new zealand map

New Zealand

New Zealand was the second part of our 54-day trip down under. Two weeks was not nearly enough time to see everything we wanted to but we did hit our highlights. We would love to go back. We started with Australia.

Food and Beverage $53 per day*

Average per person per day, not including any meals furnished as part of a tour.

Lodging $44-$156 per night

We stayed in three hostels that are part of the BBH backpackers network. Purchasing an annual card gets you discounted rates on any of their hostels. We spent enough nights with them to make purchasing two annual cards worthwhile.

Transportation $492 per person

Includes a combination of planes, trains, and buses. In some cases we spent more money to fly in order to save time. We would have preferred staying on the ground and seeing more of the countryside, but that wasn't always practical given our short time frame.

Entertainment $1,187 per person

Includes four full day tours.

*Prices in US dollars at time of trip

Days 1-4: Auckland

Planned Activities

  • Walking around downtown
  • Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves tour
  • Rangitoto Island

Actual Activities

  • Walking around downtown
  • Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves tour
  • Mt Eden

The Plan: Auckland was quite pleasant and easily walkable. One entire day was consumed by the Hobbiton movie set and Waitomo Caves tour. 

The Reality: We’d thought we might take a ferry to Rangitoto Island and hike. Our host suggested Mt Eden, another of the many dormant volcanoes in Auckland. It didn’t require a ferry and the views were spectacular. 

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Fly from Cairns, Australia

By way of Brisbane

Stay at Verandahs Backpacker Lodge

Nice location in Ponsonby and really nice hosts. Shared verandahs off the back with a view over parks and to downtown.

Get around by walking

We took a Super Shuttle from the airport and a taxi to the train station.

Days 5-8: Wellington

Planned Activities

  • Full-day Flat Earth tour of Lord of the Rings film sites and Weta Workshop
  • Wellington Cable Car
  • Wellington Botanic Gardens
  • Zealandia
  • Te Papa

Actual Activities

  • Full-day Flat Earth tour of Lord of the Rings film sites and Weta Workshop
  • Wellington Cable Car
  • Wellington Botanic Gardens
  • Zealandia
  • Te Papa

The Plan: We really enjoyed the quirkiness and energy of Wellington. Zealandia was a nice spot of wildlife near the city. The Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa was engrossing. 

The Reality: Our plans were disrupted by a road closure while touring Lord of the Rings sites. We were able to finish the tour the following morning and were unable to fit in the botanic gardens. 

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Take the train from Auckland

We took the Northern Explorer scenic train from Auckland so we could see more of the countryside

Stay at Wellington City Cottages

Great location at the end of Cuba Street. Two minutes to two breweries! Yet quiet, with a courtyard for outdoor seating. Laundry facilities too.

Get around by walking

Wellington is a great city for walking. We used the Wellington Cable Car to get to Zealandia. It was an attraction in itself.

Days 9-11: Nelson

Planned Activities

  • National WOW (World of WearableArt) and  Classic Cars Museum
  • Abel Tasman track

Actual Activities

  • National WOW (World of WearableArt) and  Classic Cars Museum
  • Abel Tasman track
  • Walking around Nelson

The Plan: For a car buff and a wannabe fashionista, the WOW museum was a must! (It has since closed.) We also wanted to experience at least one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Since there were so many options for day trips on the Abel Tasman, we chose this walk.

The Reality: The Abel Tasman was beautiful and the trail easy to follow. We really enjoyed the town of Nelson, too. Nelson is famous for the best weather in New Zealand, so of course it was pouring rain when we arrived!

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Fly from Wellington

Stay at Tasman Bay Backpackers

Nice location in a residential area within an easy walk to town. We stayed in a queen en suite. They helped book our Abel Tasman day tour.

Get around by walking

We used Super Shuttle to get from the airport. The InterCity bus picked us up right in front of the hostel!

Days 12-14: Christchurch and Dunedin

Planned Activities

  • Pancake rocks at Punakaiki
  • TranzAlpine scenic train
  • Dunedin Chinese garden
  • Dunedin train station
  • Natures Wonders Naturally
  • Olveston Historic Home

Actual Activities

  • Pancake rocks at Punakaiki
  • TranzAlpine scenic train
  • Dunedin Chinese garden
  • Dunedin train station
  • Natures Wonders Naturally
  • Otago Museum

The Plan: It took us a full day to get from Nelson to Christchurch via a scenic bus ride along the west coast, then the TranzAlpine train across the South Island to Christchurch. 

The Reality: In Dunedin we toured the Chinese garden and the train station on our first afternoon. Our one full day in Dunedin we walked around Otago University and the Otago Museum, then took a tour out to the Otago peninsula to Natures Wonders Naturally, to see penguins in the wild. On our last morning in Dunedin we shopped for possum wool socks. We skipped the Olveston Historic Home since it required a scheduled tour.

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Take the bus from Nelson to Greymouth

We took a scenic InterCity bus from Nelson to Greymouth.

Take the train from Greymouth to Christchurch

We connected to the TranzAlpine scenic train in Greymouth.

Stay at Pomeroys in Christchurch

We stayed overnight at Pomeroys on Kilmore, a B&B right next to Pomeroys pub and restaurant. Convenient and cozy.

Fly from Christchurch to Dunedin

Stay at Bluestone on George in Dunedin

Beautiful studio apartment with two shared terraces and views over the hills and city. Lovely, very helpful hosts.

Get around by walking

We took a shuttle from the airport, and a taxi to the bus station.

Days 15-18: Te Anau and Queenstown

Planned Activities

  • Doubtful Sound Cruise
  • Glowworm Caves
  • Hiking
  • Milford Sound Cruise

Actual Activities

  • Doubtful Sound Cruise
  • Glowworm Caves
  • Ata Whenua movie
  • Milford Sound Cruise

The Plan: Fiordland was the grand finale we hoped it would be. We couldn’t decide between Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound so we did both, and were happy we did. 

The Reality: If we ever return here, we’d consider doing an overnight trip on either sound.  We ended up not doing any hiking due to wet weather.

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Take the bus from Dunedin to Te Anau

Stay at Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers in Te Anau

Great views over the lake from our double en suite and a pretty central location.

Stay at Adventure Queenstown Hostel in Queenstown

Small queen room with a surprising TV and fridge. Pleasant indoor and outdoor lounging space. Right in the middle of everything.

Get around by walking

Our Milford Sound cruise with Real Journeys picked us up in Te Anau and dropped us off in Queenstown.

Days 19-21: Maui, Hawaii

Planned Activities

  • Snorkeling off Ka’anapali Beach

Actual Activities

  • Snorkeling off Ka’anapali Beach
  • Scenic drive to the blowhole in northwest Maui

The Plan: When we discovered Maui was just about as cheap to stop over for a couple of days as Oahu, we opted for Maui. 

The Reality: This was our second time here. Our first visit was in 2008 and we stayed nearby. We thought about driving up to Haleakala to hike but decided to take it easy and wind down on our last couple of days. 

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Fly from Queenstown

With a stopover in Auckland and in Honolulu

Stay at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel

Great location on the beach and easy walking distance to Whalers Village

Get around by rental car

Book in advance if you can! The line at Budget was very long. Since we're Budget club members, we got to skip the line.

Resources

We used Lonely Planet New Zealand (Kindle format) as our main resource*

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