New Zealand - Travel Guide

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Some places seem so far away and too difficult to reach, but I've come to learn that if you set your mind to something, nothing is really impossible.

For a long time, we had our hearts set on New Zealand; the ever-changing scenery, the grandeur of locations, and the fact that the island is practically on the other side of the world pulled us in. When we started planning the trip we knew one thing for sure: we needed to visit it properly! We carefully created an itinerary that would allow us to visit our main points of interest in, of course, a short amount of time and on a budget.

I'll tell you all about our itinerary below, some tips and tricks, places not to miss and I'll mention even some of the involved costs.


Summer in New Zealand goes from December to February, when you can expect sunny days and warm weather. This time of the year is perfect as it allows you to enjoy all the possible activities, like hiking and relaxing at the beach.

The lupins season starts from mid to late November and supposedly ends early January, so in my opinion in December you can be sure that the flower fields are in full bloom, therefore making December the best month to visit.

We landed in New Zealand at the end of December and were lucky enough to still see the pretty pink and purple flowers.


Unless you are from Australia, New Zealand is bound to be far. It took us about 48 hours to reach our destination since we left our home in Romania. We travelled by car to Budapest, Hungary from where we took a flight to Auckland with Shanghai Airlines. We had a long layover in Shanghai, China during the day, and although this option can be quite tiresome it gave us the opportunity to also visit the city. 

From Auckland we had another flight to Christchurch, our final destination, where we started our road trip.


I would say the best way to visit New Zealand is by camper van, this allows you to create your own itinerary, adjust it along the way and visit places at your own pace, not to mention that it's very easy to travel by camper in this country. Everything is very well organised, there are plenty of agencies where you can rent a camper van from and plenty of camping sites along the way, mobile apps designed to help you out and you get to have both a car and a bed, therefore cutting costs.

We rented a camper van from Travellers Autobarn and we were happy with their services. Our camper even broke along the way, but we called the agency and they sent someone asap the next day to fix it. If you go during summer we recommend that you book a camper in advance so that you can get good rates and you have more options.



The first stop on our itinerary was the pretty Lake Tekapo. Besides enjoying the wonderful views the lake has to offer, there are several other attractions to spot here: there are quite a few lupin fields along the road as you get closer to the lake and the famous church nearby from where you can watch the mesmerising starry sky at night. Your eyes are in for a delight! 


Without a doubt one the most beautiful lakes I've seen so far! We stayed in this area for about 1 day and a half and my only regret is that we did not stay longer.


Our next destination was the famous Mount Cook. The entire drive from Lake Pukaki up to it is quite spectacular. We had so many stops along the road because we just could not drive by some of the spots without capturing a forever memory. What's most interesting, is to notice how the scenery changes as you get closer to the mountain. New Zealand is truly a diverse country!

We camped at White Horse Hill Campsite where we spent the most unique New Year's Eve. The next early morning we embarked on an adventure to hike the Hooker Valley Track. The track is pretty easy, somewhere around 4 hours return.


Besides the famous Wanaka tree that you cannot miss, the small town is very charming and lovely to visit! We recommend you try the best fish and chips in the world from The Catch, Wanaka.


On our way to Queenstown we had a short stop at the famous Onsen Hot Pools. We had a previous experience with the onsen on our trip to Japan, but this place took it to the next level, as the location was impeccable and the view breathtaking. You can book directly online and it is recommended that you do that with quite some time in advance, this way you can select your preferred slot time.

The one thing you must do while in Queenstown is to see the view from above! You can get there by cable car or hike for a few hours. Any guesses what we did? I will leave the cable car costs in the Expenses section below. From the top, if you feel adventurous, you can take the luge downhill or you can enjoy some food at the available cafeteria, although I would not recommend it, as the place is obviously touristic. 

Ferg Burger is the place to eat in Queenstown! There is always a line, as apparently this place has quite the reputation, but you won't regret it! There are a few place in the world where we actually waited in line for food for more than 30 minutes, but no regrets here. Just one small tip, go before you are completely famished.


I must admit that Instagram made us visit this place. Glenorchy is a really small town close (45 km away) to Queenstown. It gives the feeling of a remote quaint little village at the other side of the world. We spent just a short couple of hours here on our way to Fjordland National Park.


