Landroamers

Two Girls, One Goal: Roam the Globe

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New Zealand Highlights: The Good, the Better and the Best Places to Visit

If you’re in New Zealand, we’re guessing you didn’t fly all the way out here to just drink the wine and eat the lamb. This country is famed for extreme sports, unbeatable scenery and – well, that’s enough to tickle any traveller’s taste buds, isn’t it? Here’s our list of unmissable places, and unmissable activities!

To find out how to save money, read all about out Budget Hacks on Travelicious.com HERE!

TOP TIP: The South Island has better scenery and activities, so don’t split your time equally between the two islands!

NORTH ISLAND
  • BAY OF ISLANDS: Aside from the amazing beaches, the most northern part of New Zealand is where the Maori heritage centre is. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a fascinating day trip, where you learn all about the history of the Maoris, and get a taste of their culture. Pay your respects to the original natives here, with a day pass that’s only $40NZD
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    Cathedral Cove

    COROMANDEL: Spend a few days (only a few!) on the Coromandel Peninsula, to recreate the iconic Cathedral Cove shot and to explore Hot Water Beach – where the volcanic activity allows you to dig your own hot pool when the tide is down! The beaches here are also worth visiting!

  • WAITOMO CAVES: A really fun tubing experience, plus you get to see the magical glowworm caves! Honestly, if you’re going to spend the money you might as well throw in the tubing. However, it’s a $179NZD experience and there are other glowworm caves all around NZ, so learn from our tourist mistake and shop around!
  • ROTORUA: Famed for smelling of rotten eggs (sadly, that’s not a joke), this town is the base for day trips to Matamata – aka Hobbiton! Tours of the movie set are a little on the pricey side at $79NZD per person, but so worth it! You can read all about our trip there by clicking here! Free activities in Rotorua include: Redwood Forest, with huge trees on a short drive away; Kerosene Creek, a natural hot spring and freshwater river crossing, with an unfair reputation for car robberies (we were fine!), and Kuirau Pa
    rotorua

    Geothermal Activity

    rk, a free geothermal park!

  • TAUPO: Driving into town from Rotorua, stop off at Huka Falls for an awesome waterfall photoshoot! Then, Lake Taupo itself is an awesome day trip. The lake is bigger than Singapore, so you could explore for days! We recommend a boat trip (only $35NZD), however, as it takes you to see amazing Maori carvings – boat-only accessible! Check out our Instagram for the picture!
  • TONGARIRO: Again, featured in our last blogpost, Tongariro was our favourite trip! A full day hike taking you through a mountain range and the national park – you can’t miss this trip! It’s a real photographer’s paradise – cameras ready!
  • WELLINGTON: As well as being the capital city, and the port for the Interislander Ferry, there’s Mount Victoria for spectacular views and Weta Caves for a LOTR workshop (priced at $25NZD).
SOUTH ISLAND
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    Dolphins!

    KAIKOURA: If you want an unforgettable experience, go swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura! At the crack of dawn, you squeeze into a wetsuit and head out on a boat to the best dolphin spots, to brace the ice-cold water…worth it! Seriously, these dolphins choose to come and play with you; they’re completely untrained! Absolutely incredible! TOP TIP: They love it when you make noises and dive down! Yes, it’s $170NZD, but it’s a unique and astounding experience. Must do!

  • CHRISTCHURCH: Honestly, you don’t need long here. The city itself is still in repair from the earthquake, so isn’t too touristy. It’s the scenery slightly out of town, in the Canterbury region, that’s the real hit. LOTR get ready, photographers get ready…breathtaking views ahead!
  • DUNEDIN: We didn’t plan on staying here long, but since we totalled our car we had no choice. The nightlife here is reasonably good since it’s a student town, and if you have a means of transport you can go searching for penguins! Sadly for us, our hostel owner said it would be a 4 hour walk, so we decided to skip out!
  • TE ANAU: And by that we mean MILFORD SOUND aka the most picturesque place in New Zealand!
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    Milford Sound

    Brace yourselves for the cold, and the waterfall that your boat will bring you close to for a free shower! The photographing opportunities here were amazing, and we loved to take advantage of the free tea and coffee on board. The cheapest tours were $45NZD, but we hear kayaking is way cooler (and more expensive: cheapest at $99NZD). Worth it though, as you can go right up to the wildlife – even penguins! But, we missed out again…what is it with the illusive penguins? Whatever you choose, don’t miss out on the Fiordland!

