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Dan Richardson
Reflections after 4 months in NZ
Posted March 21st, 2011 - 2:48 am by Dan Richardson from Nelson, Canada (Permalink)
So we've been hitchhiking our entire trip, eating only from supermarkets (usually couldn't get to fruit stands or farmers markets), WWOOFing, couchsurfing, and tramping. 3 months South Island, 5 weeks North Island.

Here's a few observations that I thought would be helpful to share.

We bagged over 200 rides throughout the country as a mid-20's couple with big packs. Northland was BY FAR the easiest hitching in the country. Coromandel was good and the East Coast was fine too. Everywhere else I was a bit disappointed overall. Our average wait time was close to an hour, with many waits of over 2 hours. I'm not going to give general hitchhiking advice, but I will say that I don't think signs work at all, despite what the drivers told us. Most junctions had enough space to pull over, so that helped. Starting early helped, especially to beat other hitchhikers to the punch. Rideshares rarely seemed to line up for us. We only rented a car for one day, to do the Catlins, but in retrospect we could've hitched that too. Lots of places we couldn't go, but for the mainstream stuff, it was no problem. There was only 3 days where we didn't get where we were going. Te Anau to Dunedin, we had to stay in Gore. Marlborough Sounds also had MUCH less traffic than we thought (it was after school holidays), and we had to catch a water taxi back to our camp.

Freedom Camping and hitchhiking is possible, but DOC campsites aren't always near the highway, and there's a LOT of pasture in this country. The bush is generally quite thick exept on the south island a bit higher up when you are in Beech forests, such as Arthurs Pass and Haast Pass.

The only other thing to mention is ETIQUETTE. If someone has beaten you to a spot, it is my opinion that you are obliged to either hide out of sight, or walk at least 200m further down the highway before sticking out your thumb. Had a few tense moments with others that didn't seem to have a clue. I don't mind chatting for a minute to see how long others have waited and to share crucial advice, but more than 2 people in one spot does not get picked up.


Between WWOOFing and HelpX, we stayed at about 9 farms for about a month in total. Plus we were able to do housekeeping at a few Backpackers just to pay for our room, just for a day or two at a time, so it's worth asking about.

It was hard to find farms that were free. None of my first choices had space. Some were booked out MONTHS in advance. Best to ask a few weeks ahead of time. The fact that we only wanted short term stays probably hurt us a bit. I recommend calling too, although emailing ensures they see your profile.


If you can go to fruit stands and farmers markets, by all means do it. The one in central Dunedin is legendary. But if and when you need a supermarket, keep in mind:

Pac n Save is the cheapest and you don't need a silly coupon card or whatever. But they weren't always available, so we went to New World, because they're bulk section was pretty good, and you can get the coupon card instantly. Countdown has temporary coupon cards as well, but was our least favorite.

Watties is a great brand for soups. The mid-priced yoghurt is pretty good. O made a point of only buying New Zealand produce and suggest you do the same.


As with WWOOFing, Couchsurfing is very busy. This isn't the country for beginners or the half-hearted. Many hosts in desirable places get multiple requests daily. Smaller towns off the beaten path may not have much to offer otherwise, but your chance of getting hosted increases dramatically. Choke points like Picton and Te Anau, don't even bother.

Secondhand Bookstores:
My girlfriend and I read a lot, but we only read good books, and of course we don't want to be overcharged. Keeping that in mind...

There is a pamplet you can get for most bookstores south of Christchurch.

Litter Arty in Nelson has good books, but pricey.

Ashburton probably had the best selection that was reasonably priced.

Black Cat in Queenstown is appallingly expensive and should be boycotted.

Wanaka has a small selection at the back of a souvenir shop if you ask around.

Most bookstores in Christchurch had disappeared even BEFORE the February quake. Call ahead to save time. The one in Lyttelton if it still exists, is good selection but expensive.

Dunedin easily had the most bookstores for the size. Like 9 or something, most decent.

