Auckland to Dunedin Budget Itinerary
An island nation on the corner of the map; culturally akin to the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga; dwarfed by that “other” Australasian country… yet on a scale our featured writer Leona Duff was completely unprepared for. Here she shares her experiences and top tips for traveling from Auckland in the North Island to Dunedin in the Southern area of the country in less than a week without breaking the bank...
Perhaps this speaks to my own naïvety, but being from the United Kingdom - urban England at that - I’ve been spoilt by our well-developed infrastructure and truly miniscule size. This is what I’ve come to appreciate in the short time I’ve been staying down under.
1. Arrival in Auckland
I landed in Auckland just over two months ago, and as the country’s biggest city there was no cause for concern to start with. I knew I had to head down to Dunedin by the end of the week for work, on the south island – the south of the south island. If going by “land”; which was my choice having just got two long haul flights out of the way; this meant catching a ferry across the Cook Strait. When I asked at the office [of the host agency - support services for those like myself on working holidays how this worked/how it would fit around the rest of the journey, I never thought it would involve booking hostels along the way.
2. Transport & Duration
Three coaches, one sea voyage, five cities (with numerous rest stops along the way) = three days.
An American might scoff at this, but it was new to me. Auckland to Wellington takes 12 hours alone, and it was there I stopped for the night. Early next morning, I caught the ferry to Picton (3 hrs), where the next coach met me to carry me to Christchurch (6 hrs). Another stopover before the final leg to Dunedin (& another 6 hrs). Granted, if you can drive yourself then you can take a more straightforward route, but it’s fair to say I saw a fair bit of the country in this time, with the landscape gradually changing from sub-tropical to temperate. I started adding to my list of places to visit - Taupo and Kaikoura particularly caught my eye. The list has only got longer since.
This is where I should make note of the practical things: I travelled with Intercity Coaches (whose routes cover the length and breadth of the country), and Interislander Ferries (whose main competitor is Bluebridge). Public Transport is privatised in New Zealand, so there’s a vast array of companies with differing services, much of it localised. I’ve since learned that Atomic Shuttles are the cheapest to go with for travelling between here, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Invercargill. The only passenger trains between cities are run by Kiwi Rail, and these are on very restrictive routes. Each of these options is also limited by frequency (usually twice a day) and space. To get to the more remote areas, which – let’s face it – are what this country is famed for, you have to hope there’s a tour company offering packages through your area of interest.
Basically, it’s a country where it really pays to know how to drive. I’ve never needed to before (and I’ve not quite worked my way up to hitchhiking, despite how safe the country is considered). Even then, the roads are of a slightly different nature than you might be used to. Void of traffic, yes, but if you venture away from the highways then you’re likely to be facing some very gravelly surfaces. But then, that’s got something of a romanticism all its own.
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