New Zealand remains one of the greatest and most spectacular countries in the world. With beautiful landscape, amazing food, strong indigenous community and adventurous activities, it is a traveller's dream destination. Always pretty pumped up about setting off on a roadtrip through New Zealand, tramping from the North to the South Island, and i can now officially cross that off my bucket list!
Itinerary and Road Map covering 14 days of New Zealand Road Trip, rubber tramping over 3,500km. Crossing Towns/Places of Interest in sequence of North-South Road Trip:
Accommodations below are based on Twin/Queen Beds. Hostel Dorm will cost around NZD20-30 a night and private room from NZD70 onwards. You can also choose to stay in a campervan/caravan depending on your mode of travel. Another good alternative will be Airbnb ;)
- Auckland - The Attic Backpacker NZD84
- Rotorua - Airbnb "Fabulous View" by Judy NZD85
- Tongariro National Park - Skotel Alpine Resort NZD70
- Wellington - Airbnb "Sunny, cozy room" by Huanoa NZD70
- Nelson - Tasman Bay Backpackers NZD74
- Greymouth - Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park NZD90
- Queenstown - Airbnb "Room for..." by Jonathas NZD115
- Lake Tekapo - Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park NZD119
- Christchurch - YMCA Christchurch NZD70
Foods, eating out in New Zealand is relatively expensive; a restaurant with table service can cost about NZD28-40, Chinese take-away cost about NZD12, fast food cost about NZD7-15 and sandwiches for about NZD8. For a sensible way to save money, you can choose to cook your own meal. Costing approximately NZD75 per week, you can get it from Countdown or New World.
Notes of Wisdom: If you plan to get a Traveler's SIM (500MB Internet Data), there is Spark (NZD19) or Vodafone (NZD23) with the similar perks. I would strongly recommend Spark for better coverage.
ONE NIGHT IN AUCKLAND
The big tourist city, i'm not overly fond of Auckland, maybe it's too fast to judge as i barely scraped the surface of Auckland with just one night. It reminded me a lot of Melbourne with the streets alike, but only that Auckland is much smaller without the City Tram. There are probably fun nightlife in Auckland, so i wouldn't strike off the city but wouldn't spend much time here either because there are many more exciting and beautiful places in New Zealand to explore! From Auckland to Rotorua, we detoured to Tauranga, and did a trail around the sacred mountain Mauao (Mt. Maunganui). The trail will bring you from north to the west side of Mauao, where it offers great view of open ocean and Matakana Island.
Places of interest: Auckland Street, Sky Tower, Otara Flea Market, Auckland Domain, Auckland Harbour, Tauranga Mauao Trail.
Photography Tips: A place for Cityscape and Street Photography. Here you can find architecture patterns and lines of high-rise buildings and interesting people along the street. Look for leading lines to create strong sense of coherence in otherwise chaotic scene.
ENTERING THE "ROTTEN EGG" OF ROTORUA
As we infiltrated the city of Rotorua, a rather pungent odour erupts quickly. Truth be told, it smells like rotten eggs! It grows on you, of course not in an uncomfortable fungal way. It is the smell of the sulphur geothermal activities in the region, the intense presence of beneficial minerals and the readily available natural remedies that the mother nature offers.
Places of interest: Lake Rotorua, Redwood Forest (Whakarewarewa), Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, Moari Culture.
Photography Tips: Traveling from Auckland to Rotorua will probably take you half a day, arriving at Lake Rotorua at noon might not be an ideal exposure for the reflective lake. Consider to visit Redwood (Whakarewarewa) in the noon-afternoon and Lake Rotorua in the evening. Wai-O-Tapu is on the same path from Rotorua towards Tongariro, you can visit the geothermal park ideally the next morning.
CROSSING TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK
From Rotorua to Tongariro National Park, you'll pass by Lake Taupo - a quiet version of Queenstown. If you have enough time, it's definitely worth a 2-night stay. We only manage to catch lunch here before heading to Tongariro National Park - the first World Heritage Site in New Zealand, home to rugged diverse landscape, volcanic peaks and lush native bush.
Places of interest: Lake Taupo, Alpine Crossing (all day), Mt. Ruapehu Crater Lake (all day), Taranaki Lookout, Tupapakurua Falls track, Whakapapa Nature Walk, Tawhai Falls.
Photography Tips: Tongariro offers a beautiful view of the snow mountain, however it's highly dependent on weather; it fogged up the whole day during my visit. Within the national park, with many options from short to long treks, you'll be spoilt for choices. You can pick the route most suitable to your schedule. The long 7.5 hrs (all day) trek Tongariro Alpine Crossing is highly recommended if time permits. In additional, you can photograph the snow mountain at Mt. Ruapehu Ski and Snowboard. A Grad-Natural-Density filter OR exposure-bracketing will be useful in capturing these tricky white snow and bright sky.
FROM THE NORTH TO SOUTH - WELLINGTON TO NELSON
Yes, Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, with magic of its own architectures and eclectic vibes of the city lifestyle. We spent a night in Wellington to catch an early morning ferry transfer from North Island (Wellington) to the magical South Island (Picton). Nelson is an hour drive away from Picton, one of the sunniest place in the country, filled with cafes, restaurants and pubs. At Nelson, we did a short hike to the Centre of New Zealand - overlooking the Cityscape of Nelson.