Book Worm in Mt Maunganui of Tauranga had a solid selection for reasonable prices. Probably tid for the one in Ashburton for our favorites.

Greymouth doesn't have one, but Westport's is decent.

Others that we checked out and can verify their existence as of the last 4 months includes one other in Nelson besides Litter Arty that alright, Hokitika (shitty selection), Alexandra (decent) and Kaikoura (pricey).


It was shit weather on the south island this summer outside of Nelson.

You've probably heard that February is the nicest month, but it wasn't this year. Most hikes in the Lonely Planet are going to be busy. Mount Cook was great, didn't bother with the crowded Mueller Hut. The Rees-Dart was great but there were 72 people in the one hut that has 32 bunks (maybe the busiest all summer, but still). The Cass-Lagoon was a waste of time, to be honest. Taking off the day before a nice stretch of weather should put you ahead of the crowd. Lots of morons in huts, hut etiquette is really important. Spraying DEET inside, wearing boots inside, noise after 10pm, letting bugs in - all things to AVOID. Clean up after yourself! Don't start a fire if you don't have to and especially if you don't know how. And get a Backcountry Hut Pass. They're a damn good deal. Pester people that don't pay - this is the best hut system in the world. Not perfect, but the abuse it gets is shocking. And the abuse is very disproportionately coming from travellers of one country in particular (but let's not name names, you'll see for yourself).

Sorry to rant, but people are the worst part of tramping.

If you do buy a hut pass, try to buy it in the area you'll be hiking in, because the money from your pass goes to the area that you purchased it in, so Auckland gets way more than its fair share.

Sarah Carr
Sarah's no-nonsense guide about where to go and where NOT to go...
Posted January 12th, 2010 - 12:32 am by Sarah Carr from Auckland, New Zealand (Permalink)
Hello travellers,

I am a born and bred New Zealander who left a year and a half ago for the greener pastures of Europe. However, by the time I left I had travelled up and down New Zealand more times that I could count. And now, behold, here is my final list of where to go and where not to go. Unlike Lonely Planet etc, this list is free, honest, won't just tell you everywhere is good, and certainly won't require nearly so much room in your pack :-) Comments and criticism and corrections are welcome. Content may offend some people (especially those from Christchurch)!

So, from north to south:

North Island!

1. Cape Reinga/90 mile beach! – If you look closely at a map of NZ, you'll see there's a funny skinny bit at the very northern end, and then a tiny bulge at the top of that. The stick bit is 90 mile beach, the bulge is Cape Reinga. I like Cape Reinga because it's so dramatic but in a very understated way - there's some scraggly cliffs, a bit of wildlife, a lighthouse, and one of those cheesy signs telling you how many kilometers to various world cities, and that's about all. But when you're looking out at 155,557,000 square kms of water, you kind of feel like that's enough :-)

90 Mile Beach is also cool because it is 64 miles of completely uninterrupted white sand and surf, ideal for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. (The name 90 Mile Beach originates from the pioneering days when settlers would walk cattle from Cape Reinga to the markets at the bottom of the beach. It was widely known that cows could only walk 30km a day, and as the journey took three days, the beach was assumed to be 90 miles. However, because of the difficulty of walking on sand, the cows actually only covered 64 miles) For 'big little kids', I highly recommend going to the Hokianga sand dunes - they’re like huge desert dunes but with sea views – and the best thing about them is sliding down on a piece of cardboard!( maximum recommended stay: 0 – 2 nights depending on weather)

Hokianga sand dunes: http://www.new-zealand-pictures.co.nz/data/media/19/te-paki-sand-dunes-hiking_38.jpg

2. Bay of Islands! - Lovely harbour dotted with little islands, loads of cruises available, swim with the dolphins and all the usual tourist crap. It's pretty commercial (esp in Paihia) but still quite nice and quaint. Hundreds of little art and handcraft places and souvenir shops. Unless you have only a few hours to spare, definitely take the ferry across the harbour to Russell – there’s loads of NZ history there (where first settlers landed) and still a high Maori population. (2 nights)

3. Northland Beaches! - Real nice beaches with lots of features – e.g. rugged cliffs, rockpools with starfish, little offshore islands, nice sand and good waves at some (e.g. Mangawhai Heads). Also the hottest part of North Island. I know I’ve been to quite a few beaches along the coast but can’t remember which. But they’re all awesome – just ask a friendly local for their recommendations. (2 nights if the weather is good and you find a nice place to stay. camping is main form of accommodation for Kiwis so don’t expect many hotels!)

