Every person in the world who wasn’t born in New Zealand wants to cross this South Pacific destination off his or her bucket list. But planning a New Zealand vacation can often be tricky as it’s far from many countries in the world and is extremely popular. How do you avoid the crowds and find the sweet spots of this incredible country?
Rest assured, there are some ways to approach New Zealand that’ll help make your vacation the best that it can be. The following are some tips and tricks for making the most of a trip to New Zealand. Of course, there many things you need to consider regarding the flight over to the New Zealand, as air travel is a massive component of Globetrotting that is often overlooked. Luckily, Air New Zealand has some surefire ways to make the flight experience as smooth as possible (and Part 2 of this article will deal entirely with tips and tricks to get the most out of your in-flight experience with Air New Zealand), but there are certain things to consider before you even step foot on your flight. These considerations deal with booking accommodations and planning how you want to explore this incredible country.
The follow are some tips and tricks for making the most of a trip to New Zealand. Some points are common sense solutions to minor headaches when travelling to a popular country, while others are smart ways to take advantage of what makes New Zealand so uniquely great.
1. Book early to make sure you get that nice hotel room.
You know that New Zealand is gorgeous – that’s why you want to travel there in the first place! Problem is, everyone else thinks the same thing. New Zealand has a few large cities that can handily deal with large tourism numbers in the peak season, but many of the best natural landmarks are located in smaller centres with a limited number of hotel rooms. If you want to make sure you get that room with a view, book many months, even a year, ahead.
At Goway, we have hotel partners all across the country so we’ll be able to find you the perfect accommodation no matter where you’re heading on your New Zealand vacation, so long as you give us the time to do so. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to use a travel expert to help you secure a spot in a popular country like New Zealand. Online tools like Expedia are incredible for finding deals and comparing prices, but a computer algorithm will never be able to find you that perfect, hidden accommodation that’s an open-secret for people in the know; only a travel expert can do that.
As well, if you are hiring a car during the period, it’s best to book this ahead, as well as any day tours, as excursions in smaller centres reach their capacity months out during peak season.
2. If you want to be spontaneous, consider travelling in a motorhome.
Despite our recommendations to plan ahead when heading to New Zealand, we also understand that no two travellers are alike and that some of you will want to leave your plans in the air and take the days as they come on a New Zealand vacation. If you’re not the pre-planning type, take the “road less travelled” and explore the country like a local in a motorhome (or campervan, as locals call them).
Travelling by motorhome guarantees that you’ll always have a roof over your head and that you won’t be tied down to availability of accommodations. It allows you the freedom to pick where you sleep and where you head to next on any given day – like a self-drive tour, but without the need to pre-book accommodations for each night. (Remember what we said about towns being hard to book in during peak season? Travelling by motorhome takes care of that problem.)
New Zealand is dotted with holiday parks and campgrounds where you can stop for a shower, do laundry, or use the kitchen, so you won’t be lacking for service amenities if you need them. However, if you do choose to travel by motorhome, you need to book your motorhome in advance so it’s ready and available when you arrive in the country. As well, if you’re travelling across both North and South islands (and why wouldn’t you?), remember to book the ferry from Wellington to Picton (or vice versa). Tickets book up in advance, especially for vehicles as large as motorhomes.
3. Travel in the shoulder season of spring or fall.
If you want to avoid the crowds but still take advantage of the incredible weather, head on a New Zealand vacation in the shoulder season of spring or fall. Thing is, even in the peak season, you’ll never feel crowded in New Zealand. However, in the shoulder seasons, the crowds will be noticeably smaller and the prices will be more affordable.
Hotels and restaurants will be cheaper in the spring or fall, which is always a bonus when travelling, especially in a popular country. As well, the moderate temperatures are great for getting outside, as you don’t have the summer heat to wipe you out. If you’re heading to New Zealand, you know that it’s a country of the great outdoors, so making the outdoors more accessible is a huge bonus.
Both spring and fall have their particular highlights. In the spring, you can see baby lambs in the pastures around Christchurch and Dunedin, while in the autumn, the areas around Queenstown and Christchurch explode into brilliant yellows and reds. Spring and fall are gorgeous in New Zealand, so combining the great sights with the more affordable prices makes travelling in a shoulder season a smart move.
4. Take advantage of great deals by travelling in winter.
If the money you save travelling in a shoulder season appeals to you, consider going full-bore and heading on a New Zealand vacation in winter. Winter is the low season in New Zealand, which means you’ll be competing with fewer fellow tourists to get the nice accommodations and see all the incredible sights. As well, prices are much lower for great hotels, and the winter is relatively moderate compared to North America. You won’t find anything nearly as cold as a winter on the Canadian Prairies in New Zealand.
Travelling in winter also lets you take advantage of the country’s mountainous landscape. The snowcapped mountains are incredible photo subjects, and they’re great for skiing and snowboarding as well. If winter sports aren’t your deal, you can take advantage of New Zealand’s incredible wine culture and cozy up in front of a fireplace with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. As well, the winter holds some special wonders for people who know where to look.
First of all, the Southern Lights occur in the winter in New Zealand, so if you’ve always wanted to see this southern marvel for yourself, winter in New Zealand is the time to do so. As well, wildlife enthusiasts will want to head to Kaikoura on the South Island to see the baby seals that are born in the winter months. The sight of these adorable pups will melt your heart.
