New Zealand is unique in many different ways. You will be hard-pressed to find more diversity in landscape and untouched nature within an area this size. From the green rolling hills around Auckland, to the hot springs in Rotorua, to adrenaline-fueled adventures in Queenstown, to the steep, barren mountains of Milford Sound… there is a lot to see and do in The land of the long white cloud.
The overwhelming sights in this country often made me feel small, and they were reminders that we’re all just guests on this planet for the time being. Make no mistake, the cities and towns are cool and there’s plenty of stuff to do, but the main reason to visit New Zealand is its natural beauty.
Seeing this part of the world should be on your bucket list.
General travel experience
New Zealand is an easy country to travel through. It’s Westernized, it’s safe, and the roads are up to standards. The hardest part for traveling to New Zealand is that it’s so damn far away from everything except for Australia. It took me two 12-hour flights to get there from The Netherlands. From here it’s literally on the other side of the world. In other words, if I started digging a hole and kept on going, I’d eventually end up somewhere in New Zealand.
Amsterdam – Tokyo (4 hour layover)
Tokyo – Auckland
Auckland – Shanghai (5 hour layover + 4 hour delay)
Shanghai – Amsterdam
Needless to say, I was destroyed when I got there and when I got back, but damn was it ever worth it.
The basic run-down
- I found most people to be friendly and laid-back, and I never felt unsafe anywhere.
- The Maori culture stuff is interesting to look into, especially around Rotorua and down the Thermal Highway.
- Alcohol is so expensive it almost takes the fun out of having a beer, and if you’re a smoker, good luck to you. You will be paying out the ass to satisfy your habit.
- Speeding tickets are no joke here. Keep an eye out.
- There are plenty of apartments for accommodation. I highly recommend these over the always boring and generic hotels. Lots of hostels everywhere, too.
- Make sure to plan out your trip and book nature tours well ahead. Stuff gets booked up pretty quickly.
- If you ever wanted to bungee jump, skydive, ride a jet boat, do white water rafting, or do anything else that gets the adrenaline pumping, Queenstown is the place to go. It’s dubbed “the adrenaline capital of the world” for good reason. Do bring your wallet, though. It ain’t cheap.
- If there’s ever a place to stop and soak in what’s right in front of you, it’s New Zealand. It really is overwhelmingly pretty.
I went down the following route over the course of three weeks with a rental car.
Seeing this much in this time-span wouldn’t be possible with public transport or bus tours, nor would I have had the opportunity to make quick stops along the way to take photos. Seeing this much in three weeks was a pretty tight schedule, and there were a couple of days with a lot of hard driving.
They drive on the British side of the road, which takes some getting used to. Especially roundabouts will mess with you in the beginning, and when you’re driving on lonely roads, you need to watch out you don’t automatically get in the right-hand lane. One other funny thing is, and I didn’t know this, is that the controls in cars are also on the other side. I lost count how many times I turned on the windscreen wipers instead of my turn signal.
This trip covered plenty of “must sees”, although I would had loved to also see more of the north and west side of the South Island. I’d say that four weeks would probably be the amount of time required to see pretty much all the main sights in New Zealand (you’d still have to drive a lot). Of course, two or three months would be even better than that, but few people have that kind of time and/or money.
It’s supposedly also gorgeous in the winter. Plenty of reasons to go back!
Christchurch (coming soon)
Twizel (coming soon)
Queenstown (coming soon)
Milford Sound (coming soon)
Te Anau (coming soon)
Bluff (coming soon)
Places to stay
Photo credit: © Dick Hoebée All rights reserved