Let’s face it. On many levels, New Zealand punches above its weight.
For a relatively small nation, in both geographic size and population, New Zealand’s contribution to the planet is impressive.
With some of Earth’s most breathtaking natural scenery, an unaffectedly cool creative arts scene that’s exported a host of directors, designers, singers and comedians to the world and, one of the planet’s most popular political leaders, it seems our friends across the Tasman have something pretty special going on.
Which is why, if you haven’t already, it’s high time you got amongst it and travelled to the Land of the Long White Cloud.
So, now that you’re thinking about a Trans-Tasman adventure (and who wouldn’t be after that introduction), you just need some cash to fund it.
As luck would have it, we’re giving some away in our next prize home lottery!
Snap up a ticket before May 1 to enter our Early Bird Prize Draw and you could have $5K in your travel wallet for your NZ trip.
That should be more than enough to explore from top to bottom in style and still have some change left for an Auckland shopping spree or at least a couple of Merino jumpers from the departures terminal at the airport.
Nearly 600,000 Aussies chose to holiday in New Zealand last year.
It’s easy to see why.
Firstly, it’s close. Those of us on the east coast of Australia can nip over to Auckland or Christchurch before the second drinks trolley run on a flight to Perth.
Secondly, there’s a certain familiarity that’s reassuring and welcoming – it’s like meeting someone for the first time but feeling like you’ve known them your whole life.
Thirdly, while there are definite similarities there are still enough differences, culturally and geographically, to make the trip across the ditch exciting.
And lastly, it’s bloody beautiful.
If you’re the outdoors type, New Zealand could be your nirvana.
We’ve all seen the iconic photos of cobalt skies and snow-capped mountain peaks reflected in glassy lakes.
Or crystal-clear, turquoise bays dotted with rugged, rocky islands.
But nothing really prepares you for the reality when you clap your eyeballs on the real thing for the first time.
With so many natural wonders to see and so much ground to cover, it’s not surprising that a ‘self-drive’ holiday is the most popular way to explore New Zealand.
Within the ‘self-drive’ category, you have two distinct options:
While there’s a common misconception that hiring a campervan is the cheaper way to go, by the time you add in campground fees, the costs are comparable to a car and mid-range accommodation.
However, the freedom and opportunities a mobile holiday home affords can’t be compared.
How can you beat waking up to stunning mountain vista right outside your window one morning, then rising to a pristine beach literally at your doorstep the next? Or sitting by the campfire under a blanket of stars before retiring to a warm, comfortable bed.
With more than 200 campsites across NZ (managed by the Department of Conservation), and free camping allowed around much of the country, your ability to explore is only bound by your imagination…and a few rules and regulations.
With the Department of Conservation’s serviced campsites (including flushing toilets, hot showers and cooking facilities) costing as little as $18NZ per night per person and basic sites (including non-flushing toilets) available in some locations for free, there are options for every budget.
And then there’s free camping or ‘freedom camping’ as it’s known in New Zealand, which is defined as ‘camping on public land that isn’t recognised as a campground’.
Don’t just think you can pull up for the night wherever you like though.
Rules vary from one council or region to the next so make sure you find out what regulations apply in each area you visit.
Camp in the wrong spot and you could be taking home a hefty fine along with your souvenirs.
Some locations require you to have a ‘certified self-contained’ vehicle (which basically means a campervan or motorhome with a shower and toilet) so keep that in mind when trawling through the many options when you’re booking your wheels.
To help you get around and find the best camping locations, there are a couple of apps that are a must have before you set off:
This app gives you access to over 1500 camping locations around the country and, most importantly, offline maps so you’re not stuck up ‘Ship Creek’ if you go out of range.
This free app is another one worth loading onto your smart phone as it shows you the nearby locations of petrol stations, dump stations for emptying your on-board waste (tip: play ‘rock, paper scissors’ for who gets to do it), and pretty much anything else you’ll need while you’re travelling.
So now that we’ve considered how to go, the big question is where?
North? South Or both?
Ultimately, it depends on what you’re into and how much time you’ve got.
