December is the perfect summer month for exploring different parts of New Zealand. Since New Zealand is situated in the Southern Hemisphere, the country is currently going through its summer months. Normally at this time of year we mainly focus on winter-based activities, but seeing how it’s currently summer in New Zealand right now, I figured it would be best to address what to do in New Zealand in winter in a second post and detail the different backpacking activities that are best to do now. With all that said, here is backpacking in New Zealand–Summer edition.
We’ll start with something that can be done throughout most of the year, but what better way to relax than by going to vineyards to taste some wine for a change? There are many places to visit when you’re interested in the culture of wine, but one particular place that stands out is Marlborough which is the standout spot for wine on the North Island. Another great spot is Auckland, a city hosting a plethora of activities including some fabulous wine tours.
New Zealand’s Great Walks
This is probably one of the most well-known summer activities that one can do at this time of year. While the Great Walks are available in winter, I feel that they are best experienced during the summer months. Just to be clear, you’re not really going to be able to hit every single one of the Great Walks on your backpacking trip. That means that you’ll have to choose which ones you want to experience before the summer season ends. Here is a list of the Great Walks available during this time.
1. Abel Tasman Coast Track
A less strenuous walk on the west coast that provides a view of relaxing beaches is a great way to experience the scenery of Abel Tasman National Park. If you want a good starting track, then this is your best option.
2. Heaphy Track
A little more of a lengthy trail, this walk features some of the most incredible views on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Any fan of long hikes should consider this walk for their travels.
3. Kepler Track
If you have an interest in exploring the natural beauty that Fiordland has to offer, then consider taking this walk through mountains, valleys, and astounding waterfalls.
4. Lake Waikaremoana Track
This walk is centered around lush rainforests and the beautiful Lake Waikaremoana where you can experience firsthand the lovely home of the Tuhoe people.
5. Milford Track
The most famous of all of the Great Walks, this trail has been a standout walk for more than 150 years. It is one of the ways you can experience the unforgettable experience of Milford Sound, one of the most popular experiences unique to the country of New Zealand.
6. Paparoa Track
This is another walk centered on the west coast that has you appreciating the mountain views rather than the stunning coastlines. It gives you a whole different perspective of New Zealand.
7. Rakiura Track
The Rakiura track is located on Stewart Island, one of the islands south of the South Island. While it may be a short walk compared to some of the others, the tranquility of untouched nature is more than enough reason to check this one out.
8. Routeburn Track
This particular Great Walk links two national parks, allowing you to travel from one to the other. During your hike, you will see stunning mountain peaks, deep valleys, and breathtaking waterfalls.
9. Tongariro Northern Circuit
This is a three-to-four-day trek that spans from volcanoes to glaciers to meadows. It has plenty of sights to see that can only be found in this part of the North Island.
10. Whanganui Journey
This is one of the best hikes to take due to the uniqueness of being the only great walk that doesn’t require any walking. That’s right. This great walk is completely water-based. As far as long hikes go, ones where you don’t have to walk are not such a bad thing.
I didn’t mention this in the previous New Zealand post because I wanted to talk about it here instead. Also, there is no way you would read Backpacking in New Zealand part 1 without reading the follow-up, right? You’ll now discover the wonders of New Zealand’s national parks. Let me introduce a few of them to you.
1. Fiordland National Park
This particular national park is one of the largest national parks in the world, which means there is a lot of ground for you to cover. I think a backpacker would be interested just with that sentence, but to sweeten the deal it also provides access to glacier walking and one of the ten Great Walks.
Not only that, but this national park is also home to the famous Milford Sound. If you’re curious about experiencing the most famous fiord in New Zealand, then you need to include a Milford Sound tour on your New Zealand itinerary.
3. Abel Tasman National Park
I can understand not wanting to go hiking all the time. Sometimes a more soothing and relaxing scenery is exactly what you need. If that’s the case, this is the place for you. Not only do you get access to lovely coastlines, but you can also see penguins, dolphins, and seals if you’re lucky. Can you pass up seeing an adorable seal on the beach? I don’t think so.
