Ultimate travel guide to New Zealand with Kiwi Experience the Backpacker bus

New Zealand is perhaps the most scenic country I have ever been to. Your horizon changes constantly, volcanoes, some of the largest glaciers in the world, dense forests and fjords.

But NZ is not just a landscape, but for me it is the country par excellence where you can practice adventure sports and Queenstown is its capital. In it you can practice skydiving, bungee jumping, rafting, downhill biking, luge, etc… and even ski if you like. you go in winter

Everything you need to know for your trip to New Zealand:

  1. About New Zealand on Kiwi Experience
  2. Best time of year to visit New Zealand
  3. 24-day Itinerary through New Zealand
    1. Days 1 to 3: Auckland
    2. Day 4: Hot Water Beach
    3. Day 5: Waitomo
    4. Days 6 and 7: Rotorua
    5. Days 8 to 11: Taupo
    6. Days 12 and 13: Wellington
    7. Days 14 to 18: Abel Tasman
    8. Day 19: Westport
    9. Days 20 and 21: Franz Josef
    10. Days 22 to 24: Queenstown
  4. New Zealand backpacking daily budget
  5. Where to stay in New Zealand
  6. What to do in New Zealand if you have more time

Official exchange rate 1EUR = 1.76 NZSD New Zealand Dollars

About New Zealand on Kiwi Experience

There are many ways to explore New Zealand, but if you are traveling alone, you are short on time and you don’t want to break your budget, this is perhaps the best way to explore the country. On the backpacker bus, in my case I went with Kiwi Experience, but there are also other companies that offer this characteristic service.

You can get around the north island mostly by public transport and there are hourly vouchers that are very well priced, but if you want to get everywhere on the south island public transport is going to be a problem, so that’s why I decided to use Kiwi Experience is also a way to travel with 50 other people at the same time. It is something intense, but a unique experience.

Kiwi Experience consists of a bus that goes from Auckland to Queenstown and back and you can book that entire route or parts and extensions of it. Basically it makes about 15 stops and you decide (in advance where you get on and where you get off each day). Everything is contracted through an application they have and each day there are one or two main activities, free and some paid. Accommodation and food are not included, but they take you everywhere in a very pleasant way.

  • Advantages: You will meet a lot of people every day, if you travel alone it is the most social and economical option, you will reach more parts of the South Island than public transport does.
  • Disadvantages: It is not flexible at all if you want to make last minute changes because most of the route is usually completely booked within a few days and in my time there were infrequent buses. You may stay for many days in uninteresting places and have to run in places where you would like to stay longer. The hostels they sell you are a little more expensive than normal and some free activities leave a little to be desired.

Best time of year to visit New Zealand

New Zealand has the seasons reversed to the northern hemisphere, in winter it is summer and in summer it is winter. Still, don’t think of Australia’s weather when you think of New Zealand because it looks like they’re close on the map.

In New Zealand it rains a lot and Auckland looks like London because it rains almost every day. The months with the best “summer” weather are from December to February. Although you should always bring a jacket/sweatshirt because it always gets a little cold. I took this trip that I am telling you between mid-November and mid-December.

24-day Itinerary through New Zealand

It was a fairly improvised trip, in fact I bought my Kiwi Experience voucher two days before getting on the bus. Many sections were already booked and I had to manage some long days at certain stops because there were few frequencies.

Although this is approximately my route, I did a few more days, a few less days at some of these stops.

Days 1 to 3: Auckland

Auckland is where 50% of the NZ population lives, it is a city that you have to see in a couple of days and with some interesting day trips from there.

You can visit one of the free museums in the city such as the Art Gallery or delve into the country’s history at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Get a little out of the center at Mount Eden to see the city’s Skyline or take a ferry bus to Devonport to see the WWII batteries installed at North Head.

From there you can also do some day trips and the most popular is perhaps Waiheke Island famous for its vineyards.

Day 4: Hot Water Beach

The bus usually leaves quite early every day. Between 7 and 8 in the morning and the first day was no less. Since there is a long trip between the two main stops of the day.

About 4 or 5 hours after having left and having met your bus companions, you arrive in Hahei where they will take you to Cathedral Cove, which was one of the sets of the Chronicles of Narnia movie, there you have some time to bathe and rest walking the beaches even though the water is about 15 degrees and you stop feeling all the muscles in your body.

