When you want to go to New Zealand, you might have these questions in your mind: what is the best time to go, where should I go, which transportation should I use, where should I sleep, what activities can I do, etc.
I’ve visited New Zealand on summer and winter season. I’ve been to south island and north island of New Zealand. So I want to share some tips & tricks that I learned during my New Zealand trip. Hopefully this tips & tricks can help you in planning your New Zealand Trip.
If you want to know about what places should you visit in New Zealand, you can go to my previous post “New Zealand trip, where to go?”
These are some tips and tricks for a New Zealand trip:
1. The best time to go is on summer. The reasons are:
- The daylight hours is long. Dawn is as early as 5 am, while dusk settles around 10 pm. So you will have a lot of time to go anywhere and do lots of things. Summer weather in New Zealand allows you to spend a lot of pleasant time outdoors. When I went on a vacation there on summer (december 2011), every day is a nice clear day (good weather, blue sky) and never rain.
- There are lots of colorful flowers in many places (I saw lots of them in december 2011), so it’s beautiful to see.
lots of flowers along the roadside
- You can enjoy the time outside doing this things: siting on the grass or sitting on the bench outside or sitting on the shore of the lake or do other things.
Notes for summer :
On summer season, temperatures on the South Island of New Zealand can be as low as 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) at night and as high as 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.
2. Don’t go on winter. The reasons are:
- It’s dangerous to drive in winter season in New Zealand. The roads are slippery, and there is landslide at some part of the road (the landslide can hit you when you drive).
- Some roads are closed due to snow.
- It’s raining almost everyday (it was raining almost everyday in my winter trip), so in a lot of time you cannot see anything. New Zealand landscape (especially South Island) is amazing and very diverse, so it’s a pity if you cannot see such amazing scenery due to rain.
- The amount of daylight hours is so short. It has around 9 to 10 hours of daylight in a day. So your activities (seeing scenery, doing outdoor activities) can only be done in a short time.
- You cannot enjoy the time outside doing this things: sitting on the grass or sitting on the bench outside or sitting on the shore of the lake.
- You cannot do some of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, etc, because it’s so cold outside.
3. Minimum time to visit New Zealand is 2 weeks. Don’t visit New Zealand less than 2 weeks. Actually, even in 2 weeks, there will be several places that you don’t have the time to visit.
4. In that 2 weeks trip, just stick to the South Island. The reasons to visit South Island (instead of North Island) are:
- South Island’s landscape is much more beautiful and more diverse than North Island’s landscape. The South Island’s scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. South Island has the best scenery of New Zealand. Because of the stunning nature of New Zealand, The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was being filmed in New Zealand, mostly in South Island.
- You will be covering more places in South Island than in North Island, at the same amount of time. In South Island, many places of interest are located near to each other (all within easy reach of each other), so you will be covering quite a lot of places in South Island in a short time. In North Island, the distance between one place of interest to other place of interest is quite far (compared to places in South Island), so you will be covering only a few places in North Island in a short time.
- New Zealand has a total of 14 national parks, 9 of which are located on the South Island.
- The 10 highest mountains in New Zealand are all located on the South Island. The highest mountain is Mount Cook. The Southern Alps run from the top of the South Island all the way down to the bottom of the South Island.
- New Zealand has many glaciers. The 5 largest glaciers are located on the South Island.
- Fiordland national park on the South Island is New Zealand’s largest national park, and also a large wilderness area. This area does not only have large lakes, but also tall mountain peaks and waterfalls tumbling down into the fiords. It offers some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand.
- Four of the 5 largest lakes in New Zealand are located on the South Island:
- Marlborough, which is located on the South Island, is New Zealand’s most significant wine-producing region. In addition, Central Otago on the South Island is becoming well-known for its wineries and award-winning pinot noir wines.
- The South Island has Queenstown as the adventure capital of New Zealand.
- The South Island is more rural than the North Island, so there are many farms and there are many sheep that you can see while you are driving. Sometimes you will also see cattle while you are driving.
For New Zealand South Island, 2 weeks itinerary/ road trip map, see my previous post “New Zealand trip, where to go?”
5. A road trip is the best way to explore the beauty of New Zealand’s very diverse landscapes, as you can cover many of its highlights over the course of short time. The best way to travel around New Zealand is by campervan and also sleep at that campervan. The reasons are:
- If you sleep at campervan, you are pretty flexible with your schedule and can rearrange things if needed. For example: you planned to stay at certain place of interest for 1 day, but when you arrive at that place you want to stay there for 2 days (because you like the place), so you can just change your plan easily because you sleep at campervan. But if you have booked a hotel room or holiday park’s rental room (instead of sleeping in campervan) then you cannot change your plan because you have to be at the hotel (or holiday park’s rental room) at the date you have planned if you don’t want to lose your booking money (in other words, you need to stick to your planned schedule, if you have booked a room).
