After 2 years of tumultuous times and restricted travel, the world is starting to feel more normal again with international trips back on the cards. If you're still hesitant to travel far or just want to experience some bold and spectacular wilderness, there has never been a better time to jump on a plane and head over to the Land of the Long White Cloud, Aotearoa, New Zealand.
New Zealand is often seen as a small country and it shouldn't be too hard to see everything in a few weeks, but you couldn't be more mistaken. We are blessed with an incredible amount of environmental diversity, meaning that each region can often feel like an entirely different country. For instance, from the deserts of Central Otago you're within a few hours of the West Coast rainforests, a phenomenon possible in only a handful of countries.
There are endless valley to explore in the south
As an outdoor adventure guide based in the mountain town of Wanaka, I have had the opportunity to extensively explore the ‘In’s and Outs’ / ‘Do’s and Don'ts’ of our wonderful country. So here’s an inside scoop to help you get the most out of your next trip, my 5 steps to planning the ultimate New Zealand adventure.
Define Your Adventure
Famous for being the land of adventure, it’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed or distracted by the myriad of options on offer throughout NZ. Before starting your planning, first define the purpose of the trip. Nail down a few key things you would love to do, then match these up with a region you would like to explore. If you’re looking to do a Great Walk or explore a certain National Park, they can take up more time than expected, especially where travel is required. Take a ‘Quality over Quantity’ approach - aim not to do too much, too quickly it just ends up making the trip whizz by, so pick a few key things and give them all your attention. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new, NZ is all about different adventures and there is nothing more adventurous than getting out of your comfort zone and doing something for the first time!
Hiking, camping, fishing, hunting.... the activity options in NZ are endless and some of the finest in the world
Choose Where You Want to Go / What you want to do.
Following on from selecting your activities, now it’s important to choose a region that provides what you seek without bouncing all around the place. All too often people underestimate travel times and fatigue when driving on NZ roads, what looks like a skip and a jump may just be a 5-6 hour drive by the time you go through the mountain passes! Depending on the time you have, try to nail down one or two regions to visit and do them well, otherwise you will be spending most of your time staring out the window rather than having your feet on the ground.
The enviromental diversity in NZ can offer a different experience every day
Pick Your Mode of Travel
First off, if you're going to see New Zealand properly it requires you to be driving. With near non-existent public transport options and the most interesting areas off the main routes, it’s essential you give yourself the freedom to explore uninhibited by bus and taxi drivers.
The classic ‘NZ Camper Roadie’ is well documented and taken up by many tourists. However I usually recommend going with a car instead and utilizing the huge array of accomodation options from holiday parks to luxury lodges, AirBnB’s, motels and hotels. The car gives you so much more freedom to roam, without lugging your whole bedroom around the twists and turns of the mountain roads. Not to mention you can actually park in the towns when you need to get supplies!
Self driving is the best way to explore the remote regions of NZ
Get Off the Beaten Track
Like anywhere you travel, there will always be the “Top 10 Attractions” list drawing the crowds, but for true adventurers, New Zealand offers so much more. With a seemingly endless backcountry littered with trails, sights and huts, you can explore until your heart's content. Just grab any detailed topographic map of NZ or jump onto the ‘Department of Conservation’ website to find these offbeat gems scattered far and wide.
Escaping well trod paths doesn't need to be hard and you will be amazed how accessible some of these less visited locales are. Generally, as soon as a road transitions from tarseal to gravel, you can rule out most campervan tourists, then go a little further and you may feel like the last person on the planet. Finding these sweet spots can be an adventure in their own right. It’s worth taking a bit of time to study a map, look for those places that look like just a bit of a detour and go there!
Backcountry huts provide access to even the most remote areas.
Be Fully Prepared for Your Adventure
Just because we don’t have deadly snakes, spiders or crocs, doesn't mean you can take the NZ wilderness lightly. Weather patterns and forecasts here can be notoriously fickle and should be considered with wise caution. When heading into the backcountry, regardless of how well things are planned, you should alway be fully prepared for when things go wrong or you get caught out by the unexpected.
It’s worth investing in a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) for your trip, but you should also always be prepared with the safety and survival essentials in case that poor weather prevents immediate rescue. You may need to wait a night (or more) for rescue, so be sure to carry:
- Emergency shelter
- Medical supplies
- Water filter
- Tools like a fire kit and light source
After two years stuck at home, reward that intrepid adventurer tucked inside you. Take the short hop over to explore New Zealand and all it has to offer. From crystal beaches in Northland to Fiords in Milford Sound and everything in between. There is something for everybody.
Start with a purpose, grab a map, look beyond the obvious and remember to be prepared, as you never know what will be around the next corner!