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Kia Ora 🙂 If you love nature and peace and adventure and driving , then NZ is the place for you! The long drives, stunning views, green and blue color in abundance, peace everywhere, honest people, traffic rules, roads…everything is just lovely 🙂 NZ has it all!
When to Visit:
All year round. It lies in Southern Hemisphere so their summers are from December to February with longer days and that is also the peak season. If you want to go for ski then visit in winters (June to August) with shorter days. The weather in New Zealand changes multiple times a day throughout the year, so be prepared for all of it 🙂 When we went, it was raining in North Island all the time but we got so lucky to see sun in south Island all the time 🙂 And thank Sun we could do our adventurous activities! 😀
English and Maori
What to carry:
- Carry both summer clothes as well as winter clothes as weather keeps on changing and Always Dress in layers.
- Sun glasses
- Sports shoes(for Lots of nature walks and other Activities)
- Flip Flops
- Torch for night walks
- Travel Insurance
- Medical Prescriptions along with Medicines
- Driving License (Domestic ot International) if you plan to drive
- Extra photo Id card along with passport and their first copy
Usually people hire a vehicle and self drive here. But if you don’t want to drive, then the option of Hop on Hop off buses and small group tours is also available. Bus passes are available for any number of days you want. You can hop on and off at anyplace you like in that time frame. Small group tours are guided ones and are available online.
Self Drive: Driving in NZ is on left hand side of the road just like in India. Indian License is allowed in New Zealand. You can also carry International License if you have. Either one is fine. We took the International one. Any document must be in English language though! Many cars and campervans/motorhomes are available to drive. NZ has many holiday parks to park the campervans and cars at night at minimal fees and use the facilities there. You have to fill petrol/diesel yourself and dump the toilet bin in campervans yourself at dump stations! No escape 😛
NZ had lot many companies providing rental cars. Jucy, Thrifty, Hertz, Apex and many more. We booked from Jucy. Contact us if you want to book. Will try to get you a good deal 🙂 We got a Nissan Tiida in Travella category. It is advisable to book in advance. We did not book for last day of our trip and ended up paying 4 times more while booking from airport and that too for a smaller car :X
Road Rules: The roads in NZ are very good. Mostly they are two lane or one lane. And since NZ is very sparsely populated, so you will find very few cars on highways but cities have lots of cars with parking almost full! Just remember to follow the rules of speed limits and no overtaking if there are yellow line dividers! Stop at stop signs and give way signs to let other traffic pass. We could hardly spot any traffic police or any other police on our journey because the best part is that NO ONE breaks rules! 🙂 Highly needed in India 😉 We have lots to learn in terms of cleanliness and rules! Do read the Driving rules on official New Zealand website before going. Pretty simple rules. And they have tree sign for places where we can stop on roads for rest/views. So just don’t stop anywhere!
GPS is a must. Rental companies provide that at extra cost, else use your own mobile.
Stay and Food
NZ is full of homestays, hotels, motels, hostels. You name it and its there. We booked our homestays through Airbnb for almost all of the places and motel at just one place. The homestays were pretty good and economical. All houses were so clean and well equipped. Had kitchen or kitchenette in all apartments and motel. Breakfast was provided such as milk, bread, tea, coffee. Wifi was free(ya that is what we check first :D) The houses were lovely with gardens in front and beautiful views all around. The neighbourhood was great. So quiet and peaceful. We could hardly find people around! The house owners were nice too. Got to meet a few of them. Few of the pictures of houses are here below. Also here is the link to join Airbnb and earn free travel credit!
There are many backpackers and Hitch hikers in NZ. They stay in hostels or holiday parks. Very cost efficient. Have to be booked beforehand in peak season though.
Most of the travelers in NZ self drive and hire a car/campervan and cook own meals. Food outside is expensive(main course can cost upto NZD 35 per person per meal) and very few options available for pure vegetarians. We found ‘Bikanerwala’ and ‘Rasoi’ in Auckland and one or two pure veg joints in Wellington as well(one being “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”) Not so yummy food but better than nothing 🙂 Otherwise McD, Dominos, Pizza Hut are available throughout NZ with one or two veg options. There are many Indian restuarants at almost all places but not pure veg.
