On a Budget
by Ruth Atherley
Top Photo:Miles Holden
Camper Photo: Camilla Stoddart
With incredible natural beauty, unique wildlife, fabulous food and wine, and fascinating Maori culture, visiting New Zealand is often considered a bucket list trip. However, a dream vacation doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – there are many ways to see the country on a budget.
New Zealand’s seasons are the reverse of Canada’s. That means that their busy summer season (December to February) is smack-dab in the middle of our winter and that’s when the cost of flights is higher. By booking your flight outside of that time frame – even by a few weeks or a month – you can significantly reduce the cost of your airfare and still enjoy some excellent weather.
While New Zealand has exceptional five star lodges, you can also find good, basic accommodation that fits a smaller budget. Along many of the major tourist routes, there are reasonably priced motels and motor lodges – and most include breakfast in the price. Hostels are always an option – and are a great place to meet fellow travellers. For those inclined to hiking (Kiwis call it “tramping”), there are campsites and a network of huts that are operated by the Department of Conservation, and passes to stay in them are available for a reasonable cost per night. For those looking for something unique, Maui rents campervans and offers the opportunity to stay in one of five vineyards throughout the country. As a part of the package, you get a gourmet hamper (a picnic basket) with a bottle of wine and the chance to meet the vintner. New Zealand also has “freedom camping” where you can park your motorhome or set up your tent and stay at no charge. There are a few rules you must abide by, like staying on public property, using a public toilet, and picking up your rubbish, but they are straightforward and easy to follow.
New Zealand has an international reputation for gourmet food and excellent wine, but you don’t need to run up a large bill in an upscale restaurant to eat and drink well. Throughout the country, there are small, family-run bakeries and cafés that serve some iconic New Zealand dishes like meat pies, lamingtons, caramel slices and sausage rolls. At many of the cafés, you can also purchase a reasonably priced, excellent glass of locally made wine. In Queenstown, on the South Island, budget-minded travellers who are really hungry can head to the popular Fergburger for one of their delicious and huge burgers.
New Zealand offers many free attractions. Most national parks are free to visit, as well as many museums, including New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa. If you are into history, the entire city of Napier is basically a museum in which you can walk around. It was hit by an earthquake in 1931 and then subsequent fires destroyed most of the town. Today, walking around the downtown core is like a time machine to the 1930s. Napier has the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.
If you take the time to speak with some of the locals in the places you visit, you can find out about all of the amazing, budget-friendly activities and places that New Zealand has to offer. And don’t be surprised if the Kiwi you speak with offers to buy you a local beer or a glass of New Zealand wine; it’s just their way of making your trip extra special – at no charge.
Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.ca) has direct non-stop flights from Vancouver to Auckland and offers flights from many other North American cities. For more information about New Zealand, please visit: www.NewZealand.com.