So I'm currently saving up to go travelling/ working around New Zealand for 12 months, this will be my first time travelling by myself and was wondering if anyone had any tips? I decided to stay clear of websites like the real gap and so on as everyone else says its better just to do it off your own back. Will I find it easy to meet new friends along the way?
Copy/pasting some tips I wrote in another thread just recently (as I only noticed afterward that it was in travel companions, and not australia & new zealand, so less likely to be seen by most people). *g*
And yes, it's very easy to meet people. Just hang out in the lounge or kitchen of any hostel, and you'll be talking with fellow backpackers almost immediately. Lots of people in the same situation, and you'll tend to bump into a few of the other long-stayers again and again at different hostels. (Especially on the South Island, as there's really not very many different routes to follow around that island.)
12 months is enough time to go pretty much everywhere. And there's so much. Some of my favorite places (with an emphasis on nature/hiking) would be:
- Lake Tekapo. A tiny little town about halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown, situated at the edge of a stunning blue glacier-fed lake. Most people stop for a quick snapshot at the Church of the Good Shepherd, and drive on, but it's so worth staying here for a few days, soaking up the tranquility of this place. From the top of nearby Mt. John, you have amazing view over the McKenzie plain and Southern Alps (plus there's a cafe serving really good hot chocolate - and the walk there is quite rewarding), and don't miss carbonara pizza at Peppe's! (Stay at the YHA overlooking the lake, with gorgeous huge windows in the lounge, hide the remote control for the TV, curl up by the fire (in winter) and get to chatting with fellow backpackers.) Easily my favorite place in the world (though I do wish they'd kept that TV out of the lounge).
- At Queenstown, follow the old waterpipe up one mile creek track to the top of the hill. A short and very rewarding walk; amazing for photography, or just imagining that you've walked out of the world. If you like hiking, head on to scale Ben Lomond, and otherwise take the gondola back down.
- The glaciers. It's dismal how far they've retreated in the last 8 years, but they're still quite awe inspiring, and the rainforest around them have some really good hikes (when they're not closed due to landslides).
- The pancake rocks at Punakaiki when the swell is right, and the blowholes are performing. I've only been lucky enough for the tide and timing to work out to witness this once, but wow!
- Do the Queen Charlotte Track and stay at - or just take a watertaxi from Picton directly to - Mahana Lodge at Endeavour Inlet. Lounge about in the hammock, have sumptuous homemade chocolate cake for dessert, and watch the glowworms behind the lodge at night. (For free! Beat that, Waitomo!)
- The Tongariro Crossing is not an easy hike (be sure to train yourself well before reaching it), but so totally rewarding, even with the large train of other people doing it at the same time as you. Desolate and out-of-this-world volcanic landscapes; amazing colors.
- Mt. Taranaki has some of the most gothic rainforest I've ever seen on its lower slopes. Five kinds of moss growing on top of each other, on stunted trees in the most baroque forms. (Very accessible from its visitor center, though I can also recommend the longer hikes to the higher slopes.)
- Hobbiton. It's gotten friggin' expensive to tour, but it's the entire movie set, picture-perfect in its attention to detail. The laundry is still out on the line, and everything is Right There.
- Mount Maunganui; the town is okay (or awesome if you're a fan of beaches - but then, Gisborne is even better for that), the cafes better, but the Mount itself is just the best ever far inviting you to walk every single of its many, many tracks crisscrossing it everywhere. Amazingly sculpted rocks along the shoreline.
- Cape Reinga has this amazing little lighthouse, overlooking steep cliffs descending down to where two oceans crash into each other. Try to go here with your own transport, so you can take the time to hike down to the beach and maybe walk it a bit in the direction of Cape Maria van Diemen, and then stay for sunset.
Also definitely be sure to visit Kaikoura, Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park, Napier, Cathedral Cove and Auckland (so many neighbourhoods there to visit, but pick at least Parnell and Mt. Eden).
Thank you! that helps alot