New Zealand or Aotearao (The Maori name for New Zealand, which translates to “The Land of the Long White Cloud”) had been on the top of my travel bucket-list for a long time and I was beyond excited when everything fell into place and I could make a trip happen. I would be spending a little more than 4 weeks in New Zealand and my main goal was to explore the mountainous regions of the Southern Alps and Fiordlands, and indulge in some tourist-y things along the way. I had a general idea of the areas I wanted to visit but had kept a pretty open and flexible schedule to visit these places. While readers can read my entire sojourn on Ghumr, here is my itinerary and quick traveling tips and facts about places I visited.
Arrival in New Zealand – Christchurch
Aoraki or Mount Cook National Park – 5 days/4 nights
Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park – 6 days/5 nights (In total)
Franz Josef Glacier – 2 Days/2 nights
Back to back Great Walks of New Zealand – 11 days (Routeburn Track, Milford Track and Kepler Track)
Beaches of New Zealand – 4 days/3 nights
Departure to Sydney from Christchurch
Hostel: I stayed at the YHA Christchurch on Hereford street, a great location, within walking distance of downtown, the Botanical Gardens, Re:Start Mall and lots of restaurants and bars. Another good hostel is Jailhouse Accommodation, a funky hostel situated in an abandoned jailhouse. A little further away from downtown but in a pretty good location.
Good restaurants on Victoria and Madras Street. Re:start Mall has some great food-trucks during the day (try the chicken sandwich at the French cart). Speights Ale House has some good brews and food as well.
The bus system is a pretty good option when travelling within Christchurch. From the airport, there is a bus every 15-20 minutes to the city center. Buy a round trip ticket to save 2$, if your return flight is within a month. There is a huge bus interchange in city center, which is the nerve center to take buses anywhere else within the city.
Hostel: The YHA Purple Cow in Wanaka is one of my favorite hostels in New Zealand. It’s a 2-minute walk from the lakeshore and has a huge patio where you can watch the sun set over the lake and the mountains. The kitchen and common areas are large and clean. Since the YHA is usually full for last-minute travelers, BASE Wanaka is another last-minute option. It is more of a party hostel where the party buses stop, so it’s not as clean or quiet.
Lots of good restaurants and bars on lakefront for all budgets and tastes. On a sunny day, most of these restaurants are packed with tourists and locals sitting outside. A cheaper option is go to the two food-trucks next to BASE Wanaka that serve awesome pizza and burritos, and eat that by the lake.
Transport tips: Wanaka is a pretty small town and there isn’t much in the way of public transport. Hostels usually have bikes for rent or you can walk to most places. For places that are further off, you can either hitch-hike (very common) or book a shuttle.
Hostel: Queenstown is very busy and usually hostels are in high demand. Hence, the hostels are not maintained as well as other places in New Zealand. YHA Queenstown Central is a decent hostel, in the main part of town. Very industrial and busy and unlike most other YHAs in New Zealand, but better than most other hostels. Nomads Queenstown is another good option, comparatively clean and very hip. If you aren’t going to do much cooking and are okay with a party crowd, this hostel will work. For someone who wants to be away from the hustle-bustle, YHA Queenstown Lakefront is a good option. It is a 20-minute walk from city center but in a pretty quiet location.
Since Queenstown is tourist-central, there are hundreds of restaurants and bars to choose from. You will get all cuisines, budgets and comforts. Some of my favorites were Ferburger, Fergbakery, Devils Burger, Ballarat Trading Company and The Botswana Butchery. There are also a lot of bars with great happy hour drinks, if you are in the mood for day drinking.
Queenstown itself is a small enough place to be able to walk around, which is the most convenient because traffic and parking in the city is a nightmare. For places that are further off, like the airport or Arrowtown, there is a city bus service. For other touristy destinations like Milford Sound, Glenorchy or the various locations for adrenaline activities, you will either have to drive or arrange transportation with a tour operator.
So get ready for my adventure here!