others .

You can find out more about the New Zealand airline network here.

Car and camper hire

One of the best ways to see New Zealand is by just hiring a car or camper van and driving yourself.

Use one of our free itineraries to plan your travel route then just hire your vehicle and away you go!

We can arrange this for you and have access to all of the major car rental brands, and at market leading rates.

To see what's available just use the search boxes opposite:

Driving in New Zealand

For information about driving in New Zealand, including licence information, click here.

Driving distances and times

South Is. Times & Distances

North Is. Times & Distances

Train network

There are three main train routes in New Zealand.

The Northern Explorer runs from Auckland to Wellington on the North Island.

The Coastal Explorer runs from Picton to Christchurch on the South Island, from the end of September till early May.

However this service is currently closed due to an earthquake in November 2016, and is expected to resume in November 2018.

The famous TranzAlpine runs from Christchurch, through the Southern Alps, to Greymouth.

For more information on the New Zealand rail network, please visit the Rail New Zealand website here.

Check your car hire options




Great deals on campervan hire




Your Backpacking New Zealand accommodation options

No matter where you go in New Zealand, you will find a huge variety of accommodation options.

The dining room at Haka Lodge Paihia

With everything from camping grounds and hostels, to hotels, motels, B & B's and luxury lodges, New Zealand has you covered.

We've partnered with booking.com to give you access to the best possible range of accommodation, and you can read reviews, check availability and prices, and make your bookings using the links below.

Please note: if you plan on backpacking New Zealand in the peak holiday seasons during winter (June, July, August) and summer (December, January, February), accommodation in some parts of New Zealand fills quickly. To avoid disappointment we recommend booking ahead at these times.

Click here to search all of New Zealand

Click here to find YHA hostels

Click here to search for Hostels

Click here to look for camping grounds

Click here to search for hotels and motels

Click here to find B & B's

Click here for luxury lodges

Click here for Properties rated 9+


A selection of very special hostels

If you are tired of those old smelly hostels, why not try one of the Haka Lodges?

Dorm accommodation at Haka Lodge Auckland

These upmarket lodges are really something special, and are highly recommended if you are planning a backpacking New Zealand holiday.

Located in several key locations, they offer amazing value, free Wifi, premium bedding, and some of the cleanest and most welcoming facilities in the country.

They offer a choice of private rooms and traditional dorm style rooms. If you choose to stay in a dorm you will love their "self contained" pods. Featuring motel quality bedding, your own power supply, lighting, privacy screen and large lockable storage, they are the perfect spot to curl up and relax after a day exploring.

Please be aware that these lodges are sometimes booked out months in advance, so forward bookings are recommended.

Just click on the links to learn more:

Haka Auckland

Haka Christchurch

Haka Queenstown

Haka Paihia

Haka Taupo


More information on New Zealand accommodation

For more information and to read about some of our favorite places to stay, click here.



Backpacking New Zealand - Top Tips

New Zealand's a great destination, and to help you make the most of your stay, here's a few Top Tips:

* Work your way around the country - but get a Visa first

A few weeks in "God's Own" will not be enough.

We highly recommend obtaining a Working Holiday Visa.

This will give you up to 12 months in NZ, and if you work during your stay, more money means more time to enjoy this amazing place.

There are dozens of countries that are eligible, and we know that once you arrive, you won't want to leave.

You can learn more here.

* Our hostels are great places to stay, and are cheap

It doesn't matter where you go in NZ, hostels are everywhere.

Most are well located close to amenities, and certainly in most locations, there will be several to choose from.

With prices usually in the $20-30 per night range, they are a wonderful alternative to hotels, motels and camp grounds (and of course they are a great way to meet new friends).

As always, please do your research, and read reviews.

* Dress for our climate

We love our four distinct seasons. Long warm summers, the burst of life that spring brings, autumn's color change, and the delights of winter.

But sometimes, New Zealand's unpredictable climate can bring rapid changes in weather conditions, so we recommend that you prepare yourself, and always carry a few extra pieces of clothing.

A good waterproof jacket is essential, and in the cooler months, thermals are recommended. 

And we know you will love our trails, so sturdy, comfortable footwear is a must.

* Make sure you have identification

If you want to enter a place that sells alcohol, you must have satisfactory identification.

The only three acceptable forms are your current passport, a New Zealand Driver's Licence, or a HNZ 18 Plus Photo ID Card.

A driver's licence from home or an international licence will not be accepted.

If you don't want to risk carrying your passport everywhere, then we recommend getting a HNZ 18+ ID Card. You can find out how here.

* Remember, you have a budget

NZ is great value for money, but like any holiday destination, there are temptations everywhere.