New Zealand is THE place for all adventurous activities you can imagine!! It has all water sports, mountain sports and everything else!! Snorkeling, Surfing, Diving, Sky diving, Heli rides, Heli hikes, Bunji, swing, Atv, Jetboat, Cruise and many more! There are many deals available at bookme.co.nz for activities and dining. Check it out for cheaper prices. But there are limited seats with cheaper deals, rest of the seats are at same rate everywhere. We missed the deals almost all times and so booked the activities a day before or same day. Also for activities in Queenstown, you may check combos.co.nz for good deals. Same combos are available at their office in Queenstown. Spring, Winters sees less tourists in NZ, so booking a day before is ok. But in Summers, you must book atleast a week before to avoid any non-availability. Also, the activities in NZ are weather dependent. So do atleast skydive, Heli rides, Heli hikes as soon as you see sun and clear sky! We had to wait for 4 days due to rains! By the way, NZ’s day wise weather forecast is pretty accurate. So keep checking that before planning anything.
So I am listing down the major possible expenses. These rates are of September. May vary in Peak season(November to March)
- NZ local Sim – NZD 49 (3 GB data plus 200 mins free local and home country calling)
- Visa – INR 11000 per person (Visa processing takes 15 days approx)
- Flight(Including International and NZ domestic flights) – INR 81500 per person
- Prebooked Jucy Rental Car including Skoot GPS and Insurance (10 days) – INR 24134/- per car (Varies with size of car and provider company)
- Thrifty Rental car book from Airport including Insurance and without GPS (1 day) – NZD 178
- Homestays – INR 13877 per person
- Motel(2 nights) – NZD 280 total(One family room for 4 adults)
- Hobbiton tour from Shire’s rest- NZD 79 per person
- Te Puia(Thermal Geysers) excluding Maori Cultural Show- NZD 51 per person
- Skydive with Video – NZD 469 per person(Company- Skydive Franz in Franz Josef. Best is NZone in Queenstown but check weather forecasts)
- Scenic Helicopter Flight with photo – NZD 255 per person (Company-Glacier Country Helicopers in Franz Josef. Heli flight available at many other places in NZ. Again Weather dependent)
- ATV Quad Bikes (One bike shared by two) – NZD 115 per person (In Franz Josef. Available at other places too. Not a must do though!)
- Milford Sound Cruise – NZD 159 per person(We booked from Mitre Peak in Queenstown two days before. There are few other companies available with differenct prices.)
- Shotover Jet 360 degrees – NZD 135 per person (Queenstown. Available at few other places as well)
- Shotover Jet Video – NZD 79 (Its useless video. Don’t buy it!)
- Nevis Tandem Swing(Two people together) – NZD 175 per person (Queesntown. Few other options available)
- Nevis Solo Swing – NZD 195 per person
- Nevis Swing Video – NZD 45
- Nevis Bunji + Video – NZD 215
- Auckland Skytower Entrance Fee – NZD 28 per person ( It’s ok if you miss it!)
- Petrol and Parking Expenses – NZD 271.76 per car for 10 days
- Food Expenses – NZD 207 for 4 adults(Less because we cooked our own meals mostly and bought just the grocery and fruits most of the time. Kiwi and Oranges are really inexpensive and yummy ;))
- Shopping – Tricky one 😀 NZ is not for shopping though(really expensive) but we luckily found few discounted stores in Queenstown! So keep your eyes open 😀
Itinerary we followed
Day 1 – Arrive Auckland
Day 2 – Auckland to Rotorua via Hobbiton
Day 3 – Rotorua to Wellington via Taupo
Day 4 – Fly from Wellington to Christchurch and drive to west coast(Kumara)
Day 5- Kumara to franz josef
Day 6 – Franz Josef
Day 7- Franz Josef to Queenstown
Day 8 – Milford Sound Day Tour
Day 9- Queenstown
Day 10- Fly Queenstown to auckland
Day 11 – Depart Auckland
The minimum number of days needed to travel NZ is 20 if you want to see it all. No wait..I think even 20 is less. Ok anyways as usual due to lack of time and bla bla, our trip was 11 days. We drove a lot but still managed to see very less. So take more number of days to visit both Islands or plan to visit just one island at a time. Try South Island first(for adventure seekers!). Both Islands are different. North is very very green and south is a combo of green, brown, yellow and water! All in all its very colorful 🙂 There are many itineraries available online. As I mentioned earlier, planitnz can help you with itinerary planning! Just give reference of Goaroundtours! They advised me to slow down due to less number of days but we did it anyways 😛
If you have very less time and want to do all activities, then just land in Queenstown and fly out back from here! Its a beautiful city with everything to offer 🙂 Do check the weather forecast though!
