New Zealand Tours, Backpacker Trips & Gap Year Travel Ideas
If you're seeking a perfect combination of adventure, beautiful nature, friendly people and memories that will last forever, then New Zealand will appeal to you. Find inspiration and ideas for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking, take a gap year or book a dream holiday to New Zealand.
Activities, Trips & Things to Do in New Zealand
Best New Zealand Travel Operators
Find local & international companies offering the best trips and experiences in New Zealand.
New Zealand Travel Guide
One World 365 features lots of amazing experiences, gap year trips, adventure tours, backpacker deals and cheap travel packages to New Zealand. You will get to explore destinations and enjoy the best time of your life.
You can also view travel tips and advice for places to go, the best packages available and information about costs, accommodation, transport, safety and how to visit New Zealand on a budget.
- Population: 4,500,000
- Capital: Wellington
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD) $1 =1.18NZD / £1 = 1.8NZD
- Language: English
- Area: 275,000 sq km (approx)
- International Calling Code +64
Weather & Best Time to Visit
Expect a mild climate of around 14 but in summer it can rise as high as around 40, whilst in winter it can get really cold wrap up warm for temperatures below -20. The most popular time for peopl to visit is from November - May. Whenever you plan to visit New Zealand – regardless of winter or summer – you are guaranteed to experience the time of your life.
Both the North and South Islands of New Zealand enjoy moderate, maritime climate and temperatures. The country is located in the southern hemisphere. This means summer starts in December and winter begins in June. New Zealand has moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine throughout most of the country.
- Auckland:The Auckland region enjoys a warm, coastal climate without any extremes. Summers in Auckland are generally warm with high humidity, while winters are mild and damp as it rains a lot in winters. The average temperature in summers is around 24°C to 15°C; in winters it’s around 14°C to 9°C.
- Wellington: This region has mild weather, temperate marine climate and is well known for being windy. The best weather in Wellington is during October to April. The average temperature in summers is around 20°C to 13°C; in winters it’s around 12°C to 6°C.
- Christchurch: This region has temperate, bright and sunny days. The climate is relatively dry with lesser rainfall than other places in the country. Temperatures in summer are often moderated by cool sea breeze. Snowfall is usually expected once or twice a year. The average temperature in summer season is around 22°C to 12°C; in winter season is around 12°C to 3°C.
- Queenstown: During winters, Queenstown has snow-capped mountains and bright, clear days while during the summers, days are warm and weather is pleasant. Weather is the main reason why Queenstown is a popular holiday destination at any time of the year. The average temperature in summers is around 22°C to 10°C; in winters it’s around 10°C to 1°C.
Visa & Entry Requirements
If you are from the UK and a number of selected countries you can arrive in New Zealand and get a 6 month tourist visa on arrival.
How to Get to New Zealand
New Zealand is a long way from almost anywhere, Australia and Fiji are close on a map but even these flights take 3 - 4 hours. From London to Auckland flights take around 23 hours with a stop off and cost around £700.
Airlines which fly to New Zealand from the UK and other worldwide destinations include:
- Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Thai Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic.
To get the best deals you will need to book in advance. We recommend searching flights on Skyscanner which is one ofthe best flight comparison websites.
New Zealand is built for tourism and there are some of the best hotels and hostels in the world located here. Prices are competative especially if you book in advance. If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay, use Hostelbookers or Booking.com to find budget accommodation.
Best Places to Visit in New Zealand
Keen to go travelling or backing in New Zealand? Be sure to add some of these places to your itinerary:
Located in the North Island, Auckland is a great city to spend some time, be sure to visit the harbour area and join a sightseeing excursion of the city. Auckland became the capital of New Zealand when the British arrived in 1840 but before this it was inhabited by various Maori tribes - you will learn a great deal about this city when based here.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand where the majority of the North island live, the city centre is where you will find lots of shops, bars, restaurants, clubs and offices which offer working holiday employment. There are so many attractions you can check out when working here including the harbour where you can take a boat break, go up the Sky Tower, visit Rangitoto Island, head to the spectacular Hukani Gulf Islands or see extinct volcanoes which have amazing views over the city.
This city is one of the more expensive places in New Zealand but if you like big cities Auckland will appeal.
The capital of New Zealand and has the parliament and also a great cable car ride with views over the city
A very laid back city, you could watch a local rugby game, visit the museum or go shopping. There is also a beach not too far from the city centre.
