The Backpacker Bucket List for New Zealand – Backpacking Tips

Buck15 things you should do on your trip to New Zealand

Today we would like to give you 15 things you should definitely do while travelling New Zealand. After a year in New Zealand, it's not all that easy to reduce it to just 15 points. So have fun with our backpacker bucket list for your New Zealand trip. By the way, it doesn’t matter how long you are in New Zealand. All our points can be ticked off even if you stay in New Zealand for only a few weeks, and maybe these things bring you closer to New Zealand than just ticking off the points in your guide book.


Our 10 recommendations for your bucket list

  1. Take a long hike (half day hike or longer) through the beautiful nature of New Zealand. Our tip for the South Island is the isthmus peak. A beautiful view of two lakes and the surrounding mountains compensate for a steep ascent. You want the maximum challenge? Then go on a multi-day hike, more routes in your region can be conveniently found on the website of the New Zealand Conservation Agency DOC (https://www.doc.govt.nz).
    View from the Isthmus Peak

    View from the Isthmus Peak

  2. Once in a Dairy get lunch or dinner. In our opinion, the most delicious unhealthy food in New Zealand is not one of the many fast food chains but a dairy. A Dairy is usually a mixture of Aunt Emma shop and snack. Usually relatively cheap and from the selection fries, burgers and chicken nuggets usually include a few New Zealand specialties such as fish and chips with New Zealand fish. But other food, such as Asian or similar food, can be partially found in a dairy as well. For us the visit to a Dairy was a successful completion instead of cooking for ourself and to save money.
  3. Find the Milky Way in the clear sky. In many places in New Zealand you can see beautiful stars in the sky during good weather. The culmination of this, in our opinion, is to discover the Milky Way in all its glory. She pulls on a normal day in the night once across the sky. If you are out of the stray light of a city then it is easy to find them in cloudless skies. Get out of your shelter or camper for a while, allow your eyes a few minutes to get used to the darkness, then you can see the faint glow of the Milky Way and its fog. Do you have a camera and a tripod, and then you can even create a nice photo of it with the following instructions here on our blog.
    View on the stars

    View on the stars

  4. Once during your stay with tent or vehicle Freedom you should camp. Yes, we consciously call it Freedom Camping, because it is about the conscious and responsible sleep in nature. A place where you legally (really allowed) can do Freedom Camping, you can easily find these spots with the apps Campermate or Wikicamps NZ. Find a nice place near a lake, river or the sea. Buy a few supplies, a delicious dessert and maybe something delicious to eat and cook. Afterwards you be arriving at that place in the afternoon in good weather. At this time you usually have the advantage of still relatively free spots to choose. Enjoy the sunshine, cook, enjoy nature and if you have some spare time, explore the area by feet. If there are sand flies, then we recommend you an anti-sand fly spray, nothing is more unpleasant than being permanently surrounded by a cloud of sand flies.
  5. If you love nature, then one thing you shouldn’t miss in New Zealand is the bath in a mountain lake or a river. For us the most beautiful experience was the experience in the Haast Blue pools. Ice cold but an amazingly beautiful experience. Don’t forget your bathing suit and also a before-after photo is very funny to look at after swim. Please take care that you do not swim in torrential waters, just go into the water where you can guarantee your safety.
    View on the Haast blue pools