4. Northland Kauri forests! - Northland is probably one of the dodgiest parts of NZ, but also has some of the most beautiful forest, with twittering birds, hidden waterfalls, gentle streams etc. Definitely go for one of the hundreds of forest walks around – there’s also some cool hills with amazing views to the coast that you can climb very easily. Matakana and Warkworth are also nice villages to stop for a coffee, especially if you are an old woman. But if you want to see the side of New Zealand you won't read about in the government's tourism campaigns, stop in some of the other towns too, especially those away from the coast. But you'll definitely want to lock the car :-s (recommended stay: a morning)

Tutukaka coast: http://www.tutukakacoastnz.com/wp-content/gallery/tutukaka-coast/whale-bay.jpg

5. Goat Island/Leigh! – Pretty impressive marine reserve. Hire a snorkel and swim amongst tropical fish and crazy coral in crystal clear water! Check tides before you leave though because sometimes the fish aren’t around. Also has the friendliest ducks I've ever encountered. (stay for an afternoon, if you like water)

6. Auckland! - If I could sum up Auckland in two phrases, they would be 'urban sprawl' and 'multi-cultural'. Although the auckland region has only 1.4 million inhabitants, its land area covers 6059 km2. (New York's land area is 709km2!!!). Hmmm... as a result getting around the city is difficult, and public transport is abysmal. If you have to use it, try www.maxx.co.nz for information.

However, one of Auckland's redeeming features is its diversity - approximately 38% of the population was born overseas. You can find a good cross-section of this diversity on Karangahape Rd at the top of Queen street (known as K' Rd to most of us), although I can't guarantee that this beloved street of mine is still as awesome as it was when I left. Also check out the inside of St Kevins Arcade and Myers Park at the end, personally I think the best nightlife in Auckland is in and around this area.

Unfortunately, that is the most positive thing I can say about nightlife in Auckland, because in general it sucks - especially in the more commercial areas like The Viaduct. The hallmarks of nightlife in New Zealand - but especially Auckland - are dress codes, door charges, stupid bouncers, over priced drinks, and early closing times. Also, the ugly side of kiwi culture really seems to come out at night - New Zealanders are known to be a very insecure peoples and often quite petty. Guys talk mostly about how drunk/tough/hetrosexual they are, while girls seem to prefer pettily criticising everyone else's dress sense/dancing/figure.

Anywho, I digress. When you sober up, check out Waiheke Island, One Tree Hill, the Sky Tower, Mission Bay, or suburbs like Devonport and Parnell, and definitely climb at least one volcano while you're there - Rangitoto island is the best! There's heaps of brochues around to tell you more.

(max stay 2-3 nights)

Rangitoto island: CLIMB IT. http://www.planetware.com/i/photo/mount-victoria-wellington-nz824.jpg

7. Around Auckland! - In my humble opinion, the best thing about Auckland is what’s around it – 26 or so parks/beaches managed by the regional council and all within a short drive from the city (don't try to visit them all though, just choose 2 - 5 depending on your time frame and interest in parks...) In particular I would recommend Tawharanui (must do the ecology trail) Mahurangi (visit both sides of the harbour and stop to look over the cliffs down the beach, it’s beautiful) Wenderholm (do Puhoi track and you must must must head left as you face the beach and walk around the headland, only takes 5 minutes but so many people don’t even realise it’s there!) and if that’s not enough, head west to the Waitakeres and south to the Hunuas (ESPECIALLY if you didn't see the Northland forests!). Many of the parks have barbeques, awesome budget camping, picnic tables, and of course, sheep. Pick up a Department of Conservation leaflet called 'Day Walks in the Auckland Region' for just that. (cost $1, I think) see www.arc.govt.nz/parks and www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation

Also worth seeing is Tiritiri Matangi island - a conservation reserve for New Zealand's native species, many of which are extinct on the mainland and exist only on the island (birds in particular). Watch out for the Takahe, they stole my sandwich. Bastards.