One of the most popular destinations with international visitors and a really lively city. You can take part in adventure sports, admire the spectacular views or just party the night away
A popular stop off on any New Zealand itinerary, Rotorua is located in the North Island of New Zealand. This city has a really really strong smell due to the thermal hotspings. You will soon get used to the sulpher smell though and we recommend relaxing in a hot spa and getting pictures close to the misty hot springs. Don't touch the water thought its literally boiling!
A popular stop off near to Queenstown - mountains, scenery, skiing and a nice atmopshere.
Enjoy breathtaking scenery in Fiordland, visitors can sail through the steep mountains in chartered boats or kayaks or hike along the trails among the thousands of waterfalls or, best of all, fly over the granite peaks and dark, deep water. Waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into the deep water and dolphins are incredible to see for kayakers. Fiordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and includes Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling called the eighth wonder of the world. Hiking is the best way to see more of the scenery and the area has three of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Hikers can go to Sutherland Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in the country.
Gold was discovered in the 1860s and visitors can still try their luck panning for gold. There are relics from the miners in the area, but the vineyards are the gold mines of today. Pinot noir grows well in this area and the wineries are open for tastings. The Central Otago Rail Trail is 150 kilometres that follows the old rail tracks and there are resting places at the old-time stations. This area is very secluded and visitors enjoy finding themselves alone among the thousands of wildflowers in Alexandra. The area includes the Moeraki boulders, which are 60 million years old perfect spheres.
Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand because of its Scottish heritage. The city has well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture as well as one-of-a-kind wildlife habitats. The rarest penguins in the world are nearby as is the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world. The Larnach Castle is the only castle in New Zealand and is perched on a hill overlooking the Otago Harbour. Dunedin also has Cadbury World a chocolate factory with chocolate shop.
There is no end to the activities in this part of South Island. Thrill seekers will be happy to never leave with bungy jumping, white water rafting, surfing and skiing all on the same day. The highest peak in the country, Aoraki Mount Cook as well as Arthur’s Pass National Park, both have excellent hiking activities. For a relaxing meal in a first class restaurant, visitors go to Christchurch - the Garden City. The buildings in the centre of the city were partially destroyed in an earthquake in 2011, but the welcoming locals and excellent city vibe has not been touched.
The home of New Zealand’s famous Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough is on the northern tip of South Island. There are over 40 vineyards to visit. Visitors can also explore the Marlborough Sounds by kayak, charter cruises or luxury yacht.
There are lots of other places too, don't be afraid to go off the beaten track e.g. Milford Sound, Invergargil and Napier. There are two giant glaciers - Franz Josef and Fox - that end only 250 metres above sea level. Be sure to also visit the blowhole at Punakaiki.
North Island Travel Guide
Most flights arrive into Auckland which is located on the North island, this city is amazing with lots of cafés, bars, shops and also day trips all within close proximity.
From Auckland if you need an excuse to go out of the city you can catch the ferry to Waiheke Island which is around forty minutes from mainland Auckland. The island is a beautiful place certainly packed during Summer and very famous for its various and numerous vineyards (more than twenty). You can walk around the Western half of the island and go swimming when its hot. You might also like to go to one of the prestigious vineyards like Mudbrick Vineyard ("A must-see when visiting Auckland" says the New York Times). Expect a expensive glass of wine there but you'll probably agree with the American newspaper, it is a beautiful place! This is a great way to spend an afternoon and you can easily get back to jump on one of the last ferries back to Auckland.
An expedition to the Coromandel Peninsula is recommended, you might want to aim to reach Cathedral Cove and stop for a night in Pauanui. On this route you will get to see a bit of countryside and the wonderful beaches of the East coast of New Zealand. Karekare is a west coast black sand beach very close to Piha which is a really beautiful place too. Everywhere you go in New Zealand you will experience stunning scenery, you'll see stunning landscapes within the one hour range drive from Auckland. Karekare is great for swimming and fishing.
In the North Island you can do so many things and there will be random beautiful scenic stops around every corner. Snells Beach and Scotts Point on the Mahurangi Harbour where you can walk to the beautiful and quiet Casnell Island Reserve is highly recommended if you are looking to get off the beaten track. If you love fishing the whole area is populated by fishes that each time you throw a line in, a fish will bite (all snappers). The island of Rangitoto is another beautiful and scenic place that you will enjoy. But try to arrive early as you'll have to leave in the afternoon as the last ferry leaves the island at 3:30pm during the week and 4:30pm on weekends. Travelling in this country makes you wonder if there is an area of the New Zealand countryside that isn't beautiful!