People sometimes get into trouble when they underestimate the daily cost of living here, so it's important to have an accurate idea of what it's going to cost you. And if you plan to work here, make sure that you get your Working Holiday Visa sorted.

We estimate that you will need a minimum of NZD$130 per day. Dorm accommodation will cost you around $25 per night, a beer will be around $8, and a decent size evening meal will cost around $20. Add in the cost of activities, and transport around NZ, and costs can soon mount up.

Organized tours often include some activities, meals and transport, and are a good alternative if you only plan on a short stay.

* Choose the right time to come and visit

The months from October to March are our peak tourism times (our summer runs from December to February).

And because of this, we suggest traveling in the quieter April to September period. We know that Winter sits in the middle of that, but it's a fantastic time to visit. Stunning scenery, amazing activities, and a real buzz, make it a wonderful time to visit.

And that leaves the warmer months as the perfect opportunity to put your Working Holiday Visa to use.

The horticulture and tourism industries are at their peak in the summer months, meaning lots more opportunities for you to work.

And if you work for three months, it may even enable you to extend your visa.



Backpacking New Zealand Weather information

New Zealand has four distinct seasons, which are opposite those of the Northern hemisphere..

Spring runs from September to November, and is a real mix, so expect anything from frosty cold clear days to sunny warm days. Be prepared with several layers of clothing so that you can adapt if the weather changes.

Mount Hutt Ski Field pic courtesy Julian Apse
Summer

December to February. Summers are warm to hot, with daily maximum temperatures ranging from about 20-30 degrees celsius. T-shirts and shorts are usually fine, with a jumper for after dark.

Autumn March to May, and temperatures begin to fall a little, but are still usually very pleasant. Light pants or shorts combined with t-shirts or long sleeved tops. Nights can be a little cooler so be prepared with a heavier sweater or light weight coat.

Winter June to August. Colder weather in most of the country, with snow common in the south and more rain in the north of the country. Rug up with jeans, heavier tops and coats. And if you visit the alpine areas make sure that you have gloves, weatherproof shoes, head ware such as a beanie, and perhaps even thermals. Don't be put off by the colder weather, as it brings with it a magic feel, with snow capped peaks, and roaring fires in the pubs and restaurants.

Weather conditions vary greatly and can change with little warning, particularly in the alpine areas.

We have lots of information on our dedicated New Zealand weather page which you can access here.

The official New Zealand weather bureau, MetService also has lots of great information.



Visa information for your backpacking New Zealand adventure

This information was current as at June 2017.

Visas are only necessary if you are not from a visa waiver country.

For more information please visit the Immigration New Zealand website.

A traditional Maori feast at Rotorua - pic courtesy Adam Bryce

If your country has consular representation in New Zealand, then your passport must be valid for at least one month after departure from New Zealand.

If your country does not have consular representation in New Zealand, then your passport must be valid for at least three months after your departure from New Zealand.

To work in New Zealand

New Zealand has a youth worker holiday scheme.

People 30 years old or less, who come from a participating country, may qualify.

You can find out more about the scheme here.

Please see the Immigration New Zealand website for further information on working holiday visas.



Is Backpacking New Zealand expensive?

Generally speaking, New Zealand is a relatively inexpensive place to visit.

When you factor in the currency exchange rate, you may find that some things cost less than they do in your home country.

Our best advice is to have a look at the Immigration New Zealand website which has a handy cost of living calculator. You can use it to see the prices for various goods and services.

Other websites like Numbeo also have some handy information available.

Our Travel Budgeting Calculator will help you calculate how much your trip will cost.



Lots of great things to see and do

Further up the page we touched on some great things to do in New Zealand.

Blackwater rafting at Waitomo Caves

Those suggestions just touched the surface though, because there is an almost endless supply of cool things to see and do here.

We've detailed some of the best activities in our pages for each region.

And there's a few more great suggestions here:

* Top 5 Things to do in 2017 - click here

* Top 5 for adventure - click here

But if you would like to search for activities New Zealand wide, check prices and availability, and read those all important reviews, we can help.

Through our partnership with Viator (owned by TripAdvisor) we can give you access to thousands of uniquely New Zealand experiences.

Nature cruise on Akaroa Harbour

With everything from "mild" to "wild" there's something for all tastes.

At the "wild" end of the scale you could try black water caving at Waitomo, or bungy off a bridge in Queenstown (we loved it!).

For something a little more sedate, how about a relaxing harbor or lake cruise (check this one out), or a winery tour?

Our range of tours and activities is diverse and huge, and we know that there will be lots to suit you.

To search the full range just click here.



Backpacking New Zealand Top of Page