Hey eveyone ,
Im going to NZ for 3 weeks in early January arriving Auckland and departing Christchurch , was wondering if anyone has any avdivce on the best way of seeing both islands as im not quite sure how to play it , whether to do it solo or do the kiwi experience ?
If anyone has done the kiwi experience or has another ideas , any advice or recommendations would be much appreciated
The kiwi experience has a reputation of being mostly filled with the 18-21 crowd more interesting in boozing and shagging their way through their trip than in seeing anything of the country. That's not always and not completely true, and many people have a great time travelling with them (you in large part determine your own experience, of course), but you'll find few people here who'll recommend them.
Personally I travelled with them for the shortest trip possible (Auckland to Bay of Islands and back) to see what they were all about, and I came to the conclusion that if you're not into staying with the rest of the group in the same hostel, doing the same experiences, they offer very little of any value. They'll tell you a bit of history about places you pass - but you can get the same from just reading your lonely planet - and beyond that they're just a really expensive bus company trying to sell you all the things they get commission on.
Stray and Magic are the two big competing backpacker buses, which are supposed to attract less of the party crowd (though plenty of partying still happens with them), but in my opinion they're just as overpriced otherwise.
What I did for most of my stay in New Zealand, and what I can highly recommend, is to just travel with local public transport (Intercity and Newman's coaches for the entire country, or any of the smaller more local companies when you happen to be in their area of operation (check with the visitor centers for bus tickets)). They'll go everywhere you would ever want to go for very decent prices (especially if you can plan enough in advance to get saver and supersaver tickets, or by getting a flexipass (good for many short-distance trips) or travelpass (good for fewer longer-distance trips)), and you'll get about a 50-50 mix of backpackers and locals on them. (On several of the more popular backpacker routes, they'll function nearly as a tourbus, telling you about the places you pass and stopping for a couple of the most worthwhile sights; Christchurch-Queenstown via Mt. Cook in particular is a run that shows this.)
For the ultimate in freedom, nothing beats renting a car, of course - though rental rates in January are rather high.
It's plenty easy to meet people in the hostels you'll be staying at, so no need to go with a backpacker bus on that account.
Early January is as high season as it gets in New Zealand, so you'll want to book all your hostels on the South Island at least two weeks in advance (and at least a week in advance on the North Island) - unless you're very not picky about where you sleep (or unless you want private rooms, in which case I'd recommend booking 2 months in advance). Of course you can always cancel a hostel booking free of charge up to 1 or 2 days in advance, so if you at some point feel like changing your itinerary, that's quite possible.
My girlfriend and i have booked with the Kiwi Experience to go out pretty much the same time as you i think (Although we're there for 3months ) Keep in touch and i'll let you know how it goes. We're out there from late November till early Jan.