    View on the Haast blue pools

  6. The New Zealander's national bird is the kiwi. One point on our bucket list for you is to see a kiwi. There are different chances to find one. You can either see a kiwi (and more) in the wild. Ideal locations are, for example, on the west coast above Auckland, where the Kauri trees are located, and here you can see a kiwi in its natural environment. Putting a red foil over a flashlight, so that a slightly red glow will help you see, will help you find your way around at night. The kiwi reacts to bright light and then does not show up, but is unable to see the red light. Alternatively, you can go to one of the kiwi houses or the local zoo. Most of them also have an area where they spend 12 hours day and night, which means you can have the kiwi at night during your day visit.
  7. Hitchhiking once, something that is very common in New Zealand. When hitchhiking, it is advisable to be outside the big cities. In the more rural areas, hitchhiking works quite well. A few helpful tips for the beginning. Prepare a note in front of where you clearly visible where you want to go. Then nobody has to stop if he drives in a different direction. You should also take a photo of the license plate before you get in and send it to a friend to protect yourself. In addition, you should at least leave your personal belongings such as passport, credit cards and medicines in a smaller bag that’s always on your side. Always wear them in a belt pouch or jacket pocket with you. Even if someone should leave with your luggage, you still have everything you need to travel in New Zealand. The chance of a bad hitchhiking experience is small, but unfortunately it is of course possible. In case of doubt, rely on your gut feeling and only get into the car if you have a good feeling. More about hitchhiking, you can find in our blog article you find find via search.
  8. Play with a kea. A great experience is to spot the rare bird Kea. You can find it on the South Island, for example at Arthurs Pass or on the way to Milford Sound. Please do not feed the kea, but you can play with him. For example, you can put together several small sticks to make a kind of tent. If the kea is watching you, chances are high he'll come and pick your structure apart. Please allow the kea some space; the birds are very rare and threatened in their species. Human food is not healthy for the kea, so please do not feed and leave no waste or packaging. Leave nothing but footprints.
  9. Have a surf lesson with a New Zealand surf instructor. New Zealand offers many spots for wave surfing. No matter if you are a beginner or already experienced, here are some spots for every surfer. The coolest spot we found was in Ahipara, up in the far north on the North Island of New Zealand. Another good spot is Sumner Christchurch on the South Island. Also popular is raglan, but the selection is up to you at the end. Take the surf spot and the surf school that is on the way. A surf lesson with instructor costs about 60NZD for 2 hours with board and wetsuit. If you want to try on your own, you can get a board with wetsuit already from 15-20NZD. In our opinion, more than 2-3 hours are not worthwhile in the beginning because surfing is really exhausting when you are on the water.
  10. Our last tip is a dolphin or whale watching tour, where you can comfortably watch dolphins or whales in their natural habitat from the boat. The best spot for whale watching in our opinion is Kaikoura; you can find dolphins and tours in Akaroa Bay. There are several tour providers; we enjoyed the smaller personal tours much better than the large mass transit for tourists. You can get a good overview on Bookme and book your tour comfortably there if you want. Enjoy browsing. Tours in Akaroa can be found here*. Tours in Kaikoura can be found here*.
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5 recommendations from other backpackers for your bucket list

Since we not only want to make our own recommendations, we have also asked other backpackers what you should not miss in any case. Here are the results of our backpacker survey:

  1. Adrenaline kicks through a canyon swing. Like many other adrenaline pumped actions, there is such thing as Queenstown. The largest canyon swing is the so-called Nevis swing; here you swing with 300 meters in diameter and about 70 meters free fall. Adrenalines kick with no equal. An overview of all Canyon Swings in Queenstown can be found here*.
  2. The second recommendation is adrenaline rush, a parachute jump in the beautiful New Zealand. There are countless places here and everyone has their advantages. The highest possible parachute jump we know, you find in Franz Josef on the South Island. Scenic super nice we found the parachute jump in Wanaka, there you jump surrounded by large lakes and high mountains. But the other places also offer an incomparable ambience. A good overview of the parachute jumps can also be found here on Bookme*.
  3. Coming to the last adrenaline driven backpacker tip, it seems like an adrenalin kick is popular with many. The classic and supposedly invented in New Zealand, a bungee jump. Whether from a bridge or a platform over the valley, New Zealand offers a large selection of bungee jumps, especially on the South Island. Here is Queenstown the point where the largest selection exists. If you want to look, many bungee jumps also offer a good view for visitors. If you want to book directly, you can book it via Bookme*.
    Bungy jump at a bridge

    Bungy jump at a bridge

  4. A natural slide, especially in the summer great refreshment. On the North Island near Gisborne, there is the so-called Rere Rock Slides, a waterslide made of stone. The most fun is the whole thing with a swimming tire or another waterproof slip mat. Swimwear or wetsuit and then off for it. Depending on the water level, it is sometimes more, sometimes less quickly down the slope. We were there, but we only looked at it. Very impressive and a great even free experience. The exact place you can see at the following address on Google Maps.
  5. The last recommendation, try a mountain that is not the Tongariro Crossing. There are many mountain peaks in New Zealand; some of them can be wandering well with little effort. Our most popular mountain peak was the Isthmus Peak, much less crowded than the Roy’s Peak and yet gigantic of the potential view. So if you have the possibility of the weather, we recommend a hike to the isthmus peak. A description of how we found the isthmus peak, you can also find here in the blog following the search function.
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Suggestions and own experiences

Now it's up to you, what activity or suggestion is missing in our list yet? What did you like very much? What have you tried and found good?

We look forward to your comment under our articles.



In this article, there are so-called affiliate links, these are marked with a *. If you use one of these links to book something, we will get a small commission for it. With this you support our blog and enable us to continue contributing.


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