And ALWAYS look out for the stars at night if sky is clear. Its just beautiful up there 🙂 Just like the starry sky in Leh!
So here comes our Journey!
Arrive Auckland. Rest for the day.
We arrived Auckland at 4pm but by the time we came out after immigration check, it was 5:30 pm. No fruits, plants, dairy products etc are allowed in NZ. Please check the customs list before going. They are very strict in this case. They checked each and everything we had. Unpacked all suitcases and bags :X We had to pack it all again!
After this we bought NZ local sim from Airport – Vodafone. You can take a Matrix Sim as well from India.
Then we picked up our prebooked rental car. Jucy office is not there at Auckland Airport so we called them up and they sent a shuttle to pick us up upto their office for car collection. Their official hours are 8:30 to 5:30 on weekdays and 9 to 5:30 on weekends so any pick up/drop off needed outside these hours needs to be prebooked at an extra cost or else you can always book uber/local taxi incase of early/late pick up/drop off of rental car. There are other companies with offices at Airport like Hertz, Thrifty, Apex, Eurocar, if you need the convenience of easy pick up and drop off at Airport.
Finally we drove towards our homestay at Upwood place(approx 4kms from airport) and called it a day. Zzzzz….
Add ons: Incase you arrive early in Auckland and have no jet lag, then after checking in in your accomodation, you may visit Auckland CBD, Ponsonby and head for Waiheke Island which is about 20 kms from Auckland in the picturesque Hauraki Gulf. You can walk along Westhaven Marina, or you can even get right into New Zealand’s extreme activities with a bungy jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge or jump off the Auckland Sky Tower. But I would save that for Queenstown ;). If you have a spare day or two, then make a trip to Paihia/Bay of Islands.
Auckland to Rotoura (around 3 hours without stops)
We left from Auckland at around 9am for the Hobbiton (It is advised to leave early though!). Enjoy the vistas enroute. Gorgeous drive.
Hobbiton :You an book the tour online or directly on the spot. Check the availability beforehand online. If you are LOTR fan, do visit this place. If you are not a fan, visit anyways. Its beautiful 🙂 There are guided tours for Hobbiton from Auckland, Rotoura, Matamata and Shire’s rest. We drove upto the last car entry point at Shire’s rest. And from there, the bus took us to famous movie sets of Hobbit. Its a 2 hour guided tour including bus and walk. Its so green all around! Lovely place 🙂 Do checkout the toilets inside Dragon’s inn 😉
Again, we left for Rotoura through the Thermal explorer highway. Rotoura is a nice city surrounded by whakarewarewa forest and thermal geysers. We reached there around 3:30pm. Drove to our homestay, dumped our bags and left for siteseeing in whatever time we had left as most of the places in NZ close around 5pm. So we rushed for Te Puia. It was only 5mins drive from our homestay.
Te Puia: Te Puia is home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Insitute and the world famous Pohutu geyser. Visitors have an opportunity to see Māori cultural performances, live kiwi, boiling mud pools, native bush and the National Schools of Wood Carving and Weaving. We reached here at 4 pm so could not see the Maori Cultural Show. Anyways the Geysers were fabulous. Pretty sight 🙂 After closing of Te puia at 5pm, we went to Redwood forests.
Redwood Forests: The forest is most well known for the network of superb mountain biking and walking tracks and Californian Coast Redwoods. These towering trees give it a nice view. There is paid tree top walk as well but as we were late, it was closed. The walk in forest is for free! Day time is the right time but if you want to enter at night, enter at your own risk! We strolled there for some time. Lovely walks amidst the forest.
