Top Tips- New Zealand

Couples, new zealand, Travel, Travel Tips

As our journey of the north island has sadly come to an end we thought it may be useful to share our couple’s backpacking tips. 

The Bay of Islands

Must see’s & do’s:

The Rainbow Falls- beautiful scenery and a good picture spot. Pick a sunny day if possible! 

Grab a kayak and paddle your way around the islands. You will come across empty beaches which you can claim for yourselves! 

Take the ferry across to a town called Russell for a little sight seeing.

Places to stay:

We stayed in Pickled Parrot Backpackers in Paihia for our whole duration in the Bay of Islands and would definitely recommend it, not too noisy but enough going on if that’s your scene. 

Places to eat:

£-££ El Cafe- Serve a mixture of food but we got burritos from there which were amazing! Oh and a banana and Nutella milkshake! Cheap and tasty. 

££ Alfresco’s- Great spot for a beach view and amazing food! We went here a couple of times – more of a treat but shouldn’t break the bank too much (try breakfast for a cheaper option). 

When we didn’t eat out and wanted to save a little money we just went to Countdown (Big supermarket chain across NZ) and grabbed some groceries and cooked some meals. If you’re chicken lovers like us, they do some reasonably priced hot chickens ready to go -a useful tip is to go in the late evening and they sell these at big reductions! 


Must see’s & do’s:

Cathedral Cove- AMAZING and completely unspoilt. Definitely a must see! Also involves a pleasant 30 min walk with some incredible views.

Hot Water Beach- Gets very busy around low tide but worth doing for something a bit different. We struggled to create a “hot” pool at first so make sure you ask around to see which areas are hot – Buy a cheap spade before you go as they charge $5 to rent along with a $10 deposit! 

New Chum Beach- Quite an unusual/cool walk to get to but make sure you wear suitable footwear and avoid the mistake we made wearing flip flops! Big waves here so be careful! 

Places to stay:

Here we found that Airbnb was in our favour for cost and quality of facilities. Given we have a car, not all centralised hostels were ideal as they had no parking facilities. We were only a 5 min drive from the town and were very close to a couple of supermarkets and a petrol station. See link below!

Places to eat:

We thought we would take advantage of the fact we had the kitchen to ourselves and therefore did a relatively big shop at Countdown for most of our lunches and dinners. 

££ LaLa Cafe- Just before digging our hot pool we grabbed a ham and cheese croissant, side salad and relish which was honestly delicious. Quick and easy!


Must see’s & do’s:

Mount Maunganui- A great walk up to the top! Harder than expected, once we got to the top we got told we went up the easier way…we couldn’t believe it!

Places to stay:

We were fortunate enough to stay with relatives whilst being in Tauranga for the night, however friends have recommended the Pacific Coast Lodge Backpackers, Harbourside City Backpackers or the Seagulls Guesthouse.

Places to eat:

££ Pronto Burgers- After the walk we needed to refuel so grabbed a “healthy burger” (basically the burger without the bun and salad) from Pronto and it was very tasty! We had the peri peri chicken and the satay chicken.


Must see’s & do’s:

Hobbiton Movie Set Matamata- If you are a Hobbit or Lord of the Rings fan, this is definitely up your street! I don’t really want to give any spoilers away but it’s worth the money and the tour guides are amazing, they know everything and anything about the books and movies. Oh, and you get a free beer inside the hobbit pub!

Kerosene Creek- Really cool natural hot springs that can be quiet depending when you go (avoid weekends). It was rainy the day we went but getting into what seemed like a hot tub made up for it!

Geothermal Wonderland- If you are intrigued by the Rotorua smells, very interesting natural complex. Worth a visit but be prepared for the rotten egg stench!

Kuirau Park- Cute little park to have a picnic and dip your feet in the hot pools.