Cape Reinga is almost the Northest point of New Zealand and symbolically a very important place in native Maori culture. It is also where the Tasman Sea and the pacific Ocean meet and locals will tell you the impact of the two tremendous forces created a visible vertical line in the sea. This part is unfortunately not true, but the place is still full of charm. It can take a very long time to reach the Cape by car. You will need to stop a bit over midway Saturday at Paihia right next to the scenic Bay of Islands. Be sure to book accommodation in advance as you'll find most places fully booked and "No Vacancy" signs welcoming you.
When visiting the Cape you might want to check out the impressive giant sand dunes at Te Paki and also discover the huge Ninety Mile Beach (56 miles in fact and approximatively 90 kilometres, which is still massive). This is a great place to stop for photos and a swim. Further south, Wellington is a great stop on the way to the South Island, it have a vibrant coffee scene and there are lots of great cafes and restaurants.
South Island Travel Guide
New Zealand's South Island is very impressive with lots of things to do.
Wanaka is an extremely charming small town right by the beautiful homonymously named Lake Wanaka where the visitor knows at once that time will take another value. Most people tremendously enjoyed the stay in Wanaka, you can go skiing or snowboarding at nearby Cardrona mountain range for one full day or just go walking around the city and its immediate surroundings. The hours, even the minutes spent in such a great location indeed really are precious!
From Wanaka you can travel South to the more touristy and bigger, but just as scenic, neighbor town Queenstown, right by Lake Wakatipu. On arrival you can get a good idea of the place which is such a spectacular location. Both cities are extremely busy during the heart of the ski season and both are a lot of fun with lots of bars, cafes and places to eat. We recommend taking the Tranzalpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth through the New Zealand's Alps which is truely spectacular and a good introduction to the South Island.
Some other recommendations include at the Franz Josef Glacier and walk over its impressive glacier or if you in search of adventure you can also go sky diving. Everything you will have heard about how scenic the South Island of New Zealand will end up being true and you really have to experience this magical island for yourself.
There are two fiords in New Zealand - Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound which are accessible by land in this part of the island and its recommended to see both of them. Both places are not easy to access, the splendid drive to Milford is quite long and icy during winter and further South, in order to go to Doubtful Sound, you even have to cross a lake first (beautiful Lake Manapouri). As the days are much shorter during winter and the number of visitors less important, there are even less boats doing the visits and the overnight cruises are cancelled until the better months. The main cruise company Real Journeys runs services on Milford Sound.
Try to catch the special deals which are often offered by the cruise / travel companies. Doubtful and Milford Sounds are quite distant from each other and very different. Seeing both if possible is really a treat but please note in winter bad weather conditions can mean no departures are available. Doubtful Sound is the longest of the only two fiords you can access by land in the Fiordland region in the South West of the country and this will leave you awestruck. You'll be able to get spectacular photos in this beautiful area. You can easily spend a few days or longer in either place and but there is so much more to see in the South Island its good to see as much as possible.
Transport & Getting Around New Zealand
There is a really excellent transport system in New Zealand and you can choose from trains, buses, flights and trains.
For travellers who want to travel at their own pace with their own itinerary should consider hiring a campervan. Campervans or motorhomes offer both transportation and accommodation in one. Don’t forget that your kitchen will also travel with you; this is very useful especially if you are looking to save money (food wise). It's quite cheap to rent or buy a van and most of them have been adjusted by previous owners so that they now include a double bed and serve as a mobile home.
And it´s quite handy that you don't have to build a tent after a long hiking day. Be careful where you intend to spend a night though, since most of the land is privately owned and the rest (parking lots, picnic spots) are being checked by local authorities that they´re not being used as a camping spot. But have a look at DOC campsites - these are some basic camping places where you can spend a night for free or for some minimum fee, they provide toilets and water, some of then even showers etc.
Some of the best campervan hire companies which are popular with backpackers exploring New Zealand include Mighty Campers, Britz and Maui.
New Zealand Travel Tips
Cheapest Time to Visit
New Zealand is located a long way from anywhere and your best option for getting here might be a round the world ticket, sometimes this is just a little bit more expensive than a return flight. Try to avoid visiting during peak season where accommodation can be booked up in advance and more expensive than off peak.