5. Have a Flat White.
Although both Australia and New Zealand lay claim to the specialized coffee drink, the Flat White, only one country actually gifted the world with this concoction, and if we’re to believe historical evidence, it seems that New Zealand has the honour of being that country.
Regardless of how you fall on the battle lines of this pop culture debate, you can still enjoy the silky comforts of a Flat White on a trip to New Zealand. The drink is very similar to a latte, but don’t call it one – it’s its own unique treat. The differences with a latte are that a Flat White has less foam and less volume, meaning that it takes up less space within a glass. A Flat White is also usually served in a ceramic cup instead of a glass.
When you head to New Zealand, you’ll realize that the Flat White is the most popular drink in the country. It’ll only take one taste to see why this is. In fact, the delicious flavour of the Flat White is starting to prove popular the world over; Starbucks began serving them in recent years in North America.
6. Indulge in the world-class wines of the country.
If wine is your thing, you’ll be treated well on a New Zealand vacation. In terms of worldwide volume, the country doesn’t produce much wine, but the wine that it does make is ranked among the best in the world. In particular, the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are fantastic.
No matter where you go in the country, you’ll find wine regions that you can explore in their full. The country’s climate is well-suited to winemaking as the large amounts of sunshine, moderate climate, and cool breezes are ideal for grapes to grow. If you want to experience the best wine in the country, head to Marlborough or Queenstown. Marlborough is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, which is considered the best of its vintage in the world. Queenstown is surrounded by wine valleys on all sides and you could easily spend a week exploring all the wineries and vineyards in the country.
The great thing about New Zealand’s wine industry is that they keep the best of each vintage for themselves, which means that when you travel to New Zealand, you know that you’re tasting the best of the best. There are even some convenient ways you can take some wine home with you with Air New Zealand, but we’ll save those points for Part 2.
Savour Quality Wines on a New Zealand Tour
7. Savour the country’s seafood.
It’s not common to sell the country by talking about its food, but Kiwi food can be really spectacular. In particular, the country offers a bounty of seafood, as no matter where you head to in the country, the ocean is nearby. If you like fish, you’ll be treated to some of the world’s best king salmon at Mount Cook. Mount Cook salmon has some of the highest natural amounts of Omega 3 fats of any fish, so you can feel good about filling yourself with healthy nutrients while you indulge in the country’s seafood.
If you like more exotic seafoods, you’ll find plenty to feast on while on a New Zealand vacation. The country’s oysters are world-class, with the oysters in Bluff particularly celebrated. Scallops are also a big deal in New Zealand from October through March. If you’re in Coromandel in September, you can even go to the Whitianga Scallop Festival to taste the country’s best. Also, be sure to try green-lipped mussels and paua (abalone), a New Zealand delicacy that’s served as a fritter and is sort of the Kiwi version of fish and chips.
8. Take advantage of opportunities for adventure.
You can get up to all manner of crazy fun in New Zealand. The city of Queenstown is known as the worldwide capital for adventure tourism, so if you’ve ever wanted to go zip-lining, sky-diving or bungee-jumping, you best head there. Probably the most popular new adventure in New Zealand is zorbing, where you enter a giant inflatable globe and roll down hillsides inside of it. It’s like you’re in a giant hamster ball! Ever watched that scene from Jackie Chan’s Operation Condor where he escapes by rolling down a hill in a giant ball? You’d essentially be recreating it.
Zorbing isn’t an activity you can do just anywhere in the world, so take advantage of the opportunities in New Zealand to try it out. It’s also smart to plan what activities you want to take part in ahead of your New Zealand vacation so you’re not wasting time planning the details once on your trip, when you could be rolling down the hillsides or leaping out of airplanes.
9. Don’t forget to head to Wellington.
The incredible landscape might be the highlight of New Zealand, but don’t forget to fit in a visit to the capital, Wellington. It’s a city bustling with activity, and you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied no matter what your interests are. If you’re curious about the country’s history, head to Te Papa Museum – it explores the country’s formation and is free!
If you are a movie fan, head to Weta Workshop for a studio tour and see how the special effects in The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes films come to life. A trip to Weta Workshop combines perfectly with a night at the Roxy Cinema, a famous movie house that replicates the golden era of movie-going in the 1930s. You can even see one of the Oscars won for The Lord of the Rings in the lobby.
10. Take in an iconic sheepdog show.
Everyone knows that New Zealand is famous for its sheep. In fact, there are more sheep in the country than people. When heading on a New Zealand vacation, you’d be missing out on an iconic part of the culture if you didn’t go see a sheepdog show, where the sheepdogs show off their prowess by herding the sheep back into their pens. Anyone who likes dogs will appreciate how intelligent and gorgeous the sheepdogs are. If you’re travelling with children, a sheepdog show is even more of an essential; your kids will love it.
In Part 2, we’ll get into some tips for making your flight with Air New Zealand a seamless, enjoyable experience, but for now, these 10 tips will help you plan your perfect New Zealand vacation and get the most for your time and money. If you heed our words (and take the handy advice of our travel experts to the Pacific) your trip will be a breeze and you’ll experience the best of what New Zealand has to offer.