New Zealand remains one of my favorite places. New Zealand is home to stunning mountains, glaciers, and beaches. However, beauty comes at a cost. One wrong turn can lead to a sea of tour buses, screaming babies, or hordes upon hordes after you have taken hundreds of photos with your tripod camera. These are my top tips to plan the perfect outdoor trip to New Zealand.
1. Make an itinerary
Don’t be afraid of breaking it. Our 6 week trip to New Zealand was not without its challenges. However, we had buffer days between the big activities. Bad weather caused the cancellation of our White Island Volcano Tour. We were fortunate to have no plans for the next day, so we were able go on the tour!
It’s difficult to be spontaneous and play by ear when you are doing a lot of overnight hikes. Abel Tasman, Milford Track and Routeburn Track campsites are booked months in advance. There are sometimes cancellations at the last minute, but it is common to book these campsites 3 to 6 months in advance.
2. Get up at sunrise and stay up past midnight
New Zealand has many stunning scenic attractions. However, it is likely that it won’t be found in either a Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor guide. These places are best visited at sunrise and at night, when the stars are shining. A few popular spots such as Hokitika Gorge were visited in the middle of day. We found it to be a ‘ok’ experience due to the large crowds. We were completely surprised to find the Wanaka Tree empty when we went to visit it at 2AM.
3. Do not be afraid to skip things
New Zealand is full of pressure. It’s all beautiful and you only have so much time. You decide what is important to you, and not others. We never made it to Milford during our six weeks there. Many people were shocked to learn this. They told us that we had missed out on the fun, but I don’t feel FOMO. It was so much fun to see and do the things that we chose, I wouldn’t trade it. Everybody is unique, so every person’s ideal travel situation will be different. It’s okay that not everyone wants to visit mega tourist attractions.
4. Respect the locals
New Zealand is known for its freedom camping rules, which also apply to campervans. Respect local laws when you travel around. Because of the disrespectful behavior of tourists who use public parks to go to the toilet and don’t clean up after themselves, there has been a lot discussion about freedom camping in areas like Lake Tekapo. Freedom camping laws will vary from one region to the next. For example, a toilet that is self-contained may not be allowed in some regions.
5. Search Instagram for Local Bloggers and download an app
Because I was trying to avoid the huge crowds of TripAdvisor travellers and families with babies crying, I discovered a lot of our destinations via local New Zealand bloggers and Instagram. When we arrived in a new city, I used Rankerz to search for local information. You can also download it on your smartphone. Although it takes some time and patience to find the good from the ugly, I believe the effort is well worth it.