If you’re looking for the best beaches and watersports you would probably want to head to the North Island first. From the Bay of Islands to Cathedral Cove in The Coromandel, NZ’S North Island is full of surprises.
If you fly into Auckland, soak up the creative, contemporary vibe before picking up your campervan and setting off.
For Lord of the Rings geeks (and their compliant partners), you might want to journey to Middle-Earth in the magical hills of the Hamilton-Waikato region.
Here, in ‘The Shire’, you can visit ‘Bag End’, the home of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, at the Hobbiton movie set.
Other North Island ‘bucket list’ experiences might include the wine country of Hawkes Bay and the volcanic wonderland of Rotorua including the incredible Pohutu Geyser.
New Zealand’s South Island on the other hand, is best known for its other-worldly mountain scenery, glaciers and lakes.
It’s the most popular of the two islands for international holiday-makers and really is a must-do for the first-time visitor.
Home to nine of NZ’s 12 national parks, New Zealand’s highest peak, Mt Cook, and some of the world’s Great Walks, the South’s natural wonders are hard to beat.
Unless you come from Scandinavia, Fiordland National Park is like nothing you’ve seen before. This gigantic movie set is where you’ll find another of New Zealand’s must-dos, Milford Sound.
The South Island is all about adventure and Queenstown is NZ’s adventure capital. A popular base in ski-season, the resort town is also a magnet for thrill-seekers keen to try old Gen X favourites like bungee jumping or new thrills like heli-biking. Yes, it’s a thing.
If you can’t decide between North and South, and you’ve got a couple of weeks up your sleeve, the best solution is to do both.
To get from one island to the other, you can choose to travel by air or by boat.
If you choose by air, you could drop off your camper in Wellington and hop on a flight headed south. You’ll be in Blenheim or Nelson in 25 to 35 minutes or Christchurch in around 50 minutes.
By boat, takes a little longer – ok, a lot longer – but is well worth it so long as the weather is kind.
The ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island takes over three hours but is considered one of the most spectacular ferry journeys in the world.
The cruise into the Marlborough Sounds is an experience of a lifetime and worth the ticket price alone.
There’s a ‘but’ though. And it’s a big one. The Cook Strait is a temperamental piece of water and conditions can become very rough turning your idyllic cruise into a waterbourne rollercoaster.
Don’t be scared off. But, do check the weather forecast before you buy your ticket.
Whether you take your campervan with you for the ride, depends on which hire company you have chosen.
Some hire companies allow their vehicles to do the crossing and others ask that you drop off on one island and pick up a new vehicle on the other side to resume your journey.
Make sure you add it to your list of questions for the hire company when you book.
Is there ever a bad time to travel?
Every season in New Zealand offers up something special for visitors.
December to February is peak tourist season with warmer but still mild temperatures and longer days.
While there are still snow-covered peaks about in the South for your selfie-backdrops, the hiking (or ‘tramping’ as the locals like to call it) opportunities are more diverse as much of the snow has melted away to expose the well-worn trails.
It’s a lot busier though, so getting that ‘alone in the wilderness’ feeling (if that’s what you’re going for) is a lot more challenging.
Winter is obviously ski-season, but it is also a great time to see places like Fiordland at their icy best. Yes, it’s literally freezing, but it’s also a time of lower rainfall in some areas so there are definitely some advantages to braving the cold.
It’s important to remember that with such dramatic landscape can come some fairly dramatic weather conditions as well. For example, Fiordland, sees, on average, 200 wet days per year producing an incredible seven metres of rainfall. And when it’s not raining, it’s probably blowing with the famous ‘Roaring Forties’ ripping right through the region throughout the year.
But ultimately, isn’t that half the fun?
If you’d like a helping hand in funding your NZ adventure, pick up a ticket for our latest Prize Home lottery and you’ll automatically be in the draw to win our Early Bird Prize of $5,000.
Entering the draw can be life-changing in more ways than one
When you purchase lottery tickets from Endeavour Foundation, you help to provide opportunities for people with an intellectual disability to learn life skills, live independently, have a job they love, and be actively involved in their local communities. Find out more about how Endeavour Foundation is helping people with disability to imagine what’s possible.