  • QUEENSTOWN: Party town of NZ, but watch out for extra-high prices here from food to activities. Incidentally, it’s also the adrenaline-junkie centre so there are bungee jumps and skydives left, right and centre here! Personally, we recommend going to Fergburger for a treat meal – the beef is to die for! TOP TIP: activities are more expensive here, so shop around!
  • WANAKA: In winter, there are spectacular ski slopes; in summer, there are outstanding hikes! Mount Cardrona summit has views of ‘Middle Earth’, which naturally means they’ll be breathtaking! The lake is popular for water sports such as SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboarding) from just $12! TOP TIP: Check out the Waterbar for a fun night out!
  • FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER: Our heli-hike got cancelled due to bad weather, but we’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this place! If any of you do go, be sure to let us know!
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    Onetahuti Beach

    ABEL TASMAN: Stunning beaches are found here, and great kayaking opportunities for reasonable prices (rentals starting at $65NZD)! We didn’t have time for that, however, because we went SKYDIVING! If you want to do something a little crazy and very unforgettable, go skydiving somewhere in NZ! Abel Tasman is one of the cheapest locations, starting only at $249. “Only?!” Yes, only! You’re jumping out a plane!! Watch out, though, as photographs and videos cost more!

TOP TIPS:
  • Have a flexible route to avoid missing out due to weather (like we missed Franz Josef Glacier, and the penguins!)
  • Look out in hostels for ads about car sharing to day trips – could save you money!
  • Utilise the information centres for free, helpful advice on day trips!

We jam-packed as much as we could in our trip, to make it as memorable as possible – hopefully our advice can help you!

From Hobbiton to Mordor: A Tourist’s Shortcut of Middle-Earth

CALLING ALL ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’ FANS!

Did you know that the journey from The Shire to Mount Doom is only actually 186km? It only took us a day to get from one to the other (including the climb up the mountain!), as opposed to the 6 months it took Sam and Frodo to get there. Talk about procrastination! Granted, Frodo Baggins didn’t have a car, but he took a hell of a detour because he ended up going down to the South Island before he made it there! The sight-seeing was worth it no doubt, but Hobbiton and Mordor themselves are stunning places to see if you don’t have time to dawdle, get captured by orcs and get possessed by magical rings.

“I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!”

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By far the coolest thing to do for any Lord of the Rings fan is to go to the actual set of HOBBITON, so that’s where we went! They actually rebuilt the set exactly so that it could be a lasting site for fans to visit; we literally walked in the footsteps of acting legends like Sir Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman!

Hobbiton is located on a farm in a town called Matamata, an hour’s drive from Rotorua, and the experience is worth every penny. Coming in at $79NZD, it’s a fan experience you won’t forget; the tour takes you through the Shire, pointing out landmark hobbit-holes and letting you stop to take awesome pictures, and all the while you get told facts and figures about filming the scenes and building the sets.

DID YOU KNOW?: they have hobbit-holes of different sizes, for when Gandalf the Grey (or the Tall) is on set, so that he seems far taller than the hobbits! It made us feel very tall, too!

Sadly for us, Bilbo wasn’t home to serve tea and give us have access to the famously stocked pantry, but we did get to have a free drink at the Prancing Pony after we’d explored the Shire. (Never thought I’d say that!) And then, of course, the gift shop leaves nothing to be desired…save your pennies, ladies and gentlemen, and go shopping in Hobbiton! T-shirts, books, keyrings and, of course, THE Ring (replicas, we hope!)

  13413277_1137064002998437_1736685446_n 13381351_873598722784671_1526417466_n hobbitton

Of course, with the Shire being so amazing, it’s hard to imagine why Frodo and Sam would ever leave to go to Mordor (minus the whole ‘evil ring of death’ thing). The films brilliantly depict the storybook wasteland, but the place itself was a different story entirely…

THE MARVEL THAT WAS MORDOR

Fans of the trilogy aside, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a spectacular day trip. Ranging from a 5-8 hour hike, depending on your fitness levels/how many pictures you want to take, it’s a trek that takes you through the stunning national park and leaves you wanting to return. It was by far our favourite hike, and it’s part of one of Nine Great Walks in NZ – bucket list material!

We started the day at the crack of dawn to avoid the busy crowds…and found a busy crowd gathered at the starting point. Wonderful. Still, we set off with the wind in our hair, a spring in our step and, of course, the Ring of Power around our necks. No, seriously, we bought one to take to Mordor.

Now, we can’t lie, it’s a hell of a walk. About half of it is a steep uphill hike, with the wind biting at your skin and your thighs burning like the lava from Mount Doom itself. However, there are three reasons why you can’t miss it.

