Exclude Further Afield Travel

Where to stay and play in New Zealand

Planning a trip to Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud? Here are some great recommendations of where to go, where to stay and what to do in New Zealand.

North and South Island

“We completed a road trip from Auckland to Queenstown, staying in small hotels and motels that we booked online (and often quite late). This kept our trip really flexible and we could stay a bit longer if we liked the place. You do need to book ahead for Queenstown though, as it gets very busy.

New Zealand is an immensely family-friendly country to travel through. The South Island was a highlight for us. Queenstown is beautiful – there are endless fun things to do with kids and amazing food everywhere. New Zealand is also full of parks. We stopped every day and found great parks to play in or have lunch at. The kids loved our morning out on TSS Earnslaw and walking out to Franz Josef Glacier. Riding on the Cook Strait Ferry was also fun!”

Rebecca Simpson, Australian

South Island

“We did a two-week trip around South Island last December and had a great time. We flew into Christchurch, drove south to Invercargill and then up along the west coast to Picton. We stayed in all sorts of Airbnbs along the way, from remote farm cottages (with cows and sheep right outside our window!) to houses and apartments in the city. As we stayed mostly in homes, we were able to cook many of our dinners, buying everything we needed for a good price at the grocery stores – delicious steak, lamb and salmon almost every night (not that we’re complaining!).

There was so much to do and see, from riding the luge in Queenstown and checking out beautiful lupin flowers at Lake Tekapo to cruising Milford Sound and hiking the popular Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park. While at Milford Sound, which is one of the wettest places in the world, we were fortunate enough to get good weather. So, we got to enjoy some sun and a cool breeze on the deck while enjoying the scenery. We even spotted some fur seals sunbathing on the rocks.”

Lindsay Yap, Singaporean

North Island

“New Zealand was our honeymoon destination in 2016. We jumped into a Spaceship camper, drove around the North Island and slept in the back of the van. It was great – we just stopped wherever took our fancy for the night, parked the car and slept there. My standouts were noshing along the Coromandel Coast, stopping for a gander and a snack in tiny fish shop shacks. Oysters. Chowder. Smoked trout. It was sublime. New Plymouth was also a pleasant surprise. We stumbled across some great street art and vintage shops. I also visited the home of Ozone coffee because, well, coffee is my kinda pilgrimage.”

– Kate Marsden, Australian

South Island

“New Zealand has been on my mum’s bucket list for years, so for her 50th birthday we rallied up our family of seven, hired a six-berth campervan and took to the road for an epic 10-day adventure.

We’re a family of animal-lovers, so our first stop in Kaikoura to go whale-watching and visit the seal colonies set the bar high. From there, we made our way down to Akaroa for a touch of French colonial history, parking our home at the Little River Campground – a gorgeous site full of fun activities for kids.

Bright and early the next morning, it was back on the road to check out the famed spots of the South Island, from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki and the picturesque town of Wanaka. We kept a loose schedule and stopped off whenever we spotted something of interest, be it a vineyard, picnic spot or a Manuka honey farm. After a day of hiking and marvelling at the glaciers of Mount Cook, we gave our weary legs a luxurious treat and abandoned our campervan for a night to check-in at Dusky Ridges in Te Anau.

Owned by a charming Kiwi couple, our night in this beautiful farmstay was made unforgettable with delicious homegrown produce and a chance to meet all their adorable farm animals.

Our final stop in our trusty campervan was Milford Sound to gawk at the towering fjords before meandering down the winding road of Devil’s Staircase to hit Queenstown. Here, we bid our mobile home goodbye and checked into an AirBnb property overlooking the town. There’s so much to do here – from bungee jumping to luging! Just make sure you make time to stop in at the famous Fergburger – hands down, the best burger I’ve had!”

– Leanda Rathmell, British


Read more in our Travel section:

Adventure guide to Hong Kong’s outlying islands
An unforgettable family road trip

This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!