Backpacking New Zealand – Why Would You ?

New Zealand is a must see travel spot for all backpackers…But Why ?

Waitomo CavesAdrenaline junkies, nature freaks, or those of you just collecting entry stamps on your passport… New Zealand has what you need… If you have the budget you can… swim with dolphins, learn to surf,  experience black water rafting, white water rafting, shark dives, wreck dives, hiking, jet boating, fishing and of course bungy jumping.  New Zealand has become the world’s white knuckle travel destination of choice… Be sure to check your insurance policy covers high-risk activities !? some travel policies won’t even cover hiring a scooter!

If adrenaline sports aren’t for you… you could simply relax on a beach, work on your tan…soak in natural hot pools in Rotorua… sip a Chardonnay on Waiheke Island ? You decide the level of intensity… Someone Somewhere will provide the venue !

Photo Credit :

As well as planning your activities there are a few simple, almost boring, decisions you should make before you arrive…

Getting Around ?Skiing in New Zealand

Where To Sleep ?

One thing you can be certain of backpackers travelling New Zealand are well catered for there are hundreds of hostels spread throughout the country – most are cheap, well run, clean and safe… others well, just don’t go there !

But if your travel money is getting  tight and $30-$50 for hostels is too expensive – you need to find real cheap ! or perhaps you are the adventurous type… you just can’t wait to get off the beaten track – and go bush !

Then Get On TradeMe and buy a tent and a couple of pots, with basic camping gear you will be set to enjoy almost free travel in New Zealand… if you are the type of person who needs a hot shower every day our commercial camping grounds are for you, if a cold shower under an outside tap is OK ? then the more basic DOC camping areas offer you some of the cheapest accommodation deals you will find in New Zealand…

But it gets better… our National Parks and major hiking areas are free to visit, you only pay for the hut accommodation, your time spent in the bush can be free if you trudge in with your own camping gear and don’t stay overnight in DOC huts ! ( some huts are more expensive than Auckland Hostels ?)

Best Time ?

NZ Travel GuideDecember through to February is the peak tourist season in New Zealand, the weather is normally settled and warm/hot – around mid to high 20’s Celsius, so it is a good time to visit – if you need to be warm ?  unfortunately, it is also the time thousand’s of New Zealander’s enjoy their annual holidays – they pack out the best beaches and tourists spots, and eat all the pies !  if you can, you should avoid these hectic summer months!

If you have no choice and you have already booked for December  through to February, Don’t Worry there is always room for one more ! Just bring a good wide hat & sun block as those months can be real scorchers  – we don’t want you going home with Sunspots !

New Zealand accommodation and most popular tourist spots do have  the capacity to cope with the summer busy season, but you will need to book ahead for hostels and possibly wait in a Que for some activities.

Peak Season

This availability can be contrasted to Autumn period – March to June and the Spring period – September and December. These periods are quiet months with fewer travellers.

July to August is winter in New Zealand. If you don’t mind the cold ?  Winter can be the best time to visit New Zealand…

We often wake up to beautiful crystal clear days with sparkling  frosts – winter can offer several days of stunning settled weather – it can also blast us with a nasty southerly storm.

Before arriving you need to know – New Zealand weather is “A Box of Chocolates”   bring a raincoat and a sense of humour. After a storm passes you can go skiing at one of our many  excellent ski resorts.  !

The normally busy tourist towns will be uncrowded in winter, it is the best time to visit Rotorua and enjoy the natural spa’s and thermal attractions – since this is their slow period you can be assured local tour operators and Hostel owners will be very pleased to see you – with the possibility of discounts. (pretend you are still in Asia – bargain hard for the cheapest room !)

Once you arrive in the country you will find New Zealand  has a lot more to offer than you expected, the country is small in area but there is a lot to see and do… so be prepared to make hard decisions on where and what  attractions you can squeeze into your allocated travel time.

If you are only in the country for a short trip it would make sense to budget for flights between the North and South Islands then hire car or camper in each Island – this will save you wasted transit time and if you choose to hire a camper – you will also save on hostel costs if you have a camper or you could do just fine with just a car and tent.


  • Hiking in New Zealand National Parks
  • White water rafting
  • Bungy jumping New Zealand is the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping
  • Mountain biking in Rotorua we have the best single tracks in New Zealand
  • Fishing

North Island

The North Island has Auckland or Wellington plus a lot of  natural attractions in between these 2 cities, but if you were to ask me ?  “How long should I spend in the North Island” ? My answer would be – one-third  in the North Island – two-thirds in the South Island…

Body Boards On Sand Dunes - Northland


Attractions in the North Island :

  • Bay of Islands – Northland
  • Hot water beach – Coromandel Peninsula
  • Waitomo Caves – Waikato
  • Rotorua thermal areas – Rotorua
  • Whirinaki Forest Park – East Coast Region
  • Lake Waikaremoana – East Coast Region
  • Tongariro National Park – Central North Island
  • Lake Taupo – Central North Island
  • Whanganui River – Manawatu/Whanganui
  • Mt Taranaki – Taranaki
  • Wellington City

When you are backpacking in New Zealand, the North will provide benefits due to the warmer climate and many beautiful beaches, but travelling the South Island carries the larger number of scenic highlights.

South Island

Fox Glacier Hiking

Fox Glacier

The scenery in the South Island is breathtaking – the sights change dramatically every few  kilometres, from mountain ranges to the deep Fjords of Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound are known worldwide for their natural beauty.

As well the Fiordland area offers excellent Hiking, the impenetrable rainforests of Fiordland National Park are legendary – but many famous West Coast attractions are quite easily accessed – including stunning lakes and ancient glaciers such as Fox Glacier or Franz Joseph Glacier.

A guided glacier walk or scenic, flight over the glaciers is highly recommended.

Plus you will also glimpse  the occasional paddock of sheep – all of these South Island adventures will fill your mind and camera memory card to overflowing.

Lord of the Rings fans will adore the opportunity to take in the stunning sights as seen in the trilogy, there are many local tours throughout New Zealand that visit the “Lord Of The Rings” sets or natural backdrops.

When Travelling New Zealand within a tight time frame,  the cost of internal flights between the two islands makes travel between them both a financially attractive and quick… ideal for backpackers on a budget with limited time.

For some backpackers hitchhiking may be a good option when travelling New Zealand both for reducing travel costs as well as a great way to meet local people

If you have the luxury of  time when backpacking  New Zealand, then take time to hike in our National Parks in both islands,  rather than spend your New Zealand holiday stuck in an Auckland Hostel  – get out and experience the wilderness areas and the more remote tourist spots, then you will gain full value from your New Zealand visit.

If you are still wondering when is the best time to travel New Zealand ?… the answer is – anytime, just bring a raincoat a good pair of hiking boots you will love your New Zealand adventure whatever the time of year…

Author: Ian

Based in Rotorua with an interest in Photography, Deer Hunting, Mountain Biking, Hiking, Kayaking and Travel... Our aim is to provide you with travel tips and all the local knowledge you need to discover amazing natural locations throughout New Zealand...

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