Tawharanui Regional Park: http://www.bethshan.co.nz/images/slideshow-things/tawharanui.jpg
Takahe: http://images.google.co.nz/images?gbv=2&hl=en&q=takahe&sa=N&start=20&ndsp=20

8. Coromandal Peninsula! – really really beautiful and easily one of my favourite places. The drive up the western side to all the way to Port Jackson at the northern tip is stunning (especially at sunset) but if you’re short on time cross over at Coromandel township and head to Whitianga, Cooks Beach and Cathedral Cove (possibly the most talked about beach on the Coromandel). Hot Water Beach on the eastern side is recommended for a hot dip on a cold day! See any travel guide for more. (3 nights)

hot water beach, the water really is hot! http://www.pacificharbour.co.nz/images/other/hotwater%20beach%20%283%29.JPG

9. Raglan! – another of my favourite places! A laid back, arty little town with an awesome surf beach and heaps of independent little cafes, pubs and galleries. Also surrounded by lovely forest and coastline. Surprisingly non-commercial for a place so beautiful and accessible, and a convenient way to bypass the rest of the Waikato, which is shit. (At least one full day – very small town though)

Raglan: http://www.bali-ubud.com/albums/naturalBali/Raglan_Surf.sized.jpg

At this point you'll have to decide which route to take: central, east or west. In summary, go west if you like outdoor sports, central if you want to try lots of different activities and don't mind paying for them, and east if you just want to chill out away from the hoards of other tourists.

10. West Coast: Waitomo Caves to Whangarei! – Waitomo caves are very popular with adventerous tourists - any info centre will have a better description than I can provide. The drive there is long, but passes through some awesome forested gorges and winding roads (1 night, if caves are your thing). Taranaki (on the sticky out bit south west of Waitomo) has some lovely scenery including a rather striking, perfectly shaped mountain in the middle that just pops out from nowhere. Further south is the Wanganui River, which is excellent for kayaking and also has some good walks, but see a local expert for more information on that too. (total recommended time on west coast – 4 nights, but if you're really short on time, just stay central)

11. Central Plateau: Taupo! – nice big lake formed by a volcano 5000 (?) years ago. It's a pretty nice drive around the lake’s perimeter, with lots of fishing spots on the way. Quite touristy so lots of attractions and guided sight seeing if you don’t mind paying for it. If you want something awesome for free, head to Spa Road. Not far off Spa Rd is the coolest free thing I have ever found in NZ – a naturally formed spa pool filled by a hot spring. Take a bottle of wine and head there at dusk when there’s less (if any) people around. Don't tell anyone though! Directions at bottom of page. (1 - 2 nights)

12. Rotorua! – Tourists love Rotorua. It has boiling mud, lots of Maori sites, a pretty decent gondala, souvenior shops, sight seeing, geysers and plenty of natural hot pools. This is in contrast to a lot of NZ, where there is nothing to do but admire scenery and go for walks, so savour it. My kiwi flatmate recommends stopping at Whakarewarewa Thermal Park if driving from Taupo. But be warned! The whole place stinks of sulphur and can irritate the skin of super sensitive people. But any info centre will have this area well covered too (1 - 4 nights, depending on how many you already spent in Taupo)

Boiling mud at Rotorua: http://images.travelpod.com/users/chris-barbara/1.1238889120.boiling-mud.jpg

