General Tips on New Zealand
Get your SIM card at the airport at the duty-free to save on tax
I signed up with Spark Mobile travel pack plan for 25 NZD. If you buy it outside of dutyfree it is 29 NZD. Good for a month. What I got: -1 GB; – 200 NZ and 100 international talk minutes, and; – 200 NZ texts and 50 international texts with *free unlimited WiFi and free SIM. *Spark has WiFi spots all over New Zealand. When you log on to the Spark WiFi sites, you will receive unlimited Wifi and will not use up your data.
Book your Domestic flights Ahead of Time
If you choose to save some time and fly from the North Island down to the South Island, book ahead. They can be booked up quickly and can be expensive last-minute. Air New Zealand is great but for short domestic flights, try Jetstar Airways you may be able to find a cheaper flight.
Save time and money
If you know what dates you are going to be where, book your activities online in advance on Bookme. I had some luck and saved some money booking through this instead of through Kiwi Experience (even though the cost of their activities are pretty competitive).
What to Pack
With the diverse landscapes, you can expect all sorts of climate. When I was there in March it was their end of summer. I definitely still needed a light coat as the weather changes in an instant. Here are my must:
- a light puffy jacket and have something waterproof;
- Pack in layers, think active wear and smart casual
- Good and comfortable hiking shoes and flip flops;
- Quick dry microfiber towel (if you are camping or staying at dorm room hostels);
- An older bathing suit for the thermal pools
In New Zealand hot pools are pools with regular heated water, not thermal water. They are not fed from geothermal sources, or local hot springs and do not contain specific healing properties. Instead, they help to relieve stress, fatigue and help relax sore muscles.
This is the adventure capital of New Zealand, extremely picturesque, a city full of life, with a bustling nightlife and home to one of the best burgers in the world. I was pumped to finally arrive in Queenstown. You can take the Orbus from the airport and buy your ticket directly with the bus driver. Cash only. It takes about 30 minutes to get to central Queenstown. On the bus ride heading into town, you can’t help to start fall for Queenstown. It is incredibly picturesque. You’ve got the mountains overlooking Lake Wakatipu. It reminded me a lot like Whistler, or Banff and the Canadian Rockies but different. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it yet but definitely, I felt the resort vibe and right at home. You have so many choices of activities to do here. If you didn’t get your fill of adrenaline packed adventures in the North Island, here’s your chance. After skydiving and splurging on the North Island, I wanted to take it easy. Here are some relaxing activities to consider:
Buy a return ticket. It will whisk you away to the top of mountain 800 meters above the city to get a remarkable view of the city and area. Looking to be more active? You can hike up the mountain and then buy a ticket to luge down as an alternative. Aside from the skyline gondola and luge track, there are ample of hiking and biking trails too.
Go on a Wine Tour
The Otago region produces some of the best-known whites in New Zealand, so you may want to consider taking a wine tour.
Soak in a Hot Pool with a View
Looking to disconnect and get your zen on? The Onsen Hot Pool is the place to do it. You can soak up a gorgeous view of Shotover River canyon and the river below it in a cedar hot tub. Pamper yourself and get a massage to get the ultimate relaxation experience. Book ahead during high season! I tried 3 weeks out and checked almost every day and had no luck.
Join a day trip to Milford Sound, the most popular fjord and tourist destination in New Zealand. Known for its towering Mitre Peak, lush rainforests, waterfalls galore. The day will be a good 12 hours. Expect to be on the bus for the majority of time with four to five stops along the way taking in the spectacular views of Fiordland National Park and to stretch your legs on short walks. If you are lucky you may see some seal colonies, penguins and dolphins on your 90 minutes cruise out to the Tasman Sea. I would recommend checking ahead of time to see if Bookme has a deal with Jucy Cruise. I was happy with the excursion and ended up saving a bit of money instead of purchasing an add-on with Kiwi Experience. If you have more money, you can take a scenic flight or choose to pay extra to take a flight back to Queenstown from Milford Sound. Depending on the interest level of those who are on tour with you, the flight back could be negotiated down.