  1. mt doomMOUNT DOOM A few hours in, you come to the turn off point for Mt. Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom. Fellow fans, this is your moment to show up an entire franchise and get to the crater 6 months faster than Frodo and Sam. There are no orcs or goblins to stop your ascent, however we were advised against the optional hike to the top due to bad weather conditions. Still, we posed with the Ring before the mountain, and ogled at its impressiveness. Adding only 2 hours to the overall walk, it’s a fan favourite and one we wish we could’ve done. red crater
  2. RED CRATER: The crater is the highest point of the hike, signalling the end of the arduous uphill struggle and offering spectacular surrounding views of the mountains. Plus, the crater itself is seriously cool!
  3. emerldEMERALD LAKES: Possibly our favourite part of the walk, however, was the Emerald Lakes. The bright, contrasting colour stands out to you the minute you can see it, sending bursts of motivation (which, halfway through the trek, are greatly appreciated) through you, and offering awesome photography opportunities. There’s even a cool precipice spot to take pictures on – although, watch your belongings as we saw someone lose their rucksack when it tumbled down!
OTHER KEY ‘LOTR’ SPOTS

While Hobbiton and Mordor are the two key points on the LOTR journey map, Peter Jackson used locations from all around NZ and they’re all worth visiting. Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Rivendell (Kaitoke Regional Park, Wellington)
  • Edoras, Pelennor Fields (Mount Sunday and Twizel, Christchurch)
  • River Anduin (Waiau River, Te Anau and Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown)
  • Middle-Earth (Mount Cardrona, Wanaka)
  • Weta Cave Studios, Wellington

Obviously, Jackson and his team went all around New Zealand and there are plenty more locations, but these are the most recognisable.

“BUT I DON’T LIKE LORD OF THE RINGS”

Erm, what are you doing here? Here, in a country that is so proud of its multi-billion dollar franchise that it has an enormous dwarf statue in Auckland International Airport “on loan from Middle-Earth”?

ANSWER: The unforgettable views. Even if you don’t care about hobbits and elves (judging you), the scenery in NZ is simply breathtaking to anyone. That’s why they filmed the fantasy world here, so don’t ignore this advice if you don’t watch LOTR, because Peter Jackson chose the best scenery for his movies – you’ve basically got a list of the best places to see in NZ! You’re welcome.

And for all you LOTR fans, although the Fellowship clearly misread the map from Hobbiton to Mordor, we recommend you follow their footsteps around New Zealand for the best possible views!

HAPPY HIKING!

mt doom ring

From Maps to Hacks: A Complete Guide to Roadtripping New Zealand on a Budget

IT’S ROAD TRIP TIME!

New Zealand is famous for 3 things: Lord of the Rings, lamb chops and out of this world scenery – so we indulged in all three. After travelling halfway across the world to get here, we wanted to make sure it was the best trip of our lives, so we got a car and made it happen! We tried and tested the ideal route, and have the perfect guide to your budget Kiwi road trip. Trust us; as two students on our gap year, we know that every penny counts!

WHY ROAD TRIP?
car

The Road to Milford Sound

Why not? How often do you get to drive around with your friends, blasting music, eating chocolate and following in the footsteps of Bilbo Baggins? “I’m going on an adventure!” sums it up pretty well (thanks, Bilbo.)

Buses suck. Waiting in the heat for hours, and then having to walk for miles with your bag when you arrive is not fun, and you can actually end up paying more with a bus pass than with a car! These bus passes also don’t include getting to your day trips. The infamous Milford Sound, for example, is over an hour away from the nearest accommodation, which makes a car more convenient. Not to mention, the road to Milford Sound is a spectacular day trip in itself, with 14 landmark locations en route. Don’t miss it – that’s a real Kiwi Experience!

ADDED BONUS: with a car, you can witness policemen jumping out of bushes with hand-held speed cameras.

CHOOSING A CAR
  • DON’T rent for longer than two weeks at a time. We learnt this the hard way, when we totalled our car 18 days in! (Oops!) Instead, keep getting new cars to minimise potential losses
  • Watch out for companies that charge you if you don’t do a round trip with your car.
  • DO look into RELOCATION DEALS: Relocations are usually free rentals, where you have to take the car from A to B in a designated number of days. It saves so much money, as you only have to pay for fuel with the majority of deals and you essentially have free transport! This saved our bank accounts after the crash!
  • DO get full insurance if you hire a car! The roads in New Zealand can be very unforgiving, particularly if you are not use to automatic cars, gravel paths and driving on the left side of the road with a daunting cliff face standing between you and certain death. You really never know what could happen and you don’t want to be stuck paying massive fines for damaging the car (trust us!). Avoid getting an insurance policy that includes an excess, it’s not worth the risk!
  • Consider buying a cheap car and reselling it after your trip. This is a popular way to break even on your transport budget, and there are ads in pretty much every hostel for cheap cars and camper vans up for sale by other backpackers. Just make sure you test drive it!
  • Here are some companies that hire to under 21 year olds:
    • Snap Rentals
    • Juicy Car Hire
    • Ace Rentals
DISASTER ON THE ROAD!