13. Tongariro National Park and Alpine Crossing! - Crazy volcanic field with awesome forest and geology. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an outstanding and fairly well-known day walk, although you can stay in a hut overnight and do it in two days. Real Lord of the Rings scenery, and an incredibly diverse landscape. But be prepared! Don't be one of the hundreds of morons who try to do it in jeans and sandshoes, that would be very uncomfortable. It’s also notorious for very high winds and water shortages en route. Possible diversion up Mt Ngarahoe is definitely worth a look if you’re feeling energetic (Mt Doom in LotR) but the scree is a real pain in the ass to climb up. Train ride through Tongariro National Park is cool too. (2 nights, one night to prepare for the crossing and one to recover!)

14. East Coast: Bay of Plenty to Hawkes Bay! – Bay of Plenty has some nice beaches (although less nice than northland probably), stop for fish and chips perhaps. The same mate that recommended Whakarewarewa also recommends East Cape and the coast from Opotiki to Gisborne (he’s from that neck of the woods and as it’s one of the few places I haven’t visited I’ll have to take his word). He tells me it’s an amazing stretch of coastline, some of the best scenery in the North Island, peppered with secluded beaches, coastal forest, the best surf in the country, and unspoilt by crowds of tourists. Ask at the information centre for East Cape Tours if that interests you. However, if short on time, I can personally recommend the direct road from Opotiki to Gisborne through a crazy winding gorge with big cliffs and lots of freaky forest. Further round is the Hawkes Bay region - the city of Napier has some cool Art Deco buildings, but that’s about it. Avoid Hastings! And definitely, definitely lock the car. I fear my local friend is exaggerating slightly about the scenery, but it is a good chance to see the 'real' New Zealand. 1 – 4 nights on the eastern coast if the weather is good and your sick of 'activities'.

15.Palmerston North: avoid. Levin: was voted worse city in New Zealand by it's own residents. Enough said.

16. Wellington! - dispite the notorious wind, Wellington is easily the best big city in New Zealand. Lots of coffee shops, arty types, festivals, buskers, little winding streets, cool bars and cafes, a cable car, modern art, butt-ugly parliament buildings and national museum (Te Papa) ) (1-4 nights, if you like cities)

Wellington: http://taranakichronicles.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/wellington-large.jpg

South Island!

17. Picton! – Quaint wee town set in rugged valley. Beloved by everyone (especially old people, it has to be said). Signs of civilisation get a lot scarcer once you get to the South Island – you can quite easily be 4+ hours drive away from the nearest shop - so stock up on supplies here! When you leave Picton you MUST take the coastal road from Picton to Havelock, it's stunning. (an afternoon at the very least. If you're not the camping type, you might want to spend a little longer here.)

18. Marlbourgh Sounds inc Queen Charlotte Sound! – Amazing amazing amazing drives around here, with lovely secluded beaches and generally good weather. Catch a boat to an island if you can - you might have it all to yourself! Walk the start of the Queen Charlotte track if you have time, just take mozzie repellent and sunblock (a full day – 4 nights if you’re tired of travelling. Not much to do except admire the scenery and relax on the beach)

It really is this beautiful (sorry for long link though!): http://images.google.co.nz/imgres?imgurl=http://www.justourpictures.com/newzealand/nzimgs/marlborough.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.justourpictures.com/newzealand/SouthIsland2000_1.html&usg=__42Gc-gkWM2Xs66WTI4A3VX2rOhI=&h=437&w=639&sz=44&hl=en&start=3&sig2=BQuZtaaPDiWukPnwM8LCBw&um=1&tbnid=c8y1vhJ2vLppvM:&tbnh=94&tbnw=137&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmarlborough%2Bsounds%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG%26um%3D1&ei=h7lLS_DwHajkmwOl4J3OCg

19. Blenheim/wine region! - Officially the most sunshine hours anywhere in New Zealand. Stop if you like wine, otherwise keep driving. (Cool tussock-clad landscape too actually, maybe stop for some photos as well.)