At the end of Fjorland National Park you will find Milford Sound. If you have not fallen in love with New Zealand by now (which let's face it, chances are slim), this place will definitely make you! Expect the road to be very windy, steep climbs and descends (make sure your breaks work properly) and breathtaking scenery! 

Getting there feels like going to the end of the world. You have to do careful planning, buy food, expect no cellphone coverage, no shops and no worries. You literally feel like you are stranded on another planet, yet you get to realise how little we actually need. 

When it comes to the overnight stay, you can either pick a free camping site that it is a bit further from Milford or book a spot at the campsite in town Milford Sound Lodge. This campsite is quite pricey but it had the greatest amenities, including wifi, which is hard to find in that particular area.

Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on Earth, it rains an average of 300 days/year! But thanks to all this rain hundreds of waterfalls formed through time, making the place truly incredible! You cannot go there and not take a cruise in order to best experience the imposing fjords.

We booked our cruise tickets in advance with Cruise Milford. There are quite a lot of cruise ships to choose from and unlike other places we've visited, they had an offset schedule, that allows you to actually enjoy the uniqueness and have an unobscured view.
The boat captain kept us entertained with a lot of interesting information that made us appreciate even more the incredible place we where in.
Throughout the entire duration of the cruise we were supplied with water, coffee and tea to keep us warm.


There are plenty of hikes you can do in NZ. Some are easy, some more complicated  and some that require experienced hikers. As we are definitely not the latter, the hikes we focused on were low to medium. Lake Marian is one example. The hike takes you through thick woods along a furious river, challenging you in some areas to use both your feet and hands to climb some small cliffs and welcoming you at the end with an amazing view of Lake Marian. Unfortunately for us, when we reached the destination it started raining and mist descended from the mountains, so we could not fully enjoy the view. Nevertheless, it was worth it.


If these are on the way of your itinerary, you can have a quick stop. The water is indeed a stunning blue, but extremely cold! Not even Instagram fame could have made me jump in that water and trust me, I tried!

From here we returned to Christchurch on a slightly different path that allowed us to see a bit more of the island. We dropped our camper in Christchurch and departed by plane to Auckland.


Although on this trip to New Zealand we focused mostly on the south island, we really wanted to visit Hobbiton as well, so we scheduled a couple of days on the north island considering that our flight back was from Auckland anyways.

There are a lot of great places to visit on this side of the country, but here is what we managed to squeeze in two days.


We knew this place was going to be amazing, but we had no idea it would blow our minds! From the moment we stepped through the gates we felt like entering a fairytale land full of laughter and sunshine. It felt just like in the movies! We never had such an immersive experience! The intricacy of the place, attention to detail and the sheer work that went into all of this make this place a unique and a must visit!




- For safety reasons, New Zealand law prohibits the rent of a camper van the same day as your arrival flight, so make sure you book a room for the night at a hotel or Airbnb and rent your camper starting the next day. They also check this information when you land at the airport.

- Do your grocery shopping in the big cities! After we rented our camper van in Christchurch we hit one of the supermarkets and we stocked up with all the needed for next days. You will find here more options and at convenient prices. Pak'n Save was our go to supermarket.

- There are a lot of free campsites where you can spend the night. Most of them have a public toilet that you can use. Of course there are plenty campsites that have power, showers and lounge areas that you can use, prices depend on the amenities of course.

- As Milford Sound is quite remote, campsites over there usually keep 1-2 emergency spots in case your car breaks down and you need to stay somewhere overnight. Theory tested!

- The Milford Sound cruise is bound to get wet no matter the weather conditions, therefore wear waterproof clothing and layers.

- When visiting Hobbiton we took the earliest tour available. This way we had the perfect lighting conditions and we avoided the crowd of tourists in front of us.


The below costs and expenses are for two people and were available in December 2019 - January 2020, so please keep in mind that these are susceptible to change. 

- Campervan = 130 Euros/day

- Petrol = aprox. 2,5 NZD / L

- Campsite = between 30 NZD - 100 NZD /night

- Sim card = 60 NZD 

- Onsen Hot Pool = aprox. 126 NZD/pool/hour

- Milford Sound cruise = 198 NZD/ 2 tickets

- Hobbiton tickets = 168 NZD / 2 tickets

- Fish and chips meal = aprox. 15 NZD/person

- Ferg burger = aprox. 20 NZD

New Zealand made an indelible impression on us, and despite the fact that it took us days to get there, we can't wait to return! 



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