KIA ORA! This is the Maori language greeting which means “be well/healthy”. We spent close to 1 month in New Zealand travelling by land through both the North and South Islands. We decided rather than stay in a camper van again, to travel by car (as NZ is much smaller than Australia) and stay in hostels along the way. From the recovering city of Christchurch where we began our journey, to the glacial capped peaks of Franz Josef and beyond New Zealand has much to offer and far more than 1 month could be enjoyed there effortlessly.
The intention of this page is to provide links to the various places we went and recommend as well as provide resources that we found useful along the way. We understand that we don’t have ALL the information, but what we do have will be helpful to those travelling to New Zealand!
The money in New Zealand is the the NZD and has the following notes: $5, 10, 20, 50, 100. The $1-2 bills have been demonetized.
The coins are 10 cents (copper), 20 cents, 50 cents (both silver), 1 dollar and 2 dollars (both gold). The notes are 5 dollars (orange), 10 dollars (blue), 20 dollars (green), 50 dollars (purple) and 100 dollars (red).
As New Zealand doesn’t have any 1 cent, 2 cent or 5 cent coins anymore (the 1c and 2c were withdrawn in 1990, the 5c in 2006), if you are paying in cash the total bill will be rounded to the nearest ten cents – amounts ending in 1,2,3,4c are rounded down to 0c, amounts ending in 6,7,8,9c up to 10c, and 5c can be rounded either up or down (usually down). Payments by credit card or EFTPOS will be charged to the exact cent.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 15% is included in the shelf price of all goods. You cannot claim back this tax when leaving New Zealand. There are however Duty Free stores which are GST-free. These can be found in most airports and main tourist centres.
ATMs (cash machines) are available in most towns. Bank branches are located in main towns usually open from 9:00am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday. Some branches in major cities may open on Saturday morning. The major banks are ANZ, ASB, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), KiwiBank, and Westpac. Some ANZ branches are branded as The National Bank – National was absorbed into ANZ in 2012, and the National Bank brand is gradually being phased out.
New Zealand has a very high penetration of electronic transactions – 75 percent of all retail transactions in New Zealand are settled by debit card (“EFTPOS” – Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) and virtually all brick-and-mortar stores have EFTPOS facilities. The majority of them will also accept major credit cards (namely Visa and Mastercard).
There are no visa requirements to enter for Canadians but make sure you have your departure flight booked out of NZ or you will not be able to enter the country and most likely won’t be able to board your plane to go there either.
New Zealand is probably one of the safest countries in the world. We joked by saying that the biggest threat to our health there was ourself, because there are basically no natural threats! The water is safe to drink throughout the country. The following link is for any further research you may want to do.
It was suggested from a Kiwi that rather than book a car from a major company it would be best to book with a smaller local company. We found this to indefinitely be true. Although you won’t get a brand new shiny Mercedes (and who needs one when travelling), you will get a reliable vehicle that gets you from A-B. We found this company to be cheaper than any other company, picked us up from our hostel without question, was pleasant to deal with throughout the process and allowed us to drop off in Auckland (picked up in Christchurch).
We found that you can stay at various hostels throughout NZ and there is a local network called BBH which many hostels in almost all towns are a part of. By purchasing a membership which costs around $50 NZ, you will get usually $2-4 off per night on your accommodation when you book online or present the card to the hostel provided there are a member of the network. It also acts as a $20 calling card which is great to call people at home if you are into that sort of thing! It also gets you 10% off your Interislander ferry between Picton and Wellington when travelling between North and South islands. It has many other discounts that will make it worth your while and it pays for itself after about 10 nights so if you plan on staying in the country any longer than one week it makes sense to get one and the hostels that are part of the network are all listed along with reviews and ratings so you can make your choices comfortably.
When booking an excursion or any adventure while in NZ make sure you check first on BOOKME. The further in advance you book, the greater the discount. This site could save you hundreds of dollars and they sometimes have deals that are up to 99% off!
We mentioned the next discount place in ‘what do we like’ because it is a worldwide discount site but we did use Viator in NZ a couple of times and found it very helpful.
The best grocery store we found with the cheapest price is as follows.
CITIES WE VISITED AND ATTRACTIONS FROM EACH:
Christchurch: Amazing to know that earthquakes hit this city on multiple occasions and in 2011 crippled the city with a devastating rumble which the town is still recovering from. There isn’t much to do here, but it is quite fascinating to walk around and see not only the destruction but the rebuilding being done. Be sure to take a walk around the main downtown of the city which we believe is going to be incredible when all the construction and rebuilding is complete.
The Catlins: Along the way from Christchurch to the Catlins we stopped to visit the ‘Moeraki Boulders‘ which look like giant bowling balls dropped out of the sky onto the beach. There is a lot to see in The Catlins! It seemed like every 5 minutes there was another park, inlet, or trail to check out or attraction to see. Here is a list of places we visited and would definitely recommend you go see!
CATHEDRAL CAVES (MUST VISIT AT LOW TIDE!)
