You can read all about where to go and what to see all over the interwebs, but here is a list of New Zealand travel tips and cool facts you likely won’t read about elsewhere!
New Zealand certainly lived up to its expectation. It was amazing. The landscape is mesmerizing because it’s so different from what we have in the US – one minute you feel like you’re in the jungle, and the next, Colorado. But, within like a mile of each other. The mountains are abundant. The water is blue, blue, blue. And the sand flies…are the devil himself. If you’re planning your own New Zealand travel adventure, here are some cool tips and facts to give you a head start on your adventure!
New Zealand Travel Tips and Cool Facts
- The New Zealand version of The Bachelor is far more awkward than the US version.
- Sand flies are the devil incarnate. I’m not kidding. Don’t think you can get away with the natural bug repellent stuff here – go with Deet. Seriously.
- The weather in the fall is very similar to San Diego weather. When the sun is out, it’s glorious. When the sun hides behind the clouds, it’s downright cold. Layers are necessary! I recommend something like this North Face Women’s Resolve Wind/Rain Jacket – it’s light, packs down small, and it’s great for wind and/or rain.
- New Zealand wine is nice and cheap since there are no foreign import taxes!
- New Zealanders are really nice people, even to Americans. Let’s not abuse that!
- Fergburger burgers lived up to the hype and were worth the long line. So did their gelato. Their meat pies were meh.
- Kayaking in Abel Tasman is a must do…but, get in to shore by 3 or the waves will eat you alive. We had the craziest boat ride back over these 10 foot swells because of the winds, and it sounded like that was a normal occurrence for them. Check out R&R Kayakas – Rohan was awesome, and so was his team!
- Tomtit birds have incredibly beautiful songs and they’re super puffy and cute and I want one.
- You can walk the streets of Queenstown with a drink in hand before 10pm. It feels weird and unnatural, especially when you cross the street with a wine glass right in front of the police, but nobody stopped me or seemed to care. There are signs confirming this, so it’s not just hearsay 🙂
- Deer are kept as farm animals, just like cows. It’s a weird sight to see then grouped together on the farm.
- They don’t drink cream in their coffee in New Zealand, just regular milk, and drip coffee is pretty hard to find.
- Air Conditioning is not common, but heated blankets and heated towel racks are. Even at the holiday parks!
- WiFi is not the greatest, at least at most places we stayed. I had better wifi in Bali.
- Apparently, they frown upon you driving on the right side of the road. Check the restrictions for licensing, but coming from America we didn’t need any sort of special permit or licence. The first day was the hardest, especially driving in a big city like Auckland. The actual driving on the left side isn’t the hard part – it’s making turns onto other streets, and getting your brain to register what it needs to do on the round-abouts.
- Rotorua is supposedly the Vegas of New Zealand, and has a lot of gang activity. We experienced neither.
- Stores don’t sell styrofoam coolers. Seriously. We went to like 5 stores in 3 towns – they all knew what we were talking about, but none of them had any. And no I don’t normally support styrofoam, but we needed something to keep our sandwiches and snacks and stuff cold, and the only alternative was spending $35+ on a regular cooler that we’d have to leave behind at the end of the trip.
- Some towns have public restrooms that take New Zealand coins. We never changed money over – kept meaning to, kept forgetting, didn’t really need any other than for using the public restrooms. So, it may be worthwhile to exchange $20 at the airport and get some coins and small bills so that you have them. Other than this, we used credit card everywhere.
- Speaking of credit cards – like many international countries, if your credit card doesn’t have a pin (like mine with Capital One), you may have trouble at some places. I had an issue at one gas station and at one grocery store because Capital One doesn’t have pins, but I just went to a different gas station. If you don’t have a pin, you’ll have to go inside to buy your gas so that you can sign the receipt, but otherwise it’s not a big deal.
- Normal American bacon is called “streaky bacon”. Otherwise it’s like Canadian bacon. And they don’t cook their bacon crispy like they do in America.
- Those cool glowworms you see? They’re fly larvae. Essentially, they emit their glow to attract food, and then catch them in their strings. Once they reach maturity, they turn into flies and have sex for an entire day before dying. It’s all very romantic. But, that aside, the Waitomo glowworm cave tubing tour was pretty awesome. It’s a good mix of adventure and fun, but then they also have this part where you lazy river along slowly in your tub with the top of the caves lit up with the glowworms.
- You can’t get on Fox or Franz Glaciers unless you do a tour. Sadly, the glaciers have receded so far back that you can barely even see them on the hikes. We actually had a better view of Fox Glacier from a spot we drove down Cook Flat Road.
- The water on the Milford track is pretty much safe to drink. They have their warning that you can boil it if you are worried, but we drank it with no filter the whole trek and we were fine. The rangers also said they never treat their water and they’ve never had issues. But, if you DO get sick, it’s not my fault.
- Speaking of the Milford track – the hike is deceiving. It doesn’t look incredibly difficult, but the hike down from Mackinnon pass is terrible. It’s very rocky, and big steps, so you have to be very careful with your footing. By the time we got to Sutherland falls, our legs were shaking from exhaustion.
- If you get the chance, stop at the Cardrona Hotel on the way from Wanaka to Queenstown. It is very unassuming from the outside, but beautiful inside and in the back. We stopped here for a drink, but I wish now I could have spent a nice romantic evening here!
- Kea’s are the world’s only Alpine Parrot – and they like to chew rubber. If you are in an area with Kea’s, hang your boots. Don’t leave them on the ground.
- Didymo, otherwise known as rock snot, is an invasive algae that can be spread in a single drop of water. Fiordland National Park is currently clear of didymo, as are many other areas in southern New Zealand, but it is a major concern. So please – wash your boots and hiking poles! Let’s keep the water clean and blue.
- You don’t need to go to Hobbittown on your New Zealand travel to experience the Lord of the Rings. We drove by Mount Doom, and got to go horseback riding near the Misty Mountains. There are tours that will take you to locations where parts of the movies were made, and they’re far more authentic than paying to see a movie set.
If you’ve enjoyed my New Zealand travel tips and you’d like to read more about my adventure in New Zealand and find out where you can experience the fabulous photos below? Read along with details of my two-week itinerary of both the North and South Islands.