Places to stay:

Kiwi BnB- We decided to try a bnb out to see if there was any difference in terms of experience to backpacking hostels and Airbnb. We found that there definitely was…there were lots of rules we had to follow which we mentioned in our “We smelt it before we saw it” post. Check it out for more details! It was quite a unique experience to say the least, the hosts were incredibly polite and the place was super clean and quiet.

 Places to eat:

££ Indian Star- Incredible food, nice atmosphere. This place was located on Eat Street (a lively food area, lots to choose from) and was worth the 15 minute wait for the table! 

££ Nando’s- If there are any other Nando’s lovers out there then I’m happy to inform you there is a Nando’s just around the corner from Eat Street. Overall we were slightly disappointed with the standard of the food- think glorified KFC?but each to their own.


Must see’s & do’s:

Black Water Rafting Waitomo- One of the best things we have done in the North Island for sure!! Not so nice putting on the cold wet suits but once you’re down in the caves in your rubber ring surrounded by glow worms it is all worth it. 

We would rank it in the Top 5 things to do in the North Island without a doubt! 
Huka Falls- You can walk, mountain bike or take a jet boat to see these falls but we decided to mountain bike. We thought we would take on the challenge, and it paid off once we had finished. We really felt as though we had accomplished something. Would recommend for people who are into fitness! P.S be prepared for a bit of saddle sore afterwards…

Tongariro Crossing- We did plan to do this 8/9 hour walk up the mountain but unfortunately with timings and the weather not being on our side we weren’t able to do it! We were gutted about this so if you are thinking about doing this, do plan ahead and check the weather etc. We have only heard good things about this walk.

Places to stay:

Base Backpackers- We booked a double room here which actually came with a private bathroom which was good! The staff were really friendly and didn’t have any problems except one night when we had to be up early and heard the nightclub antics! If you want a quiet location this is not ideal, the complementary ear plugs are a good indicator of what to expect, having said this it’s a really cool hostel. They have entertainment on every day of the week- we took part in the quiz! (Didn’t win I’m afraid but if you did you won a $75 bar tab).

Places to eat:

£-££ Element Bar- This was the bar that was part of the hostel. All meals were under $10 and were surprisingly ok! I’d recommend the veggie lasagne and the chicken burgers. Good place to eat if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and don’t fancy cooking. 

££ Yo Fresh- We grabbed a quick lunch here which consisted of chicken, veg and potatoes! Cheap eat and pretty good.
£-££ Sushi Paradise- This was right next door to Yo Fresh! This was more of your traditional sushi places with lots of options and tasty food. 


Must see’s & do’s:

Te Papa Museum- Great place to visit whilst being in Wellington. It’s free and you can spend as little or as long as you want there. 

Empire cinema- Brilliant, large double seating and not huge so more of a cosey feel, bought some ice cream and sweets for the movie and went to see the award winning, Lion- fantastic film!!!

Cable Car- If you are wanting a good view of Wellington and don’t fancy incline walking for an hour or two then take the cable car, it’s cheap and you can walk around the Botanic Gardens.

Cuba Street- Lots of great places to eat down here and a few independent stores which were quite quirky.
Lambton Quay- Good place to shop if you are looking to buy anything.

Places to stay:

Back in Airbnb…we stayed at a place just 10 mins drive from the centre of Wellington. It had the most incredible views and a lovely dog named Ralph. The Owner Chris was a nice, chilled out guy who was more than happy to chat with us and give advice on nz – See link below!

Places to eat:

£-££ Satay Village- A great cheap eat for those who like Malaysian food. 

£-££ Best Ugly Bagels- The Chickaboom bagel was probably the nicest bagel we have ever had! $12 may seem a little expensive but you get so much topping, sauce etc with it! 

£ Mojo- All you coffee lovers out there…head to Mojo, it literally has the best coffee going!

££ Dirty Little Secret- We went here for a few drinks, really cool place with some pretty sweet views of Wellington on the rooftop!

And there it is…Some of our tips and recommendations for the north island NZ! Let us know if you find this useful by liking or commenting below. We are happy to answer any questions you have!


Jamie & Brogan