From Queenstown, I hopped back on the Kiwi Experience bus and headed north. It was a beautiful four hours drive (with a pit stop). You will encounter New Zealand farmlands, lush green meadows, and travel through the scenic Lindis Pass. Further ahead you will soon encounter a very catchy blue lake, Lake Pukaki. Out in the distance on a clear day, you will be able to see Mount Cook.
We stopped here for a quick picnic before heading to Lake Tekapo to spend the night. The skies here are known to be the darkest and clearest at night.
What you can do
Take in the View
Hike up to Mt. John through the forest to get a wonderful view of Lake Tekapo and a 360 panoramic view of snow-capped mountains and the Mackenzie Basin Flat. The hike takes less than an hour one way.
Get mind-blown by the stars at Mt. John Observatory. If you are lucky, you may see the wonders of the southern light.
Unwind and relax
After the hike, you may want to come to Tekapo Springs and relax in one of their three hot pools. You will find a café shop, free-wifi and free sauna and steam room with any entry. Again, Bookme offered a few savings.
Before you leave, take a photo of the little stone Church of the Good Shepherd. It is one of the most-photographed buildings in New Zealand.
Kiwi Experience Recommended Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge. I stayed in a 4 pax dorm room with shared bath. The room was tiny. The facilities were basic and clean. At Lakefront Lodge there are no private rooms. However, the Lakefront Lodge also runs Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park and you can book a private ensuite.
Christchurch was heavily damaged by the earthquakes. You can see that the city is slowly reviving from being shakened by the devastating earthquake. While on the surface you can feel the severe impact, but when you look beyond the open spaces and demolished buildings, you will see the ruins filled with the expressions of the locals transforming what remains into pockets of creative spaces and bringing hope and vibrancy back into the city. What to do
Go Back In Time
Check out Canterbury Museum. It’s free and contains natural and cultural history exhibits, including rare Maori relics. You can also step back in time and walk the “Christchurch Street,” where you can experience the sights and sounds of what it was like in Christchurch in the nineteenth century which was cool As you walk through the city, I saw the remnants of shopping district using shipping containers to box cafés, boutiques and restaurants transitioning to trendy and hipster cafes, restaurants and brick and mortar shops slowly starting to fill the city.
Visit Quake City Museum
Get an understanding of the earthquake and the impact. It will help to put your visit to Christchurch into perspective.
Stroll through Hagley Park
Enjoy the colorful and diverse flowers in the well maintained Botanical Gardens. My favorite was the rose gardens.
Before arriving to Christchurch, many people said there is not a lot to see. The city is slowly reviving from being shakened by the devastating earthquake. ===== And though it may seem so on the surface, if you look beyond it you will see the ruins filled with expression of the locals transforming what remains into pockets of creative spaces which livens up the city. ===== A stroll thru this Rose Garden in Hagley’s Park is also a gem reminding us that like life, what withers will bloom again when we tend to the environment which it grows. 🌹🌺 ===== #christchurch #chch #southisland
Grab a Bite
A favorite foodie spot with the locals is Little High Eatery. There are eight locally-owned restaurants sharing a unique space. It is a cool food hall serving an eclectic array of food and pair it with a drink. There is something for everybody. It just gets really busy during dining hours, so try and avoid prime time.
Looking for a more unique dining experience and willing to splurge a little? Check out this four-course dinner on a Tramway restaurant. You get to ride the classic tram around the city while being served food and drinks. servers.
Kiwi Experience Recommended Accommodation: YMCA. I stayed at Dorset House Backpackers. It was lovely, clean, wifi was strong and staff was terrific.
Transport: To get to the Christchurch Airport from the city center, take bus #29. It is convenient if you are not carrying a lot of luggage with you. It runs every half hour and takes about 30 minutes. The ticket can be purchased from the driver. Cash only.
Being in New Zealand just shy of two weeks in March, gave me a taste. Looking back, I am glad I signed up for the Kiwi Experience. It gave me the flexibility to create my own itinerary, travel on my own, and took care of the pain of driving and some parts of planning. The best part, I made some new friends along the way and opened my eyes to seeing more things I would like to explore in the future.