You will also find the main cities like Auckland and Wellington are more expensive than the rest of the country. Another money saving tip is a lot of hotels and hostels charge to use the internet and this can be expensive. An alternative is to visit the local library or go to a local coffee shop, lots now offer free wifi. There are lots of good deals you can get to explore more of this country, lots of companies operate and you can also book in advance to save money. Also think to yourself how much you really want to and need to see.
Food, Costs & Budget
If you are arriving from Europe or Australia you should find New Zealand cheaper than these destinations, things like buses and accommodation can be slightly cheaper. There is a wide variety of food available. You can find cheap buffet restaurants like Chinese and Japanese and there are usually good deals on lunch offers. Eating dinner out can be expensive, expect to pay around £7 - £12 ($15) for most meals. There are a lot of fast food outlets which are cheap but even this can add up, it is also really unhealthy to eat this everyday.
If you are going to stay in a hostel most have world class facilities and clean kitchens so you can prepare your own food. Our top recommendation is to find a local supermarket and buy your own food, this will save you a lot of money every week. Bars usually have great deals on beer during happy hour, usually around 4 - 7. Sometimes you can get a huge container with four beers in for less than the price you would pay for one normally. Expect to pay around £1.50 ($3) during happy hour and £3.50 ($5) out. Also if you are drinking alcohol on a daily basis this can eat away at your budget so try not to drink too much.
You can find cheap, generally hostel dorms are your cheapest bet, they cost around £10 - £20 ($15 - $25 USD). If you are planning on staying somewhere for more than a few days you might also be able to work in the hostel in exchange for free accommodation, these types of hostels can be found but generally off season. Hotels are usually around £25 ($40) per night and again in the main cities this will be more expensive. You could also rent your own campervan, try couchsurfing or WWOOF which allows you to work in exchange for free accommodation. Recommended to book hostels and hotels in advance during peak season when most tourists visit.
Health & Safety
New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world but please check you buy the right insurance policy, some do not cover dangerous and extreme sports. Please also apply lots of sunscreen, New Zealand has a thin ozone layer and has the worlds highest death rate from melanoma. Crime is relatively low but please be street wise and don't flash valuables in public. Always lock valuables in hotels and hostels. For emergencies dial 111 and you will be put through to the emergency services like the police, fire brigade and ambulance services. If calling from an international mobile phone please dial 112. Natives are extremely friendly and welcoming, you might want to get to know more the history of the islands and learn about Maori culture.
New Zealand Gap Year
New Zealand is one of the most popular gap year destinations in the world. By visiting you will get to see spectacular nature, world famous tourist sights, meet new people and create unforgettable memories. New Zealand is small compared to Australia for example, the population is around 4 million which is less than the population of London! We have amazing gap year travel packages available to book all year round where you can experience the best time of your life.
We highly recommend visiting both the North and South islands and there are so many unique and special places to visit this will really make your trip more worthwhile and enjoyable. Most flights arrive into the Auckland located in the North Island, this is at the top of the country an a good place to start. For such a small country there is a lot to keep you occupied, some top recommendations include going whale watching, hiking the Franz Josep glacier, playing giant chess in Christchurch, zorbing, partying in Queenstown and skiing in Wanaka.
There are so many highlights of this stunning destination, for a magical experience go swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura. If adventure is what you are after you could take a Heli-Hike up the Fox Glacier, climb the Franz Josef Glacier and you must see the spectacular scenery in Queenstown. Adventure sports like bungee jumping and sky diving are everywhere and when you see the scenery made famous in the Lord of the Rings films you will be left spellbound.
Best Gap Year Programs in New Zealand
There are so many amazing adventures in New Zealand and to get you excited and to give you some ideas check our list below...
- Go bungee jumping - Queenstown is your destination there are lots of thrilling and nerve shattering jumps but in Auckland you can also bunji jump from the Casino
- Sailing in Auckland, trips depart from the harbour
- Walk around hot springs in Rotarua
- Go Zorbing or Sea Kayaking on the South Island
- Skiing / snowboarding in Wanaka / Queenstown
- White water rafting in Queenstown
- Take an overland trip to explore the New Zealand wilderness
- Go Luging in Queenstown where you can luge with friends seeing spectacular views across the city
- Hike the famous Franz Joesph Glacier and experience something totally different. You can even go sky diving over here
- Try to catch an All Blacks game or watch a local side, the atmosphere is amazing as its the national sport
Advice for Taking a Gap Year in New Zealand
- Before departing you might want to watch a film like Whale Rider to get background information on Mouri culture, this will be a good introduction to the country.