20. Nelson and beaches! – Nelson is a very cool city but it probably takes time to really get into. The beaches a bit further west aren't bad - I recommend Rabbit Island for a barbeque lunch (attached to the mainland by a short bridge), and then a picnic dinner at Ruby Bay reserve/campsite if the sunset is good and the weather is
right! But there are random beaches to be found everywhere, and also many a quaint wee gallery or handcraft shop. The further west you head, the more artists and tree huggers you can expect to encounter as well! (half a day in Nelson, maybe a night or 2 at most in surrounds. Don’t get too stuck - better things await!)

21. Abel Tasman National Park! - Haven’t spent much time here but have heard extremely good things about it. Most famous for hiking (called tramping in NZ) and gorgeous golden beaches, e.g. Kaiteriteri, but ask at info centre for less well known ones as Kaiteriteri can be quite crowded. Unfortunately the area is equally notorious for mosquitoes and unpredictable weather – can be perfect then you drive round a corner and its shite. (1 night if you don’t like walking and are sick of beaches, otherwise up to 4 nights)

22. Golden Bay and Farewell Spit! My other favourite place in New Zealand! Defintely the most alternative part of the country, don't ask for the nearest McDonalds! Very relaxed vibe - Takaka is the main township of the area and surely has the highest population of hippies anywhere in NZ so there's lots of organic cafes, galleries, alternative clothing shops etc. The landscape is also beautiful, and Farewell spit is a very iconic landform, Try Heaphy Track too - another of New Zealand's 'great walks'. (max recommended stay depends how long you spent in Abel Tasman, but probably no more than 3 nights)

Farewell spit: http://www.ersdac.or.jp/todayData/027/1.jpg

23. Nelson Lakes National Park! – unfortunately this is a bit of the way but I think it's worth visiting. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out the links below and decide for yourself :-D walking/fishing/kayaking opportunities galore (probably mountain biking and rock climbing too). MILES from civilisation so avoid if you’re low on supplies! Most famous landmark is Lake Rotoiti. (If you don't want to sleep in a tent or a backcountry hut, keep driving, although there’s probably a few more options in the nearest town – St Arnaud)

Various N.P.N.P photos, courtesy of google http://images.google.co.nz/images?gbv=2&ndsp=20&hl=en&sa=3&q=nelson+lakes+national+park&btnG=Search+images

24. Hanmer Springs! – holiday destination of choice for Christchurch folk. Big natural hot pools, lots of attractions mostly based around the scenery (four wheel driving, scenic flights, adventure stuff, St James walkway etc), very tourist friendly. (1 – 2 nights)

25. Kaikoura! - Another of my other favourite places in NZ! Where the mountains come all the way down to the sea. Just breathtaking at sunrise. Lots of wildlife –albatrosses, seals, sea lions and probably your best chance for swimming with dolphins and whales here too. Look out for roadside stalls selling fresh fish and crayfish. Awesome coastal drive southwards too. (1-2 nights)

Kaikoura: cool eh? http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_rV7s55VooYc/SQiTNaOmomI/AAAAAAAABvo/ZwM8322Sm8I/S760/CIMG0621.JPG

26. Christchuch – our national embarrassment! Nice city square and beach at Sumner but otherwise quite seedy and violent. Lots of halfwits with shaved heads too. Big drug/crime/teen pregnancy problems. (as little time as possible)

27. Banks Peninsula! – the result of some massive volcano ages ago. Much nicer than Christchurch with beautiful although possibly monotonous scenery. Akaroa worth a visit, - a historical French/colonial sea side village in the middle of the peninsula. Lots of NZ history around. (One night, as an alternative to Christchurch)

28. Arthur’s Pass! – probably the most famous alpine pass in NZ but definitely at its best in Winter. Best way to see it is probably by rail - Tranzalpine route, operated by Tranz Scenic. En route accommodation is limited to a few scattered B&Bs and possum-riddled backcountry huts!).