- It’s more fun to travel by campervan and sleeping in a campervan
- Sleeping in campervan is cheaper than sleeping in a hotel or in holiday park’s rental room.
I recommend you to choose “powered campervan” instead of “unpowered campervan”.
For more detail about campervan, read it in this post: New Zealand trip, travel with campervan.
6. Pick up brochures and guidebooks (free of charge) on arrival at the airport or at I-SITES or at holiday parks or at car rental office. In those brochures/ guidebooks, you will find many information about New Zealand (places of interest, accommodation, maps, holiday parks, etc), and you will also find discount vouchers and/or special packages.
7. These are several things you can do that can help you minimize costs of your New Zealand vacation:
- Use discount vouchers and/or special packages from many of the brochures/ guidebooks that you picked up at the airport or at I-SITES or at holiday parks or at car rental office.
- Sleep at campervan, instead of sleeping in a hotel or in holiday parks’ rental room. Sleeping in campervan is cheaper than sleeping in a hotel or in holiday park’s rental room.
- If you don’t want to sleep at campervan, you can sleep at holiday park’s rental room (cabins, units, motels). The holiday parks’ rental room is cheaper than hotel room.
- Eat well with less money by buying your food ingredients in supermarket (SuperValue or PAKnSAVE or Countdown) instead of buying food at the restaurant. You can even eat steak everyday with a cheap price. This is how you do it: buy marinated steak in the supermarket, then cook it in the kitchen of holiday parks or hostel. When we went to the supermarket in our trip, there was a marinated lamb t-bone steak (1 pack consists of 6 slices of lamb t-bone steak) with the price of 5 new zealand dollar. So you get 6 slices of lamb t-bone steaks for 5 dollar. It’s cheap, isn’t it? If you like to eat rice often, then you had better also buy rice cooker and rice at that supermarket.
8. If you plan to sleep in campervan, you need to park your campervan in a holiday parks sites because you are not allowed to park anywhere you like (such as on the side of the road or at other not supposed place). If you park somewhere you’re not supposed to be, you’ll very likely have an encounter with a policeman, not to mention a hefty fine.
9. Holiday parks provide sites for tents, caravans and campervans and many also have simple cabins, self-contained motel units and backpackers’ lodges. If you want to sleep at holiday park (at campervan or cabins or motels or etc), I highly recommend you to choose “top 10 holiday parks”. If you cannot get top 10 holiday parks, then choose “kiwi holiday parks”. In my opinion, “Top 10 holiday parks” is the best holiday park, and kiwi holiday parks is the second best holiday parks. To know more about holiday parks, read it at this post New Zealand trip, sleep at holiday parks (cheaper than hotel) .
10. If you are a muslim, be careful when you buy a sausage, because lots of sausages in New Zealand contain some pork in it, even though it is a beef or chicken sausage. The beef or chicken sausage often is not consist of 100% beef or chicken, but it contains some pork in it. So when you buy a beef or chicken sausage in supermarket, you need to read the ingredient lists on the label on that sausage to know whether that sausage contains some pork or not.
11. See a “sheep shearing” show & “heading dog” show at The Wrinkly Rams. To know more about this, read this post New Zealand trip, where to go? part 9: Omarama “sheep shearing”.
12. Visit Jones Family Fruit Stall in Cromwell “fruit town” to buy fresh fruits. Their cherry is so sweet in summer season. To know more about this, read this post: New Zealand trip, where to go? part 8: Arrowtown, Cromwell “fruit town”.
13. Learn about New Zealand road rules before going to New Zealand. To know more about it, read it in this post: New Zealand road rules (to be written soon).
14. To know most up-to-date road condition (map and webcams of traffic conditions) go to this site: traffic and travel information or go to this site traffic information map. or ring 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 444 449). This phone service is available 24/7. From that links or phone number, you will know which road is closed, and other live traffic information.
15. For state highway road map, you can download it from these sites: state highway map 1, state highway map 2.
16. Use google maps to get an approximate travel time and distance between two points in New Zealand. If you know your travel time and distance, you can make a better plan of your New Zealand trip.
17. You can check on New Zealand weather conditions on the Met Service website. This is what you will see on that website:
To know the weather in detail for each city, click “town and cities” and choose 1 (for example choose queenstown), and you will see this:
18. The number to call if you need the Fire service, Police or an ambulance in an emergency is 111.
19. You might want to download CamperMate app on your smartphone. In that app, you will have information such as free campsites, cheap campsites, holiday parks, hostels, public restrooms, wifi, water, etc. You can download that app from this site: CamperMate
My other New Zealand posts:
New Zealand trip, where to go?
New Zealand trip, travel with campervan
New Zealand trip, sleep at holiday parks (cheaper than hotel)