4. Paparoa National Park
This is an interesting national park located on the west side of the South Island. It has a variety of interesting rock formations, most notably the pancake rocks. The pancake rocks are made of limestone and form an interesting formation on the west coast that is popular with tourists. Unfortunately, the pancake rocks have no actual relation to pancakes. I just wanted to make sure you knew that before you got your hopes up.
5. Rakiura National Park
Surprisingly, this national park is not located on the North Island or the South Island but on Stewart Island. Stewart Island is located south of New Zealand’s South Island and is known for its beautiful beaches.
6. Mount Aspiring National Park
This national park sits on the southern end of the Southern Alps. It is surrounded by the three largest glaciers in the region. If you’re interested in glaciers and the most impressive mountain range in New Zealand’s South Island, then you will not find a better park to explore.
There is more than one way to experience the beauty of Milford Sound. There are three main ways you can witness the wonders of the fiord and you can choose if you want to travel by land, sea or air. So, if you want to take a hike through the fiord, take a cruise, or take photos of Stirling Falls, or if you want to take some breathtaking snapshots from the skies above, then do as you see fit. No matter how you choose to enjoy Milford Sound, I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience.
Queenstown is not known for just good winter sports. As I mentioned in the first part about backpacking in New Zealand (which you should totally read by the way if you haven’t already), Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world. For instance, Queenstown is a great place if you want to go bungee jumping. If you want to feel the thrill of free-falling without having to worry about the landing, then this thrilling outdoor activity is worth checking out.
Okay, maybe bungee jumping isn’t thrilling enough for you. Another activity to try out for New Zealand backpackers is skydiving. Guess which place is a prime city to go skydiving? That’s right, it’s Queenstown. It is called the adventure capital of the world after all, so how could you pass up on something as adventurous as skydiving? As I said earlier, it will be difficult to visit every place that New Zealand has to offer, so why not get an aerial view of the country instead? Don’t worry, there will be an instructor every step of the way.
I think it should be obvious to anyone looking at a map of the country of New Zealand that it’s comprised of two islands. Now, if you’re backpacking through New Zealand you are bound to be curious about the island beaches. After all, it is summer. What’s the point of heading to such a lovely place in the summer without checking out the beaches? Especially when there are some cool beach activities to partake in.
Glow Worm Caves
You might not be enthusiastic when you first hear about having to spend some time in an enclosed space with glow worms. I would say that’s a pretty natural reaction. However, I advise you not to judge a book by its cover. Sure, if you just have a few glow worms glowing in the dark, then that wouldn’t be anything special. But imagine entire caves illuminated with the ethereal glows of these little critters. I’m not saying that it’s the one destination that you can’t pass up, but I assure you that there isn’t anything quite like it. You can find hiking trails and good food anywhere you go, but where else can you find a cave that is lit up by its inhabitants?
If you’re interested–and by this point I am sure you can’t wait to check out that cave for some sweet photo opportunities–then head on down to Waitomo to check out a few luminescent worms.
The Sky Tower is another landmark that is worth visiting in New Zealand. It is the tallest building that New Zealand has to offer, and it is located in Auckland, one of New Zealand’s major cities. Not every landmark that New Zealand has to offer is about natural beauty. New Zealand is a beautiful place with some of the best natural wonders that one can see, but there are other things that are worth experiencing, and the Sky Tower is a fun modern architectural experience. The height of this tower may pale in comparison to the view at the top of Mount Cook, but I can guarantee that the tower is a lot easier and safer to climb. Consider visiting the Sky Tower as part of your New Zealand trip.
There is plenty to do while in New Zealand this summer. From hiking trails to breathtaking scenery, it can be a wonder to behold. The pictures you see will never be able to replicate the experience of seeing it for yourself. So why not travel to New Zealand to see some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the Southern Hemisphere?
This is the second article about New Zealand travel. Check out the first article on backpacking in New Zealand for some preliminary information on how backpacking works, ways to plan ahead and save money, or if you’re looking for activities to do during the New Zealand winter.