Whilst travelling, we always seem to encounter a series of unfortunate events. In New Zealand, it came in the form of a CAR CRASH!

TOP TIP: Stick to the sealed, marked roads.

In a faraway land, near a forgotten town, there lies an evil, soul destroying, car-snatching dragon –oops, we mean road– that goes by the name of Dansey’s Pass. Ironically, we decided to take this unsealed, unmarked route after a crash on Highway 1 , and ended up in a crop field with no wing mirrors, dignity and a slight case of whiplash. Of course, we are totally blameless, and to this day we believe it is completely and utterly the car’s fault. Thanks for nothing, Pedro.

Meet Pedro.

Meet Pedro.

To be fair to the 13 year old car, turning on a sharp corner of a downhill gravel slope (whilst it rained and fog swept in) was not the perfect scenario for his ancient wheels. After swerving off the “road” (a dirt track, honestly) we managed to streamline through an electric fence and wooden beam, straight into a poor farmer’s crops! Talk about bad first impressions. Luckily the farmer (and his wife, kids and dogs) came to the rescue, and saw the funny side to their destroyed farmland.

Unfortunately, Pedro was mutilated in the crash. He lost both wing mirrors, his front bonnet, his right-hand side lights and his dignity. The rental company decided to write him off, as the extensive damage wasn’t financially worth fixing, so we were left car-less, broke and stranded in the South Island of New Zealand 18 days into our trip. But hey, the full insurance covered it!

We did, however, lose the money from the remaining days of hire, which is how we came to learn about driving around New Zealand for free. We got two more cars for the remainder of our trip and paid nothing but petrol, as they were relocation offers. Our knights in shining armour (or bonnets) after the disaster that was Pedro the Nissan.

ROUTE

WHAT WE DID:

nz map

  1. Auckland– Jetlag recovery!
  2. Coromandel– Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach
  3. Rotorua– Redwood Forest and Hot Springs… NOTE: prepare for the stench of rotten eggs. Also close to Matamata, aka HOBBITON!
  4. Taupo– Lake Taupo (duh!)… Did you know it’s bigger than Singapore?
  5. Tongariro– Alpine Crossing… MORDOR!
  6. Wellington– Capital City
  7. Kaikoura– Swimming with wild dolphins and whale-watching
  8. Christchurch– Breathtaking scenery
  9. Dunedin– Great nightlife as it’s a student town, and PENGUINS!
  10. Te Anau– Base for Fiordlands
  11. Queenstown– Home of adrenaline junkies… BEWARE: prices are sky high
  12. Wanaka– Lake Wanaka and skiing in winter
  13. Abel Tasman– NZ’s best beaches
  14. Waitomo– Glow Worm Caves
  15. Bay of Islands– Waitangi Treaty Grounds (Maori Heritage Experience) and the 90 mile beach

ms at seal tongariro xox

GETTING ACROSS THE ISLANDS

If you’re roadtripping, the only way across is to take the 3 hour Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton. Prices vary depending on the size of your vehicle and the time of day. If you’re a student, whip out your student card to claim your discount! Be prepared to parallel park under pressure – it’s traumatic.

There’s a canteen on board but it’s quite pricey, so bring snacks to save money.

TOP TIP: If you suffer from sea-sickness (even if you think you don’t, you probably will; the waves are very choppy), don’t be afraid to ask the crew to get you some ice cubes to suck on – it helps!

Alternatively, if you feel like splashing the cash, you can fly across and hire a new car. We envy you.

BUDGET HACKS
  • Relocation, relocation, relocation!
  • Supermarkets? More like superheroes! To save money on fuel, use petrol stations that are partnered with supermarket chains such as Countdown. They offer coupons with your receipts when you spend a certain amount on groceries. Kill two birds with one stone.
  • If you are really tight on money, drive through the night on long journeys to save paying the extortionate hostel prices for a night. But make sure to take shifts when possible to avoid driving off a cliff face and missing your next destination.
  • At any tourist information centre you can collect free road maps of NZ. The road system is very simple, so even the worst of navigators can understand them.
  • Freedom camping is huge in New Zealand, so if you have a caravan or similar with a functioning toilet on board, you can camp in the designated sites for free.

 

Let us know how your Road trip goes!

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