New Zealand Backpacking Adventures | Hitchhiking, Gear, and Travel Tips

While I stayed in New Zealand for woah, over a year, I didn’t really get into much New Zealand backpacking adventures like fellow traveler Jonas. Jonas really got off the beaten track and has explored every corner and crevice of North and South Island by the time I met him. All the hot spots like the Lord of the Rings set, snowboarding Queenstown, the majestic Doubtful Sounds and the more off the beaten adventures like solo caving, clam collecting, and living in an abandoned miner’s stone hut. I asked him to share some of his stories and advice to help other travelers get into their own New Zealand backpacking adventures. He has some great photos to share as well, enjoy 🙂

So start from the beginning where did you start?

I started in Auckland where I stayed for a week. My first idea was to take a bus tour up north to see the very top of New Zealand. The bus tour wasn’t really my thing because it said it takes you off the beaten track but it was still very touristy. The bus stops didn’t give much time to explore and take pictures.

Lame! How did you get around after that?

After that, I bought a bus flexipass with InterCity – it gave 20-25 hours for about $160. InterCity made it easy to book the trips online but they only connect to medium and large scale towns and cities, so if I wanted to go to places like Matamata where the Lord of the Rings set is located, I still needed to hitch a ride…which I did.

Oh yeah? How was hitchhiking in New Zealand?

The first time hitchhiking for me was getting home from the Hot Water Beach in North Island which was a cool experience but you don’t want to get into the crowds at the Hot Water Beach like peak hour. Best time is low tide but earlier in the morning or at night. Back to hitchhiking, the first ride was a family- four people with a baby and they placed me in the trunk of their car. In general, hitchhiking felt really safe and comfortable and most of the time I got rides really fast.

What about your campervan?

I would recommend buying a campervan if you stay over three months. Big cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christschurch are a good place to find campervans for a good price (I wouldn’t pay much more than $3,500 NZ). Especially in the winter season.

North Island or South Island?

That’s what a lot of backpackers ask me on the way. There’s no clear favorite for me. The places are different. North Island is in general warmer but is more populated whereas on the South Island once you get off the highway you are in the middle of nowhere.

Highlights of your trip?

You have to check out:
Tongariro Alpine Crossing 7 hour hike
Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise
Abel Tasman Coastal Track 8 hour hike

Tell us about your Lowlights?

Franz Josef the glacier was dissapointing because it wasn’t accessible by foot. Definitely caused by global warming. And the village near by was very overpriced and petrol/gas was even double! When I wanted to stay there and find an overnight camping spot, a local yelled at us “GTFO here. We hate you tourists!”

Woah, not going there! So tell us about Dunedin, I mean what’s your favourite city?

Definitely Dunedin in the South Island. It’s cold but a really beautiful historic city with big variety of sites, entertainment and culture. I met a really cool girl 😉 that I’m still traveling with!

Tell us about some of your backpacking New Zealand adventures.

The first cave I explored myself, I found with the Wiki Camps App. It was at Takaka Hill and it had magnificent stalactites in crazy shapes and funny colors. The next one, I explored together with my friends. They are called the Clifden Caves which turned out to be my biggest caving adventure to date. It took us almost an hour to wander through the cave. It had many hip tide passages and even water pools in some of the caverns. Bring a head torch if you go caving and a spare torch! Go with a buddy and leave the cave as untouched as you can. Or the other day, I went to the Hot River in Rotorua, the Kerosene Creek. It’s a bit hidden, down a little side street at the end but not far into the bush. You can take really nice hot baths and even a little hot waterfall. How cool is that?

Thanks for sharing. What did you pack that came in handy on the road? How did you pack for one year?

I have a Deuter backpack with I think 65 Litres. I packed simple with sports and outdoor clothing. I didn’t bring a tent or sleeping bag in the first place. Some of my essentials are a microfiber towel and my micro four thirds camera with a couple lenses. I picked a model from Panasonic which was lighter than most DSLRs but takes comparable, good pictures.
My favorite essential is my Swiss Army credit card multi tool. There’s all these nifty tools like scissors, a pen, knife, toothpick, tweezers, screwdriver all in a little credit card.

Tell them what happened in Bali!

The airport customs found the credit card multi tool in my wallet and wanted to take all the sharp tools. Thankfully, my girlfriend could haggle for one out of three tools back. You can see how things work in Bali! 😉

What do you want to say to travelers going on backpacking New Zealand adventures?

Don’t book the tours you are offered in most hostels or information centers. Most of them are things you can easily explore yourself and save a lot of money. It’s also more fun than running behind a tour guide. Queenstown is a nice place but definitely overrated, there is more of New Zealand to see!

Thanks Jonas! Check out some of his amazing photos from his travels. He hasn’t even begun to sort the thousands of them.

New Zealand Backpacking Adventures

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand Backpacking Adventures

Doubtful Sound at sunrise


New Zealand Backpacking Adventures

Matamata, Hobbit Land

New Zealand Backpacking Adventures

Mount Doom

New Zealand Backpacking Adventures

Clifden Cave


New Zealand Backpacking Adventures

Sitting around the fire in the stone hut in Rum Curries