This post Budget Travel Tips For New Zealand was written by Michelle Peng, a graduate of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design focusing on graphic design and digital media. Michelle has a passion for adventure, looking for inspiration for her creative practices wherever she travels. She hopes to pursue her graphic design career while finding ways to continue exploring the world. Check out Michelle Peng’s portfolio here.
After a month in Asia, my friend Mara and I decided to continue our adventure in New Zealand where the weather would be the complete opposite of the humid summer we just experienced. We headed there with absolutely no plan, no winter clothes, and nothing booked except a car. We were ready for a spontaneous two and a half week road trip filled with hikes, pretty views, and endless sheep farms.
Budget Travel Tips for New Zealand: Cars VS Campervans
When we decided to go to New Zealand, the first thing we had to consider was whether we wanted to rent a normal car or a campervan. We ended up choosing a regular car for a variety of reasons. First, there was just the two of us and gas for normal cars was significantly cheaper than what a campervan required. Second, we felt more comfortable driving a small car around winding mountain routes for long distances. Third, you still need to pay for camping sites, especially if you wanted power (which would be necessary since it was the middle of winter), so we preferred exploring hostels and Airbnbs.
Budget Travel Tips for New Zealand: Favorite hostels and Airbnbs
Our standards for where we slept were very low in order to keep it at a cheaper price. Our places usually averaged $20 a night and always fulfilled our needs. Since it was New Zealand’s off season, we had the luxury of booking our places the night before from Hostelworld, Airbnb, or Booking.com. It was also easy because we visited many remote towns so we only had a few options to consider anyway. Here were some of my favorite places…
Hanmer Springs Forest Camp
This campsite was a 5 minute drive from a little town center with food options, a grocery store, and a few shops. It was surrounded by mountains and really was in the middle of the forest. We stayed in an adorable shed on the campground, and although small, we had one of our best nights of sleep here!
Working Farm in Middle Valley, Canterbury
We booked this Airbnb because we wanted a farm experience and Maureen, our host, did not disappoint. Upon arrival, we immediately started petting the abundance of farm dogs and feeding alpacas and sheep.
Cardno’s Studio Unit in Kaka Point
This room was absolutely beautiful with open windows and an ocean view. I can’t imagine a more peaceful last night or a more stunning sunrise on my last day.
Favorite Places/Activities In New Zealand:
If you’re an adrenaline junkie like me, skydiving in New Zealand is a must! If you love mountains and oceans, then you would love seeing them from 12,000 ft in the air. The opportunity to skydive is everywhere but we chose Taupo because of the fantastic Lake Taupo and mountain views.
Kaikoura is a small coastal town on the South Island and it doesn’t have much but I absolutely loved it. The drive on the coast was unbelievably blue and we stepped out of the car into salty air. There were fur seals lining the shore where you could easily get close as long as they were okay with it. Mara and I spent our day collecting seashells, enjoying the salty air, hanging out with seals, and exploring the small shops.
One of the most unforgettable sites we saw was the Church of the Good Shepherd. The small, stone church overlooks Lake Tekapo’s crystal blue water with mountains lining the background. Some people just come for the views but for others, it’s one of those places where God’s presence is strong and mighty.
Budget Travel Tips for New Zealand: Food
Although we were staying in hostels and Airbnbs, we were still living a very campy lifestyle and food was no exception. We saved the most on food costs by grocery shopping, packing sandwiches, and cooking pasta for dinner. It also helped us stay on the move because we could eat our sandwiches and bananas on the drive to our next hike. But when we would indulge, I was on the search for quality fish and chips and seafood chowder. Of the places we went to, my top three fish and chips places were Pub n Grub in Taupo, Cooper’s Catch in Kaikoura, and Coene’s Bar and Eatery in Wellington. Each of these places were next to some body of water, had wonderful views, and even better food!
I’ll Be Back One Day:
The two and half weeks I spent in New Zealand will hold a dear place in my heart. I am forever grateful for the kind people, untouched landscapes, starry nights, never-ending mountains, blue skies, and even bluer waters. A part of me was left in this extraordinary country and I will be back soon!
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