Tucked away on the very northern edge of New Zealand’s wild West Coast region is one of the best natural features of the entire country.
The sleepy town of Karamea is the literal end of the road—you can’t go any further north on the South Island’s West Coast without your walking shoes. Because of this, the town itself is not as frequented by tourists as other parts of New Zealand. A good portion of visitors actually arrive by foot at the end their walk on the Heaphy Track, one of the country’s nine “Great Walks”.
Karamea is quite isolated, but it’s the gateway to a natural playground. Outdoor adventurers love this place. There are tons of hiking trails, the Kahurangi National Park, access to the Heaphy Track, and (the reason I went) the Oparara Basin.
Most visitors to New Zealand begin their journey in Auckland. International flights arrive in Queenstown, Wellington, and other major cities, but most likely, your flight will touch down in Auckland first. This is the city that greets visitors from all over the world, and welcomes them to Aotearora.
While Auckland is by far the most populated city in New Zealand (home to over 1 million people, in a country with a population of only 4.5 million), it is not the capital of the country. It’s easy to see why people make that assumption, but that title belongs to Wellington.
Auckland is the economic center of New Zealand, though. Most of the international and financial business is done here. The city is also the warmest region of the country, as it’s located in the Northern part of the North Island. This means high humidity, hot summers, and fairly mild winters.
Tourism here is high, of course, since most travelers spend at least a little bit of time in the city. With plenty of tourist attractions, restaurants, independent shops, events, arts and culture, sports, and everything else, it is an easy place to pass the time.
During my year in New Zealand, I visited Auckland quite a few times. It’s the usual entry and exit point for international travelers, since most have to go through the Auckland Airport. I spent a total of about 9 days in Auckland within the first month of my working holiday visa—and I absolutely hated it.
Before landing in New Zealand, I was warned by just about everyone that Auckland was a boring, ugly city. I wanted to give it a chance, though, and make up my own mind. I spent the first few days in the country in Auckland to get my working holiday stuff sorted (open a bank account, get my IRD number, etc.). I also did a little bit of exploring. When I left at the end of the week, I had made up my own mind: it was a boring, ugly city.
That’s totally unfair, though. It’s not actually boring OR ugly. As travelers, sometimes our perception of a place is based on our mood rather than the place itself. My mood on that first visit was anxiety about being in a new country for the next year, needing to find a job, but also just wanting the preconceived vision I had of New Zealand—mountains and beaches and incredible landscapes. Auckland, being a city, is not any of that.
Napier, New Zealand is an incredibly visual city. Known as the “Art Deco Capital of the World,” this seaside town is a haven for art and architecture lovers.
Napier has one of the highest concentrations of Art Deco and Spanish Mission style buildings in the entire world. Combine that with local art, city-wide murals, outdoor sculptures at every turn, and beautifully-designed gardens and outdoor spaces, and it’s easy to see why I fell in love with the city.
Located on the Eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island, most people don’t think of Napier when creating their travel itinerary, but if you’re into art, you have to make a stop here.
I wrote a full guide to Napier here, and I wrote specifically about the architecture here, but that just wasn’t enough. I still have so many photos I want to share to show you how cool this town is. The colors, the gardens, the art, the buildings, and every little detail made me get all heart eyes emoji.
Below are some of my favorite photos from Napier, and you can find even more in my Steller Story.
Last week marked the six year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake. In February 2011, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the city, leaving massive destruction in its wake.
The Christchurch Art Gallery survived the earthquake, though some damage had been done. The gallery packed away its art while nearby buildings were demolished, and the gallery itself was used to house Civil Defense workers for months post-earthquake. The city was in transition, and so was the gallery.
The Art Gallery collaborated with artists and organizations to continue showing art around the city, despite not having a home base to welcome visitors. In 2013, the gallery’s structure was retro-fitted to protect it against future earthquakes, making it safer for both the people and the art it houses.
Everyone says New Zealand is an expensive country to travel in (or to live in for that matter), but it wasn’t until I got there and started spending money that I realized how true that is. Food is more expensive, accommodation is more expensive, gas is more expensive…you get the picture. What I’m trying to say is that traveling New Zealand on a budget is hard.
I found myself spending close to a couple thousand dollars (NZD) per month of full-time traveling while in New Zealand—which seems like the opposite of budget travel. However, I can only imagine how much I would have spent if I hadn’t known about some of these ways to save money in New Zealand. That being said, I know I also could have saved a lot more if I had used all of these techniques instead of just a couple here and there.
I don’t want to discourage budget travelers from visiting New Zealand, since you can tell from the title of this post that it’s meant to help you out. Just be aware that it’s an expensive country no matter how you slice it. There are definitely a lot of ways to cut down costs, though.
This list does not include all of the obvious (and boring) tips like “cook instead of eating at restaurants” or “stay in hostels instead of hotels”. We all know those things will save you money anywhere in the world. These tips are specific to New Zealand. Also, you don’t necessarily need to be a “backpacker” to take advantage of some these tips—no matter your travel style, these options will work for you.
So if you want to travel New Zealand on a budget, keep reading! These 13 tips will help you save some money, and if you want to go extreme budget, you’ll find yourself spending significantly less than I did.