Arthur's pass: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/files/images/rail-tranz-alpine.jpg

29. Drive down the West Coast! – Lonely Planet has named this road (state highway 6) one of the top ten drives in the world. Awesomely powerful surf beaches (with whole trees washed up!) on one side - ancient, twisted sub-alpine rainforest on the other. I’m sure the whole places has a real eerie, wild feel about it. Epitomises NZ’s diverse landscapes but also has the wettest weather in the country. Stop at the Pancake Rocks (near the top) and the glaciers (see below) but don’t stop anywhere else – it’s a scary place! Possums the size of dogs. Mosquitos the size of possums! Locals very feral and backward too, may act like they are possessed!!! Don’t do what I did and fall asleep in the car when you get to Haast pass at the southern end – I’m told it’s the most beautiful bit of all. (stay one very full day if you don’t stay the night at the glaciers, and time it so you get to the southern end at sunset – amazing!)

Pancake rocks, in some places you can even climb on them!: http://www.wcrc.govt.nz/Resources/Images/sum_enlarge/Pancake%20Rocks%20Jan%2006.JPG
I told you it was wet: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2553/3856999053_ff8e5deaf4_o.jpg

30. Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier! – You can stand on a glacier! Never done it myself but told it’s every bit as cool as it sounds. Quite a few of my hiking friends have worked as glacier guides and their pictures look amazing. Some climbing skill may be involved though. Franz Joseph is bigger than Fox, with a more lively township too. (1 night if you find glaciers appealing)

Walk on a glacier! (but don't be stupid about it...) http://www.motorhomehire.co.nz/images/franz%20josef%20glacier%201.jpg

31. Lake Tekapo! – Really gorgeous Emerald coloured lake. Picture link below sums it up better than I could.. When I was last there it was ear-marked for some pretty unfavourable developments, parking lots and posh apartments etc. If it is still undeveloped then don’t expect much in the way of entertainment other than a few overpriced souvenir shops and cafes and a pub, but there is a fairly easily walkable hill with breath taking views from the top (1 day)

Lake Tekapo takes my breath away: http://www.sandeleh.com/lake%20tekapo.jpg

32. Mt Cook (a.k.a. Aoraki in Maori)! – I would put this is in the top 3 places to visit. Wait for a nice day then drive all the way up to the Hermitage Hotel, park the car and go for a stroll. Mt Cook is NZ’s highest mountain at over 12,000 feet. Watch out for kea! They are the world’s only alpine parrot, very mischievous and notorious for ripping seals etc from cars. (1 night in the hermitage if you’re feeling very posh, otherwise its somewhat lacking in accommodation. But spend a whole day up there at least, just driving there can take a day with all the photo stops!)

Mt Cook does too sometimes: http://www.mkiwi.com/New+Zealand+picture/Ad+Van+Alphen/Mt+Cook.jpg

33. Dunedin!!!! – A very special place for me as I went to uni here. Beloved by all. Climb Mt Cargill (prominent hill with radio mast), walk along Flagstaff (essential! Park car at bullring carpark at the end of Flagstaff Whare Flat Rd and take the 20 minute walk to the top. I used to go up here when I was bored or stressed), swim at St Clair or St Kilda surf beaches, and go to the farmers market by the train station on Saturday morning. Also has the closest thing to architecture you’ll see in New Zealand! (i.e the university clocktower, railway station and lots of old wee weatherboard villas in the student area around the uni) Stay long enough to see the city and Otago Peninsula

34. Otago Peninsula! – amazing! Awesome views and heaps of secluded and beautiful (although cold) beaches. In particular I would recommend Allans Beach and Sandfly Bay, where you are almost guaranteed to see sea lions, seals, and penguins if you go at the right time of day (don't be a knobend though, they are very sensitive and shy creatures). Park at the Sandymount end, walk across the paddock, down the trail and then run down the massive sand dune!!! Oh it’s so much fun.

