Backpacking tour of New Zealand – The Basics

Spread the love

The last few months I’ve been pretty quiet. We’ve actually been back in the UK almost 6 months now (and already getting itchy feet, so hello Scotland trip!)Β  So it’s really high time I got blogging again, and more regularly. And so – here it comes: the epic series of posts reliving the most wonderful 2 months backpacking around New Zealand.

After spending 10 months in the country, and hearing a lot from fellow backpackers, and from doing our own research we had a general idea of what we wanted to do and the things we wanted to see.


As neither of us drive we opted to go down the bus route. We used Intercity buses – we bought a 60 hour Flexipass bus pass, where you pay for 60 hours of travel. Then as you book your individual trips, they take away the estimated travel time from your 60 hours. (This also meant we could use the passes to get the Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton, rather than booking those separately) And it meant that all our travel was paid for from the very beginning, so no getting stuck somewhere with no money.

For our needs we figured we’d go for the most hours they offered, as we had a pretty epic list of places we wanted to visit. We got lucky because by the very end, we had 9 minutes of journey time left.


We used mostly Hostelworld for accommodation, and tended to plan around 2 weeks ahead to make sure we always had somewhere to stay. This meant that we had to do away with some flexibility but it worked for us. As we were in spring and heading towards summer, we had no idea how busy the hostels would get. Other than the odd foray into AirBnb it seemed to be the cheapest way to go.

We had 8 weeks to cover all of New Zealand, so we decided to spend around 4 weeks down in the South Island. Starting from Wellington (see red point in the map below!) we hopped on a ferry across to the other island, and headed down the east coast first and looped clockwise around and came back up the west coast. After spending a few days back in Wellington we would then head up the North Island towards Auckland, where we stayed with my family in Matakana for a few days (see yellow point on the below map!) And then our return flights left from Auckland to London. We actually ended up staying on the South Island for 5 weeks. As there was just so much to see and do down there, so unfortunately there were some things we missed on our trip up the North Island. However I think largely we hit everything we wanted to, and packed in so much.


(Please note there is a slight gap in the below map between Clarence and Oaro – as we took the East Coast road to Kaikoura – however that road is currently closed due to the 2016 earthquake there.)


Two months of travel is pretty epic – no work, no schedules (other than bus days) no worries aside from what shall we do/eat today, just freedom. And although I had a fantastic time in Wellington, to me this felt the real adventure was beginning.

The Itinerary eventually went something a little like this – I will add links as the posts get added!

September 2015




Lake Tekapo

Mount Cook


Te Anau (Plus Milford Sound day trip)

Milford Sound Eco Tour Review


Fox Glacier

Franz Glacier




Picton (again)

October 2015

Wellington (again)






October 28th – London Heathrow

Day 1 - backpacking Picton New Zealand
Day 1 – First stop Picton!

Two months of pure travel is also quite intense. Just revisiting the list above makes me realise how much we crammed into such a small amount of time. When travelling as a couple it can be kinda easy to wind each other up. Particularly when you see each other 24 hours a day for 2 months straight. And living on a budget (and calorie deficit) while walking so much and for distances that you aren’t used to, and never feeling entirely rested can take a toll. At times it could be physically and mentally exhausting, but also absolutely mind boggling.


But then, that feeling of conquering a hill or mountain. Or just a particular walk, seeing the view from the top,Β  watching the sun go down, or that picture perfect image and taking it all in make it so so worth it. Those moments where you realise the things in front of you are real and so much more spectacular than a photograph could ever convey. Ultimately it was an incredibly bonding, shared experience, where we did and saw so many wonderful things together – New Zealand truly is a stunning country.


I miss it incredibly. The challenge, the excitement.

Packing up and moving on every few days, new sights to see (and photograph) rather than the daily grind of work and home. Reading back my travel notes makes me almost homesick for it. Travelsick – is that a thing? Anyway, it was fab, I can’t sing its praises enough. And I can’t wait to share with you the individual places we visited within New Zealand. (And also to get moving again, walking holiday in Scotland coming up in 2 weeks, woohoo!) I hope you enjoy this series of posts. Lots more to come, and please get in touch if you have any questions!


Spread the love

32 thoughts to “Backpacking tour of New Zealand – The Basics”

  1. Wow, what an adventure, two months away from everything in such a beautiful place like New Zealand! You always remember this time as the best time of your life, my best memories are from trips like that, more than a month long, just traveling!

  2. Great guide to New Zealand, I have not been there yet but I am excited to check it out. The bus pass sounds like a good option.

    1. We had to budget our time really – we tried to spend 2-3 days in each place. Some destinations we could have stayed far longer (and will probably revisit) and a few we probably would have been ok doing one night, but at the time we didn’t really know ourselves!

  3. I’ve wanted to visit New Zealand for a while now! It looks like a pretty exciting place with incredible landscapes. Looks like you really hit all the stops in New Zealand. I hope you had a fantastic time πŸ™‚

  4. Sounds incredible! I usually travel alone, and I can say that there is a solo-counterpart for the part about being with someone for long periods of time – so totally get that feeling! But I’m like y’all in that I like to fill my time and see/do everything I possibly can in a short period. Will definitely stop back by here when I plan a NZ trip πŸ˜€

  5. WOW, what an incredible journey you had! I have never been in that part of the world but would love to now. I’m sure it must feel like you know the country well now after spending 2 months there and visiting so many places. Thank you for sharing

  6. Wow! That’s quite a trip. NZ is pretty far off for me, so I think I’d need just about the same amount of time as you if I choose to explore it. I’ve bookmarked your post to refer back to it. πŸ™‚

  7. waow!
    I envy you!
    I would love to discover new Zealand!

    we traveled a lot with my husband: Nepal x3, India, Italy, Morocco and family with our 2 young children in Japan.
    You can also find my road trip from Nepal and India on my blog, the beginning of Morocco and Japan (not finished yet) if you feel like it:

    Traveling without children is ideal: D

    We have been to London lately and also know Scotland very well (my husband’s sister lives in Glasgow).

    What if I tell you that I’m French and live in Germany? What a course is not it!
    Anyway I will come back to read your road trip in New Zealand with great pleasure before a very certain escapade on our side in this so pretty country!

    Thank you for this article.

  8. Welcome back to blogging and I’m so excited to read your series about your New Zealand adventures! Sometime would you consider doing a post about traveling for such a long period of time with your partner? I love my husband madly, but I’m not sure I could be with him 24×7 for 8 weeks. Also, if you compared thoughts about how each of you coped, would they be similar? x

    1. I would definitely do a post like that in the future, its on the agenda. Long term travel as a couple isn’t always easy but its very do-able, I think you just need to have some patience with each other. You raised an interesting question about whether we would have similar answers, I’ll ask him!

    1. Yes I would say so, I found New Zealand to be very safe, and I wouldn’t personally have had a problem going around on my own.

  9. It’s great that you and your husband were travel partners for the backpacking adventure. I can’t imagine it would be easy having someone near and dear in my face 24×7, so I agree with Alison, it would be great if you did a post about it. A friend of mine went to New Zealand with her husband for the rugby last year and had a fabulous time, so I’m looking forward to reading all about your adventure.

  10. I have not been to New Zealand yet. Look at the adventure you make me want to go right now. Travel always brings me memories and comfortable times. I think you can’t forget this adventure?

  11. I can imagine that two months of travel with your partner is intense like you said but I also like how you said that the feeling of climbing a mountain can be an achievement in itself and feel enthralling! I admire those who are able to travel for long periods of time x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *