To be completely honest, it had never crossed my mind to visit New Zealand. It always seemed like some unattainable country because it was just so far away. But once I decided to quit my job and travel for an extended period, this was the first country that made it onto the list!
Since I didn’t know much about New Zealand, I had to figure out what I wanted to do and see once I got there. Two islands make up the country of New Zealand, appropriately named The North Island and the South Island. Both are so different, but one thing that they have in common is sheer BEAUTY. I’ve always heard that New Zealand was pretty, but I never knew how beautiful it was until I went there. It will literally take your breath away. I’ve seen 33 countries in my life, and New Zealand falls at the top.
I wanted to see as much as I could, so I made a list of everything I read, country facts, and things that I couldn’t miss to help me organise this trip.
- Only had one month to spend there
- Wanted to see both islands
- They drive on the left side of the road
- I want to go on some challenging hikes with incredible views
- The entire country is ungodly expensive
- I must try bungy-jumping and skydiving!
After looking at the list, I decided that the best way to see New Zealand was through a guided tour. I was sceptical at first because most guided tours are not flexible, but for me, the most important thing was to see as much as possible. I always find it helpful to rate the most essential thing you are looking to get out of a trip to help you organise.
I also was utterly terrified to drive on the left side of the road without a companion. It would only be a matter of time before I unconsciously started going on the right with my driving record. The thought of making a “right-hand” turn while driving on the left still gives me anxiety to this day!
Stray Tour Itinerary Map
A tour would also be a bit more expensive than doing it on my own but not by much; remember, New Zealand ain’t cheap, but I will say it is worth every red cent!
I ended up finding a tour that fits perfectly with my expectations! Stray Tours travel through both islands and takes you to main destinations and others off the beaten track. Since I only had a month, this would give me the best bang for my buck.
My one month in New Zealand exceeded all my expectations, and I was able to see everything that I wanted to do. What I hadn’t realised before the trip is that this beautiful country has everything! And since it’s so tiny, you never feel like you are driving that long. One minute you’ll be at a beautiful glacier, and then an hour later, you can be on the ocean, and if you drive just a little further down the road, you’ll be in green rolling hills scattered with sheep. And just as a fun fact, there are 14 sheep to every one person in New Zealand.
Here is a quick snapshot of my month in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and everything it has to offer.
Deserted Beaches and Mountains Ranges as Far as the Eyes Can See
The beaches were like nothing I’ve ever seen. Unlike the populous, exotic beaches of the Caribbean, those of New Zealand are quiet, solitary I’d say, and endless. There are not enough people in the country to fill them, even in the dead of summer!
In every corner that I looked, mountains could be seen soaring high into the clouds. They were so beautiful it looked like I was walking in a world of “photo shop”. None of these pictures has been enhanced; by the way, they indeed are this beautiful!
One thing that I loved about Stray Tours is that they introduced us to the Maori culture in New Zealand. Maori are the indigenous people that arrived there about 1,000 years ago from their Polynesian homeland. Stray took us off the beaten track, and we were able to stay at a traditional Maori meeting house and watch tribal dancing and eat authentic food prepared and cooked on hot stones that are buried in the ground.
New Zealand is known as the destination for extreme sports. White water rafting, bungee jumping, canyoning, ziplining, skydiving, canyoning, zorbing and off-road driving. You name it, New Zealand has got it!
I was really interested in skydiving and bungee jumping. I was most nervous about the skydiving, but it turns out that bungee jumping is way scarier than skydiving. Apparently, 134 meters turns out to be pretty high when you convert it into feet. So a word to the wise don’t try and convert those measurements on your way to the bungee jumping station; nothing good can come from it mentally.
New Zealand has turned into quite the place for fresh, delicious, farm to house gourmet cooking. You’ll find sparking, crisp white wines, savoury roasts, fish ’n chips, meat pies and blackberry crumbles washed down by a “flat white”, which is their version of a latte (and oh so good). As I previously mentioned, New Zealand is expensive, especially when it comes to dining out. While I was there, I stayed in hostels to save money and buy food at grocery stores. I would make myself a big breakfast in the morning and have a few snacks throughout the day. Then I would splurge on a nice dinner in the evening with a big glass (or two) of New Zealand wine!
Hiking the 13-Mile Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the North Island. It was worth every blister, sunburn and shin-splint that made it hard to move for 2 days after.
It’s puzzling to think that this tiny country halfway across the world with a population of only 4 million has so much fantastic scenery. But, even though it’s far away, this small jewel with welcoming and friendly hosts will not disappoint.