SAVE for the yellow-bellied sea snake that occasionally drifts down from Fiji, we New Zealanders don’t have any snakes. Nor do we have crocodiles, venomous ticks or cassowaries to kick you to death. And you aren’t too likely to die of thirst either.
Such are the differences between New Zealand and Australia,which at first glance make New Zealand seem a cosy sort of a place.
All the same, outdoor New Zealand, where the terrain is steep and where it rains a lot, isn’t without its hazards of mountains, water and bad weather.
So, in this travel tips chapter, I’ll start with a note on outdoor safety. This will be followed by a description of the best places to get maps and travel brochures, a section on camping information, and a section on some other useful apps.
At the end of this chapter, I’ll link to a blog post of mine that has more travel tips than I could fit in here.
In this photograph from the rear cover, I’m wading through some fairly deep water: which is a common thing to have to do if you’re outdoorsy enough in New Zealand.
But if you look closely you can see my legs and feet and the bottom I’m standing on. In other words, the water is clear and any hazards like rocks or logs can be seen. And the water’s also not going anywhere very fast either. Avoiding muddy, swift water is a good habit to learn for surviving in our land of rivers, beaches and lakes.
It’s also important to have access to warm and waterproof clothing even in summer, follow the weather forecasts and assume that the weather might get worse anyway.
And, to read officially-approved maps and leaflets about the areas that you are planning to visit. These contain relevant safety information.
Studying the relevant information also means that you are less likely to miss out on something worth seeing, as well.
Last but not least, beware of Kiwi drivers and always keep left!
To get reliable and up-to-date informationabout the outdoors in New Zealand, the first place to go, either physically or online, is the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC), which has many Visitor Centres around the country plus a website, doc.govt.nz.
Many of New Zealand’s outdoor destinations are described in a page on the DOC website or in a PDF brochure you can download from it, or both. You can pick up the brochures in paper form from DOC or from other distributors such as the i-Sites (below). And all DOC information is free.
For other tourist destinations, including the cities, an equivalent one-stop wealth of information is provided by the national i-Sitesystem, the ‘i-’ standing for ‘information’. The i-Sites are run by a government agency called Tourism New Zealand, and their website is isite.nz.
Sometimes DOC and the i-Sites share the same premises. Here’s a photo of DOC’s Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre, which also has i-Site signs outside it.
Detailed topographical maps are provided by Land InformationNew Zealand (LINZ), and you can buy these in paper form from various bookshops, i-Sites and DOC Visitor Centres, or access them electronically. A free, zoomable site is NZ Topo Map, on topomap.co.nz.There is also no shortage of New Zealand topographical map apps on the Apple and Google Play stores.
There’s endless political argument in New Zealand about toilet waste left behind by freedom campers (i.e., casual campers). For some reason it seems easier for politicians to argue about the issue rather than spring for the cost of building more public toilets at popular beauty spots.
A frequent result is the posting of the rather Orwellian message ‘Freedom Camping Forbidden’, or words to that effect. And even if you just lay up on the side of the road for a few hours it probably won’t be long before some hypervigilant farmer turns up to shoo you away, even though it’s the government’s policy that it’s better to rest than keep driving if you’re tired.
There was an absurd case, recently, where a tired driver was actually prosecuted for taking a rest break, because they violated a local no-camping ordinance put forward by the local council.
At any rate, if you are a camper or a person in a van it’s vital to know where you can camp: knowledge that also helps with planning undisturbed rest breaks.
There’s a website that addresses the issue. It’s called Camping in New Zealand and its website address is freedomcamping.org. The website links to two apps, the CampingNZ app and the CamperMate app.
The Great Walks are New Zealand’s ten premier multi-day wilderness journeys. There are three Great Walks in the North Island. These are:
• Whanganui Journey (by canoe, with some local tracks)
And seven more in the South Island:
In addition to the Great Walks, there are many other walks and tracks, in fact far too many to mention in a single list. However, one interesting thing that DOC has done lately is to compile an additional list of New Zealand’s top day-walks. The DOC website for day-walks is here.
For the more touristy walks, the Great Walks in particular, it pays to book ahead.
bookme.co.nz has reduced rates on adventure, activities andplaces to eat
First Table allows you to eat by 6 pm for half price
yha.co.nz is geared up for family accommodation and has a higher cleaning standard than some commercial backpacker hostels.
booking.com has some last minute deals with accomodation providers
Airbnb offers cheaper rates if you stay at places that are not Superhosts
GrabOne offers deals for everything in Auckland (thus far)
You can often get deals returning campervans from the South Island to the North Island. A couple of sites provide offers on this:
This is to name a few such bargain sites. Groupon used to operate in New Zealand but announced a plan to close down its local operations in August 2020, to be effective September 30.
Here is my own tramping (hiking) gear and food list, which is also good for a campervan or camping.
Backpack (about 70 litres capacity)
Plastic liner (essential)
Travel towel (small)
Over-pants (preferably waterproof)
Crocs or light hut shoes
Torch (preferably a head torch)
Long johns, x2
Woollen socks (one pair per day)
Wool singlet, x2
Wool t-shirt, x2
Long sleeve wool top, x1 or 2
Fleece top, x2
First-aid kit including blister Band-Aids
Lighter & waterproof matches
Billy, mug, bowl, spoon and sharp knife
Snap-lock bags for food
Plastic bags to divide clothes etc.
Toiletries, small and light
Dishwashing liquid & a small pot scrubber
Pack cover (useful if it rains)
Compass, survival kit& whistle
Puttees or gaiters (optional)
Strips of rubber
Orthotics/soles/Vaseline/wool to wrap around toes
Thin cloths cut in two, for washing self and dishes
Waistband with pockets
Cheap reading glasses
Scroggin (mixed nuts& dried fruit)
Dried meals (I like Kathmandu, a New Zealand brand)
Camembert & Cheddar cheese
Marmite/jam/chutney in film containers
Hot chocolate/cappuccino sachets
Instant custard mix
Mashed potato (dried)
Dates and dried apple, mango& apricots
Gluten-free falafel mix (with rice and Thai chilli sauce!)
Packet of sweet-and-sour sauce mix and pine nuts
Miso soups and instant packet soups
Hard boiled eggs
Energy drinks, eg. Hairy Lemon sachets
Packet biscuits – don’t bother about pudding
Some food can be shared amongst the group as well!
100% Pure NewZealand (website newzealand.com).It doesn’t get more high-level than that! The New Zealand Government’s window on the world. Hit the Travel button if your interest is travel, as opposed to Invest, Study, or Live&Work.
MetService (website metservice.com, and app). Your go-tosite and app for New Zealand official weather updates.
Star Chart (app). Theconstellations in the Southern Hemisphere are completely different to the ones in the North, the Milky Way is more impressive down here, and on top of that, New Zealand has many areas with really dark skies. Two out of the world’s thirteen Dark Sky Sanctuaries are in New Zealand, one of them less than ninety kilometres from the big city of Auckland on Aotea / Great Barrier Island. All of the others are in places that are extremely remote, including New Zealand’s other Dark Sky Sanctuary at Rakiura / Stewart Island. Many other places in New Zealand are quite dark at night as well, so give it a go!
For other apps, you may wish to just search online: there are many lists of the best New Zealand apps, depending on what it is that you want to get information on.
If you liked the post above, check out my new book about the South Island! It's available for purchase from this website. And also, my award-winning book about the North Island.
Subscribe to our mailing list to receive free giveaways!
Share this post on Facebook or Twitter, and subscribe to new posts with RSS.