Backpacking New Zealand – Best Time To Go?

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

Waitomo CavesAdrenaline Junkies, Nature Freaks, or those of you Backpacking New Zealand searching for Hobbits.

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 Dive, Wreck Dive, 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 riding 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 Chardonnay on Waiheke Island?

You decide the level of intensity…

Someone, Somewhere, will provide the venue!

Photo Credit :

As well as planning your backpacking activities here are a few simple tips, to help with the almost boring decisions you should make before you arrive…

Getting Around?

Where To Sleep?

Once you are here you can be certain backpackers travelling New Zealand are well catered for especially when looking for cheap accommodation 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 really cheap!

Perhaps you are the adventurous type?

Then put your boots on and  get off the beaten track – Take a Hike and Go Bush!

Don’t have a tent?

Try TradeMe to buy a tent and a couple of pots if you arrived unprepared for camping, with basic camping gear and an adventurous spirit you will be all set to enjoy almost free travel in New Zealand.

If you are the type of person who needs a hot shower every day and enjoys a nice warm soy latte to wake up in the morning?

It is best you stick to our commercial camping grounds close to civilization.

A cold shower under an outside tap is OK?

Then perhaps the more basic Remote But Stunning DOC Camp Sites are for you?

They offer the cheapest camping deals you will find anywhere in New Zealand.

But it gets better, National Parks and major hiking areas are mostly free to visit, you only pay for the hut accommodation.

Your time spent in the bush can be totally free if you carry in with your own camping gear.

Sleep in your tent, don’t stay overnight in DOC huts.

In many cases this tent camping is FREE! especially if you apply the 500-meter rule – there is No Camping Fee if you camp 500 meters from any track or Hut.

Don’t Wander To Far From The Track And Get Lost!

Some Alpine or Great Walk Huts are more expensive than Auckland Hostels? though in a much better environment than most Auckland Hostels.

Peak Season Tips

NZ Travel Guide

What is the Best Time For Backpacking in New Zealand?

December 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 can be 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 take over the popular tourists spots – plus they 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 or two more backpackers!

Just bring a good wide hat & sunblock 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 line for some activities.

Backpacking NZ

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

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…

You will often wake up to Beautiful Crystal Clear Days with No Wind and Sparkling Frosts.

Winter can offer several days of stunning settled weather – it can also blast us with a nasty southerly snow storm.

Before arriving you need to know – all year round New Zealand weather is “A Box of Chocolates” you never know…

Just be sure you 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, this is the best time to visit Rotorua

The Hot  Steamy Attractions in Rotorua make more sense when the weather is chilly.

Enjoy the natural mineral spa’s and other geothermal 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 Backpacking 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.

Be prepared to make hard decisions on where and what attractions you can squeeze into your allocated travel time.

When in the country for a short trip (2-3 weeks) 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.

For longer visits, you could choose to hire a campervan or buy an old van fit it out with curtains and a mattress.

Even with a basic type of camper, you can save Biggly (sorry) on both transport and hostel costs.

If you don’t have a camper you could do just fine with a cheap car and tent – definitely the best money saving option in summer – not so great in winter.


  • Hiking in New Zealand National Parks
  • Whitewater 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 Tips

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…

Backpacking In New Zealand


Attractions in the North Island :

When you are backpacking in New Zealand, the North will provide some benefits due to the warmer climate, geothermal action and many beautiful beaches.

Traveling the South Island gives you the larger diversity of stunning scenic sites.

From beautiful rugged beaches to imposing mountains to amazing rainforest walks or for the more active strapping on crampons for a glacier hike…

Whatever time you allow for Backpacking in New Zealand it wont be enough – have you thought of Immigrating?

South Island Tips

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 a 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 Hobbit 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 make travel between them both a financially attractive and quick.

Ideal for backpackers on a tight budget with limited time.

For some, Hitchhiking may be a good option when backpacking New Zealand both for reducing travel costs as well as a great way to meet local people.

If you have the luxury of time be sure to hike and camp in our National Parks in both islands.

Get out and experience the wilderness areas and the more remote tourist spots.

Only after struggling to the top of a mountain or wading deep into our rainforest will you begin to discover the true essence of Backpacking in New Zealand!

Your proudest travel trophy may well be – HUGE Blisters on your tortured feet.

If you are still wondering when is the Best Time To Backpack In New Zealand? the answer is Anytime.

Just be sure to bring a Sun Hat a Raincoat and a comfy pair of Boots.

You will love your New Zealand Backpacking 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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