From there direct to Hot Water Beach (depending on the tides) to dig our own natural pools on the beach where the water comes boiling out of the sand. What better plan for the night than some “self-made jacuzzis” with beers and friends?

Day 5: Waitomo

This is perhaps the least attractive day if you don’t do any “additional” activities, most people do Black Water Rafting in Waitomo or the Glowworm cave, a cave with luminescent insects.

It depends on the weather though and there was a lot of rain and the water levels were too high for it to be a safe activity.

Days 6 and 7: Rotorua

This second day is a little intense, you start quite early, but there is a reason for that and it is that for me this is one of the highlights of the trip, Hobbitton, the filming set of “The Shire” of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Rings. It is a very expensive activity, but it is spectacular in the way you immerse yourself in the Hobbit world, touring its hills, pubs, houses and markets. You will leave with some unique photos from this site and a smile on your face and you will see that there are people who have never seen the movies!

In the afternoon heading to Rotorua to spend the night on the first day, most people usually go to a Maori dinner, which seems to me to be touristy and has nothing “local” about it but you have a good time, a while and you learn four things about the Maori culture and its origins in New Zealand or also called Aotearoa.

The next day there are people who go to the thermal baths to see Kiwis, in my case we went with others who were not doing a paid activity to the Redwood Pine Tree walks to walk in a spectacular pine forest.

Days 8 to 11: Taupo

4 or 5 days in Taupo may sound like a lot, but the pace of changing places every day makes you want to take it easier from time to time and Taupo is a great stop to recharge your batteries. Additionally, you may want to take the excursion to climb Mount Tongariro (Mount Doom, from the Lord of the Rings) and the weather has to be right for you to do it.

To cross Mount Tangariro you must be well equipped, none of us were… Some went with shorts, I with two sweatshirts and a raincoat, etc… The reality is that you reach the highest parts with wind gusts of almost 100km hour, permanent snow and temperatures close to zero degrees or negative, and this was in summer!

In Taupo I also made my first parachute jump from 12,000 feet high, an unforgettable experience and although it may not seem like it, NZ is one of the cheapest places in the world to do it, I also had 2 for 1, since they picked me up in a Hummer limousine.

Since we had plenty of time, we also rented some mountain bikes and went on trails and did several descents. There are hundreds of routes around Lake Taupo for walking and cycling. You can also do a sunset sailboat if that’s more your thing.

Near Taupo are also the Huka Falls and the Aratiatia rapids.

As you can see in Taupo you can easily stay 5 days and you won’t get bored, plus this small town has the best nightlife on the North Island, every night the pubs are packed to the rafters.

Days 12 and 13: Wellington

On the way to Wellington there is a long way, it is practically a day of just driving, but although it may not seem like it, the roads in New Zealand are not the best and almost 600km separate Taupo from Wellington.

There are a couple of interesting food stops along the way in Bulls and Ohakune.

Although I couldn’t, I would recommend staying in Wellington for at least two or three days to discover the political capital of Aotearoa and escape to the vineyards in the south of the North Island.

Days 14 to 18: Abel Tasman

The crossing to the South Island is most spectacular, a ferry of about three hours separates the cities of Wellington and Picton and you will realize that you are arriving at the South Island when the ferry begins to sail through the famous Marlborough Sounds, the fjords that protect the entire northern coast.

Abel Tasman I have to say that it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise and on the way to Kaiteriteri where we would spend the night for four days we stopped at Lake Rotoiti.

Abel Tasman is a national park in the north of the South Island, we had spectacular weather and if you have time there are dozens of walking routes that you can do in the park and even spend the night there. We opted for a one-day trip to Anchorage Bay to return by ferry to Kaiteriteri.

Another activity you should do is Kayaking to Split Apple Rock, it is a demanding journey of about 4 hours round trip with a stop and beer included on the beach and a great way to spend the day. Kaiteriteri is a great place to rest and go to the beach for several days and recover energy for the final journey. Also at Kaka Point Cafe there is the best fruit ice cream I have ever eaten in my life.

Day 19: Westport

After a few days of rest and change and reunion with colleagues in Kaiteriteri, we headed to Westport with a stop in Murchison to eat and visit some waterfalls and gorges.

We arrive in Westport in the afternoon where some of us go to buy beers while another group surfs and we end up having a bondfire and watching the sunset over the Pacific. Westport is a good place to stop for several days if you’re looking to surf.