Queenstown: They call this town the adventure capital of the world, and since we’ve been there they definitely deserve the title! There is mass amounts to do and see in this place you could spend weeks and not see/do it all. It is important to mention along the way from the Catlins is a place we stopped shortly and loved called ‘Flat Top Hill Conservation’. Pick and choose from skydiving, bungy jumping, hiking, kayaking…the list goes on and on. We only leave you links to the places we did and can recommend but take a look at all there is you might want to do and plan accordingly. Remember before booking ANYTHING here to check BOOKME first! We did take the Skyline Gondola to the top and found that when you combine it with eating at the restaurant (lunch or dinner) it makes for a great value with incredible views.
Wanaka: We stayed a couple nights here and again there is much to see however after Queenstown we needed to rest and relax a bit! We got out to the lake, played a round of frisbee golf, and watched a couple movie at some boutique movie theatres! You can hold up the clock tower at ‘Puzzling World‘ if you want to take a cool photo!
Franz Josef: The town is nestled in between mountains and beautiful freshwater lakes and forests. Outdoor adventure is the thing to do here whether it’s going for a hike to the glacier bottom or flying over it in a helicopter you will not be disappointed with the views.
Punakaiki: This is a popular destination for tourists to visit as you can see the extremely interesting rock formations called the Pancake Rocks. The famous Blow Holes are also at the same place. A short walking distance from the hostel we stayed at which while mentioning was probably our favourite in NZ, is the Truman Track which takes you to a secluded beach comprised completely of ocean rounded stones. It is important to note that the tide is vital to both of these sites. Pancake Rocks & Blowhole should be visited at high tide while Truman Track should be visited at low. Here is a link to the tide schedule for the area: TIDE SCHEDULE
Motueka: This is the access point to Abel Tasman and has a fairly lively downtown in peak season. We spent a couple nights here and visited some great spots. We spoke with people who spent weeks tramping through Abel Tasman so there really is a lot of outdoor activities to do. Be sure if you want to kayak that you head out first thing in the morning as they pull in the kayaks around 3pm so the local penguin population isn’t disturbed on their way home to land. We had some great Indian food at the old Post Office Hotel as well.
Picton-Wellington: This is the travel point between North and South Islands. We decided to upgrade to the Premium Lounge which included a buffet, drinks (alcoholic included), wifi, and television for $40/PP. Given the fact that the ship wasn’t overly busy, the money would have been better spent on food and seating in the regular area as there is a bar/sports lounge on the deck just above. However if the boat was fully booked, we would have been glad we upgraded as the lounge is very comfortable and quiet. Remember when booking online to enter your BBH card number to receive a 10% discount.
Wellington: We spent a single night here after landing from the ferry and didn’t see a whole lot of the Capital City other than checking out the main shopping district and the hotel we stayed at. People we have spoken to love this city and its one of the largest in NZ next to Auckland so it may be worth it to spend some time here although we didn’t because of the time constraint we had and other destinations we wanted to visit. We stayed in a hotel as we couldn’t find a hostel that was decent and reasonable and found the hotel we stayed at to be clean and close to the main parts of town.
Napier: The Art Deco capital of NZ! What a cool town. All the buildings make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. It’s been named one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world!! Local cafe’s are great, and it’s a great place to walk around for the day. Keep in mind, the town is pretty much shut down at night, so don’t go there expecting a party! Where we stayed had an interesting vibe as it was formerly a luxury hotel that was built after the famous Hawkes Bay earthquake that rocked the city in 1932. It burned down after a smoking incident in the bar below and was renovated into what is now the hostel.
Taupo: Lake Taupo is a fairly popular spot as it is a landing spot for people to do the day hike across the Tongariro Crossing. We didn’t brave the hike as we were told it was fairly difficult and the weather wasn’t suitable and although currently you are able to walk unguided across, it will soon change to a guided only tour for safety reasons. Make sure you get a map for the sites as we thought they were easy to find but we got lost! The hot springs are free and flow right into the river. Huka falls is a controlled flood gate that is set to go off at 10, 12, and 2 every day. Make sure you are there to catch the wave! There are some cool sites we saw, met a few new friends and enjoyed our short stay in this little town.
Waitomo: This place is built on tourism and the only industry is glow worms and black water rafting which are both awesome! There isn’t much in the way of food or restaurants but what is there is good, don’t mind the reviews on TripAdvisor, their pizza is amazing. Even a haunted hotel if you want to stay a night? You can book the tubing on BOOKME so don’t forget to check before you do!
Rotorua: People told us that Rotorua was going to smell like eggs and it does, a bit. It’s built on a sulphur deposit so hey what do you expect? The Redwood Forest is beautiful. We had a blast going up the gondola and doing the luging. No matter what you think, get more rides on the luge track you will want more when you are finished guaranteed! The tour we took was to a Maori evening and we got to watch traditional war displays, dances and learned about life as a Maori in their village. The Hangi meal that was made was excellent.
Auckland: We stayed with our friends who live just outside Auckland in the area known as Cockle Bay. It was a blessing to be able to stay with their family for the few days we visited the city. We took a ferry into the main port from Half Moon Bay which was a great way to transport into the city simultaneously avoiding traffic and getting some great views along the way! We wandered around Auckland, ate some great food, and visited a couple of the main sites before saying our goodbyes to New Zealand after a fantastic first voyage to this beautiful country. We know we will be back to visit again.