Blue Lake: Since it was sunset, so we went to the Blue Lake. All lakes in NZ are very beautiful. Surrounded by mountains and trees, crystal clear water. Every lake is similar yet different from other.
Add Ons– If you have extra time, then visit Waitomo glowworm caves between Auckland and Rotoura. There are different kinds of guided tours available for this place from both Auckland and Rotoura. Needs half a day to full day depending on what you chose.
Rotoura to Wellington drive via Taupo (Approx 8 hours drive with all the stops in between)
Rotoura to Wellington is approx 350 kms. So it is advisable to stop for one night in Taupo or Napier to ease out the journey and visit more sites! Although we had no spare day so we did it in one day. We left Rotoura at 7:30. The first stop was Huka Falls.
Huka Falls: We reached Huka Falls in around 8:30 am. The Huka Falls are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo in New Zealand.There was a bridge above the falls through which we could enjoy the view. The water was crystal clear. The volume of water flowing through often approaches 220,000 litres per second :O There are few activities available on Huka falls, like Jetboat and kayak but we wanted to do that in Queenstown so we left in some time for journey ahead.
There were Antaria rapids on way but its gates are opened at 10am and we had no time. So we skipped that.
Taupo Lake: Next stop was Lake Taupo. The city of Taupo is located by side of this lake. Its a beautiful city. As Queenstown is to South NZ, Taupo is to North NZ. It is the activity hub of North Island. We booked a skydive here as it was sunny in the morning. But unfortunately it got cancelled due to rains again. Taupo has the cheapest skydive options available. Taupo also has other water sports to do. We would have definitely stayed here one night if we had time. Some people were playing water golf at lake Taupo!
After a stroll along the lake, we continued on our journey. We took the route via desert road. Beautiful scenery. Different from what we saw till now! Although it was raining all the time and could not see anything ahead due to clouds and fog but after some time when the sun came back for a while, the view was stunning. This place was there in LOTR as well! Finally after all above stops and few more on way, we reached Wellington at around 4pm and directly went to Te Papa Museum.
Te Papa Museum: This is a huge museum in Wellington. Entry is free. And Parking is free for only two hours in one of the parking bays, not all. We liked the Museum. It has many things to display and many user friendly experiments as well!
Wellington: After enjoying and playing around in the Museum, we headed for dinner. Luckily found a pure veg restaurant named “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”. Had Dinner and drove through the city just like that. Wellington is very big beautiful city and different from other cities of NZ. Its the Capital offcourse! Parking is a big problem here. All spots always occupied. Also the ferry for South Island departs from here. We can take our rental cars along with us in ferry if we want. We had booked the flight though, to save time.
After a long long day, we reached our homestay. Our super cool hosts welcomed us with their cutest and friendliest dog! 🙂 They even dropped us to the Airport next morning after we dropped our car at Jucy’s.
Add Ons: You can visit Wai-o-tapu thermal park for famous Lady knox geyser. It lies near Huka Falls. This thermal park has similar thermal geysers to Te puia but is more of a colorful geothermal attraction. Other things that could be visited enroute are Tongaririo National Crossing(Day trip needed. Lots of walking). The route via Napier could also be taken for Wellington with night stay in Napier.
In Wellington you can visit the Parliament before 5pm, ride Wellington Cable car, visit Cater Observatory, enjoy the drive/walk to Mt. Victoria and enjoy 360 degree view of the city.
Wellington to Christchurch (Flight) and then Christchurch to Kumara (Drive)
We reached Christchurch at 11 am. Collected our rental car again from Jucy and left for Kumara on West Coast, as my homestay was booked there. You can book in Hokitika as well because its bigger and better. Kumara is a small village. This part of journey is very different from North. North was ll green everywhere. This side is more brown and dry. No rains Thank God! Atleast less compared to North.
There is a Tranz alpine train available for this journey incase you wish to enjoy a ride. But I feel self drive is better as we can stop anywhere in between for photos! There are many stops on the way. The views are stunning. Whole of NZ is a paradise for photographers! The midway stop here is Arthur’s Pass.