Places of interest: Abel Tasman National Park, Centre of New Zealand, Nelson Farmers Market.
Photography Tips: Tongariro to Wellington is a long 5 hours drive. You probably wouldn't want to rush it with the winding (frosty if winter) road condition. Do take your sweet time and consider a little detour to Waikawa Beach. There you will be able to capture the beautiful scenery as the sun sets. At the capital of NZ, consider a trek up to Mt. Victoria lookout point for Cityscape overview or just explore the city by foot for Street Photography. At Nelson, a short hike to the Centre of New Zealand will take you around 45 minutes. Get your tripod ready for Evening/Night Cityscape, you might get lucky with a Milkyway shot. Nelson also serves as a gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, it worth a visit if time permits.
THE GREAT COAST OF GREYMOUTH
From Nelson to Greymouth, you'll pass by Buller Gorge Swing Bridge. We did the shorter treks around the gorge, that brought us into the beautiful woods. Thereafter, followed the coastline route towards Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks). It wasn't a fruitful stop as most of the view points were obstructed by the overgrown grass, hardly can find the right spot for photography. We cruised along the Great Coast Road towards Greymouth, stopped by a view point after Slow Bay curves for sunset view of the Apostles.
Other than the "no light zones" at Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook, Greymouth is one of the darker cities you can find. Pass by Shantytown on your right, continue on until you find a location dark enough overlooking the Milkyway. Found mine in the middle of the road.
Places of interest: Buller Gorge, Punakaiki, Great Coast Road, Shantytown.
Photography Tips: To shoot Milkyway, set your camera to Manual, turn to the largest aperture your wide lens can go, start with ISO3200, and follow the shutter 500 Rules to guesstimate your shutter speed (500/lens focal length); for example, i was using a 20mm lens, my optimal shutter speed will 500/20=25 seconds.
THE BEST TOWN IN NZ! QUEENSTOWN
Everybody seems to like Queenstown, seriously, everybody! Not hard to see why, a phenomenal city built around Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. There are so much vibes in the city that attract tourists from all around the world. Queenstown, a focal point for adventures like ski, skydive, bungy... We have initially planned for one night but ended up staying for 3 nights. It was definitely worth it.
Places of interest: Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown Hill, Queenstown Gondola, Glenorchy, Cardrona Ski Area, Milford Sound.
Photography Tips: From Greymouth, drop by Fox Glacier for a short trek. In Queenstown, take a hike to Queenstown Hills (3 hrs returns) from Belfast Street, you'll be rewarded with a vantage point of Queenstown Cityscape. Alternatively, you can jump on the Skyline Gondola, for higher dramatic view of Queenstown. To capture snow mountain across the lake, drive 45 minutes from Queenstown to a historical small town, Glenorchy and take the swamp trail around the lake. If you're up for snow activities, Cardrona Ski & Snowboarding is just an hour and half away from Queenstown. There, you will be rewarded with a majestic landscape of the snow mountain.
Nestled between the Two Thumb Range and Mt. John in the heart of Southern Alps, Lake Tekapo never cease to impress. Picture perfect turquoise lake, snow-capped mountains; this simple recipe has created a beauty so rare at Tekapo, with landscape so striking it deflates your breath. The same reason also made Lake Tekapo, one of the most photographed places in the region. Driving from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo, you'll pass by Lake Pukaki, a place worth the stop for a different perspective of the frequently featured turquoise lake and snow mountains. Lake Tekapo also serves as a gateway to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, definitely a must visit. Take a short trek (3 hrs return) to Hooker Valley Track, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view of Mt. Cook over Hooker Lake.
Places of interest: Lake Pukaki, Aoraki Mount Cook, Church of Good Shepherd, Mt. John Observatory
Photography Tips: Take a short walk from popular attractions, find your own perspective in capturing the most photographed place. Composition for photograph and painting is often similar, both emphasise on 3 elements of visual mass plane to highlight on space, depth and the concept of foreground, mid-ground and background.
CHRISTCHURCH THE GARDEN CITY
With 2011 earthquake still haunting the town, most of the attractions are fenced up for restoration. Christchurch is a city featured with beautifully sculpted gardens and parks reminiscent the Victorian England. Here, we explored the city by foot for Cityscape and Street Photography, botanic garden, art exhibition and vast museum are great options.
Places of interest: Antarctic Center, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Lyttelton Farmers Market, Museum, Library, Street, Re:START Mall, New Regent Street.
Photography Tips: On the street is all about the moment it clicks. As it is vital not to miss the decisive moment, I always keep my camera on Aperture mode, Auto-ISO. For most will prefer f8 and be there, i always keep it on large aperture in shooting street, couldn't resist the Bokeh.
Oftentimes, i find myself in a situation where i struggle to gather photography information when i travel to a new destination. I hope this piece of Travel Photography in New Zealand will be able help you in preparing for your next photography adventure.