Visiting New Zealand
New Zealand is a super-cool destination for active tourists – especially the younger breed – due to the Lord of the Rings film publicity, English as base language and the incredible variety of wild activities on offer on top of the obvious massed walking/hiking options. Hyperactive, adrenalin-seeking backpackers cannot fail to be impressed by the endless sport options and the splendour of Kiwi landscapes that range from glaciers to subtropical forests hosting no deadly creatures.
The country’s DOC (Department of Conservation) has invested heavily in organizing some of the safest, prettiest and most accessible hiking and cycling trails on the planet. The government has supported eco-friendly track development throughout the country, replacing some rail tracks with cycle routes and focusing on spectacular landscapes – this is, of course, home to Lord of the Rings panoramas.
The Bugcrew explored New Zealand by backpacker bus out of Auckland
Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua. Photo by Christian Mehlfuhrer. Rotorua Photos
We wiggled our way down south through all the sights and cities to South Island’s Queenstown, New Zealand’s primary activity centre, doing the customary activities such as blackwater rafting in the Waitomo caves – which, by the way, means sitting on a rubber ring in freezing river water, way way underground – jet boating and bungee jumping.
Cathedral Cove, aka Te Whanganui-A-Hei. Photo by Mike Bordignon. Coromandel Peninsula Photos
We saw most of this new world’s attractions during the three week bus trip, from a Maori culture show to boiling our dinner potatoes in natural geothermal waters to panning for gold to gumboot throwing. But later the BugForce realised we had missed New Zealand’s raison d’être in this high speed flurry of wacky experiences – hiking on superb, scenic trails!
New Zealand Weather
Best season: December – February (summer)
Generally temperatures are mild with plenty of both sunshine and rain throughout the islands. Mountainous areas of the South Island can drop to -10C (14F) in winter but otherwise averages are 10C-15C (50F- 59F) in winter and 20C-30C (68F-86F) in summer.
The sunniest region in the country is the wine district in the east of the North Island around Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay.
Pretty Good Time: Autumn (March-May), cooler but can be fine; Spring (September-November) a pretty time but temperatures are unpredictable.
Worst Time: June-October (cold, erratically wet, windy), though this season is good for skiing. School holidays are from December 20 to the end of January, a busy time, so book your vacation or hotel well in advance.
Best time for hiking/’tramping’
October – March, but tracks are busy December -January
Avoid: May-Sept (cold and wet, esp. South Island, impassable tracks)
n. b. The weather is unpredictable at any time so take rain gear whatever month you go.
Hiking in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand.
Guided walks are an option for many of the big tracks – including cooking and accommodation – if you want the company of an expert or prefer a bit of comfort along the way.
Independent walkers need to book well in advance for Milford or Routeburn tracks from late October – late April as numbers are restricted to keep human impact to the minimum. Other walks might need it too, so book online ahead of time.
• In terms of exotic culture there’s not much happening though Rotorua offers varied Maori experiences in addition to geothermal stimulation.
• Public transport is in short supply so most visitors rent their own vehicle (camper vans are popular) or join a tour.
• Getting there is a long haul for just about anyone except Australians.
• Sand flies (wicked bloodsucking midges aka No-see-ums) are omnipresent, and not just in sand.
• A little publicised fact regarding bungee jumping. If you’re not particularly fit and/or young, you may have some trouble with your ankle tendons afterwards. You do, after all, throw your entire body weight onto your ankles, and the rope is not the only thing that stretches, though most bungee operators these days use a full body harness to more effectively support the hurtling flesh and bone.
Six months of wild activities in New Zealand with a GoPro Hero on a stick in 2014. You can watch in HD!