Days 20 to 21: Franz Josef

On this journey I recommend that you sit on the right side of the bus for the best views, the journey to Franz Josef is long and the hangover from the night before drinking until late makes it even worse, luckily two spectacular stops await us on the way to Franz Josef.

The first is the Irimahuwhero viewpoint where you can see sea lions resting on the rocks while sunbathing and the second stop is in Punakaiki where you will stop to see the Pancake rocks and the Rock Blowholes where the water enters with force and blows the air and the water out through the cavities in the rocks.

Technical stop in Greymouth to eat and drop off a passenger and we continue towards Franz Josef to spend the night in a very top hostel in the Jacuzzi.

If you like trekking and nature, Franz Josef is a good place to stop for several days.

There are many ways to enjoy Franz Josef, some jump by parachute, others climb to the top by helicopter and we opted to do a trekking of about 6-7 hours round trip. You have to walk about 45 minutes until you can see the glacier and once in the parking lot you begin the walk towards Robert’s Point Track where you will enjoy one of the best views of this entire trip. We stayed upstairs to eat and went back down to finish off with beers in the jacuzzi again.

Days 22 to 24: Queenstown

Queenstown is without a doubt the place where you will want to stay, it is the backpacker stop par excellence. This small town of 50,000 inhabitants will take you to the limit, you can do all the extreme sports that come to mind, go downhill with a mountain bike, go downhill with the Luges, skydiving, zip line , bungee jumping and even slingshot…

But Queenstown is also an incredible sight, 30 minutes away is Lake Wanaka while the city of Queenstown is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The views of the city from the top of the hill are unbeatable.

The best day trip you can do from QT is Milford Sound and although it is a little far away, see how the sea enters the land in the fjords of the south island, while the rain forms waterfalls on top of the mountains that rush into the sea is something difficult to overcome.

In addition to all of the above, QT has the best night out in all of New Zealand, don’t miss its famous pub crawl and enjoy this adventure.

New Zealand backpacking daily budget

New Zealand is expensive and there are few ways I can think of to make it cheap if you want to get the most out of this country. Saying an average of €111 per day is objective, but you can also spend much more.

Food: Eating at a restaurant does not cost less than €15 + drinks. So this trip was the first time in several months that I had to start cooking.

Accommodation: Most hostels are terrible and they are also expensive.

Leisure: You will go out a lot and beers do not cost less than 10 NZD, skydiving costs 500 NZD, various excursions cost 150 NZD, so you quickly reach €41/day

Transport: This includes a local flight from QT to AKL and the Kiwi Experience voucher from AKL to QT without excursions.

Where to stay in New Zealand

The first thing you should know is that the hostels, the more developed the country is, the more expensive and worse they are, so prepare yourself for the worst hostels I have ever been to:

  • Queenstreet Backpackers // Auckland: Terrible, quite dirty and closes at night. They told me there would be no problem and I had to end up sleeping on a sofa because no one could give me the keys. Good ubication.
  • Metro Adventurers // Auckland: Terrible, rooms full to the brim, dirty and extremely noisy. People played soccer games in the hallway.
  • Hot Water Beach Top10 Holiday Park // Hot Water Beach: Quite correct rooms, clean and in the middle of nature and a 10-minute walk from the beach.
  • Homested Cabins // Waitomo: Very top views although the cabins are somewhat small, it has a common house with a lot of personality.
  • Rocksolid Backpackers // Rotorua: Good vibe, it’s a giant hostel. Large rooms but few bathrooms due to the number of guests there were.
  • Based by the lake // Taupo: Fair enough, it didn’t have a common area although the location was excellent.
  • Haka Lodge // Taupo: Better vibe and generally better rooms and facilities. Common area with TV and games.
  • Nomads Wellington // Wellington: Terrible, super noisy beds and the rooms smelled funny.
  • Kaiteri Lodge // Kaiteriteri: The location is unbeatable and the facilities are generally correct. Negative point you had to pay for wifi!!!
  • Bazils Surf // Westport: The rooms were like mini apartments/houses, they had a lot of personality.
  • Rainforest Retreat // Franz Josef: It had a sauna and a very large common area, the toilet was always spotless.
  • Nomads Queenstown // Queenstown: Terrible, dirty, noisy and there were a couple of fights in the kitchen. Very bad wifi.

What to do if you have more time in New Zealand

I would probably stay a few more days around Queenstown and Wanaka and try to explore the Pahia region in the north of the North Island.

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