Kumara: After all the stops we reached Kumara junction where our homestay was booked. Its on the road to Franz Josef so no detour required. Its a small village with very few houses. So quiet and peaceful. This is the case everywhere in NZ except for big cities! We drooped off our luggage at the stay and the host told us to visit places nearby. So off we went walking!
Taylor’s Point (30 min return walk )
Tasman Sea meets Pacific Ocean! Next we drove 7kms to this beach with a Beautiful view. Absoutely wow!! High tides, soothing sound of water, No other humans/animals around, so peaceful. Could just sit there and listen to that sound whole day and night!! Its almost like this wherever sea beaches are there. Water is so clean and blue and green. White sands..Sigh!! Miss the place so much 😦
After returning from the beach, we cooked our dinner, ate, had a chat with our lovely host, Heather and after that went looking for Glow worms at night but could find none 😦 We tried searching for them at many other places but hard luck this time!
Kumara to Franz Josef
We had booked a heli hike in Franz a day before at 12:30 pm. So we left early from Kumara so that we could stop at Hokitika Gorge(50 kms off route round trip) and reach Franz on time.
Hokitika Gorge: Do visit this place incase you are in Hokitika. Its a little off the route but worth a visit. The route to this place is wow. And the place itself is wow. 30 mins walk is needed to and fro from Car parking. The Gorge is gorgeous 🙂 River surrounded by forests and a hanging bridge to help reach the river’s edge. Jump on it for fun 😀
Again we left for Franz with few more stops on the way.
Franz Josef: After these stops enroute, we reached Franz Josef town. Franz Josef is the name of a glacier actually. There is fox glacier also nearby(20 kms from here). Sadly the weather changed and our Heli Hike got cancelled! So we postponed it to afternoon slot. But the weather was not clear so again it got cancelled and next morning slot was already full.
Skydive: As the weather cleared around 3pm, we jumped at this chance and went for skydive! Been waiting for this since the day we arrived and even before! There is just one company for skydive there named ‘Skydive Franz’. We jumped from 13000 ft which has 50 secs of freefall. The video I did not like much though! But the experience was wooowwwww 😀 🙂 Loved every part of it 🙂 The flight, the jump, paraglide.. Best part is jump though! Finally!!!!
With a non fading smile 🙂 we went back to town from dive station and explored the city. Booked scenic Helicopter ride for next morning and prayed for a good weather 😉 Again went looking for glow worms at night but found none. Today was the first time of clear sky since we arrived in NZ. And it was beautifullll 🙂 So starry and twinkly 🙂 Could look at it for hours had it not been so cold outside 😉
Scenic Helicopter Ride with Glacier Landing: My dad wanted to take this ride so bad 😀 I wanted Heli hike though! But this one was also worth it 🙂 We booked this ride with Glacier country Helicopters. It is a small family operated company. Very friendly and understanding owners. Even gave us discounts 😉 The pilot landed the heli on Franz Josef Glacier as it was cloud free that day. It was stunning on the top. Snow snow everywhere 🙂 The landing was only for 12 minutes though. Other companies give only 8 minutes landing. The view were stunning from the heli. It was a total of 35 minutes flight.
After this flight, we booked the quad biking tour. Since, it was at 2pm so we went to visit Peter’s Pool to fill time. There are many walks in and around Franz of different durations with different views of glaciers. We did the smallest one 😛
Peter’s Pool: Stunning Reflections. Stunning views! So glad we came here!
ATV Quad biking: This is a 2 hour tour. Its fun. They took us for ride on river beds and in forests. Very nice path. Forest route not accessible without quad bikes.
Add Ons: There are many walks in Franz Josef that provide different glacier views. The map is available for free at all outlets in Franz. Just grab that and go wherever you like! Also Heli Hike can be done in Franz or Fox glacier.
Franz Josef to Queenstown
We started early by 7am as it was a long drive and we wanted to stop at maximum possible places in between. This drive is one of the best drives in NZ with breathtakingly beautiful views 🙂 Try to take the route through cromwell. Really great views throughout the trip. Tasman Sea, Lakes and Mountains accompany us all along 🙂
Lake Matheson Walk: Its a 1.5 hours walk near fox glaciers(20kms from Franz) around Lake Matheson with gorgeous path and stunning reflections in water. Try not to miss it.
