How to plan a New Zealand itinerary
Spectacular mountain ranges, glacial-carved fjords and sun-drenched beaches - New Zealand has it all and more! The only difficult part about visiting this Pacific Ocean nation is deciding where you want to go and the experiences you want to have. Across its two main islands, you’ll find buzzing cities, breathtakingly remote landscapes and as much adventure as you can pack into a holiday.
As you plan your itinerary, you can easily find accommodation online at Rentaroo, which offers everything from New Zealand vacation houses to rentals in Australia. It’s a user-friendly platform for connecting holidaymakers with property owners while allowing you to compare what is out there. In this article, we’ll touch on some of the other things you need to consider when planning a New Zealand escape to ensure it’s an unforgettable adventure.
The best time to visit New Zealand
New Zealand experiences a relatively mild climate, with average daytime temperatures around 12 to 16˚C in the winter and 20 to 25˚C in the summer. New Zealand’s North Island tends to be warmer and wetter than the South Island, although there are lots of local variations due to coastal and mountain influences.
Summer (December, January, February) is the most popular time to visit New Zealand, due to the inviting weather and the extended school holidays. To avoid the crowds, you might want to consider visiting in the autumn (March, April, May). During this period, the temperatures are still relatively warm but the reduced demand for accommodation means that prices drop.
Winter in New Zealand is all about snow sports, with the season usually starting in July and centred on the South Island. As the temperatures warm again in spring (September, October, November) and the daylight hours begin increasing, it’s the perfect time for outdoor activities such as hiking.
North Island or South Island…or both!
One of the first things most travellers think about when planning a New Zealand getaway is whether they want to explore the North Island, the South Island or both. The good news is, there’s no “best” island and whichever you choose, you’ll discover incredible scenery and all the adventure opportunities that New Zealand is famed for.
Broadly speaking, the North Island is more about beaches, volcanoes and geothermal activity, with places such as Rotorua serving up spurting geysers and boiling mud pools. You can bathe in the hot springs of the Coromandel Peninsula or hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the most popular day walks in the country. Wine lovers can tour the sun-drenched vineyards of Hawkes Bay or escape to beautiful Waiheke Island before following in the footsteps of Hobbits in Matamata. The North Island is also home to two energised, harbourside cities - Auckland and Wellington - both of which provide convenient aviation gateways.
In contrast, the South Island is more about snow-capped mountains, immense glaciers and spectacular fjords, making it a hub for alpine trekking and winter sports. It’s home to some of New Zealand’s most famous walks, including the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track, as well as world-class mountain biking in Christchurch and Queenstown. During the snow season, you can hit the downhill trails of Cadrona, Coronet Peak and the Remarkables before marvelling at the glacial waters of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. No visit to the South Island is complete without a cruise through Milford Sound to admire its spectacular waterfalls.
Getting around New Zealand
Renting a car or campervan is the most popular way to get around New Zealand as it gives you the flexibility to access national parks that aren’t on bus or train routes. Due to the country’s abundance of nature-based destinations, you’ll probably see more campervans on the road in New Zealand compared to other destinations, as they allow you to access and camp in remote places.
But if you don’t feel confident about driving, buses are a cheap alternative and connect almost all of New Zealand’s towns and cities. The only downside is that you need to coordinate your itinerary with the bus schedules. New Zealand also has several train lines, such as the Northern Explorer, the Coastal Pacific and the TranzAlpine, which are more about the scenery than getting commuters from A to B. With huge viewing windows and commentary along the way, they are a great way to soak up the country’s natural splendour.
New Zealand visa requirements
Visitors travelling on Australian or UK passports don’t require a visa to enter New Zealand as a tourist, nor do travellers from over 50 visa waiver countries. That being said, you may need to apply for a NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before being allowed to enter the country. Approval can take up to 72 hours, so it’s important that you check the requirements and apply at least a few days ahead of your planned departure.
In addition, your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond your intended departure date from New Zealand and you must have an onward ticket proving that you are planning on leaving the country.