Also on the peninsula is Lanarch Castle (probably not so interesting if you come from Europe), Lover’s Leap (are you in love? you have to go there!) and some quaint wee towns. But avoid Papanui and Hoopers inlets, they’re just mud flats. (3-4 nights including Dunedin)

35. Catlins Forest! – Nice walks and beaches, lots of little arty crafty places and villages. If you liked Nelson/Marlborough area, spend a night here. A local could probably tell you much more.

36. Central Otago/Lakes! – . I love Central Otago! It easily rivals Fiordland for the best scenery in New Zealand, but with several extras such as vineyards (great if you like cheap wine), the best summer weather in the country (40 degrees at its peak and dry as a bone), and a good scattering of cultural and historical sites from the gold mining era. Spend as much time as you can just cruising around and taking it all in. What else you do in Central Otago it depends on your tastes. Tourists who like organised activities and have plenty of money to spare would probably enjoy Queenstown - supposedly the 'adventure capital of the world'. But tourists come in hordes to queenstown, so if you're more of a traveller, with a small budget and a big backpack, head to Wanaka, Lake Hawea and surrounds. I personally find these places far more beautiful than Queenstown anyway, and much less commercial/exploited - although sadly catching up pretty fast. Take the walk from Wanaka around the lake to Beacon Point. Visit Puzzlingworld then climb Mt Iron! Central Otago is also littered with smaller, very cute gold mining towns such as Arrowtown (if the leaves have started turning, you must go to there), Glenorchy, Bannockburn, Naseby, St Bathans (permanent population: 6!) and Cromwell. The drive from Alexandra to Cromwell is just… breathtaking. Stop at Clyde on the way and DO THE CENTRAL OTAGO RAIL TRAIL! - an old railway line now cycle path. You DON'T have to be a cyclist to do this either - its flat all the way and bikes are available to hire (at least 5 nights).

37. Fiordland! – The crown Jewel of NZ scenery! See Mitre Peak, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Hundreds of tour companies offer guided boat cruises, scenic flights, coach rides, guided walks etc, but you can have plenty of fun just walking around and playing in the rivers. Milford Track is probably the most famous multi-day walk in New Zealand. There are travel guides-a-plenty about Fiordland which will do a better job than me. Take a raincoat – very high rainfall. (Again, very little to do here except walk, admire, relax. 2 nights?)

38. Stewart Island! – Regrettably I have never been here but everyone who has says it’s amazing. (all the time you have left!)

The end. Thanks for reading, enjoy your trip!!

Other stuff:

I really recommend doing at least one of the Great Walks, see www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation. Great Walks are the most spectacular multi-day walks and have excellent facilities, but are consequently very busy and expensive. If you want something a bit shorter and off the beaten track, go to the doc website above or ask at any info centre.

If you don’t mind roughin it there are hundreds of DoC campgrounds up and down the country where you can stay for $5 - $10 a night, see website.

Directions to Spa Rd. Sorry I seem to have lost the directions. But send me a private message and I'll figure it out :-)
Some kiwi-isms you may encounter!!!

Togs = swimsuit
Jandals = flip flops
The Warehouse = department store, like NZ version of Wal-Mart perhaps.
Grog shop/bottle shop = slang for shop that sells alcohol
Intercity = bus service, like national express in UK
Pak n Save aka slack n slave = budget supermarket
L&P = delicious soft drink with tangy lemon flavour. Must try!
Trade me = www.trademe.co.nz, equivalent to ebay
The Big Day Out = one day rock/pop'festival' in Auckland in January
Kia ora = Maori for hello/thank you (pronounced key-ora, with a slightly rolled r)
Haere Mai/Haere Ra = Maori for welcome/good bye
Interislander = company running ferries between the islands
Kumara = sweet potato
Gumboots = welly boots/rubber boots
any adjective + as (e.g. sweet as). Used to intensify the adjective, e.g. sweet as = very sweet = very awesome. Cold as = very cold. You get the idea....