- Don't fly between the islands, you really will miss a lot, go overland instead
- Base Backpackers hostel in Auckland is amazing
- Hiring a campervan is recommended, ir if not lots of overland bus tours operate
- Queenstown is incredible
- Skiing in Wanka is underrated
- You could rent your own camper van - lots of companies offer this service
- Don't worry about spending money, make sure you do, you will only regret the things you don't do
- Zorbing is expensive but a lot of fun - you can't do this is many worldwide destinations
- In Christchurch try to challenge a local person to a game of giant chess in the city centre square - its a lot of fun and different way to spend an afternoon
- The Tranzalpine train journey which runs from Christchurch to Greymouth is one of the most scenic routes in the world, it travels through the mountains - be sure to charge the batteries of your camera
New Zealand Tours
With so many places to visit in both North and South Islands, the most popular way to explore New Zealand is definitely by road. Most travellers choose to join a bus tours – where you are guaranteed to meet other people from all around the world and see the best locations in the country. By joining a tour of New Zealand you can witness first hand the breathtaking scenery made famous in the Lord of the Rings films and experience the thrills of adventure sports like kayaking, canoeing, jet-boating, skiing, white-water rafting, join expeditions, treks or go skiing and snowboarding.
Best New Zealand Tour Operators
Are you wondering what are the best New Zealand tour companies to book with are? On One World 365 you can search and compare trips from top rated New Zealand tour operators including Contiki, G Adventures and Topdeck Travel. Thousands of people travel with these companies every year and they offer highly rated guided tours with good reviews.
Every tour has a different itinerary, but these are generally you will get to travel overland and visit places like Christchurch, Queenstown, Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua, Franz Josef, Kaikoura, Mount Cook, Taupo, Wanaka, Picton, Abel Tasman NP, Fox Glacier, Tongariro National Park, Nelson, Waitomo Caves, Milford Sound, Paihia, Dunedin, Bay of Islands, Rangitata, Punakaiki, Fiordland National Park, Hanmer Springs, Lake Ohau, Doubtful Sound, Mount Aspiring National Park, Te Anau, Raglan and Stewart Island.
New Zealand Small Group Tours
Typical group sizes are around 8-18 travellers with an average of 12 but this can vary between the tour and operator. On most tours you will travel overland in a private small tour van. For day trips and excursions sometimes you will use public transport and sometimes use internal flights to allow you to see the highlights as quick as possible. Usually travellers of the same sex will share a twin room, but there is also the option to pay a little extra and get a private room. Accommodation can vary depending on the tour and location. Some tours also include homestays which allow for a facsinating cultural exchange.
New Zealand Overland Tours
You can book an overland tour or hop on hop off bus trip which will stop at the most popular places in the country. You'll be able to travel in comfort and in a fun environment and discover the most amazing places the country has to offer. A lot of overland trips take you away from the tourist crowds and let you explore off the beaten track places which a lot of people don't visit. New Zealand is a small county but that doesn't mean you have to mix with the masses. There are lots of trips with departures all year round and individual tour guides can give you best advice for places to see and things to do in your spare time. Expect personal, flexible and memorable experience.
New Zealand Adventure Tours
Our tours are perfect if you are travelling solo and would like to meet other people and travel in a group. You will get to meet other international travellers and get taken to the best locations in the country with an experienced guide. Most of our tours specifically cater for the 18-35 age group and are a really popular option due to meeting other people, getting day-to-day activities, hotel check-ins, selected meals, accommodation and also transport/guides included in the price. Don't worry if you are slightly older, most tours accept all ages.
These types of trips are amazing if you are traveling solo to New Zealand, the vast majority of people who join tours are single so its a great social experience. The journeys on offer are a fascinating blend of adventure and culture where you can get up close and personal with locals and nature.
New Zealand Budget Tours
We have a selection of tours for all budgets, so whether you are looking to explore on the cheap or you have a bit more money to spend you will be able to find a trip to match your interests. Our website features lots of cheap tours allowing you to discover the highlights of the country and not break the bank.
How to Book
Has our guide made you want to travel to New Zealand? Search our featured trips above and get ready for the most amazing experience of your life. If you need any help booking a trip in New Zealand please get in touch.