Bruce Bay: Its on the shores of Tasman Sea. Breathtakingly beautiful 🙂
Lake Paringa: Again a Lake of reflections
Knight’s Point Lookout
Queenstown Lookout Point
Queenstown: Finally we reached Queenstown! Its the most beautiful and most happening city of NZ. Its situated by the lakeside. Lovely houses, hotels, market, shops, lakeside, everything! Pink and White trees make it all the more beautiful! Its the adventure hub of NZ. Name the activity and its here! We reached here in evening and explored the city thereafter.
By the way, remember to book the Milford Sound Cruise atleast two days before because the trip starts early in the morning. We booked the coach-cruise-coach with Mitre Peak but there are few other companies as well like Jucy, Real Journeys, Discover More etc. All have different prices. Check online for deals on bookme.co.nz
Milford Sound Cruise Day trip
We took a coach-cruise-coach day tour. The coach starts at 6:30 am in the morning. The time taken to reach Milford Sound is 5 hours with the stops. Its a very long drive. You can either take coach or self drive or fly to Milford. All three have different experiences. As per reviews, flying is best but very expensive. I feel self driving is best because the coach stopped at only a couple of places between Queenstown and Milford. But again it depends on weather. Avalanches are very common on that route and self drive can become a problem incase of Avanlanche.
In case you plan to self drive, then it is better to divide the journey in two parts by adding one night in Te Anu. There is an option of both day cruise and night cruise in Milford. Night cruises are good if there is a clear sky at night.
The coach stops at Te Anu for Breakfast and then few other stops en route. The views are great throughout! Few of the stops are Mirror Lake, Moss land, Knob’s Plain, Monkey Creek, Mount Tomb.
Milford Sound: Luckily we had a sunny day on this date. The views were stunning. It was very cold on waters. We were on the deck all time so more cold and windy 😉 Lucky to spot cute little penguins who were jumping around 😀 And seals were lazily lying around on rocks. Everything was wow. The cruise pilot even took us under the waterfall for fun. Everyone without rain jackets ran inside 😀 It was a great ride and great fun! Total 2 hours cruise. Very punctual!
Return trip was also 5 hours with one stop at Te Anu. The driver played the movie ‘Three dogs and a pony” in second half! Good movie 🙂 Reached back Queenstown at around 7pm.
Queenstown Local (Activities)
Last day in Queenstown. We decided to do all the remaining activities today like Bunji, Swing, Shotover! But Queenstown is the hub of all activities, so anything you missed earlier, you can do here. Just pray for a sunny day! And while booking keep a day or two spare for Queenstown just in case weather goes mad again! We finished our activities by evening, went for shopping at night 😀 The shops there close at fix time. They don’t even wait for one more minute! So be quick 😉
Queenstown to Auckland (Flight)
We had our return flight to India from Auckland, so we took a return flight to Auckland from here after returning our rental car at Jucy’s office. I felt that car is not required while in Queenstown. If your homestay/hotel in near main city, then you can always walk till mid town and even if far, then local taxis and Uber are available. Besides, every company provides a ride upto the activity points.
Auckland: So we reached back here. Booked a Thrifty rental car at Airport. Felt it was a wrong decision as it was very expensive. And Uber/local taxis would have cost the same. Had lunch at Bikanerwala. Dominion road has many Indian restuarants. Then we went to Ponsonby. Its a lovely market. We did not shop though!
Auckland Sky Tower: This was our second last stop for the day! There is a fees to use the lift to sky tower top. Public is allowed till 56th floor. We can get the whole city’s 360 degree view from here. They also have activities like sky walk and sky jump.
Next we went to a huge Supermarket. If you want to buy chocolates for your loved ones back home, then this is the place! Airport has it at double the price!! Grab as many as you can afford 😀
Auckland to Back home country
We had a flight at 10am, so returned the rental car at Airport, dropped the car keys at their counter’s dropbox and checked in!
Just did not want the trip to end so soon! Its a nice place to stay forever though… Will think about it later 😉 And missed you mumma. I am sure you would have loved the place and activities 🙂
Also in case you wish to save yourself from troubles of booking all on your own, then just contact us 😉 And drop in any queries at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding domestic and international holiday packages!